Monday 09/28/2015 by phishnet

MODULATING JAMS OF SUMMER 2015 - PART 2

[Editor's Note: We welcome back phish.net contributor and musicologist Mike Hamad, who shares his thoughts on the "Modulating Jams of Summer 2015." Below is the second of three parts. If you missed it, you may wish to start with part one. Part three will run tomorrow. -PZ]

PART TWO
Modulation Types & Pathways
The 37 modulating jams of summer 2015 fall into five categories. I’ll discuss these in turn, along with common pathways (and exceptions) for getting from point A to point B (and sometimes, to point C). These five categories, and the number of jams they contain, are included in Table 2:

MOD III: The Light is Growing Brighter
Tonal music is based on the diatonic scale, in which two “tonics” (hence “dia-tonic”) – one major and one minor – compete for primacy. As a result, the keys built around those each tonic (B minor and D major, for example) are known as “relatives”; D is the relative major of B, and B is the relative minor of D. This extends enharmonically to any other set of relatives: A min/C maj, E min/G maj, and so on. Relatives share a key signature (two sharps, in the case of B/D) and the majority of their pitches (chromatic pitches, such as G# and A#, are brought in to tonicize B minor, but that’s not important here.)

In B minor, or any key, the chord built on the third degree of the scale (i.e. D major) is known as the mediant. MOD III jams, then, modulate from the tonic key (i.e. B) to the key located a minor third (three half-steps up on the piano keyboard) above it (i.e. D major).

MOD IIIs are close, easy modulations (there’s no change in location on the circle of fifths); the bassist simply chooses D, which already exists as part of the B minor scale, and makes it “home.” The other players simply buy-in with D major melodies and triads.

MOD III moves always progress from minor to major, and therefore they’re filled with a sense of light overcoming darkness, happiness defeating sadness, a feeling of bliss, and so on. MOD III moves, furthermore, frequently happen at a low point in the dynamic trajectory of a jam (in my schematics, I label these “DYN DIP”). The band often rests in the new key while figuring out what to do next.


"Twist" > "Light" – 7/24/15, Mountain View, CA

Table 3 shows the eleven MOD III jams Phish played this summer, including how long they spent in each key:

Pathways: MOD III jams that start in minor keys (“Chalk Dust,” “46 Days,” “Ghost,” “Tweezer”) simply flip over to the other tonic:

E min > G maj (“CDT”)
B min > D maj (“46 Days”)
A min > C maj (“Tweezer,” “Ghost”)

MOD III jams that begin in a major key (“Light,” “Golden Age,” “Piper,” “Blaze On”), however, require a little more work. In every case this summer, major-key jams flipped to the minor mode in the same key (what’s known as “mode-mixture”) before each move was made:

B maj > min > D maj (“Light”)
C# maj > min > E maj (“Blaze On”)
G maj > min > B-flat maj (“Piper”)
C maj > min > E-flat maj (“Golden Age”)

Why?
A minor and C major are relatives; they share tons of pitches. Moving from one to the other isn’t dramatic. A major (three sharps) and C major (no sharps), however, actually are sort of distantly removed from each other; going from one to the other, without preparation, is jarring (although the majority of Abbey Road is built on this very relationship).

Some interesting things happened in MOD III jams. The 8/4 “Golden Age” contains a transposed version of its signature bridge progression (“Love, don’t you falter,” or I-IV) into the new key (E-flat major). We heard the “Tweezer” riff in B-flat at the end of the 8/15 “Piper.” After three minutes of jamming in C major, the 8/22 “Ghost” segued into “Rock and Roll” (more on this later).

MOD IV: The High Gear of Your Soul
In any key, scale degree ^4, unlike ^3 or ^5, is a dissonance. And dissonance – in life and in music – usually leads to rapid change.

The chord built on the fourth scale degree, or IV, is often referred to as the subdominant. MOD IV jams modulate from the tonic (home) key (C major, for example) to the major chord built upon the fourth degree of the scale (five half-steps up on the piano keyboard, or F major). This represents a shift one step to the flat-side on the circle of fifths.

Like MOD IIIs, MOD IVs can either mean settling into a blissful resting place (the move from C maj > F maj in the Tahoe Tweezer comes to mind). More often, however, MOD IVs are immediate infusions of energy (as in the 8/22 “Caspian”). There’s occasionally some settling in once MOD IVs arrive, but often not much.

