O.K., I've learned the seven modes..Now what?

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons' started by bridger, Aug 7, 2016.

  1. bridger

    bridger Senior Member

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    Spent some time memorizing the seven modes in key of G. I'm also trying to mix in the five pentatonic shapes with modes. However, when I play over a backing track in a specific key 'm having trouble knowing which pentatonic shape to use in conjunction with modal playing. Also, many times playing a specific modal scale just doesn't sound right over the same key.
    I think I'm on the verge of an "ah ha" moment,,just need a little push. I also think that because the modes (Ionian through Locrian), run Minor/Minor/Major/Major/ Minor... I'm missing something here.
    Who needs Locrian anyway:D


    Thanks for any info.
     
  2. KP11520

    KP11520 Senior Member

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  3. bridger

    bridger Senior Member

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  4. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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  5. chunktone

    chunktone Member

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    Chord scales and the relative arppegios for each mode would be a good next step.
     
  6. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Not to take anything away from huw's great explanations, but to try and simplify a little...

    You need to distiniguish between "relative" and "parallel":

    RELATIVE = same 7 notes, different root (keynote or tonal centre).

    PARALLEL = same root/keynote, different scale structure.

    Relative modes (in C major) = C ionain, D dorian, E phrygian, F lydian, G mixolydian, A aeolian, B locrian.

    Parallel modes (on C) = C ionian, C dorian, C phrygian, C lydian.... et


    [OK, gets a bit more complicated now... :rolleyes:]


    Relative modes are the way most people seem to learn them. It's the most confusing - and ultimately useless - angle; it has no musical application. (And I mean none.) So why are they taught that way? Because it seems simple: "C major scale starting on D..." etc. It also has historical vaildity, because in the original medieval modal era there were only the 7 natural notes (no sharps or flats - at least at the beginning), and modes were all relative. (But then there was no C major scale back then...)

    In any case, that's only a way to derive the modes. And the "starting note" is only relevant when writing out the mode, or when practising it. Not when actually using it.

    The relative view is then the one that gets applied (stupidly) to guitar fret patterns. So some beginners (maybe not yourself! ;)) get the idea that a mode is a specific pattern on the fretboard.
    In a way it is, but it's not fixed in one position, and doesn't need to have its root on the bottom. I.e., although modes certainly do have patterns (step structures) those patterns are not tied to particular boxes on the fretboard. E.g., you can take any pattern of the C major scale and use it for any of the seven relative modes. (So giving mode names to fret patterns is both pointless and misleading.)

    The other confusion that the relative concept leads to is the idea that you need to apply a different mode to each chord in a progression. In certain kinds of music you do (modal jazz specifically), but not in any progression in a major or minor key. Keys and modes are best kept entirely apart!

    ---

    The parallel concept is how modes actually work - in our modern "post-tonal" era, where we (still) tend to think (and hear) in keys. IOW, we tend to hear music as being in either a major or minor "key" - a piece of music sounds like it has one clear keynote, and where it doesn't (where the key is ambiguous), then chords will still sound like they relate to one another - meaning they tend to share a scale, at least between groups of chords.

    However, "key" is itself a flexible concept, especially in rock and other popular musics. One other piece of theory that causes mass confusion among beginners is the notion that a song in a particular key should only contain chords harmonised from one scale (major or minor). Again, this derives from the attempt to simplify things for beginners, but often has the opposite effect. It's like assuming that all bikes should have training wheels (stabilisers) just because we learned on one that did. "Look, a bike with no training wheels, how is that possible?" :confused: :rolleyes:

    So - although a lot of music does stick to one major (or minor) key, there can be a lot of variation, or (in rock anyway) a lot of overlap between them.

    It helps, in fact, to see the major and minor key as just two modes in their own right: Ionian and Aeolian. These are the two that muscled in and took over from the 4 medieval modes, around the Renaissance, and ended up ruling the whole of European music (classical anyway).

