An e-mail from the Irish Traditional Music Mailing List.
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1996 09:28:35 -0400
From: Philippe Varlet
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Re: Mode idiocy - good polkas/Boots for Maggie???
I had to jump in there... The main modes in Irish dance (I don't know
as much about vocal) music are:
major, Ionian (your typical diatonic major scale)
Dorian (same but starting on the 2nd note, so it sounds minor)
Mixolydian (starting on 5th note, sounds major with flat 7th)
Aeolian, is actually pretty rare in Irish music. I know at most a handful
of tunes which are in mode 6 throughout. Most tunes showing mode 6 only
have one part in it, with the rest in major (like the relative major-minor
relationship in classical music). An example of that is the reel "Fermoy
This little system of classification can be useful for accompanists
too because with each mode comes a typical chord progression:
the old I-IV-V
ii-I-ii (ii is the minor chord, I is the major chord a step below).
For instance, in the reel "Pigeon on the Gate" which is most
often played in E mode 2 (scale of D major starting on E), one can very
well accompany the tune with just two chords, Em and D. The rest is gravy
(the technical term is substitutions).
V-IV-V, same as before except that the two chords a step apart are
both major. For example, the reel "Rakish Paddy" is in D mode
5 (scale of G major starting on the 5th note D) and is built around the
two chords of C and D major (IV and V in G major).
Hope this helps.
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