Some q's re: Above And Beyond - Counting Down The Days

Hey guys. Wondering about this song:

First of all it seems to be in D#minor to both me and another musical friend of mine, but I see the chords going D#m - C# - G# - A#m add9 in the midi for the track, so it clearly isn’t D#m. Some modal thing? I really have no idea… G# sounds quite restful as does D#, so maybe D# dorian or G# mixolydian?

I will throw it up as a tab if necessary but I’m mostly curious about the scale. Also as an aside I’m incredibly interested in how whoever answers this comes up with the answer. By ear? Through analysis of the chords?

D# Dorian.

The most characteristic thing about Dorian is a major IV chord in a progression that otherwise sounds minor, and that’s a really prominent aspect of this song. So you were completely right about D# minor being the tonal center of the song, except that the G# major (IV) chord makes it Dorian instead of minor.

(Dorian is identical to the minor scale except for a raised sixth degree. In addition to making the minor iv chord a major IV, this also turns the diminished ii° chord into minor ii and the VI chord into #vi°, but those last two don’t show up quite as often.)

If there were other chords in this song that weren’t consistent with Dorian, things would be a bit harder, but here that’s not a problem. The other chords that show up are i, VII, III, and v, which all fit with both minor and Dorian.

For me personally it’s kind of both. I hear the chords by ear, but not in a perfect-pitch way (as D# minor, C# major, G# major, etc.) just in terms of their relationship to one another (i, VII, IV). But you could certainly start by identifying the chords as D#m, C#, etc. and doing Roman numeral analysis from there; do whatever you find easiest.