Table 4 lists the twelve MOD IV jams Phish played this summer, including how long they spent in each key:

Pathways: typically, MOD IVs don’t require a pathway. Mode-mixture is unnecessary. One member of the band simply bangs on the fourth scale degree. Because it’s dissonant, the others react pretty quickly. The destinations, at least in 2015, are always major keys (not minor iv).

(Quick aside: “Simple” jams usually begin with band members repeating a I-IV (F to B-flat) chord progression in F major. At 7:18 of the 8/21 “Simple” jam, they spontaneously decide to stop on the B-flat and quit alternating back to F.)

MOD V: Plugging the Distress Tube
The chord built on the fifth scale degree is known as the dominant. In tonal music, the dominant is the least stable place to be; the built-in tension resolves only with the return to the tonic (I) or a move to some other place (VI, or what’s called a deceptive cadence). In the Phish repertoire, “Steam” and “Maze” (each in G minor) are good examples of songs that have extensive jams in the dominant key (D maj/min). We all have felt how tense those jams are, for this and other reasons. When G minor returns in each case, at the end of the jams, it’s a relief.

None of that matters much here; modulations to the dominant key (seven half-steps up or five half-steps down on the piano keyboard), or MOD V, are less common than the other types, and they generally don’t feel all that tense.

Table 5 lists the three MOD V jams Phish played this summer, including how long they spent in each key:

Pathways: each of the three MOD Vs of summer 2015 preserves the mode of its starting key: 7/31 “KDF” moves from C min > G min; 8/7 “Tweezer” moves from A min > E min; 8/22 “Light” moves from B maj > F# maj. The MOD V in the 7/31 “KDF,” one of the longest jams of the summer, feels arbitrary; so does the move to F# maj midway through the Magnaball “Light” (8/22), but at least it demonstrates “Light” can do more than just MOD III.

The 8/7 “Tweezer” is notable because of what happens earlier: “Chalk Dust Torture,” a MOD IV (E min > A maj), gives us a long taste of A-ness long before “Tweezer” arrives. The MOD V “return” back to E min in “Tweezer,” then, feels like a return to the “Chalk Dust” jam. If you reduce the Blossom “CDT” -> “Tweezer” down to keys and modes, it looks like this: E min > A maj/min > E min (or I - IV - I). More than any other pairing of the summer (except, maybe, for the Magnaball “Tweezer” -> “Caspian,” discussed later), the Blossom “CDT” -> “Tweezer” acts like a unified whole.

MOD flat-VII: Now I’m on My Way
A MOD flat-VII move involves a major key jam (A major, for example) that modulates to a major key located one whole-step below (two half-steps down on the piano keyboard, or G) the tonic key.

The MOD flat-VII category has a dual nature. From a major key to another major key, MOD flat-VII represents the biggest tonal leap (two flat-side steps on the circle of fifths) of any of the MODs this summer. The three “Disease” jams (8/2, 8/5 & 9/6) that contain MOD flat-VII moves all go from A major to G major–keys that are (relatively) distant.

A minor key and a major key located a whole step apart, however, such as G minor and F major (7/31 “Twist”), or E minor and D major (8/1 “Carini”), fit right into a diatonic key (I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-viio-I), as ii-I or vi-V, without much effort. These are tonal slots we’re used to hearing.


"Down with Disease" – 9/6/15, Commerce City, CO

Table 6 lists the seven MOD flat-VII jams Phish played this summer, including how much time they spent in each key:

Pathways: Two possible pathways to get to MOD flat-VII include two quick MOD IVs (i.e. D > C > G in the 7/24 “Hood”); a short MOD III > MOD V (G > B-flat > F in the 7/31 “Twist”); or some other, more obscure pathway. Sometimes it’s just about opening up new tonal spaces that aren’t MOD IIIs (via mode-mixture) or MOD IV (though they do that in the 8/23 “Disease”; see above).

MOD flat-VII was the most popular modulation for “Disease” jams this summer (three of them). The 7/24 “Hood” jam, as I mentioned earlier, is an anomaly: a Type I jam song with a four-minute excursion into a (relatively) foreign key (C maj). It’s probably the most harmonically adventurous 3.0 “Hood” since 7/1/14, which spent a significant amount of time in G maj/min (MOD IV). MOD flat-VIIs in two jams on this list, the 8/1 “Carini” and 9/4 “Fuego,” barely cracked the two-minute mark, and are therefore just slightly more than last-minute swerves to segue into other songs, which might explain why a more distant modulation was chosen.

