Use Your Words - posted on July 23, 2014 by

Messaien Modes – Part 6

The following is similar to Part 3, only it focuses instead on Mode 4:

Mode 4a

Unlike Mode 3, which can be looked at as three symmetrical trichords, it’s probably best to think of Mode 4 as two symmetrical tetrachords (group of four different pitches). Each tetrachord is primarily made up of half steps (H – H – H – min 3rd), and the starting notes of each of these tetrachords are separated by the interval of a tritone (C and F# in the example above).

Through various combinations of stepping or skipping from note to note, we can build the following triads (among others):

Mode 4b

Mode 4 is more commonly encountered than Mode 3. When starting the transposition above on the note D and stepping downward, it is possible to outline an altered dominant or diminished quality:

Mode 4c

I’ll explore some other possibilities in a future post.

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GW Blog - posted on July 21, 2014 by

Gretchen’s Wedding March

Help me make a record. Click HERE to find out how.

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GW Blog - posted on July 13, 2014 by

Be a part of Glenn White’s new record!

Help turn my four half-recorded tunes into a full blown CD! Click HERE for more info.

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GW Blog - posted on July 10, 2014 by

August 27 – GW at the Garage, NYC

August 27, 2014 at the Garage
10:30 pm – 1:30 am

with Mark Cocheo (guitar), Nitzan Gavrieli (piano), Gary Wang (bass), Chris Benham (drums)

SPECIAL GUEST: The King Sweater

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GW Blog - posted on June 18, 2014 by

July 9 – Jazz at the Shabazz 2


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GW Blog - posted on May 19, 2014 by

June 11 – Jazz at the Shabazz

June11 - 2

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Use Your Words - posted on May 17, 2014 by

Messiaen Modes – Part 5

In response to John’s question about practical uses for Mode 3, I submit the following:

Although I’m generally not a fan of plugging licks, the truth of the matter is that licks are a very effective means of integrating new material. The lick below shows a practical use for Type 4 trichords from Mode 3, which contain a series of major triads.


A D dorian scale is used in measure 1 to set up the C major tonality. The descending Mode 3 trichords (Type 4) begin on the second note (and-of-1) of measure 2, down one trichord, up the next, etc., continuing through to beat 3 of the final measure.

Carrying the idea further, the licks listed below follow the exact same methodology, only they begin on the third and fifth scale degrees of the D minor 7 chord.



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Use Your Words - posted on April 12, 2014 by

Messiaen Modes – Part 4

The following is an extension of my previous post. Whereas the last post looked at a series of trichords derived from Messiaen’s Mode 3, the grids below depict tetrachords derived from the same. The first grid is all possible combinations of any four pitches (pitch 1, pitch 2, pitch 3, and pitch 4). The second grid is a collection of tetrachords that occur when applying certain step/skip patterns to the Mode. In comparing these tetrachords to traditional harmony, you’ll see Major 7 chords in Type 5, Dominant 7 in Type 4, Minor 7 in Type 3, Major 6ths, Minor 6ths, and more.



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GW Blog - posted on April 7, 2014 by

April 26 at Union Hall w/ Anya Marina

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Use Your Words - posted on March 30, 2014 by

Messiaen Modes – Part 3

Continuing on from my last post about the subject, the following matrix depicts one transposition of Messiaen’s Mode 3:


In keeping with the last post’s concept of looking at the mode as a symmetrical collection of trichords, the matrix below charts all possible arrangements of three pitches (listed here as pitch 1, pitch 2, and pitch 3):


Much in the same way that triads are made from skipping notes within major scales, the following is a series of trichords that are made up of different combinations of skipping and stepping through the mode:


These trichords are selected and named arbitrarily, with the intention of displaying some of the vertical possibilities of Mode 3. For example, Type 4 contains a series of trichords that can be looked upon as major triads. Likewise, Type 3 contains trichords that are identical to minor triads, Type 2 contains diminished triads, and Type 5 contains augmented triads. There are other trichords within each of these grids that can suggest some other tonalities, or better yet, can be used as a means of combining tonalities.

Extended tonality, polytonality . . . however you choose to define it, Mode 3 provides a systematic way of creating combinations of trichords (such as Type 4′s C major, Eb major, E major, G major, Ab major, and B major) that would not be possible within the traditional major scale-based system.

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