In this tip, Pyramind instructor Ryan Rey discusses mode mixture in EDM using several track examples by Deadmau5, Zedd and Kaskade.
First, he explains how to achieve mode mixture using the C major scale. If you write a chord progression in C major, but borrow a chord from C minor, you are mode mixing! After explaining the concept, he dives in on some musical examples.
The first musical example Ryan uses is “Some Chords” by Deadmau5. The chord progression is in G♯ minor, and Deadmau5 borrows a chord from G♯ major. This use of mode mixture is unique because the chord Deadmau5 borrows is the I chord - G♯ - and both versions of this chord are used. The first time you hear the chord, you are hearing G♯ minor. The next time you hear the chord, Deadmau5 borrows G♯ major. This helps keep the listener engaged by using a chord they won’t expect.
The next example Ryan dives into is “I Remember” by Deadmau5 and Kaskade. What’s interesting about this example, is that the first chord in the progression is borrowed. The song is in B minor, and the first chord in the progression is B major. Right away, the chord obscures the expectations you have in your head. Another interesting characteristic of this chord progression is the borrowed V chord. Deadmau5 borrows F♯ major, which includes the or A♯ (or B♭) note. Normally, the 7th note in the B minor scale is A. By borrowing F♯ major, the 7th note in the scale is raised to A♯ (or B♭). This helps nicely lead the progression back “home”, to the I chord.
“Addicted to a Memory” by Zedd also features this use of a borrowed I chord. The chord progression is in C♯ minor, but the first chord you hear is borrowed - C♯ major. However, the chord progression is a bit longer and you get to hear both the major and minor versions of the I chord. This is similar to what happens in Zedd’s 2012 hit - “Spectrum”. You can watch our breakdown of the chords he uses in Spectrum, here.
The next example is “Ghosts n Stuff” by Deadmau5. This chord progression is in B♭ minor, and starts how we would expect it to - with B♭ minor as the I chord. In this case, the borrowed chord is the IV chord. Deadmau5 uses E♭ minor instead of E♭ major. This results in a nice mood change at the end of the progression.
Last but not least, Ryan digs into “Right This Second” by Deadmau5. In this example, Deadmau5 uses a minor and (borrowed) major chord right next to each other. Placing a borrowed major chord right next to the minor chord really emphasizes the mode mixture. This can also be heard in other examples where the borrowed I chord happens right before the progression loops.
This is a must watch for producers looking for creative ways to use mode mixture when they write their chord progressions.
Ryan teaches the Music Theory & Piano courses here at our ground campus. He writes music for a diverse array of mediums including chamber ensembles, rock groups, videogames, and film.
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