Easy Mode Lesson

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons' started by blakem, Oct 9, 2008.

  1. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Sure, point taken. Good post!
    The eyes are our dominant sense, and it's easy to let them take over, and forget that music is nothing but sound.

    I think, for me, I was forced to train my (poor quality) ears at the beginning, because I wanted to be able to play music that there was no notation or tab for; so I had to work things out from records (and tapes). I really struggled, but it was an invaluable experience.
    I used songbooks for other stuff whenever I could, I was happy to "cheat" :). But there was always other stuff in the sound that wasn't in the books, so I was always trying to copy sounds.
    I never learned scale patterns, only chord shapes, although I did understand something about major scale structure. So I was never drawn into that visual fret pattern thing. I guess I was lucky!
     
  2. kfowler8

    kfowler8 Senior Member

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    You guys touched on a very good point I've been struggling with.

    I'm a very structured, logical person. I work in finance. I often approach the guitar in the same manner which can be dangerous. I often find my soloing to be not very melodic. I tend to call it "babbling". I have a decent ear but have trouble translating it to guitar.

    I have a small keyboard at home and agree it's much easier to understand structure. I hope to get my oldest daughter started on piano lessons soon so I can mooch off her knowledge. Also gives me an excuse to buy a piano.
     
  3. 57VOS

    57VOS Senior Member

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    Okay I think I am getting it. I'm so sick of straight minor pentatonic! Let me ask though to be sure.

    If I jam to this backing track in A Min:
    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPx1-1S0bZo&feature=related]Blues am - Backing Track - YouTube[/ame]

    And if I play the G Major scale over this backing track - I am playing in the Dorian Mode?

    I just tried it and it sounds GOOD. It adds kind of a sad feeling. It is beautiful! And if I mix the Am Pentatonic scale with the G Major, over the Am backing track, it really makes it more interesting and really kind of gets me out of that Minor Pentatonic Funk!

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!
     
  4. 57VOS

    57VOS Senior Member

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    WOW! Adds a whole new sad feel - damn I nearly started crying playing GMajor (Dorian) scale over this!
    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apzNkhqkF8U"]ALVIN LEE & TEN YEARS AFTER - Bluest Blues - YouTube[/ame]
     
  5. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Yes. As long as the Am chord lasts.
    When the Dm chord arrives (about 0:29 first time), you need to switch to C major scale (aka A aeolian or D dorian). That's because the Dm chord has an F natural and the G major scale has an F#; ouch!
    D minor pent will also work, but A minor pent should still sound good on the Dm - it will contain the 9th of the chord (E), for the same effect as the B gives on Am.

    On the Em chord (0:51), E minor pent is good, and the G major scale (works as aeolian mode on Em) should also be good. A minor pent, not so much (the C note will probably sound off.)
    Right. G major adds B and F# to the A minor pent. Against an Am chord, that's the 9th and 6th. The 9th in particular is a very "sweet" note, esp at a slow tempo like that.
    The 6th (F#) is a more "mysterious" note. It's the one that really needs to change when you hit the Dm chord. (But it would be OK on the Em.)

    However, remember most of the "sad" mood of that track is down to its very slow tempo. When dorian is played more uptempo, it's a "bright" sound. Still minor in essence, but the brightest of the minor modes. (Santana's "Oye Como Va" is the classic example of uptempo A dorian mode. I doubt you'd describe that as a "sad" piece!;))
     
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  6. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Yes. That's because the "structure" of guitar - in the sense of the fretboard layout - is arbitrary. The scale patterns are a result of the EADGBE tuning, itself a compromise to make playing as easy as possible in as many keys as possible.

    The visual nature of the fretboard is still something worth exploiting (to help memorise chords and intervals in particular), but it's important to understand its limits: the fact that the patterns are musically meaningless.
    Eg, there are 5 shapes for major chords, but they're all major chords! Ie, the exact same musical structure; which is expressed in those 5 forms simply because of the guitar's particular tuning. So what matters is understanding the musical/theoretical structure (the chord's intervals), not the visual shape (about which there is nothing to "understand").
    I suspect that's just because you haven't practised guitar enough for your technique to become automatic. IOW, you have to kind of work your way through the "jungle" of the guitar's arbitrary patterns to emerge into the "clearing" at the far side (where you have absorbed it all into your subconscious and can play properly by ear).

