So while looking up the definition of both the words modality and modal, I came across the phrase "the harmony had a touch of modality".

I've thought it through but I'm still unsure what that even means exactly.

Does it mean the harmony is paper-thin and exists only in nominal form, rather than a true solid harmony? Or does it mean the harmony only exists out of necessity?

  • 1
    4 Music of or denoting music using melodies or harmonies based on modes other than the ordinary major and minor scales. [Apple dictionary] Jul 25, 2018 at 7:37
  • Is that the only plausible interpretation of the sentence? That the harmony, in the musical sense, is based on modes. What about my suggestions in the OP?
    – Joe
    Jul 25, 2018 at 7:40
  • With no additional context, that would be my interpretation. As I'm a musician not a mathematician, I would have no clue if it weren't music-related ;) Jul 25, 2018 at 7:47

1 Answer 1


Musical "Modes" are different scales.

Many people are familiar with the major scale (do re mi fa so la ti do) This is also called the Ionian mode

You may also be familiar with the minor scale (la ti do re mi fa so la gives a minor scale) This is called the Aeolian mode

Other modes can be formed by starting at different notes. Start on "re" and you get the Doric mode. Start on "fa" and you get the Lydian mode.

Modes have different moods. Some are happy, sad or mystical. Saying "the harmony has a touch of modality" means that sharps or flats are being used to change the mood of the harmony.

It does not mean that the harmony is "thin" or "exists out of necessity".

  • I'm aware that "real" musicians may take umbrage at my definition of "mode" If you think you can be more precise feel free to edit.
    – James K
    Jul 25, 2018 at 8:05

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