ZONE music

By Rob Scovell, in , posted: 25-Jan-2010 12:02

I am for ever looking for better ways to get and stay in the ZONE for programming. It's become something of an obsession ... fine tuning techniques to maximise my most productive time.

I have made a weird discovery.

The Pythagoreans used music to encourage/discourage certain moods. They had a system of temperaments (choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine and melancholic) and used music in different MODES to balance people's temperaments.

To cut a long story short, I have made an intirguing discovery. Music in the DORIAN mode is what should get me in the zone best, according to this theory, which says I have a Sanguine-Phlegmatic temperament. You can play a Dorian scale by playing C Major but starting on D instead of C. I.e. D to D on the white notes. Or if you like, D Minor but using B natural rather than B flat. An example is Scarborough Fair. If you have the music to this, you will notice it is in D minor but the B flat is made natural every time. 

A lot of Irish music (e.g. Cooley's Reel) is in the Dorian mode. 

I now have a ZONE iTunes playlist made up of exclusively Dorian tunes:

Light My Fire -- The Doors
So What -- Miles Davis (Davis uses Dorian a lot)
Razorblade Alley -- Madness
Pirates of the Caribbean Theme Tune
Black Magic Woman -- Fleetwood Mac
The Way I Feel -- Gordon Lightfoot
Another Brick in the Wall -- Pink Floyd
Eleanor Rigby -- The Beatles (this is always quoted as being a good example of Dorian)
One -- Metallica

What's interesting is that these are tunes that never fail to hit the spot for me and tingle my spine every time, especially some of the exquisite guitar playing. That long instrumental repetition of 2 or 3 or 4 notes in the middle of Light My Fire is a good example too. 

For best ZONE results, I play these tunes quietly in the background. I think basically the music calms my distracted mind in the background so I can think in the foreground. I've known which songs help in the past but it's good to have a theory to fine-tune my choices for zone music ...

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Comment by scruss, on 25-Jan-2010 15:42

Dorian, eh? That's a common mode for traditional banjo tunes: Sawmill, or Mountain Modal tuning. So, tunes like Shady Grove/Little Margaret, Cluck Old Hen, Salt River, might work.

Comment by Rob Scovell, on 25-Jan-2010 17:35 Yip!

Comment by Ralph Corderoy, on 28-Jan-2010 03:43

Hi Rob! Very interesting, and it's nice to see a bit of Floyd getting a mention. But I don't quite get this Dorian D scale business. It is, as you say, C major but running D to D. So why don't tunes written in C major also fall into above list? My music theory is failing me. :) Cheers, Ralph.

Author's note by robscovell, on 28-Jan-2010 07:00

Hi Ralph, good to hear from you! A Dorian tune in D Minor without the B Flat would focus around the D note, coming back to D regularly. Without that D-focus, yes, it's just C major!

Comment by Ralph Corderoy, on 31-Jan-2010 02:08

Rob, Ah, right. Got it. Thanks for explaining.

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