    Before that point, one tends to work in phrases that fall under the fingers naturally - so one ends up in a creative rut, stuck in those fret "boxes", allowing one's fingers to do what they do (what they've learned so far), and forgetting to listen or to think ;).
    Yes, piano (or any synth keyboard) is a great tool, not just for understanding chords and harmony, but for getting out of the guitar "rut".
    The only disadvantage, conceptually, with the piano is the distinction between white and black keys. You need that to be able to navigate the instrument, but it gives the false impression that (a) C major is the most "natural" key, and that (b) the distance between any two white key notes is always the same, just because the keys are physically the same distance apart. So C-D looks the same as E-F.
    The guitar is more "real" in that sense; the fretboard shows you the difference between whole and half steps that is hidden (or distorted) on piano. (That in turn makes learning the fretboard more difficult, but the advantage is that you get to see and feel the real differences between intervals, at least the small ones.) It's also more "democratic" in that it's less biased towards C major. But then it's biased instead towards a few sharp keys, namely G, D, A and E (at least when you're a beginner working in open position).
     
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  7. jbutler

    jbutler Senior Member

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    BEGINNERS SHOULD DISREGARD THIS POST!!!!! I COMPLETELY SCREWED THE POOCH ON THIS ONE BY MAKING SOME OF THE SAME MISTAKES I USED TO WARN OTHER AGAINST!!!!!

    ________________________________________________
    Sorry, but I think you're off on your reply to VOS, JonR

    Playing G Major over an Am progression (We have to remember, it's the relative minor of C Major) would not have put him in the Dorian mode, but ALMOST in the Mixolydian mode, as the modes stay the same for each note of the relative minor despite changing the tonic of the scale or the progression based on it:

    Guitar scale theory - major & minor modes


    In other words, when we're in a Minor key Aeolian becomes the first Mode, Locrian the second and so on, making G the Mixolydian degree for A-minor just like it is for C Major.

    So to "play Dorian" in relation to an Am chord, no matter what key we're in, you'd have to play a D minor scale with a raised 6th, and playing a G Major scale over Am might sound like Mixolydian if we left out the the F#, which would be an F with the normally flattened 7th of Mixolydian.

    Having said that, if it sounds good, PLAY IT!!! :dude:

    ________________________________________

    Honestly, if anyone REALLY wants to understand modes I don't think there are any GOOD shortcuts: they all seem to leave something vital out. You HAVE to spend the time working on them!!!

    While a Mode DOES have a "Home scale," and it's very important to know what it is, you have to be able to think of them as something in their own right.

    Think of it this way: ANY Mixolydian is equivalent to playing a major scale with a flattened 7th, so if you flatten the 7th of a G Major scale (F# down to F,) you're playing G Mixolydian, (which just so happens to be the same set of notes you'll find in the key of C-Major/A-minor.)

    It's NOT just a matter of what chords you're playing over: If you were playing a single note instrument like a trumpet and your sheet music has no sharps or flats for a key signature, which indicates that you're in the Key of C or A-minor, but the tonal center of the melody seems to be on D, it's almost definite that you're playing D-Dorian, which is the Dorian MODE of C, WHILE you're also playing in the key of C, just like if the tonal center was on A would mean you're playing in A-minor, which is also Aeolian. (If you're playing a piece in A-minor, you ARE playing A-Aeolian: the Aeolian Mode of C!) In melodic terms I like to THINK of the Key you're playing in as the general "COLOR," while the Mode is the specific "SHADE." (KEY: C=Red; MODE: D-Dorian=Crimson, etc.)

    The CONCEPT here goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Medieval music when melody was FAR simpler and was just laying the groundwork for what we think of as modern harmony.. And a LOT has changed since then, but the tricky part for us guitarists today isn't so much learning the Modes, but figuring out WHEN to use them and how. THAT'S where their relationship to chords comes in, AND that's where the QUALITY or SOUND of a Mode REALLY comes through in the music.

    The very first and most simple thing that really helped me with all this was when I realized that playing around in A minor was ALSO playing around in A-Aeolian, OR the Aeolian DEGREE (submediant) of the C Major scale, OR the Aeolian DEGREE (Tonic) of the A-minor scale. Understand that very basic concept, build from there, and you'll get it....
     
  8. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    I know that Jon is more than capable of defending his own posts, and jbutler I truely mean no offence by any of the following, but:

    G major = G A B C D E F#
    A Dorian - A B C D E F# G

    Playing "G major over Am" gives you exactly A Dorian (allowing for emphasis etc).

    That doesn't get you into the mixolydian mode (not even almost) at all. Playing A mixolydian (or D major if you must) is the only way to do that.

