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Modes...

Jason Parker (2612)

Guitar Theory Forum · 11/18/2004 10:26 PM
Man, I know all the modes. I've been trying to figure out how to use them for months. Lessons and books will say that I can play a particular mode over a particular chord, but what I'm wondering is which kinds of chords are going to be good with just one mode (in one key)... For instance, let's take G Ionian. What other chords can I use?

It seems that when I attempt to switch modes for each chord change, the music sounds forced. Can anybody give a hand? Thanks--

Jason
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Re: Modes...

11/19/2004 7:54 AM

Jon Riley (9697) wrote:

Ha! This old, perennial question...:-)

You should do a search on here for mode threads, but I don't mind repeating the concepts... (You may be aware of some of this, so sorry if I'm overdoing it...)

A mode is not a fret pattern.

A mode is the sound of a scale (a major scale in any pattern) being played with a specific root note, soundwise. IOW, over a chord with that root, or with that note as a drone, or by finishing phrases with that note.

Take G ionian mode. This is exactly the same thing as the G major key.
That means the notes A-B-C-D-E-F#-G, with G as "home" note. G doesn't have to be the lowest note or starting note. But it WILL be the final note, and the "home" chord.

In the G major key, you can play any pattern you like (any "mode" of the G major scale) over any chord in that key.
It's the chord that will provide the modal sound.
And anyway, this is not something you need to concern yourself with.

When playing in the key of G major (= G ionian mode), you probably have several chords. They each (technically) have their own modal sound, but this is irrelevant - they are all subordinate to G.
When you solo, you use the notes A-B-C-D-E-F#-G, in any order or pattern you like.
If you want to reflect the changing chords, you should focus on the arpeggios. And you can still do this without changing your pattern or position. (The arpeggio of every chord is available in all scale positions.) True, some positions may be physically easier, especially for certain phrases. But changing position makes no difference to the mode.

Giving mode names to fretboard patterns is just a way of naming them. (We've got to call them something. In the old days, they called them after the index finger fret number, as in "G major 7th position", for example - a much better idea, IMO.)
It has no bearing on how or when you play them.
You don't "apply" modes when you play. The modes are written into the music, as a combination of the chords and the key scale.


Other modes are different things.
Take A dorian mode. This is the G major scale based on A.
That means the Am chord is "home" - the "i" chord. It's not the ii chord in G major any more.
IOW, A dorian mode is like the A minor key, except it has a major 6th (F# instead of F), and a minor 7th (G, instead of the occasional G# you get in A minor).

A typical sequence in A dorian mode might be:
|Am7 / / / |D7 / / / |Am7 / / / |D7 / / /|
|Em / / / |G / D / |Am / / / |Am / / / |
(That's i-IV-i-IV-v-bVII-IV-i)
Am is the "home" chord, and you would use the G major scale throughout to compose melodies or improvise with.
You can still use any pattern of the G major scale, any "mode" you want. The chords (specifically the Am) are governing the modal sound produced.
In jazz, a typical dorian chord is a m11. (Miles Davis's "So What", the archetypal dorian tune, uses m11 chords.)

The other common mode (especially in rock music) is mixolydian. Here's a typical D mixolydian chord sequence (you must have heard this a million times :-)):
|D / / / |C / G / |D / / / |C / G / |D ...etc.
D is I, C is bVII, G is IV.
(See, it's just like the D major key, except for a b7, C.)
Again, you would use the G major scale, any pattern you like. And again, it's the chord sequence that determines the overall mode - in this case focussed on D, making it D mixolydian.
In jazz, a typical mixolydian chord is a 7sus4. Songs where a 7sus4 chord is held for several bars indicate mixolydian mode, usually (although dorian, aeolian and phrygian will also fit). Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" is an example of modal 7sus4s, switching between mixolydian and dorian.

With both these modes, it does help if focus your melodies and solos around the "final" note (A or D respectively). But it's the chord sequence that rules ultimately.

Aeolian mode is the natural minor scale, the basis for the minor KEY.
So the key of E minor uses the G major scale based on E. (You could have several chords - but they will end up on Em, and probably start with Em.)
Aeolian mode is slightly "darker" than dorian, because of its b6.
But the "key" of E minor goes further. It uses a B7 chord as V, not Bm, giving a raised 7th (D#) which resolves to E better than D does. Raising the 7th gives "harmonic minor", and it's also common to raise the 6th too (to C#) to make "melodic minor".
The minor "key" combines all three minor scales (and chords harmonised from any of them).