[The third and final part of this series will run here in the phish.net blog tomorrow...]

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Comments

, comment by Spirit
Spirit i was eager for this installment! thank you this is just fantastic.
, comment by Squirming
Squirming Awesome, I could read about this stuff all day.
, comment by baynetrain8
baynetrain8 I love reading about the technical breakdown of music, something so seemingly intangible. Thanks, Mike!
, comment by Jackaroe
Jackaroe I had enough of a basic music introduction as a kid to get the basics of this article, but am by no means a musician. Question for those that are: does Phish plan these key changes before they take the stage? I know that some are standard per the song, but it is clear that they will step outside of typical progressions as well. Just curious as to how four musicians co-ordinate that in real time.
, comment by Jackaroe
Jackaroe ...and that jam out of Twist from 7/24 is THE BALLS!!!
, comment by philanthropist
philanthropist Excellent stuff! Thanks so much for expanding my understanding. Very grateful to support a site that promotes this type of analysis!
, comment by odonnellsp
odonnellsp I'm loving this series.

A question about the "Disease" modulations, though. Isn't the song and initial jam really in A Mixolydian, which makes the jump to G maj less jarring? In the 9/6 "Disease," it almost seems like they go from A Mixolydian to A Minor for a few bars before shifting that to C Major for about 20 seconds before landing in G.
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad @odonnellsp said:
I'm loving this series.

A question about the "Disease" modulations, though. Isn't the song and initial jam really in A Mixolydian, which makes the jump to G maj less jarring? In the 9/6 "Disease," it almost seems like they go from A Mixolydian to A Minor for a few bars before shifting that to C Major for about 20 seconds before landing in G.
I believe you're right about that. The MOD flat-VII move isn't totally jarring anyway, just (maybe) in relation to the others, which are just slightly closer moves. And yes: that A mixo > min > C maj > G pathway is one clear way to go.
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad @Jackaroe said:
I had enough of a basic music introduction as a kid to get the basics of this article, but am by no means a musician. Question for those that are: does Phish plan these key changes before they take the stage? I know that some are standard per the song, but it is clear that they will step outside of typical progressions as well. Just curious as to how four musicians co-ordinate that in real time.
It's possible, I think, to imagine they decide where certain jams start and end and leave the pathway up in the air (I talk about this a little in the next post). But I think they mostly decide (by listening to each other) where to go on the fly, just through years and years of playing together. They seem to have a pretty remarkable level of musical ESP.
, comment by HarborSeal
HarborSeal I can't believe how great this article is. I have some very (VERY) basic training in music theory, and this is just an astoundingly enlightening article in so many ways. I could read one of these on every Phish tour ever, and every Dead tour ever, and if you wrote something like this about the Disco Biscuits it might even persuade me to listen to them.

Thank you, Mike!
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @Jackaroe said:
I had enough of a basic music introduction as a kid to get the basics of this article, but am by no means a musician. Question for those that are: does Phish plan these key changes before they take the stage? I know that some are standard per the song, but it is clear that they will step outside of typical progressions as well. Just curious as to how four musicians co-ordinate that in real time.
I assume that they do not plan these key changes at all (with exceptions, such as the 8/4/15 Mike's Song where Trey likely told the band that they would do a second jam in F major after the typical E minor jam with the F# minor finish). What they do is explore tonal space, and as @MikeHamad mentioned, if someone offers an idea all the rest of the band has to do is take them up on said idea. But Gordeaux does have to decide to "go there" for it to really be a modulation. This is evidenced by the fact that the same song will behave differently on any given night. Or, consider the 11/22/97 Halley's, where Trey can famously be heard on the SBD yell "Mike! Stay on F!"

I bet that maybe, in 1992 or 93 when they were still learning how to group improvise, they did plan out these transitions. But back then it was likely in the service of moving from one song to the next, because setlists were written out and the whole show was a very calculated affair.
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @odonnellsp said:
I'm loving this series.

A question about the "Disease" modulations, though. Isn't the song and initial jam really in A Mixolydian, which makes the jump to G maj less jarring? In the 9/6 "Disease," it almost seems like they go from A Mixolydian to A Minor for a few bars before shifting that to C Major for about 20 seconds before landing in G.
First off, very coincidental that your name is Sean O'Donnell, because @MikeHamad and I have a mutual friend who is a music theorist with the same name, but spelled Shaugn...