    BTW - Note that Jon only said to do this over the Am chord, not the whole progression.

    Now you see, this is exactly the sort of confussion that comes up time & again with modes. The term gets used to describe a whole buch of different concepts, and conversations ensue between people using the same terms to describe different things.

    No. You have to play an A minor scale with a raised 6. That's what A dorian is, by definition.

    Dm with a raised 6th would be DEFGABC - that's D dorian, not A dorian. Rearange the notes to read from A & you get A aeolian.

    Playing G major scale over an Am chord gives exactly A dorian.
    Once again:
    GABCDEF# = ABCDEF#G (in this context).

    As for leaving out the F# - that would give an Am sound that could be either aeolian or dorian (given the lack of 6th). But mixolydian? C'mon - you can have a mixolydian sound relative to the Tonic of the music (ie whole piece is in Mixolydian) or you can have it relative to the chord of the moment (eg G mixolydian sound over G7 chord). But over a differnt chord? Whichever of the common definitions of "mode" you pick, even some of the clumsy ones, that's not how it works.

    Always. :thumb:

    Very very true.

    Yes, absolutely.

    That's it's "parent scale" if you want to put it like that, but as you say, much better to see D dorian in relation to the Tonic of D, and in practice nothing to do with the key of C.

    Ah. No. See this is where the vague use of modal terms really fudges up the waters. In most situations, you have one tonic - one key note. So either the tonic is D or it's C. Following on from that you're in D dorian, or you're in C major.

    Well yes. but in practice the way that modes were used in the middle ages, or in ancient Greece (and we actually have very little of their music) doesn't have a lot to do with how we use modes in the present day.

    Indeed.

    :hmm:

    See this is what I meant about terminology. I can tell that you know exactly what you mean, and I can kind of work it out myself, but that seems to be a wording that is open to misinterpretation.

    :)
     
  9. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    I'm not following you.
    Yes, A minor is relative minor of C major. Taking that progression as a whole - Am, Dm, Em - yes the full pitch collection is ABCDEFG - so, from that perspective, the G major scale is wrong by one note: F#.
    But that's only an issue on the Dm chord. As I said, the scale needs to change when you hit that chord.
    But on the Am, the G major scale will give A dorian mode, quite clearly. A is the tonic (not C or G). The tonic rules. There's no way it will sound mixolydian. (We're in a minor key, and the choice is between aeolian and dorian - or phrygian if you want to stretch a point.)
    I would help to focus one's phrases on an A root too, but that's not essential. Emphasising G would just have the effect of emphasising the 7th of the scale/chord. And emphasising the B and F# (the additional notes to the minor pent) will underline the "dorian-ness" of the scale, if that's required.

    ("Almost" is a little meaningless anyway, because one note is the difference between neighbouring modes, so if one note is different the mode is different.)
    His info is basically correct, but I wouldn't take any site too seriously that claimed the harmonic minor modes have no names...
    There's no such thing as a "mixolydian degree". "Mixolydian" is a complete scale, a sound: like a major scale but with a b7.
    Sorry, but no. A "D minor scale with a raised 6th" (ie D dorian mode), when played in relation to an Am chord, will just sound like A aeolian. Maybe with a little over-emphasis on the 4th.
    You're misunderstanding the nature of modal sounds and modal playing. (I don't mean to be patronising, but this is a very common misunderstanding among guitar players.)
    Any scale (any pitch collection) is always heard in relation to an established tonal centre. That tonal centre is the tonic of a key, or the root of a chord (if there is only one chord).
    So it makes no sense to say "play D dorian over an Am chord". You can think of it that way if you like, but it's no different to playing C ionian, E phrygian, F lydian, etc: if the chord is Am (and even more if the KEY is A minor), then it's all going to sound like A aeolian, so you may as well call it that. (Different patterns may emphasise different notes, but they're not modal differences.)

    When we say "play G major over an Am chord", we could just as well say "play A dorian". I only use "G major" because that's a well understood name for that pitch collection in any pattern (regardless of starting note or lowest note).
    No, if we left out the F#, it would be an indeterminate A-root mode, either aeolian or dorian. It's just adding one note (B) to the A minor pentatonic.

