View Poll Results: Is Locrian a Minor mode, Diminished mode, or something else?

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  • Minor mode

    4 44.44%
  • Diminished mode

    2 22.22%
  • Other

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Thread: Is Locrian a minor mode or a diminished mode?

  1. #1
    Senior Member caters's Avatar
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    Default Is Locrian a minor mode or a diminished mode?

    I have heard 2 different schools of thought when describing the Locrian mode. The first one that I heard several years ago, when I first heard about modes is that it is a minor mode, despite its diminished 5th because it's tonic is the seventh degree of the major scale and the seventh tends to have a diminished quality, especially in minor.

    Now I hear more people saying that it is not a minor mode, it is its own mode, a diminished mode.

    Here is the first school of thought that I heard:

    Mode Quality
    Ionian Major
    Lydian Major
    Mixolydian Major
    Aeolian Minor
    Dorian Minor
    Phrygian Minor
    Locrian Minor

    This one kind of makes sense because Locrian is a modified minor scale.

    And here is the more current school of thought that I keep hearing:

    Mode Quality
    Ionian Major
    Lydian Major
    Mixolydian Major
    Aeolian Minor
    Dorian Minor
    Phrygian Minor
    Locrian Diminished

    This one implies that the modes are incomplete, at least to my eyes it does. To my eyes, this means there should be 3 diminished modes and 3 augmented modes just like how there are 3 major modes and in this school of thought, 3 minor modes. Also, the only connection between Locrian and the Diminished Scale is that the tonic triad is diminished in both cases. The Diminished Scale goes further than Locrian because the only triad you can make out of the Diminished scale, with each note being 2 scale degrees away is a diminished triad.

    To my eyes, basing the classification of the modes on the tonic alone as in the school of thought that says that Locrian is a diminished mode is not right. I would say that Locrian is a minor mode because it is based off of the minor scale. Also, Locrian, to me at least suggests that the so called tonic is actually the dominant and thus it is too unstable for me to even consider using as a key.

    Besides, saying that you have a diminished mode can be confusing. It could refer to one of 2 modes of the Diminished Scale(half whole or whole half) or it could refer to a mode where the tonic is diminished.

    But what do you think? Do you think Locrian is a diminished mode and not a minor mode? If so, why?
    Last edited by caters; Apr-01-2019 at 18:44.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by caters View Post
    I have heard 2 different schools of thought when describing the Locrian mode. The first one that I heard several years ago, when I first heard about modes is that it is a minor mode, despite its diminished 5th because it's tonic is the seventh degree of the major scale and the seventh tends to have a diminished quality, especially in minor.
    It doesn't make sense to me to base a scale's harmonic quality off of what scale degree of a parent scale it is derived from. Better to ask, "what chord does this scale work with?" and the answer is, a half-diminished chord.

    I'd argue against using it against a minor chord, because it has no stable fifth. This automatically makes a good argument towards 'diminished' because of the tritone, as well as the minor third.

    Now I hear more people saying that it is not a minor mode, it is its own mode, a diminished mode. This one implies that the modes are incomplete, at least to my eyes it does. To my eyes, this means there should be 3 diminished modes and 3 augmented modes just like how there are 3 major modes and in this school of thought, 3 minor modes.
    I think that's flawed, because the augmented has three chord forms: C-E-G#, E-G#-C, G#-C-E, which repeat 4 times (at four root positions) (C,C#,D,Eb) before repeating. 3 forms x 4 root positions = 12.

    The diminished seventh chord has four forms: C-Eb-Gb-Bbb, Eb-Gb-Bbb-C, Gb-Bbb-C-Eb-, and Bbb-C-Eb-Gb, which repeat 3 times at root stations, 4x3=12.

    Also, the only connection between Locrian and the Diminished Scale is that the tonic triad is diminished in both cases. The Diminished Scale goes further than Locrian because the only triad you can make out of the Diminished scale, with each note being 2 scale degrees away is a diminished triad.
    You should stop comparing scales, and start listening to how the scale, in this case locrian, sounds against a half-diminished chord.

    It's clearer to say the diminished triads are minor thirds apart, not letter names, because diminished chords involve enharmonic spellings. Think in intervals, not letter names.

    To my eyes, basing the classification of the modes on the tonic alone as in the school of thought that says that Locrian is a diminished mode is not right. I would say that Locrian is a minor mode because it is based off of the minor scale. Also, Locrian, to me at least suggests that the so called tonic is actually the dominant and thus it is too unstable for me to even consider using as a key.
    This is unclear to me. I suggest you stop thinking of the locrian scale in terms of functions and comparisons to other scales, and start listening to how it sounds against a half-diminished chord (B-D-F-A)

    Besides, saying that you have a diminished mode can be confusing. It could refer to one of 2 modes of the Diminished Scale(half whole or whole half) or it could refer to a mode where the tonic is diminished.
    Your mistake is in associating the Locrian scale with a diminished, or diminished seventh chord sound. It's half-diminished.