The Disease jam often goes to A mixolydian, yes. And you're totally right, this makes the transition to G major much smoother. But consider two things:
1. In rock music, players seldom solo in a purely major scale pitch space with the leading tone (in A major, G#). For various reasons that are too complex and long to get into, the lowered seventh scale degree (G in the case of Disease) is pretty much the norm in rock music soloing. There are of course exceptions to this.
2. The Disease jam is actually more of a pentatonic/blues/rock jam than a mixolydian jam as it stands normally. A typical type 1 Disease will jam in this pentatonic space (scale degrees 1-2-3-5-6 in A major, or A-B-C/C#-E-F#) which conveniently avoids the seventh scale degree altogether. Type 1 Disease jams often feature a movement back and forth between A major and D major, or I-IV. Listen to almost any version from the mid 90s for this, or also the 7/25/15 set 1 version from this summer (straight fiya!). However, when the band opens set 2 with Disease and decides to make it a type II jam, one of the ways that the band signals the desire to move the sound "outward" beyond the norm is to use modes other than pentatonic/blues scales. In this case, Mixolydian.

In summing up: "Disease" jams often begin with soloing in A major pentatonic, but as Trey decides to open up the form and move the jam into further explorative space, he'll start to add in that flat scale degree 7, G, which moves the melodic mode into mixolydian. This in turn will often be a cue for Mike to move to G, which achieves the MOD-VII that @MikeHamad discussed.
, comment by Switters
Switters All phans have different ways of appreciating Phish. Generally, I try to avoid the theory behind the jams. I spend my days looking at samples of steel through a microscope, analyzing the alloys and their phases. I also assess risk, and implement procedure to eliminate said risk. As you can imagine at the end of the day, all I want to do is put on 8.7 Chalk Dust, 8.8 Halley's -> Light > Twist, or 8.9 Tweezer and let the beauty wash over me.

All that said, I am beyond blown away by the level of dedication and analysis the author put into this essay.
, comment by CameToPlay
CameToPlay This is truly amazing. I am so impressed with the talent at .net. Such a rich learning experience here.
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray Best post I have read in 2015 on .net.

Well done and informative.

Sure did help that Phish gave you the jams you needed this summer ;)
, comment by solargarlic78
solargarlic78 I hate to harp on this, but I think this is better understood if you keep track of which MODE they are in. You can't conceptualize this only in terms of Major-Minor.

1) When Phish jams in minor, it is almost always DORIAN with a focus on the minor pentatonic notes - and the dorian notes added for color - Carini (Em), Ghost (Am), Tweezer (Am), Sand (Am), Bowie (Em) - all Dorian. An interesting exception is Stash (D natural minor, or Aeolian) - when Stash goes to F - it REALLY is doing a modulation to the relative major. (what you call MODIII). But this kind of shift is actually rare in Phish jams I'd argue because they're almost always in Dorian.

2) So I like to to think of Phish "minor" jams as modal jams focused in on the "ii" chord. This means a shift in Ghost from Amin to Dmajor is not really a I-IV as much as a ii-V. (dorian-> mixo). If it were really A natural minor to D major, the pitch collection would modulate to change notes C and F to C# and F# respectively - which would sound weird. The "ii"-> "V" pulls off the Amin-> Dmaj feel within the pitch collection/key at hand (G major). This is also present in the many examples you have of Amin-> Cmaj - that is usually a shift from dorian to lydian (ii-> IV, not i-III) in the Gmajor family of notes (the F# persists).

My only point is, all your tables really only keep track of whether the jam is 'minor' or 'major' but really matters is what MODE they are in - Dorian? Mixolydian? Aeolian? If you understand the mode, the next chord that comes is usually within the chords of that mode understood as: I ii iii IV V vi vii I

3) Phish major jams are almost always either Lydian (Reba, Curtain, Wingsuit) or Mixlydian (DWD, Jibboo, Gin). In other words, they are almost always playing with the IV-V chords of a given key. So when Disease shifts from A to G, it's not really fair to call that a I-> flatVII. It's better thought of as just a V-> IV. Hood is an exception which is really in Dmajor (I). A lot of Hoods recently have modulated to D mixloydian which brings the C-> D major chord feel into play (again IV-V).

