Help Yourself to Mental Balance with Ancient Musical Modes Part 5.

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Published: 09th January 2013
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This short article is the 5th in a series about using ancient musical modes to help with mental balance and inner harmony. We covered the Phlegmatic, Choleric and Sanguine temperaments in the first four articles and we will now tackle the Melancholic.

Each of us is a composite of the four temperaments. Most people have one dominating. This is why people say they are one temperament or another...

Highly gifted people often have the Melancholic as a dominant temperament – this applies particularly to artists and scientists. The Melancholic is the most inward of the temperaments and affords the right sort of intense inner experience for the nurture of artistic or intellectual genius.

When the melancholic humour is in balance we see some of the following character traits:

* Integrity
* Decisiveness
* Steadfastness
* Introversion
* Artistic talent
* Good at memorization
* High level of learning
* A predisposition to go in search of the Divine

When unbalanced it produces:
* Apathy
* Tenacity
* Depression
* Unbalanced mind or even insanity.

The melancholic temperament can be enlivened by playing the Mixolydian mode. So it is useful if we need to focus inwardly, (maybe for some kind of meditation, or for a study period, etc.)

If, however, we were experiencing some of its negative aspects, we should resort to the hypomixolydian mode.

In one of my earlier articles I went into how to play simple modal melodies. Now I would like to touch on adding harmonies to your melodies to add another dimension to your music.

If you play an instrument like, for instance, an oboe, which plays only one note at a time, this information will probably be of no use to you. However, many people have a piano or keyboard and would like to be able to add simple harmonies in the left hand.

As an example, let's take a look at the dorian mode.

The scale of the dorian goes like this D E F G A B C .

In the language of harmony, each note of the scale has a number 1 to 7. For this purpose, we always use Roman numerals. So - in the dorian mode …

D = I
E = II
G = IV
A = V
B = VI

If you build a 3 note chord (triad) on each of the notes of the mode, you can start to create harmonies.

Chord I = DFA
Chord II = EGB
Chord III = FAC
Chord IV = GBD
Chord V = ACE
Chord VI = BDF
Chord VII = CEG

I can't really go into the subject in much depth in this article, so I will just give you some useful tips to get you started.

First of all, ignore BDF!!! BDF is Chord VI in the dorian mode but it will have a different number in other modes. For instance, in the Hypodorian, it will be Chord II and it will be Chord III in the Mixolydian. All the other chords are either major or minor. But BDF is neither major nor minor (it's diminished) and you would be advised to avoid it unless you have experience.

In modal music the primary chords (the ones that are most useful) are I, III, V and VII.

So, in the dorian mode:


To give another example, in the Phrygian:

Remember we don’t play BDF, so, for Chord V, you could just play BD or just B.

Bear in mind, when you are choosing chords to accompany a melody, that the chords change much less often than the melody notes. One chord could underpin a whole line of notes.

So, for instance, this hypolydian fragment …


… could be harmonized by a 5-chord sequence:

AFEF harmonized by II (DFA) or IV (FAC)

EDCD harmonized by I (CEG)

EGAE harmonized by III (EGB) or I (CEG)

F harmonized by II (DFA) or IV (FAC)

C harmonized by I (CEG), IV (FAC) or VI (ACE)

Just try each short phrase of your tune against the primary chords for the mode and see which sounds best. If none of them seem to work, try one of the 3 secondary chords.

Tip: It often sounds best to miss out the middle note of each left hand chord. Particularly with deep bass notes.

The next article will deal with ways to enhance the effects of the modes by carefully choosing the time of day.

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