    But in practice, Ionian and Aeolian are often subject to alteration, in ways that make them resemble (partly) other modes. Given our familiarity with these two basic modes, it helps to view modes in bright-dark order, related in parallel to those two:

    LYDIAN = major with #4
    IONIAN = major
    MIXOLYDIAN = major with b7

    DORIAN = minor with major 6
    AEOLIAN = minor (natural minor)
    PHRYGIAN = minor with b2

    (and you're right we can ignore Locrian!)

    So we have three major modes and three minor ones: Ionian and Aeolian as "standard", with the four other modes (the original medieval ones) each achievable by altering one note of either one.

    The question remains: How do we APPLY these?
    In short - unless you're actually composing a piece of music - you DON'T.

    That is, you don't apply them as ways of playing or improvising - on existing music. (As with all musical rules, there are exceptions, but rare ones.) You can certainly use the terms to describe certain sounds in a piece of music. But the point is that the way to improvise on a piece of music is to use the material in the piece of music - the notes given in its melody and chords.

    Let me say that again: to improvise on a piece of music, you use the material the music gives you. Everything you need is there. There is never any need to "apply" anything from outside. (Occasionally it might be cool to add a note or two, but that's extra; you don't need to.)

    You don't even need any theoretical knowledge to be able to do it. HOWEVER (maybe a big however), you do need to know how to play all the stuff the song gives you. So, if you see a "G7" chord, do you know all the ways you could play that G7 chord, all over the fretboard? If you don't, start working it out NOW. (Otherwise you're limited to improvising over that G7 around the only shape you know for it...which is a GOOD thing, btw.)

    You only need chord knowledge. No scale knowledge whatsoever. And definitely no modal knowledge.

    (Look out, there's another "however" coming....)

    However - there is one common "external scale application" we use all the time in a major key - so familiar it hardly needs mentioning: blues scale. Even though the three chords of a major key (I-IV-V) give us the entire major scale between them - suggesting there should be no other choice - we (by "we" I mean all blues and rock players) like to impose a minor pentatonic scale (with occasional #4/b5) on them. That produces lots of clashes - "wrong notes" (if we use a very narrow theoretical perspective) - but we like the sound of those clashes. They are expressive in a familiar way.

    In modal language, you can kind of work your way towards blues by applying parallel mixolydian or dorian scales in a major key. But really that's both too restricting and too complicated; and probably won't give you a sound you want anyway. (Blues is much simpler and more flexible than that.)

    You want a "dorian" sound? Choose a dorian tune in the first place. Don't know how to? Then why worry! :)
     
  7. bridger

    bridger Senior Member

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    JonR,

    I just spent 10 minutes replying to your response only to be booted off. Got some questions. I'll try again later. Thanks
     
  8. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    No problem. Let me just clarify one perhaps confusing piece of phraseology that I inadvertently used:

    "Relative modes (in C major) = C ionian, D dorian, E phrygian, F lydian, G mixolydian, A aeolian, B locrian."

    These modes are not "in C major", in the sense of being "in the key of" C. They are really the modes of the natural notes, A B C D E F G. We call those notes "the C major scale" simply because that's their most common application (to create the "Key" of C major). But - as I did say later - C major is really just one mode of those notes.
    I.e., the word "key" implies that one note rules the others, as their "tonal centre" (tonic). It's more than just a "scale", which (ideally) just describes a collection of notes.

    If we play the scale from C to C, we get the "do re mi fa so la ti do" sound we all know, so that C has the strongest sense of key centre out of those 7 notes. That's just down to our cultural familiarity with the major key system. (It's certainly not "natural". For over 1000 years in Europe, they had no concept of "the major key". It's not widely known in other cultures either.)

    OK, that'll do until you can get your questions asked... :)
     
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  9. Mockbel

    Mockbel Senior Member

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    JonR said it all... However, I use modes in a simpler way... depending on the PARALLEL concept JonR has just explained...