Anyway, this is awesome stuff - thank you for your posts. I hope my ideas are helpful and not annoying. :-)
, comment by solargarlic78
solargarlic78 @smoothatonalsnd said:

First off, very coincidental that your name is Sean O'Donnell, because @MikeHamad and I have a mutual friend who is a music theorist with the same name, but spelled Shaugn...

The Disease jam often goes to A mixolydian, yes. And you're totally right, this makes the transition to G major much smoother. But consider two things:
1. In rock music, players seldom solo in a purely major scale pitch space with the leading tone (in A major, G#). For various reasons that are too complex and long to get into, the lowered seventh scale degree (G in the case of Disease) is pretty much the norm in rock music soloing. There are of course exceptions to this.
2. The Disease jam is actually more of a pentatonic/blues/rock jam than a mixolydian jam as it stands normally. A typical type 1 Disease will jam in this pentatonic space (scale degrees 1-2-3-5-6 in A major, or A-B-C/C#-E-F#) which conveniently avoids the seventh scale degree altogether. Type 1 Disease jams often feature a movement back and forth between A major and D major, or I-IV. Listen to almost any version from the mid 90s for this, or also the 7/25/15 set 1 version from this summer (straight fiya!). However, when the band opens set 2 with Disease and decides to make it a type II jam, one of the ways that the band signals the desire to move the sound "outward" beyond the norm is to use modes other than pentatonic/blues scales. In this case, Mixolydian.

In summing up: "Disease" jams often begin with soloing in A major pentatonic, but as Trey decides to open up the form and move the jam into further explorative space, he'll start to add in that flat scale degree 7, G, which moves the melodic mode into mixolydian. This in turn will often be a cue for Mike to move to G, which achieves the MOD-VII that @MikeHamad discussed.[/quote]

See my other response above where I explain the importance of keeping track of modes. But, imo, DWD is always a CLASSIC mixolydian jam. This is as mixolydian as it gets. He may emphasize the A major pentatonic notes, but he is also throwing in the G notes and the D notes a lot.

So, when he goes Amajor to D major, this is not a I-> IV, but a V-> I. Since he's already in mixo, he's already playing the notes of the natural D major scale.

Another thing: When DWD's go "type II" into that funky rhythm playing space (this happens almost every time around 7-10 minutes in). Trey and the band usually shift from A mixolydian to A dorian. This is a true modulation. But it's not A major to A natural minor - it's A mixo to A dorian.
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad @solargarlic78 said:
Anyway, this is awesome stuff - thank you for your posts. I hope my ideas are helpful and not annoying. :-)
Thanks for the kind words. They're not annoying at all. Let me try to address these in turn.

"When Phish jams in minor, it is almost always DORIAN with a focus on the minor pentatonic notes - and the dorian notes added for color - Carini (Em), Ghost (Am), Tweezer (Am), Sand (Am), Bowie (Em) - all Dorian. An interesting exception is Stash (D natural minor, or Aeolian) - when Stash goes to F - it REALLY is doing a modulation to the relative major. (what you call MODIII). But this kind of shift is actually rare in Phish jams I'd argue because they're almost always in Dorian."

Correct. In Phish jams (most rock music, really), minor almost always means Dorian. For awhile, when I started analyzing this stuff, I would specify "A Dorian" instead of "A minor," but it got too annoying. Just assume every time I write "A minor," it's the Dorian mode (i.e. the raised ^6 and flatted ^7).

"2) So I like to to think of Phish "minor" jams as modal jams focused in on the "ii" chord. This means a shift in Ghost from Amin to Dmajor is not really a I-IV as much as a ii-V. (dorian-> mixo). If it were really A natural minor to D major, the pitch collection would modulate to change notes C and F to C# and F# respectively - which would sound weird. The "ii"-> "V" pulls off the Amin-> Dmaj feel within the pitch collection/key at hand (G major). This is also present in the many examples you have of Amin-> Cmaj - that is usually a shift from dorian to lydian (ii-> IV, not i-III) in the Gmajor family of notes (the F# persists)."

I can't behind hearing A Dorian > D Mixolydian as "ii-V" rather than "i-IV." Keep in mind: the Roman numeral system is all about harmonic function. In tonal music, ii is roughly equivalent to a IV chord -- a subdominant, in other words, a place to go that's "away" from the tonic/home key. I, or i, signifies tonic stable function.