An example of an aeolian mode tune in rock is "Losing My Religion" - this is in A aeolian (A natural minor). This contains no E7 chord, so is not technically the A minor "key" - it's a purely modal tune, utilising the A natural minor scale throughout.
In comparison, an example of the A minor key is "House of the Rising Sun", which contains an E7 chord, as well as a D (from A melodic minor).

Aeolian mode is very rare in jazz. The minor key (or dorian mode) is always used instead. On a tonic chord in a minor key, jazz players will use melodic minor, not natural minor.
A jazz aeolian chord would be a "mb6", or m7b13. But the b6 is a problem, which is why it's rarely used.

Other modes are much rarer as sources for entire compositions, but you do get lydian and phrygian modes in jazz.

Lydian is the brightest mode - like the major key with a #4 - and is often used on maj7 chords in jazz, because jazz players prefer the sound of a #11 on the chord to a perfect 11.
A typical lydian chord, therefore, is a maj7#11.

Phrygian is very dark (natural minor with a b2). It has a faintly "Spanish" sound, is popular with some metal players, but is not common in mainstream rock or jazz.
Jazz saxist Wayne Shorter has written tunes using phrygian and lydian modes - amongst others. But not many others have.
The jazz phrygian chord is a susb9 (7sus4b9).

Locrian mode is rarest (and darkest) of all. It's highly unstable because of its b5, and is never (to my knowledge) used as the basis for entire pieces of music. (I know some people have tried, but I've not actually seen any results...)
Its sound does occur in passing sometimes in jazz, as a suitable scale for m7b5 chords - but jazz soloists often prefer raising the 2nd of locrian, to give the chord a major 9th. 1-2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7 is known as "locrian natural 2".

JonR



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Re: Modes...

11/19/2004 9:13 AM

Christian Miller (1937) wrote:

Best way to get used to the sounds of modes, I reckon, is to play them over a ringing 'A' string - a 'drone' such as those found in Indian music. Try these:

Dorian (note the decorative leading sventh, which is not normally considered part of the scale. This fits fine if carefully used)



This phrygian has a decorative major third - it's common to swap between major and minor thirds in Phrygian modes - check out a few Flamenco players or Al di Meola.



The Lydian



The Mixolydian



And finally the Locrian, weird mode that it is.



Also experiment with making up your own!

The Ionian and the Aeolian will prbably sound less distinctive to you - you will be more used to their sounds as they are major and minor scales.

Once you've got the sound in your ears, you can start thinking about harmonies.



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Re: Modes...

11/20/2004 12:36 PM

Christian Miller (1937) wrote:

Apols - these scales don't work quite as intended on the site. Play them on the guitar!




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Re: Modes...

11/20/2004 12:42 PM

Christian Miller (1937) wrote:

Sorry - should say that they are totally wrong. Will correct them when I have a moment.

Soz guys!

C



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Re: Modes...

11/22/2004 8:31 AM

Christian Miller (1937) wrote:

Try these:
Dorian


Lydian


Phrygian

Mixolydian


Locrian

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Re: Modes...

11/19/2004 2:59 PM

Peter Groome (934) wrote:

You have an excellent,comprehesive reply there from Jon,however I have a rather more radical view on scales and modes.They are a waste of time! Scales and modes are an educationally convenient way to analyse music AFTER THE EVENT. If you analyse any good solo which might be described as using a certain mode you will discover notes not contained in that mode.The great soloists simply don't think like that. I have been fortunate enough to have met a few, some very famous and some not.The vast majority could not analyse their own solos! Using scales as a basis for improvising or composing is like a writer constantly thinking about the alphabet searching for the appropriate word or phrase.My research with the aformentioned players confirmed that they had built a musical vocabulary by listening,transcribing and mastering the musical sentences of their heroes.If you REALLY analyse their work the only conclusion you could draw is that they were using the chromatic scale which contains every scale.Forget scales and modes there is no music in them!



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Re: Modes...

11/23/2004 8:11 AM

Jon Riley (9697) wrote:

Good point.
But the logical result of that argument is never to analyse anything!
Modes - like all other theoretical concepts - are merely a system of analysis, after the event; a way of making sense of what musicians do. (Regardless of whether they thought like that or not.)
That doesn't mean they're worthless. As an analytical tool - helping us learn and make sense of music - they are as valuable (or not:-)) as any other piece of theory.

The problem is that people read theory as if it has all the answers - as if you can learn music from a book! (or worse, a website!!)

