minstrel: re modes, old flute

ConstanceFairfax at cs.com ConstanceFairfax at cs.com
Sun Mar 18 22:34:38 PST 2001


In a message dated 3/18/01 9:07:57 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
corrie at itasca.net writes:

> 
>  >...an old flute that played in Dorian...
>  
>  I'm not professionally trained in music theory, but wouldn't any diatonic
>  instrument be able to play a Dorian mode?  For example, I have a dulcimer
>  with diatonic frets (W W H W W H W W W H W W H W W W H).  IOW I can't
>  play a chromatic scale, but depending on how I tension the strings I could
>  play in any mode, right?  You can't tune a flute (that's why pennywhistles
>  come in different sizes) but a mode is just a diatonic scale - the white
>  keys on the piano.  Ionian is C major - the white keys starting on
>  C.  Its wholestep/halfstep pattern is W W H W W W H.  Dorian is the same
>  notes but starting on D - D E F G A B C D - the wholestep/halfstep pattern
>  is W H W W W H W.  It's just a different segment of the diatonic scale.  
>  
>  Corrie / Brendan

Corrie, you're absolutely right in theory.  If I want to play an irish tune 
on a pennywhistle, I will pull out a C Major pennywhistle and play in D 
Dorian.   

The practical issue is this:

With the ability to retune, bend strings and half-hole removed, if you are 
given an instrument which had the ability to (only) produce pitches equal to 
DEFGABCD, you *would* be able to play dorian and pentatonic mode tunes on the 
instrument.  However, because the only major key which shares the same notes 
as D Dorian is C Major, you could never reach the fundamental (the C being a 
step below the lowest key).  If you don't have a fundamental, you really 
don't have a mode...the basis of "diatonic"...

So, if you have an instrument which has the spectrum of notes described as 
above, you would say that it was Dorian, or, more precicely, D Dorian.

Does that make sense?

Constance

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