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Tag Archives: mixolydian

Is the Mixolydian Mode a Major Mode?

Is the Mixolydian Mode a Major Mode?

by Steve Eulberg

Dan Evans, English-dulcimer.com, recently explored this question from his own experience, and posed the question to (3) other professional musicians/scholars of his acquaintance and shared their responses and his conclusions in his blog.

Dan is both a fingerstyle guitarist and a fingerstyle mountain dulcimer player.

Dan plays a standard mountain dulcimer with no 6+ fret.

As you can see here, this is an important question because his instruments do not have a 6+ fret. The only way for him to play the “major” (Ionian Mode) scale is to play between 3-10 on the melody string. When he starts at “0” and plays to “7”, he’ll hear the Mixolydian Mode (which has a flatted 7th step.) Sometimes this note is called the “Old Joe Clark” note because that tune requires that interval and note.

As Dan concludes, the binary, either-or, categories of Major or Minor simply are NOT descriptive enough when talking about songs, scales, modes or music. We must have (or “get to have”) a broader frame of reference in order to experience the music we love to play in its delicious complexity and beauty.

Click on the links above to read Dan’s blog post and then let us know what YOU think.

 

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June Apple

June Apple

Linda Thomas, from Kansas City, teaches this fun modal tune for Hammered Dulcimer Players!

She is accompanied by her favorite guitarist, Dan Delancey.  Together they give a fine demonstration of the fun that a mixolydian tune can be on the dulcimer.  Then Linda teaches the tune and how to play back-up chords in an 11-episode lesson set.

Sign up and you can view the whole series here: http://dulcimercrossing.com/ja/dc_ja_hd_pre.html

 
 

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Benefits and Limitations of Different Tunings on Mountain Dulcimer? Part 1

Benefits and Limitations of Different Tunings on Mountain Dulcimer? Part 1

Epinette scroll head

by Steve Eulberg

So how does one choose between the benefits and the limitations of different tunings when playing mountain dulcimer?  To me the most important factors in this decision are:

 

1)  What kind of dulcimer do I have?  Is it “traditional” (with no extra frets like 6-1/2 or 1-1/2)?

 

2)  What kind of music do I want to play?

 

3)  In what style do I want to play this music?  Do I want to play in the traditional noter or drone style?  Do I want to play back-up chords?  Do I want to play Chord-Melody Style?

 

In this post we’ll examine just the first of these factors.  What kind of dulcimer do I have?

 

IF

If your dulcimer is a “traditional” one….

…with no extra frets, then you’ll need to use and play in different tunings in order to play the songs you want to play.  The typical major key songs will require the 1-5-5 (often D-A-A) tuning for which the Ionian scale starts at fret 3.  Typical minor key songs will require the 1-5-b7 (often D-A-C) tuning for which the Aeolian scale starts at fret 1.  Mountain minor songs will require the 1-5-4 (often D-A-G) tuning for which the Dorian scale starts at fret 4.  Mixolydian tunes like Old Joe Clark will require the 1-5-8 (often D-A-d) tuning for which the Mixolyidan scale starts at fret 0.

mcspadden6.5

If your dulcimer has a 6-1/2 fret…

…you have the option of getting two different modal possibilities from each tuning.  For some people this is a big benefit because it means less retuning, but then remembering when to use or avoid the 6 or 6-1/2 fret.

Here are the 4 most common tunings that produce the widest modal variety on your mountain dulcimer:

 

If you tune 1-5-8 (often D-A-d) you can play Mixolydian of D (without 6-1/2) OR Ionian of D (with 6-1/2) without re-tuning by starting at the zero (0) fret and playing to the 7th fret.

 

If you tune 1-5-b7 (often D-A-C) you can play Aeolian of D (without 6-1/2) OR Dorian of D (with 6-1/2) without re-tuning by starting at the 1st fret and playing to the 8th fret.

 

If you tune 1-5-5 (often D-A-A) you can play Ionian of D (without 6-1/2) or Lydian of D (with 6-1/2)  without retuning by starting at the 3rd fret and playing to the 10th fret.

 

If you tune 1-5-4 (often D-A-G) you can play Dorian of D (without 6-1/2) or Mixolydian of D (with 6-1/2) without retuning by starting at the 4th fret and playing to the 11th fret.

 

—————–
(For reference, here are some tunes that belong to the different modes:
Ionian:  Joy to the world, Barlow Knife,
Mixolydian:  Old Joe Clark, Banish Misfortune, Sandy Boys
Aeolian:  God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Dorian:  Drunken Sailor, Scarborough Faire

 

Which other tunes can you name?  Please comment below.

 

What other benefits and/or limitation of different tunings can you name?  Please comment below.
 

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