Same point with that D mixo area: assume Mixolydian always = major. It's too annoying to call D major "D Mixo" every time, especially because it's going to confuse the hell out of people who are just getting used to major and minor (not you, clearly).

If you call that D area "V," you're ascribing to it the same functionality as a V chord -- dominant function, relatively unstable, eager to return to I -- which presumably would lead to some phantom "I" chord (G major). I hear exactly what you're hearing, but one particular SLICE of it (the "i-IV"-ness, even though Dorian and Mixolydian) is WAY stronger than the other SLICE (ii-V, or subdominant to dominant function, with a tonic that NEVER arrives, but the mode corresponds to ii-V).

The equivalency of major with Mixo and minor with Dorian is simply one of the accommodations / adjustments from tonal classical music that one has to make with this repertoire. But I hear what you're saying (especially when it comes to Reba jams).

"My only point is, all your tables really only keep track of whether the jam is 'minor' or 'major' but really matters is what MODE they are in - Dorian? Mixolydian? Aeolian? If you understand the mode, the next chord that comes is usually within the chords of that mode understood as: I ii iii IV V vi vii I"

You can assume that every "major" is Mixo and "minor" is Dorian. Aeolian / Ionian rarely happen, and Lydian is always fleeting. You could make a parallel chart, if that helps.

"3) Phish major jams are almost always either Lydian (Reba, Curtain, Wingsuit) or Mixlydian (DWD, Jibboo, Gin). In other words, they are almost always playing with the IV-V chords of a given key. So when Disease shifts from A to G, it's not really fair to call that a I-> flatVII. It's better thought of as just a V-> IV. Hood is an exception which is really in Dmajor (I). A lot of Hoods recently have modulated to D mixloydian which brings the C-> D major chord feel into play (again IV-V). [/quote]

I'd have to reconfigure my whole interpretive framework if I started calling all major keys "V," which ascribes them a dominant function that doesn't really exist (same point as above). The Roman numeral system indicates function, as you know, and not just mode. Certainly, you wouldn't suggest that there's no tonic function in Phish jams simply because of missing Aeolian / Ionian modes, right?

Anyway, let me know if this makes sense or not.
, comment by solargarlic78
solargarlic78 @MikeHamad said:
@solargarlic78 said:
Anyway, this is awesome stuff - thank you for your posts. I hope my ideas are helpful and not annoying. :-)
Thanks for the kind words. They're not annoying at all. Let me try to address these in turn.

"When Phish jams in minor, it is almost always DORIAN with a focus on the minor pentatonic notes - and the dorian notes added for color - Carini (Em), Ghost (Am), Tweezer (Am), Sand (Am), Bowie (Em) - all Dorian. An interesting exception is Stash (D natural minor, or Aeolian) - when Stash goes to F - it REALLY is doing a modulation to the relative major. (what you call MODIII). But this kind of shift is actually rare in Phish jams I'd argue because they're almost always in Dorian."

Correct. In Phish jams (most rock music, really), minor almost always means Dorian. For awhile, when I started analyzing this stuff, I would specify "A Dorian" instead of "A minor," but it got too annoying. Just assume every time I write "A minor," it's the Dorian mode (i.e. the raised ^6 and flatted ^7).

"2) So I like to to think of Phish "minor" jams as modal jams focused in on the "ii" chord. This means a shift in Ghost from Amin to Dmajor is not really a I-IV as much as a ii-V. (dorian-> mixo). If it were really A natural minor to D major, the pitch collection would modulate to change notes C and F to C# and F# respectively - which would sound weird. The "ii"-> "V" pulls off the Amin-> Dmaj feel within the pitch collection/key at hand (G major). This is also present in the many examples you have of Amin-> Cmaj - that is usually a shift from dorian to lydian (ii-> IV, not i-III) in the Gmajor family of notes (the F# persists)."

I can't behind hearing A Dorian > D Mixolydian as "ii-V" rather than "i-IV." Keep in mind: the Roman numeral system is all about harmonic function. In tonal music, ii is roughly equivalent to a IV chord -- a subdominant, in other words, a place to go that's "away" from the tonic/home key. I, or i, signifies tonic stable function.

Same point with that D mixo area: assume Mixolydian always = major. It's too annoying to call D major "D Mixo" every time, especially because it's going to confuse the hell out of people who are just getting used to major and minor (not you, clearly).

