Use Your Words - posted on September 21, 2014 by

Messiaen Mode 4

Along the same lines as my previous post on Messiaen Mode 3, Mode 4 possesses some tonal colors that are interesting and perhaps even a little more practical.

Whereas Mode 3 is a symmetrical arrangement of three identical trichords, Mode 4 is a symmetrical arrangement of two identical tetrachords, each made up of three half steps. The tetrachords are separated by the distance of a tritone:

Mode 4 examples

Parsed out into groups of four notes, the Mode 4 matrix looks like this:

Mode 4a

By establishing a pattern of steps and skips between notes, we can build the following trichords (among others):

Mode 4y

Note the similarities between Type 3 and Type 4 (think of them as inversions of each other). These two types also contain two major and two minor triads.

Like Mode 2 (octatonic scale), Mode 4 can have applications over dominant chords. The following lick can be heard by a number of modern jazz masters, including Michael Brecker, Donny McCaslin, and others:

Mode 4c