1. #1

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    I recently read an article by composer Alexander LaFollett, and the way that I look at the Locrian mode is completely changed. I used to view it as a sort of "scary monster" mode that wasn't useful for making music. Like many others, I saw it merely as a theoretical curiosity. But now, I see it through a new perspective. As it turns out, the tonic chord is only unstable when viewed through the lens of tertian harmony. The tertian tonic triad has the scale degrees of 1, b3, and b5 (a diminished triad), so many people write it off for this reason; on the other hand, the quartal tonic triad has the scale degrees 1, 4, b7, b10 (enharmonic to b3). The quartal tonic is essentially a m11 chord without the fifth or ninth -- neither of which are particularly important to define the sound of a m11 chord. An alternative Locrian tonic is 1, b3, b7 (m7no5) which outright avoids the fifth entirely. If the melody lands on the root, and the root is pedaled deep in the bass register, this can be a nice chord to end a Locrian song on.

    I thought of a short chord progression that leads from CQ4(b10) -- the quartal notation I use for a Cm11(no5no9) chord -- to Dbsus(add9). The CQ4(b10) chord isn't very resolutive, so I prefer to end on a Cm7no5 with a deep C bass pedal. I play piano, so the bass is much deeper than the bass available on a guitar, but I really like this progression, and I think it makes Locrian sound very beautiful. I was worried the Dbsus(add9) chord would make the progression sound like it was in Db major, but for me this really isn't the case.

    I think that the Locrian mode is a sound which needs to be used more often, and the lack of songs in Locrian really stems from common misunderstanding of the mode. Happy experimenting!

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  3. #2

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    Yea... you don't need to use quartal harmonic construction to use Locrian. Good old functional harmony works great.

    What harmonic guidelines are you using for functional aspects of music when you use quartal harmony. From what you posted... sounds like good old Maj/min functional tertian harmonic guidelines, with use of voicings.

    Like I think you were implying.... just use of typical modal harmonic organizations and modal interchange make Locrian very cool and useful... Joe Henderson's... Inner Urge.