Learning modes

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons' started by Mr Insane, Jul 28, 2017.

  1. Mr Insane

    Mr Insane Senior Member

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    Where should I look to learning modes and how to apply them?

    accepting recommendations for books, youtube videos etc.
     
  2. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    Modes, eh?

    The first thing to say is that in music a word can often have multiple meanings, and "modes" is probably the worst offender here. Because of that many threads about modes get very confusing because people talk at cross purposes, becuase they mix up the the possible meanings.

    But don't let me put you off... :)

    There are lots of good threads on this site, and as an example I've dug out an oldie - but - a - goodie for you:

    http://www.mylespaul.com/threads/how-to-apply-the-modes.86763/

    I would suggest reading that thread, then coming back to this one with any questions you have.

    Bonus thread :

    http://www.mylespaul.com/threads/for-reference-chords-for-all-of-the-modes-of-the-major-scale.97488/

    Lots to read in that one, but it has the advantage of mostly being written by one person (*cough* me *cough*) so it doesn't mix up the multiple definitions I referred to earlier.

    I'm not around the site as much as I used to be, so forgive me for quoting myself rather than writing out what would be long replies from scratch, but the information in those threads hasn't changed.

    :)
     
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  3. barchiola

    barchiola Senior Member

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    I'm reading through the thread you linked us to and wondering how the frick' does anyone remember all of that long enough to actually bring it with them when they're playing??? lol
     
  4. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    1. Ignore any system that uses mode names for fretboard patterns.

    2. Ignore anyone that says a mode is a "major scale starting on a different note". (That's one way of deriving modes. It's not a way of using them, and leads to confusion about applying them.)

    3. Music is generally written either in a key (or keys) or in a mode (or modes). Some music combines the two in various ways, but the difference matters - if you want to understand modes, that is.
    You don't have to understand then - really you don't. Jazz and rock musicians can improvise perfectly well - even on modal music - without any understanding of modal issues. The Beatles, and many other bands, even wrote modal music without knowing what they were doing (ie without knowing the jargon for what they were doing).

    4. To improvise on any piece of music, all you need to do is use the material it provides you with (its melody, chords, riffs, etc). Nothing needs to be applied from outside. Until you understand the material in the tune, "applying" anything else will probably sound wrong.

    5. OK, you still want to understand modes? :rolleyes: Listen to some modal music, and try and hear how it differs from key-based music. As with any music theory concept, it's really no good trying to understand modes until you know what they sound like. Here's some tips:

    5a: Key-based music uses the kinds of chords you're probably familiar with - built in 3rds ("tertian" harmony), with identifiable roots and names, in "progressions" that can be analysed using roman numberals. I.e., sequences such as I-IV-V-I, in which you can hear that each chord works differently. This is "functional harmony", on which all classical music, and most popular music is based. (All jazz standards before 1960 use this system.) Commonly, the chords all share one scale, although "chromatic alteration" is common - notes or chords brought in from outside the scale, for certain effects. Modulation (changing key) is also common.

    5b: Modal music (in its modern form) tends to have long stretches on one chord, and the chords may be ambiguous, built in 4ths ("quartal" harmony), hard to name sensibly. When chords change, they usually change to a different mode (different pitch collection, on the same root or a different root). This is how "modal jazz" works, which began in 1959. Since then, jazz has mixed both kinds of harmony. But before 1959 nobody in jazz knew what modes were. Charlie Parker, eg, did fine without them.

    5c. In rock music, very few musicians understand (or care about) modes. In the 1960s, only one musician AFAIK knew about them: Ray Manzarek of the Doors (hence the dorian improvisations on Light My Fire, Riders on the Storm and others). Zappa probably knew, but had other fish to fry. Hendrix - I'd bet - knew nothing about them (although the solo on Purple Haze - the worst he ever committed to vinyl - suggests a clumsy attempt at a dorian solo, possibly instinctively). The situation has hardly improved since then. Joe Satriani (at least) knows his stuff, and probably Steve Vai too. (Allan Holdsworth is "jazz" so would be expected to know, and doesn't count.;)) But for all the people you see talking about modes and saying how cool they are, maybe 1% really know - or at least can explain properly - what they mean.
    However, rock - as we all know - evolved primarily from blues, which is a truly modal music, in that (in its primitive form) it's wholly scale based, with almost no interest in chord changes. (It was western-trained musicians that applied chord changes to it.) It shares that with many other kinds of folk music. So rock musicians have a kind of "modal instinct", in that they enjoy long one-chord grooves, using scales with b7s. To rock musicians, the typical kind of functional chord progression as heard in a jazz standard - for all its sophistication - sounds kind of cheesy. They are drawn instead to the "open-ended" sound of modal music, with its absence of obvious cadences, and its non-functional "add" and "sus" chord types.

    The favourite kind of rock "key" is one that mixes parallel major and minor modes (e.g. chords from E major and E minor scales in the same tune). As such, rock combines "key" and "mode" in a kind of intuitive way, ripping the labels off the cans and throwing it all in the pot and strirring. Jazz musicians OTOH tend to know very well what they are doing, and often set key and mode against one another, so the differences set one another off. Jazz musicians, in that sense, are trained chefs. Rock musicians just know what tastes good! As long as the key is obvious (and the I chord is clearly major or minor), it doesn't matter whether the scale is major, minor or blues - or a mixture.
    And in a lot of modern rock and R&B, even the keynote is ambiguous - chords are usually all diatonic (sharing the same scale) but sequences are written quite deliberately in such a way that no one chord stands out as a tonal centre.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2017
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  5. barchiola

    barchiola Senior Member

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    @JonR thanks for the explanation!
     
  6. mikejr

    mikejr Member

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    I found Justin Guitar's method to be very useful in learning the modes.
     
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