    Exactly.
    Yes. But the chord (progression) rules the tonality, the root sound.
    Yes. You're right that melodic shape also has a role. But only when there are no chords.
    Hold on. If the tonal centre was A, then you're not "in the key of C". You're in the key of A minor.
    Might sound like semantics, but "Key" presupposes a tonal centre, not just a set of notes. You can't be in two keys (or modes) at the same time. And you can't be in a key and a mode at the same time. There is only one tonal centre at a time.
    Yes. although "of C" is not necessary. "A aeolian mode" is fine.
    IMO this is misleading. A key is a key. There are no modes within that key, not if we define "mode" correctly.
    The major key is Ionian mode. The minor key is Aeolian mode (with occasional alterations).
    The other modes are similarly tonalities in their own right. If the pitch collection is the same, then they are "relative". Eg, the key of A minor is relative to C major. It's not "in" C major.
    It makes no sense, if a piece is in the key of A minor, to say it's "in the key of C".
    Likewise, it makes no sense to say D dorian mode is "in" the key of C major". Any more than it would to say C major was "in D dorian mode".

    The C major key is a "colour" in its own right. Different patterns of the notes - different emphases on different notes - may well give different "shades", but these are not modal differences. It's misusing modal terms to say (eg) "I'm going to give an E phrygian 'shade' to this C major progression". What you would be doing is emphasisig the 3rd scale degree - of C ionian.
    Well yes, that's all just different names for the same thing.
    And if you raise the F of that scale to F#, then you have "A dorian mode". Aka (if you like) "G major scale" - in any pattern.

    One problem we have - even when using terms correctly - is we have no name for a pitch collection which doesn't use one of the notes in the name, which can give a misleading bias. So it's important to distinguish "scale" from "key" (as well as to understand the nature of "key", tonality, etc). So, the phrase "G major scale" simply means the notes A B C D E F# G in any order or pattern (we have no better name). The "G major key" OTOH, means the same notes, but with G as clear tonal centre. "A dorian mode" means the same notes with A as clear tonal centre.
     
  10. jbutler

    jbutler Senior Member

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    I'll reply to this soon... I have to go over all you wrote to give it a proper reply... But while I absolutely screwed up in my last post (It's been a LONG time since I REALLY went over this stuff!!!) I think we are talking about a lot of the same things, but looking at them... and more importantly, how to understand them or the various ways of HOW to look at them in order to understand them, in different ways.... Yes, It's ALL about Tonal center, but how we're taught that can get confusing... :facepalm:
     
  11. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Indeed! ;)
    Hope you're not feeling too bruised from the twin huw-JonR onslaught... :)

    As you're no doubt aware, the problem is in defining what a "mode" is, and then in how they are (or might be) used. Definitions are critical, because the word has two correct usages, but they don't mix. A lot of internet "teaching" material conflates the two without explaining the distinction properly.
     
  12. jbutler

    jbutler Senior Member

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    LOL!!!! No, I don't feel bruised from the "onslaught" at all, but thanks for saying so... It's absolutely fine.... I feel bruised and embarrassed from making a rookie mistake while hardly being what could be called a rookie!! I took plenty of college level theory classes years ago, (more than 20 years ago,) I DON'T rely on the internet!!!! But just getting back into it recently, I got locked into a particular approach for learning modal chord progressions and in doing so forgot the most basic melodic applications.. Reading the replies made me go "DOH!!!"
     
  13. martin H

    martin H Senior Member

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    I must admit that I’m a bit confused by the original post that a G Dorian is the preferred scale for the key of Am. The natural Am scale is ABCDEFGA or a C Aeolean. The G Dorian is ABCDEF#GA , or a harmonic minor scale. It can sound good over in Am, but, IMO is not really the first choice for the key of Am.
    Help me out, theory wonks.
     
  14. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    Not G dorian, G major, which gives the same notes as A dorian.

    Yes.

    No. A aeolian. C major is the same notes.

    No. That;s A dorian.

    No. That would be ABCDEFG#.

    :)
     
  15. jbutler

    jbutler Senior Member

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    Okay, here’s how I screwed up:

    Lately, rather than looking at modes from the more typical perspective of guitarists using them to solo over chords, I’ve been working on them from the harmonic perspective of chord changes. For example, if we wanted to take the Am-Dm-Em I-IV-V progression being discussed earlier and change it to an A-Dorian we’d get:

    Am7-D7-Em7

    I believe changing the Dm to D7, or even just D, will suffice, but I think the 7ths bring out the sound more.... And I just like them!!

    .... But here’s where the problem came up: in doing this I keep going back to how I learned MODES in the first place years ago: using a “home key” like C as reference (The white Keys! Why not? They’re easier!!) and I got locked into that as a rigid reference point rather than simply looking at it as a tool.