If you call that D area "V," you're ascribing to it the same functionality as a V chord -- dominant function, relatively unstable, eager to return to I -- which presumably would lead to some phantom "I" chord (G major). I hear exactly what you're hearing, but one particular SLICE of it (the "i-IV"-ness, even though Dorian and Mixolydian) is WAY stronger than the other SLICE (ii-V, or subdominant to dominant function, with a tonic that NEVER arrives, but the mode corresponds to ii-V).

The equivalency of major with Mixo and minor with Dorian is simply one of the accommodations / adjustments from tonal classical music that one has to make with this repertoire. But I hear what you're saying (especially when it comes to Reba jams).

"My only point is, all your tables really only keep track of whether the jam is 'minor' or 'major' but really matters is what MODE they are in - Dorian? Mixolydian? Aeolian? If you understand the mode, the next chord that comes is usually within the chords of that mode understood as: I ii iii IV V vi vii I"

You can assume that every "major" is Mixo and "minor" is Dorian. Aeolian / Ionian rarely happen, and Lydian is always fleeting. You could make a parallel chart, if that helps.

"3) Phish major jams are almost always either Lydian (Reba, Curtain, Wingsuit) or Mixlydian (DWD, Jibboo, Gin). In other words, they are almost always playing with the IV-V chords of a given key. So when Disease shifts from A to G, it's not really fair to call that a I-> flatVII. It's better thought of as just a V-> IV. Hood is an exception which is really in Dmajor (I). A lot of Hoods recently have modulated to D mixloydian which brings the C-> D major chord feel into play (again IV-V).
I'd have to reconfigure my whole interpretive framework if I started calling all major keys "V," which ascribes them a dominant function that doesn't really exist (same point as above). The Roman numeral system indicates function, as you know, and not just mode. Certainly, you wouldn't suggest that there's no tonic function in Phish jams simply because of missing Aeolian / Ionian modes, right?

Anyway, let me know if this makes sense or not.[/quote]

Yeah, that all makes sense. I think you're right that doing this presentation in terms of modes would probably confuse people more. But, I think there is also something deceptively simple about Phish mode changes these days.

If you think of Gmajor Ionian as a family of chords - I (G major) ii (Amin) iii (Bmin) IV (C major) V (Dmajor), vi (Emin) vii (F# dim?) I (Gmajor). Then an Amin Dorian jam is often going to jump around within this family of chords (well, usually Phish doesn't touch the iii to be honest). The jam itself is on the "ii" in this conception. They are in effect jamming on the "ii" of a given key/family of chords.

I totally get the dissonance of thinking of the I as the V (because the V wants to resolve etc etc.) But insofar as the Grateful Dead inaugurated jams music with Dark Star (A Mixo), I like to think of that as jamming on the V chord in D major scale. (This all has to do probably with how I learned my scales on guitar and then tried to transpose them to modes). So much jam music is this jamming on the V chord imo.
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @solargarlic78 said:
I totally get the dissonance of thinking of the I as the V (because the V wants to resolve etc etc.) But insofar as the Grateful Dead inaugurated jams music with Dark Star (A Mixo), I like to think of that as jamming on the V chord in D major scale. (This all has to do probably with how I learned my scales on guitar and then tried to transpose them to modes). So much jam music is this jamming on the V chord imo.
I think your last point is the main difference in the way you see this versus how Mike and I do, and totally makes sense from a practical standpoint. Your viewpoint is entirely consistent with the way you approach mode, that is, you "learned your scales on guitar and then tried to transpose them to modes." Jamming on the V chord in D major is, of course, the same pitch collection as an A mixolydian mode: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, but oriented to begin and end with A. So you're looking at the fret board and thinking "OK, I play a D major scale but jam around the fifth scale degree." You have D major in mind because you are thinking of pitch collections, not harmonic functions.

It also has to do with your terminology, which again is totally consistent with the way an improvising rock guitarist thinks about notes versus the way a classically-trained theorist does. What you call "jamming on the V chord" I would describe as "jamming on scale degree 5 in a D major scale." The difference is in the subtle significations of "V" versus "5." One connotes a scale degree and essentially melodic function, the other is a harmonic function (dominant), and essentially harmonic function. There is no phantom D major chord holding everything together in "Dark Star," it's "in A" as much as "Disease" is "in A." The fact that you jam on A mixolydian, and think of it as jamming on scale degree 5 in a D major pitch collection, does not take away from the "A-ness" of Disease's key.