    Playing same scale on different modes adds nothing from my point of view.. beauty of modes is in those notes "out of scale" but still sound cool because they are in a matching mode belongs to same key... for example, when I am soloing over a progression in Am.. I add notes from A Dorian and A Phrygian to my melody and it sounds very nice although I used notes out of Am scale !

    So my simple rule is when playing over a major progression, I can play through all major modes (ionian, Lydian, Mixolydian) and for minor progression, I go for (Aeolian, Dorian, Phrygian (usually dominant))... Locrian is something I rarely use :)
     
  10. bridger

    bridger Senior Member

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    Hey John R. Much appreciated !! Anyway, Every time I try to cut & paste quotes from your response I get booted out of being signed in, but I read your post throughly.
    So , in a nutshell, what I've been practicing is (first learning the 3 notes per string 7 modes simply by picking a key, say G Maj, and going up the neck "G" Ionian, Dorian, etc..
    And then, figuring which Modal "scale" matches up to which pentatonic shape.
    Eg., In G Maj, Play up the scale from low E string to high E string, and then come down in Pentatonic shape 3. Then, play Dorian up & come down in Pentatonic shape 4.
    Phrygian....Pentatonic 5. Lydian "up", go up one semitone at the top of the scale & come down in Mixolydian, etc.

    My goal is to have many more tools in the workbox for soloing. Especially blues.
    When I hear pro players, they always seem to incorporate major scales with minor with diminished with minor pentatonic etc. I love the way blues players like Matt Schofield are able to seamlessly integrate Mixolydian into the blues scale.
    What about "Dorian blues" too. It's an endless journey:)
     
  11. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    I just hit "reply", and then type the closing tag [/quote] after each segment I want to comment on. Then copy in the opening part of the quote (with your ID in it) to begin the next quote.
    I'm not clear whether you're talking relative or parallel modes. Ie, modes of the G major scale, or modes with G as root.
    Doesn't really matter, as long as you know what you're doing.

    With relative modes, it's just about learning note positions, and seeing chord shapes (for G major key) anywhere on the neck. The mode names are only labels, not musical sounds. The pentatonic shapes are certainly useful, especially if you can see the chord shapes in them.

    Parallel modes are more about the sounds (comparing one mode with another), but in that case, you'd need to be accentuating the G keynote all the time (or playing over a G drone). Or at least starting and ending your phrases on G all the time - wherever you are on the neck.

    The latter is more musically useful, but the former is the way to learn the fretboard. I.e., the former is best first, until you know all the notes and chord shapes. Just don't label the patterns as modes, it will only confuse you later. (Musically, any mode is playable from any pattern.)
    You don't need all that for blues! How many of the great blues players do you think knew anything about modes? Approximately zero.
    Of course, they knew little theory anyway, but how much of their playing do you think could be usefully analysed in terms of modes, by folk like us who know some theory?;) Again, approximately zero.
    Well, yes - in terms of labels, you could talk about mixolydian and dorian as intermediate stages between the major and minor keys.
    Which kind of aligns with the notion that blues is also a kind of intermediate mode between major and minor.
    But really it's a whole lot simpler than separate modal scales (at least from where I'm sitting....).

    What the old blues guys did was essentially play with the tensions between the blues scale (minor pent of the key) and the chord tones - bending or sliding the former into the latter. It was all about vocalisation, and the vocals were always based on blues scale. That's where guitar wins out over (say) piano, because we can bend notes - we can get all those subtle microtones, while a pianist is stuck with 12 equal temperament notes, and to play blues, they probably do need to think about things like mixolydian and dorian.
    I.e., you can think "mixolydian blues" or "dorian blues" if you like, but all you are doing is selecting two narrow bands out of the whole rainbow spectrum of "blues scale". It's not only restricting, it's actually more complicated (from where I'm sitting that is) - an artificial limitation.

    Of course, in jazz blues, it gets fancier, mainly because the chord sequences get fancier. There's only so far you can bend blues scale to fit, once you get jazz chords moving through different key centres, with functional voice-leading. So that's where you'll start to hear things like diminished scales, and other jazz language. But still, modes have little if any bearing on it. (But I don't know Matt Schofield's playing, so I can't comment on that.)
     
