Help my feeble mind understand modes a bit better

Jeremy_Green

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Well, different folks see this different ways… I just do not see what that buys you over knowing the notes in the key (or indeed mode) that the music is in, playing within that key / mode, and — when it’s appropriate — focusing on chord notes. And I haven’t had to fill my head with 7 different names for modes which don’t even cover all possible scales… 🤷‍♂️🙄😀

Anyway you chords = modes guys keep doing what makes you happy: but for the OP or other people interested in it, remember its a possible approach but it’s not the One True Way (& neither is my scale / key / mode of the piece approach either, I know!).

I’m no “chords = modes” guy. The OP was/is confused.. so I simply shared what helped me understand what they are. To me, without understanding the chordal resolutions and implications then I was failing to be able to actually use this stuff. Without the harmony it’s not really a mode, just a scale alteration that maybe suggests of a mode.

You don’t have to learn anything, or memorize names of anything if you don’t want to. Ultimately it should be about playing what you hear inside.
 
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klasaine

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Nothing will make me leave a bar quicker than when the band breaks into Evil Ways or Oye Como Va and the guitar player - and it's always the guitar player - picks the wrong minor scale to improv with.

Key = mode/scale
Chord = mode/scale
You need a gestalt approach.

Or, train and trust your ears.
Music is an auditory art form.
 

Jeremy_Green

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Nothing will make me leave a bar quicker than when the band breaks into Evil Ways or Oye Como Va and the guitar player - and it's always the guitar player - picks the wrong minor scale to improv with.

Key = mode/scale
Chord = mode/scale
You need a gestalt approach.

Or, train and trust your ears.
Music is an auditory art form.

Well herein lies the 'thing'.

Hard reality, most players don't really want to be bothered AT ALL with all that fancy book learnin stuff. They want shapes and licks that they can slap here and there, without any of that pesky thinking or listening nonsense. This was me for a LOT of years. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, just give me the quick easy answer so I can use it now". Problem is, to really truly use these things, it really helps to understand the current harmonic circumstance you are in while playing.

And sure, you can "just hear it".... "I'm an ear player, a feeeeel player man!" and maybe you are uniquely gifted, but honestly, you're probably not : ). I certainly wasn't, some of these sounds are really quite foreign. Sure we've all heard great musicians use them yes, but sometimes you don't really know what you are looking for do you?... You just hear all this cool sh*t, but what is it?? So part of me training my ears to hear these things, was the stage of slowing it all down and actually practicing and learning this theoretical stuff with a microscope. Things like: where all the notes are on the neck, the ability to know (at all times) what chord you are playing over. The ability to target certain specific notes of those chords while improvising. Rubbing your head and patting your belly. All this stuff takes work yes, but it is FAR from impossible. If you pick any one of these things and work on it every day, within a couple short months you'd start to really have it.

ONE. STEP. AT. A. TIME.

It starts with conversations exactly like this one. Forums like this truly helped me reinforce what this all means. It's good to be confused - because now you know exactly what you need to work on.

There's my rant for the day : )
 

AAT65

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I’m no “chords = modes” guy. The OP was/is confused.. so I simply shared what helped me understand what they are. To me, without understanding the chordal resolutions and implications then I was failing to be able to actually use this stuff. Without the harmony it’s not really a mode, just a scale alteration that maybe suggests of a mode.

You don’t have to learn anything, or memorize names of anything if you don’t want to. Ultimately it should be about playing what you hear inside.
Well like I say, if it works for you, go for it. There is room for different viewpoints in the world! But for the OP I say, there are alternative approaches which may make more sense for you.
And I 100% agree here that it takes some hard work either way!
 

Jeremy_Green

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Well like I say, if it works for you, go for it. There is room for different viewpoints in the world! But for the OP I say, there are alternative approaches which may make more sense for you.
And I 100% agree here that it takes some hard work either way!

I was starting to get the feeling we were in some sort of fight here lol ... so i went back and read your original post - which i didn't see fwiw. Perhaps I wasn't making myself clear.

We are in agreement. I am in no way suggesting that you think about, or change modes when you change chords. I am simply suggesting that it is not truly "modal" unless the chord structure of the piece suggests it. Like you said - like a key signature.

If I play some sort of "Dorian shape" over a Dmin chord, that doesn't at all mean we are now in Dorian. We are still in the tonic key. The only way we are truly Dorian is if the SONG is centred around that Dmin chord as the home tonality.

