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No, you haven’t accidentally stumbled your way into an esoteric discourse on Greek architecture.
You’ve stumbled your way into an equally esoteric discourse about musical “modes.”
What Mode Are You In?!?!
If you’ve been hanging out in the worlds of banjo or old-time music for very long, you’ve almost certainly heard the term “modal” a time or two. We play “modal” tunes. We put our banjos into “modal” tunings.
And banjos happen to sound really good in those modal tunings and playing those modal tunes. It seems like the kind of music banjos were born to play. Oftentimes, those modal tunes also sound like they came from a distant era – you can recognize the “modal” sound when you hear it, even if you can’t explain it further.
I imagine that, for most, that’s about the extent of your familiarity with the whole modal concept. If you’ve ever dug in deeper, you’ve probably found yourself knee-deep into music theory pretty quickly.
It can be a confusing subject, in part because of the terms we’ve chosen to use. We typically use the “modal” moniker to refer to tunes that don’t use the Ionian or Aeolian modes, which are common in contemporary Western music. Make sense? Of course not.
Using this definition, this week’s tune of the week installment, for example, is also technically a “modal” tune – in Mixolydian mode, to be precise. Yet, it doesn’t sound especially ancient or archaic, especially compared to some of our other “modal” favorites (e.g. Darling Cory or Pretty Polly). Perhaps because you find it – our modern ears are fairly used to that scale.
Ok, enough esoterica for one post!
(NOTE: For those considering acquiring a Brainjo banjo, the banjo played in this video is a “Hobart” model. Click here if you’d like to learn more, or claim one in the next batch.
“GOODBYE GIRLS I’M GOIN’ TO BOSTON”
aEAC#E tuning, Brainjo level 3-4
Notes on the Tab
Notes in parentheses are “skip” notes. To learn more about these, check out my video lesson on the subject.
For more on reading tabs in general, check out this complete guide to reading banjo tabs.
(RELATED: Level 2 arrangements and video demos for the Tune (and Song!) of the Week tunes are now available as part of the Breakthrough Banjo course. Learn more about it here.