  12. Mookakian

    Mookakian Senior Member

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    I am enjoying ear training, hearing the notes well before you play. You need to slow it all down and listen, try to judge what each note is going to sound like before you hit it, if you hit a note and your preception of what it should be is off... sit on those notes and drill the sound into your head so you get it right.

    Also on top of learning the modal patterns down then up the fretboard, mix em up and play through the notes every other way, one scale can be picked in so many ways, work on em all so if the time comes your fingers will be able to pull it off... all whilst listening and predicting the note before its plucked.

    Aslo if you have not already give some attention to octave location up and down the board, opens up a lot
     
  13. To Need a Woman

    To Need a Woman Senior Member

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    All the modes seem to sound pretty distinctive. The lydian for example, because of its #4. But the dorian mode doesn't seem to be that distinctive.

    Does anyone know of a famous melody or something that plays the dorian scale? Because it's not like any song in dorian actual plays through the scale!

    Having said that, I'm aware it's not an urgent question.
     
  14. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    So What (particularly Miles' first solo)
    A Taste of Honey...

    Actually, ATOH is probably a better example, but SW is always first on the list - it's the rules.

    :)
     
  15. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    He played a solo on his fist? wow I bet that was pretty punchy...
    :D
     
  16. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Famous melody: the first line of Eleanor Rigby: "Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice in a church where a wedding has been". The words "in" and "church" are the major 6th of the minor scale. It goes to Aeolian after that, because the word "dream" is the b6.

    You might not regard Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower" as "famous", but it's a great example of a dorian melody, using the full scale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtB8dEuEmNM (It moves to a couple of major modes after 16 bars.)

    The solo to the Doors' "Light My Fire" is dorian mode. Ray Manzarek was possibly the only 60s rock musician who knew what modes were (with the probable exception of Zappa), so he knew what he was doing. The vamp and solo on "Riders on the Storm" is also dorian mode. (However it does seem that dorian mode was the only one he/they bothered playing around with.)

    As you (I hope) know, Santana's "Oye Como Va" is entirely in dorian mode, with the exception of a chromatic passing note in one of the riffs.

    None of the above are in dorian mode throughout. (Oye Como Va is closest.) You need "So What" for that - although even there Miles throws the odd chromatic passing note into his solo.
    Coltrane's "Impressions" is the same chord sequence as So What, and its melody is dorian, even if he might have gone beyond that in his solo (can't say I've listened that closely to it).
     
  17. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    :laugh2:

    Doh - trying to post on a tablet, first thing in the morning, before coffee...

    I should know better! :D

    (edited - thanks for the catch)
     
  18. To Need a Woman

    To Need a Woman Senior Member

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    Brief dorian sound from 0:13ish

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAYiuFBqyLE

    Emphasized better in this where I originally heard it

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRk-1fc1_-Q
     
  19. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Hmm, well, I know what you mean, but really it's just a secondary ii-V. C#m-F#7 in key of E major (ii/V - V/V), with the A# not appearing until the F# chord.

    If it was the C#m chord all the way (and the Timmons version doesn't play the F#), then there'd be an argument for dorian, but still not a good one. In key of E major it's the vi chord, but is turned into the ii of B major by the following F#7.

    It's not exactly wrong to say a ii chord is dorian, but it's not helpful in any way. If the key of this tune was C# minor, then it might be appropriate to say that A# note is a dorian 6th. But the key is E major, and the A# is not a lydian #4, but the 3rd of the F#7 chord, and the leading tone to the dominant (B). Referring to it in any modal way related to the tonic is to miss the point of the chord progression.

    The most dorian Beatles tune I know is 'Love You To'. I can't find the original on youtube, but here's Alan Pollack's analysis: http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/lyt.shtml
     
  20. Pfohlra09

    Pfohlra09 Junior Member

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    Some great reading all, thanks 👍
     

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