It's very hard for a soloist to determine the mode of a song, even temporarily. I mean, it's pretty much always written. Because the moment, the bassist or keyboard player hits any note other than the root or the fifth, the progression instantly has a tonal gravity. That's why I say you can temporarily suggest a different mode... But it is a very certain set of conditions for it to truly sound modal. Satriani does this, but when he does, the rhythm section is usually pedalling a single note, or a root + fifth.

Until you understand this... You won't understand how to actually use this on the fly.
 

klasaine

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That's why I say you can temporarily suggest a different mode... But it is a very certain set of conditions for it to truly sound modal. Satriani does this, but when he does, the rhythm section is usually pedaling a single note, or a root + fifth.

Until you understand this... You won't understand how to actually use this on the fly.
This is where most players fail to comprehend what modal playing actually is.
 

basher

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What I'd do is record a few minutes of a power chord and then jam on each mode over that, to get a feel for how each one sounds. Here's how I think of them:
Ionian - happy and light
Dorian - 70s
Phrygian - middle eastern cliche
Lydian - mysterious
Mixolydian - happy but tougher than Ionian
Aeolian - very serious
Locrian - good for metal riffs

The guitar solo on "Taxman" by the Beatles uses the Dorian mode. (IMHO it's a good example of how not to use the mode -- the sharp 6th doesn't really work against the chords.)

The themes to the Simpsons and the Jetsons both use the Lydian mode.

"Fancy" by the Kinks uses the Mixolydian mode.

Phrygian dominant (the fifth mode of a harmonic minor scale) is your middle eastern cliche scale. It's all over Arabic and Egyptian music, Indian classical, Klezmer, etc. Also neo-classical shred guitar.
 

JustABluesGuy

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I think just start with your understanding of major and minor. You can hear something and it sounds major, or something else and it sounds minor. Those are just modes. Relate your understanding of "tonal center" to how you understand it in that context.

Anyway, the word "major" and "minor" are just classifications of modes by their thirds, flat or not. But folks have gotten used to learning THE major scale as Ionian, and THE minor scale as aeolian. but those are just two modes that most people are familiar with, out of many.

The idea of a tonal center helped me a lot with modes. Just droning the e string and then playing the e major scale over it starting at different intervals finally cause modes to make sense to me.

I still don’t use modes a lot, but I finally understand them. I’m finding triads more useful myself.
 

mikeRI

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The OP asked about the song “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” Great song. The chords are G, Am, C, G. It’s all diatonic to the key of G, so G major scale can be played throughout.

If you want to get specific, you play:
G Ionian
A Dorian
C Lydian

My personal preference would be to play G major, but then start learning chord tones (triads) for each chord. In other words, learn how to play the 1,3,5 for each chord so that you can highlight the changes if you want.

Just my opinion, but I think learning chord tones (triads) is a better approach…and that modes would make more sense after.
 
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Chester P Squier

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If I hadn't learned piano as my first instrument, my mind would probably be unable to understand modes.

Ionian is C to shining C. Half-steps are between the 3rd and 4th degrees and 7th and 8th degrees. On the piano there are no black keys between E and F or between B and C.

Dorian is D to D. Dorian is like the blues scale, except instead of half-flatting the 3rd and 7th degrees, you flat them all the way. Half-steps are between the 2nd and 3rd degrees and between 6th and 7th degrees of the scale.

And so on.
 

BigDaddyLH

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The OP asked about the song “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” Great song. The chords are G, Am, C, G. It’s all diatonic to the key of G, so G major scale can be played throughout.

If you want to get specific, you play:
G Ionian
A Dorian
C Lydian

My personal preference would be to play G major, but then start learning chord tones (triads) for each chord. In other words, learn how to play the 1,3,5 for each chord so that you can highlight the changes if you want.

Just my opinion, but I think learning chord tones (triads) is a better approach…and that modes would make more sense after.

In a non-modal song, thinking in terms of modes is a waste of time, IMHO. unless you're pitching for a certain sound. For example, listen to Paul Desmond's solo in Take Ten.

 

Larry F

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Sheesh. There are few things more confusing than having everyone explain things using their own analogies.

Speaking of analogies, I wonder if electronics, for example, has anything analogous to modes, in that some experts or teachers feel the same way as I feel about modes? Generally misapplied and unnecessary?

Once again, however, klasaine has his head screwed on right.
 




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