    Now I still believe this is a very useful way to learn them, (although I think it’s better to learn them as intervals built from a tonic, especially now) BUT it made me fall back into my old mistake of thinking of the modes as being defined in relation to the tonality of the “home key” rather than in relation to the tonality of the chord being played over.

    Therefore when we were talking about an Am progression I automatically thought of Am as relative to C and “Dorian,” in this context, as incorrectly being: DEFGABCD.

    But about 30 seconds after sitting down at the piano and going through a few different modes, I felt like Homer Simpson...... But that’s a good thing, as it got me back to keeping it simple....

    As far as differences between “key” and “mode,” yes it’s about tonality: Tonality is king, and that’s the bottom line. But I’m not going to get into that discussion. I once had two different professors arguing over whether “natural minor” could TRULY be considered a “key” due to the absence of a leading tone. One was a strict classical guy and the other was more interested in modern forms of music..... That was many years ago, and I think they’re still fighting about it...
     
  16. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Correct. That will change the mode from A aeolian to A dorian.
    It's a way to derive them, yes. And it has some historical validity because in the medieval modal era there were only the "white notes" (at least until they started introducing F# and Bb to help avoid the dreaded tritone).
    But of course modern modes are quite different from the medieval concept.
    It's quote important to detach modes from their "parent" major scale as soon as possible - in fact to forget that association, if you can.
    The major scale is not really a "parent" at all; as Ionian mode - in the European system - it's a lot younger than Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian, and the same age as Aeolian and Locrian. The older 4 modes were the basis of European church music for nearly 1000 years (beginning around 600 AD); Ionian and Aeolian were only accepted officially into the list in 1547. And Locrian was only ever added to complete the set, not to be a usable musical entity.
    (Church music is the only music we have reliable records of, of course. There's some evidence Ionian was in popular use in folk music before the church finally relented. And even as early as 1000 AD there were signs of modes being used in ways that - if you half-close your eyes - somewhat resemble our major key scales, in that they used 6-note scales (R-2-3-4-5-6) with major 3rds and variable 7ths.)
    Yeah we all get that sometimes... ;)
    Yes, it's a question of how broadly you define the word "key". In the strict sense, aeolian mode is not a "key".
    Even Ionian mode is not precisely the same as the major key (although I couldn't quite tell you why not).
    Aeolian mode - as the first professor said - becomes "the minor key" when it gets a leading tone. It doesn't need it all the time, only when resolving (up) to the tonic. The "minor key" is actually a combination of natural, harmonic and melodic minor. Or - if you prefer - a minor scale (1-2-b3-4-5) with a variable 6th and 7th.

    However, an older (and maybe more useful) sense of "key" referred only to the keynote. So you could say a piece was "in the key of A, dorian mode" (meaning A dorian), or "key of A, major mode" (meaning A major). That aligns much more with how music actually works. We perceive a keynote (tonic), and probably the quality of the tonic chord (major or minor), even if only subconsciously. But the rest of the scale needn't be fixed at all. The major key can borrow freely from other parallel modes (especially aeolian), and the minor key already (conventionally) borrows its V chord from parallel major. Only the tonic chord has to remain firmly (and convincingly) either major or minor - and be led to by the other chords.
     
  17. jbutler

    jbutler Senior Member

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    Yes, Ionian is younger than the other modern modes that evolved from the Gregorian system, but what about "Iastian?" I'll have to find and crack open the books, but if I recall correctly, Iastian, in the Pythagorean system, is believed to be the same, at least conceptually, as modern Ionian.
     
  18. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    If you're checking the ancient stuff, don't forget that the greeks wrote scales from then top down, whereas we write them from the bottom up. That is suposed to be why the names got all mixed up in the middle ages - so our mixolydian is not Pythagarus' mixolydian etc

    ;)
     
  19. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Senior Member

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    I had a pretty involved disagreement with a guy at another forum on this matter. Playing modally is the ability to resolve a key to a non-tonic note, and you're right, learning keyboard is a great shortcut, because you're playing tonically, not visually. The biggest difficulty in playing modally is not learning the patterns, in my experience; the difficulty for me was learning how to hear the mode.

    As is so usual, the biggest difficulty as a musician, for me, was learning how to listen.
     
  20. jbutler

    jbutler Senior Member

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    Thanks, huw, I forgot about which direction they used....

    No, they're not the same as the Pythagorean system, and I almost didn't bring it up for fear of confusing those just beginning with modes... I just get obsessive when looking into something, especially the history of how it developed.... unfortunately this can make it even more confusing if thought too much on in terms of application....
     

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