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Help with Modes

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by superjam144, Dec 1, 2020.

  1. superjam144

    superjam144 Tele-Holic

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    So here are the modes.

    modes-major-scale.jpg

    I have been playing through them. Trying to grasp them. But my question is: How can I incorporate them into my music?

    For some reason I am still left confused after watching videos and trying to understand them... I know they give a different feel to a song and what not, but some of these just sound OFF to me for some reason.

    Any advice is appreciated.
     
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  2. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    This is a decent explanation with some real life examples. Just like major and minor scales by themselves they are not all that musical or interesting. To me they are useful for the muscle memory and hearing the relationships.

    https://blog.landr.com/music-modes/
     
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  3. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    I don’t know if this will be helpful and pure theorists may differ. I suggest starting with the Mixolydian mode first. This is the “rockabilly” mode that you’re probably using without realizing it. Learn the scale. Take a song that works in that mode, for instance “Act Naturally”. Play your lead using only notes in the scale. You’ll want to throw in a major third on occasion, but don’t. Keep practicing until you learn the mode. Then learn where you can use off scale passing notes.

    The Dorian mode is also pretty accessible. It’s accessible because it’s closely related to the minor scale and blues scales. Again, learn the scale to learn the mode. I learned the mode by composing a short jazz/blues number and used the entire fretboard. You can go straight to a song, but it may be more difficult. Harmonies and chords are different from a minor key and the I, IV, and V chords are different. Try Jimmy Reed’s “Caress Me Baby”. Your chords will be Am7, D7, Em7. Use the 6 (F#) as a landing note while soloing. I like this one. I don’t sound like a white guy playing a black guy’s blues. You can make things interesting by moving between Am7 and Am6 and back.

    The way to learn modes is to learn the scale. Learn not to confuse the scale with similar scales. Learn a song suited to the mode using only notes in the scale. Learn which landing and passing notes work for you.
     
  4. beanluc

    beanluc Tele-Holic

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    So, if you don't know this part already, it's a good place to start, beyond what you're already doing. You might not be able to make very much use of the following before you have started noodling each mode on its own. So here goes:

    Each mode corresponds to a different root/tonic note in a given key signature. For example, in key of C Major, C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C is Ionian mode, also called just plain "major". A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A is Aeolian mode, also called just plain "minor."

    It's the same 7 notes, but the scale begins on a different note.

    D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D is Dorian, it's the same as minor with a major (not flattened) 6th.
    E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E is Phrygian mode, it's the same as minor with a flat 2nd.
    F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F is Lydian mode, it's the same as major with a sharp 4th.
    G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G is Mixolydian, it's the same as major with a flattened 7th.
    B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B is Locrian mode, it's the same as minor with a flattened 2nd and a flattened 5th.

    Now, here's the important part:

    In key of C Major (or A Minor), the harmony can move through chords built on any of those roots. A typical C Major progression might be CMaj, Amin, Dmin, G7, CMaj. And so the modes come in to play as you choose notes to employ during each of those harmonic segments in the overall piece.

    • When the harmony's in CMaj, play something from the C Major scale.
    • When the harmony's in Amin, play something from the A Minor scale.
      *DRUMROLL*
    • When the harmony's in DMin, you COULD play from the D Minor scale OR you could play from the D Dorian scale. What's the difference? Player's choice: If you pick from D Minor, it'll have a B-flat note in it, which is not in the key of C Major!
    • G7 uses Mixolydian scale. The flat-7th note of the G scale is the natural 4th note (F) of the C scale, and very naturally and powerfully resolves downward a half-step -
    • Down to the E note, which is the defining note of the chord, the scale, and the entire sound of C Major. You've just resolved all the harmonic tension in your piece, and can either stop or do another verse.

    Now, if you use the modal scales, your entire piece will have nothing but notes from C major key. But each segment of harmony can have you playing or composing a melody segment which is modal - while you're playing, say, four bars over a D Minor chord, or even just a D bass note in key of C Major, your solo or your composition can revolve around the D root since that's where the harmony is at this time.