    But what do you think? Do you think Locrian is a diminished mode and not a minor mode? If so, why?
    In jazz, it's the scale used over half-diminished chords.

  4. #3
    Senior Member philoctetes's Avatar
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    Locrian is the mode derived from starting the C major scale on B.

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    I like calling locrian a diminished mode since, as has been stated, the chord created by stacking thirds on the root is a half-dim seventh. Maybe it's better to call it a half-dim mode?? Half-kidding here, but maybe?

  7. #5
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    Locrian is a distorted mode. Let's check 7 equal.Each step is 171.429 cents. Fifths are 685.714 cents. That's the most even 7 note scale. When we deform it to anything close to diatonic scale, we will get 1 of the modes distorted with diminished fifth instead of a regular "fifth".

    Reducing scales and modes to just major and minor is a very dumb idea. There are scales that are neither major or minor and both major/minor.

    We can probably reduce most common scales to being constructed by tetrachords and pentachords, but what's the point?

    (Something funny - if we swap large and small steps in the diatonic pattern, we get a scale where major becomes minor, minor->major and diminshed triad-> augmented; 16 equal is the least dissonant system for this scale. This type of tuning is even used in Africa by Chopi people. It's basically geometrical duality.)
    Last edited by BabyGiraffe; Apr-02-2019 at 20:24.

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    It's obviously not a minor mode due to the fact that there is a diminished fifth, but I would hesitate to call it a diminished mode.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Locrian, that is the weird mode. Neither too much weirdness shall it have, nor yet too little, but its weirdness shall be the appointed portion of the weird musicians that employ it. Locrian shall not be heard here lest the offender be disemboweled, and following close on that impaled, and finally crushed by a massy boulder dropped from great height. The grand virginal usually used for that purpose was found deflowered by some naughty priest and is being restored to pristinity.
    Last edited by KenOC; Apr-03-2019 at 04:36.


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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Locrian, that is the weird mode. Neither too much weirdness shall it have, nor yet too little, but its weirdness shall be the appointed portion of the weird musicians that employ it. Locrian shall not be heard here lest the offender be disemboweled, and following close on that impaled, and finally crushed by a massy boulder dropped from great height. The grand virginal usually used for that purpose was found to have been deflowered by some naughty priest and is being restored to pristinity.
    I've always felt that way but just couldn't find the words for it.

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  14. #9
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I've always felt that way but just couldn't find the words for it.
    Much scrubbing of befouled strings and plectra is required of the Mixolydians, though few bewail their task, they being as they are.


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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    It’s just a C scale, in an example key, that starts on the note of B, the seventh degree or mode of that scale. It has the feel of minor but it’s not a full diminished but a half-diminished scale. Mahler starts his Seventh Symphony on a half-diminished chord. It can create a sense of doubt or emotional uncertainty.



    More on the Locrian:

    Last edited by Larkenfield; Apr-03-2019 at 16:05.
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  17. #11
    Senior Member TalkingHead's Avatar
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    Thanks for that, Larkenfield, a very clear explanation; much easier to understand than MillioRainbow's prolix excursions.
    That said, I do appreciate the effort MR makes; I give him a "thumb's up" for that.
    Last edited by TalkingHead; Apr-03-2019 at 16:09.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Here's the short answer: use this scale over a half-diminished chord. Don't forget to listen to it.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-03-2019 at 17:41.

  19. #13
    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Here is something to consider, also: if a half-diminished chord is voiced or heard in a certain way, it can also be considered to be a minor sixth chord.
    B-D-F-A half-diminished becomes D minor 6 (D 13): D (root) F (m3rd) A (fifth) B (minor sixth or thirteenth), so the B Locrian will also work over a Dm6 or D13 chord.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-08-2019 at 14:07.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Here's the short answer: use this scale over a half-diminished chord. Don't forget to listen to it.
    The chords don't have to be diminished at all. It can easily be used over e.g. E minor, E major. Go to a piano and try playing mediaeval Phrygian mode (i.e. diatonic) against Locrian. They blend easily.

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  22. #15
    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Here is something to consider, also: if a half-diminished chord is voiced or heard in a certain way, it can also be considered to be a minor sixth chord.
    B-D-F-A half-diminished becomes D minor 6 (D 13): D (root) F (m3rd) A (fifth) B (minor sixth or thirteenth), so the B Locrian will also work over a Dm6 or D13 chord.
    So the players using this nomenclature don't fully accept inversional equivalence then? Or is this just pragmatic — the only way the system can get the right note into the bass?
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Apr-09-2019 at 13:51.

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