I hope this makes sense and also doesn't come off as pretentious or derogatory! I'm a teacher, specifically a music history teacher, so it's difficult for me to talk about this stuff sometimes without sounding pedantic. But my point is that we all are hearing this the same way, but we're just using different terminology to describe it, and that terminology is most determined by what our introduction to music theory was. If your introduction to music theory is a typical classical music college course, then you're going to describe it differently than if your introduction to music theory is trying to understand how to work your way around a guitar to play improvisational rock music.
, comment by solargarlic78
solargarlic78 @smoothatonalsnd said:
@solargarlic78 said:
I totally get the dissonance of thinking of the I as the V (because the V wants to resolve etc etc.) But insofar as the Grateful Dead inaugurated jams music with Dark Star (A Mixo), I like to think of that as jamming on the V chord in D major scale. (This all has to do probably with how I learned my scales on guitar and then tried to transpose them to modes). So much jam music is this jamming on the V chord imo.
I think your last point is the main difference in the way you see this versus how Mike and I do, and totally makes sense from a practical standpoint. Your viewpoint is entirely consistent with the way you approach mode, that is, you "learned your scales on guitar and then tried to transpose them to modes." Jamming on the V chord in D major is, of course, the same pitch collection as an A mixolydian mode: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, but oriented to begin and end with A. So you're looking at the fret board and thinking "OK, I play a D major scale but jam around the fifth scale degree." You have D major in mind because you are thinking of pitch collections, not harmonic functions.

It also has to do with your terminology, which again is totally consistent with the way an improvising rock guitarist thinks about notes versus the way a classically-trained theorist does. What you call "jamming on the V chord" I would describe as "jamming on scale degree 5 in a D major scale." The difference is in the subtle significations of "V" versus "5." One connotes a scale degree and essentially melodic function, the other is a harmonic function (dominant), and essentially harmonic function. There is no phantom D major chord holding everything together in "Dark Star," it's "in A" as much as "Disease" is "in A." The fact that you jam on A mixolydian, and think of it as jamming on scale degree 5 in a D major pitch collection, does not take away from the "A-ness" of Disease's key.

I hope this makes sense and also doesn't come off as pretentious or derogatory! I'm a teacher, specifically a music history teacher, so it's difficult for me to talk about this stuff sometimes without sounding pedantic. But my point is that we all are hearing this the same way, but we're just using different terminology to describe it, and that terminology is most determined by what our introduction to music theory was. If your introduction to music theory is a typical classical music college course, then you're going to describe it differently than if your introduction to music theory is trying to understand how to work your way around a guitar to play improvisational rock music.
Right on. Makes total sense. And I totally agree about the A-ness in DWD and Dark Star. :-) I learned music theory in college WHILE trying to learn to play improvisational guitar music. So I was all mixed up. :-) It strike me that this might be a difference between classical approaches to harmony and jazz approaches. I think jazz theorists are usually pretty clear when improvisation is taking place on a chord other than I or i. For example, the ii-> V progression is common in jazz and just because that progression emphasizes the "ii", no one would claim the ii was now a i. Mile's Davis's famous modal "So What" is seen as a dorian jam on the ii chord. (a jam that moves up a half step in the B section of the AABA structure).

MY main point is that Phish tends to shift modes within this collection of chords that contain the same pitch collection. I find it easier to see A dorian to D mixo as ii-V, rather than i-IV. I also would know if we are in A dorian, a move to a C chord will suggest the Lydian mode - a move to a G chord would mean the Ionian.

You'll see this roman numeral nomenclature whenever modes are described. We need to think of each of these as a chord that can be jammed over. Ionian (I) Dorian (ii) 6.1.3 Phrygian (iii) Lydian (IV) Mixolydian (V) Aeolian (vi) Locrian (vii). Phish usually rarely touches the Phrygian and Locrain modes, but a lot of their jams jump between the other 5.
, comment by hambone024
hambone024 Best comment thread ever.

I understand almost none of this, but love that there are people into my favorite band who can raise the bar of appreciation like this. Humbling and awesome.
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @solargarlic78 we need more Phrygian jams! There was a little something along those lines during the 8/21/15 Chalkdust, very Spanish jam-esque.
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