    It might not sound that great if you just keep revolving around C through the entire piece - I mean, it could, but, knowing the modes and how to employ them while moving through a harmonic progression just gives you more options. More ways to choose notes. More ways to employ chromaticism in ways which make sense or are of interest to the ear - like that Bflat I talked about above. Just randomly chucking a Bflat into a song in C Major could be a strikeout, but, if you tastefully do it as part of your D Minor section, it can be a winner.

    So, within regular harmony and melody with ordinary chord progressions, that's what knowing the modes gets you. There's a LOT more you can do with modes, including just playing a whole song in one mode with a pedal tone or no chordal movement. But you've already been approaching that, just by playing each scale in isolation.

    Last note:
    You're right that some of the modes sound very very "off" all by themselves. It's very rare that a piece will be substantially composed around one of the less consonant modes. Mostly their place is within a harmonic progression, where that "off" sound results in a satisfying resolution. Think about how, when you play a C Major scale, it's so dissatisfying to just stop on a B. It's almost itchy, right? You really really want to resolve it by playing the C after it and completing the scale! You can think of that Locrian mode the same way. A Bdim harmonic section of a piece uses the Locrian mode and scale, and its entire job is to lead the piece home back to C.

    A practical introductory exercise would be to take the next step with the scale diagrams you posted in your original post: Instead of playing all those modal scales with the same root note (F), move the scale around so that each one uses the right root note for a given key signature. So instead of F Ionian, F Dorian, F Phrygian etcetera, try F Ionian, G Dorian, A Phrygian, Bflat Lydian, C Mixolydian, D Aeolian, E Locrian, F Ionian. You'll hear how they all work together in a given key signature and can be related to the chords in a piece in that key.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
  5. Mark the Moose

    Mark the Moose Tele-Afflicted

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    This is a really big question, which is maybe why it seems daunting to apply modes to your playing. The context in which you are applying them will further define your target.

    First, let's assume you aren't playing renaissance music. Let me know if that's a poor assumption.

    If you are playing "modal music" in a popular music context, where large chunks of music or even a whole song might be constructed from a mode, then it might be helpful to consider harmonies that arise from that mode. For example the Dorian mode uses a minor i, a major IV and minor v chords. So if you played a D minor chord long enough to assert it as tonic, or home base, then try moving to a G major chord and back. Then try moving to an A minor chord and back. Then try moving to a C major chord and back. Play through the D-Dorian scale: D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D. Try humming the note D while you improvise on that scale. This kind of experimentation will open up your understanding of the Dorian mode. Repeat for the others, though I would skip Locrian for now as it's rather obscure in it's applications and kind of weird due to the tritone between the root and fifth.

    Another context would be using modes as the basis for improvising over chord changes, much the way jazz players did in the late 50's and early 60's. In that case, your mode will associate with the chord in a key. So if you are in E major and playing a I chord (E major), then E ionian (E major scale) will work just fine. If you shift to a V chord (B major) then B Mixolydian would do the trick. For a ii chord (F# minor) an F# Dorian mode would work well.

    If none of this makes sense, I might suggest that you circle back and dig deeper into understanding how chords fit in a key.

    I'm a jazz pianist, theorist and composer who teaches this stuff at a conservatory...so I do kind of nerd out on it. If you want to PM me it would be fun to unpack with you.
     
  6. superjam144

    superjam144 Tele-Holic

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    A lot to digest here already, thanks, will be reading and researching this tonight.
     
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  7. superjam144

    superjam144 Tele-Holic

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    Great article, thank you.
     
  8. kbold

    kbold Tele-Afflicted

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    A good start is to split them into Major and Minor modes.
    Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian are the major scales: Aeolian, Dorian and Phrygian the minor scales.
    Then there's that weird Locrian scale which is also a minor scale: Jazz and metal genres seem to like Locrian.

    As mentioned above, Mixolydian and Dorian are a good place to start, as well as the minor (Aeolian) scale.
     
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  9. Edgar Allan Presley

    Edgar Allan Presley Friend of Leo's

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    To know your modes, try playing your C major scale in various positions but changing the drone note you're playing to. For example put on a D drone note (using https://www.dronetonetool.com/ or another reference tone generator like a synth or shruti box) and play C major scale patterns. Over a D bass drone or reference note, C major scale sounds like D dorian because D dorian is the second mode of the C major scale. A G drone will make that C major scale sound like mixolydian, because mixolydian is the fifth mode of the C major scale. It is playing C major with a G root.