Music is like a language. The "natives" that "speak" it don't think about grammar as they do so - any more than we think about grammatical rules before we speak.
But that doesn't mean that grammar "doesn't exist" - that there aren't underlying rules that we comprehend intuitively.

The question is: how do we - as "foreigners" - approach learning this musical language. Do we just listen and copy? Do it all by ear? (As many great players have done.)
Or do we look at these grammatical rules and jargon (music theory), that theorists have worked out (by close listening themselves), as a way of helping us along?

Only the truly gifted (or totally committed) can do it all by ear. Theory (including modes if and where appropriate) can help the rest of us.

Of course, the hard part is not letting the theory get in the way of listening - which is the important thing.

If theory doesn't help us understand the sounds - then it is indeed worthless.
It's the sounds we should be struggling to understand - not the theory!

JonR



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Re: Modes...

11/23/2004 7:11 PM

Peter Groome (934) wrote:

Jon I have read your message four times and I still think we agree!



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Re: Modes...

11/24/2004 5:50 AM

Jon Riley (9697) wrote:

Yeah - I think maybe it's only a question of emphasis - and maybe me reading the wrong stuff between your lines! :-)

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Re: Modes...

11/19/2004 3:14 PM

Rick Kelly (2659) wrote:


I just read and contributed to another "modes" thread on another website. (yes, they do exist)

A musician who was classically trained on other instruments, now learning guitar, was asking why the h377 guitar players are so hung up on modes?

She said she never thought about modes at all when playing, and now whenever she asks questions about improvising on guitar, most of the answers have to do with modes.

IMHO the root of the problem is this. Many guitar players (including me) started learning lead with a distorted mindset.

We want to know what notes/pattern "work" over a given chord or changes, and then proceed to memorize these patterns, turn on the metronome, and practice till our fingers and ears bleed until we can "shred" it up and down the neck.

Not a very musical approach. I only use modes to communicate ideas to other guitarists who only speak "mode". I don't think about modes at all when I'm playing. I'm thinking chord tones, intervals, leading tones, etc. if I'm thinking much at all.

How about this. Record or compose with groove builder, midi etc.. the chord progression you want to play over. Listen to it alot. Now, start humming or singing along musical ideas that sound good with the chords.

Now, use your knowledge of theory to help your fingers find the notes to play this good sounding music.

Some goes for learning your favorite solos. Listen to it alot, find the chords, apply theory to help your fingers find the notes.

My goal is to create music I enjoy listening to without having to think much about it at all.

sigh.... one of my favorite teachers told me "modes were invented to confuse guitar players". Some of us still haven't realized just how confused we are. ;-)

Peace,
-Rick





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Re: Modes...

11/20/2004 7:22 AM

Peter Groome (934) wrote:

Sound advice,agree with every word.



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Re: Modes...

11/20/2004 12:39 PM

Christian Miller (1937) wrote:

Pretty much what I'd say.

Modes are good for:
Medieval music
Modal jazz
Indian music
Soloing over trance records.

Otherwise, not a vast amount of use.

Still it is good to aquaint oneself with the sound of the 7 western modes.



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Re: Modes...

11/20/2004 1:27 PM

Rick Kelly (2659) wrote:

"Still it is good to aquaint oneself with the sound of the 7 western modes."

Exactly,it is the "sound" we should learn. Once we learn what a mode sounds like, and can hum/sing it, then apply the pattern on the neck we connect with the mode to create the sound we want.

Unfortunately I learned the patterns first, then started recognizing the sounds of the modes. I think this is "bassackwards". ;-)

Peace,
-Rick



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Re: Modes...

11/20/2004 6:15 PM

Doug McMullen (6014) wrote:

Well, here's a guy who seems to fancy modes and other scales quite a lot (and by ear he says). Check out his original -- and I daresay they are original -- modal ditties about The Liver and Paraquat poisoning down at the bottom of the page... he's put together a page on modes that includes LOTS of familiar modal melodies. (A melody is often built from a scale that the harmonization departs from.)

http://www.pathguy.com/modes.htm <--- cut n' paste.

Doug



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Re: Modes...

11/20/2004 8:52 PM

Jim Heidinger (8553) wrote:

I bit.

They are horrible! LOL Interesting info about modes though. My take on all this is if it sounds good to you to use them, go right ahead. To me music is so fluid that sticking with any scale beyond just a few notes is practically all that you can do from change to change. If someone told me I had to play a particular mode or scale over a song I'd feel pretty limited.

You know where I'm coming from as we've had this conversation before...

Thanks for the interesting link!

Jim

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