    This approach to modes is actually modal, knowing the modes as inversions of scales.
     
  10. matrix

    matrix Tele-Meister

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    If you are truefire inclined, Chris Buono (such a good instructor!) has an older course called "Modes that Matter". I have been working through it lately. He has a really great way of talking you through each mode, showing guitaristic applications, and drawing out some of the characteristic sounds and licks in different playing contexts. It is really helping me see them in a new - and much more musical - way.

    Prior to the course I had gone through tons of written material on modes without really impacting my music-making. But sitting down and getting walked through it with the guitar in hand is setting off lightbulbs.
     
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  11. notroHnhoJ

    notroHnhoJ Tele-Meister

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    It helped me to think of the “outside” notes as chord extensions. It made it easier to hear those notes and the “flavor” of the mode.
     
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  12. buster poser

    buster poser Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

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    Tremendous post even for those of us who (sort of) get it.
     
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  13. rough eye

    rough eye Tele-Meister

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  14. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    This video changed my mind about Locrian.

    Be sure to catch the Locrian Surf tune!

     
  15. Rockinvet

    Rockinvet Tele-Afflicted

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    So much good advice and suggestions. My advice is don't get too wrapped around the axle. Modes are nothing more than the major scale starting on the different degrees of the major scale. Simple done. Yes they all have scale degree formulas you should learn. Each degree of the scale has a diatonic chord that corresponds to that scale degree. So you learn the diatonic chords I major7, ii min 7, iii min7, IV maj 7, V7, vi min7, viimin7b5 using the letter names of the corresponding scale degree. i.e C Maj 7, D min 7, E min7... The modes that correspond to those chords Ionian, dorian, Phrygian, lydian, Mixo lydian, aeolian, and locrian.

    If you know a few fingerings of your major scales, that is all you need. Of course from there you learn Melodic and Harmonic Minor which has even more neat scales contained in them that are sure usable.

    Suggest Berklee a Modern Method for Guitar Vol 1,2,3 for easily accessible standardized fingerings for your major scales. They are at least self contained in one book.

    Application is to play the scale that goes with that chord. Like in the key of C C ionian is for the C chord. D min 7 is the C scale starting on D which is D dorian, E min start on the E in the key of C, and so on. It really is that simple.
     
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  16. superjam144

    superjam144 Tele-Holic

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    I will try this. So basically play a drone, and play the major in a different key? And that becomes modal?

    Aren't the mode scales different than the major scale?
     
  17. JRapp

    JRapp Tele-Holic

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    There are no Jimmy Reed songs in a minor key. None.
     
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  18. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    All the modes are related as discussed. But more importantly, each mode has its own sound. The fact that C Ionian has the same notes as D Dorian is the diatonic harmony- relatedness issue.

    But don’t get confused by that. Rather, try playing A Ionian, A dorian, A Phrygian, A lydian, etc., over different A major, minor, dominant, diminished chords and see how those scales sound over the chords and whether they sound good together. Phrygian mode is the flamenco sound. Al DiMeola’s favorite scale. Knowing how the modes sound and how they mesh or clash over chords is how you learn how to use them...as noted, Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian are considered more minor, Mixo is dominant. Ionian and Lydian are major sounding, and Locrian is a diminished sound.
     
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  19. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Next: modes of the melodic minor scale o_O
     
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  20. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    That’s exactly right. But there’s no reason that the melody won’t fit into Dorian A.

    Caress me (Am7) baby (Am6)
    Like the (Am6) wind caress the (Am7) trees (Am6, Am7)
    Caress me (D7) baby
    Like the wind caress the (Am7) trees
    (Em7) Love me love me baby
    (D7) In the soft soft summer (Am7) breeze.

    Do two verses, then two or more 12 bar solos in Dorian A. Repeat the two verses.

    You need to have learned the mode to do this. It sounds wrong at first but it isn’t. Try it. Don’t forget a good intro and outro.

    Be creative.
     
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