Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by fenderbender4, Aug 24, 2006.

  1. fenderbender4

    fenderbender4 Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    I have a question regarding modes that has been nawing at me. I have a very limited theory vocabulary so things may sound stupid or elementary. I was wondering, say you have a song in C major. I know that the C Ionian contains the same notes as D dorian. Here's the question:

    Is playing D dorian in a song (key is C major) any different than playing C ionian?


    Does the theory of modes come in when the song is in the Key of C major and you play a C Dorian scale over it to add some *spice*?
  2. jimmybcool

    jimmybcool Supporting Member

    Jul 1, 2005
    Hope you don't mind. I am just tagging this to be emailed of any answers as I am interested.
  3. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    North Carolina
    The notes are the same but the music is different.

    My simple answer is: playing D Dorian over a D minor chord is different from playing C ionian over a C Major chord.
  4. yZe

    yZe Senior Member

    Jul 29, 2006
    Tampa, on the Territory of Florida (D.C. Free Zone
    Yes, but if one so chooses to do that, the scale run best resolve on the Chord Tones of a C (C-E-G --sometimes "B")

    No, scrap that

    Check the logic:

    You have a "C" - Chord to play over

    It is composed of the tones (C-E-G-)

    So those are your target tones to resolve on or bend to or vibrato or whammy, etc . . .

    You now have IN THEORY a C Scale from whence the forementioned chord tones are derived:


    so you can run any scale fragment you want on any string or set of strings, in any fingering; as long as you land on C-E-G-.

    So for Ionian







    So over a C-Chord, you can use any one of those modal "FINGERINGS" and you are not really playing in different modes, you are really playing in different shapes of the SAME MODE

    So use those shapes while knowing you need to resolve on a C-E- or G

    The scale superimposition of a C dorian over a C major is more of a real outside the box type concept.
  5. drfrankencopter

    drfrankencopter Member

    Feb 17, 2006
    I think that where it becomes interesting is when you are playing over music that is primarily either riff based, or root+5 power chords. Here, it's the flavour of the mode that you choose that defines the overall sound.

    To 'get' the modes I think it really helps to have a backing track. Try playing the first 6 modes in E over an E5 chord, and see what kind of sounds result. You'll hear some as minor, some as major, dominant, spacey and suspended.

    I'm no mode expert, but doing the above has really helped my understanding of what a mode is, and when/how to use it.


  6. Luke

    Luke Senior Member

    Aug 15, 2005
    Yes the notes are 100% identical. I look to the modes for a different use. If a vamp is clearly C Ionian and I do not wish to play diatonically endlessly, then I can spice it up using C Lydian or C Mixolydian to create an outside sound. The mixolydian is a great way to shift key centers, so you could take the song from its original C major tonality and bring it to F major (C is the V in the key of F). Similarly, by going to C Lydian, you are technically playing G major over a C major vamp.
  7. gennation

    gennation Member

    Feb 25, 2006
    Grand Rapids, MI
    DO NOT confuse the "patterns" with the "names".

    They are nothing more than scales, the same scales actually. How to apply them is another story. If you play what peolpe term "the Dorian pattern" but the chord you're playing over is C, then it's nothing more than a C Major scale.

    If all your chords are in the Key of C, modes are out the window because you are just "playing in C Major".

    Modal music is a different beast all together.

    Most guitarists learn the Pentatonic scales and they fit over rock music so well by just playing ONE scale throughout a whole progression. So, they them move on to these things called Modes thinging..."this is where the rest of the music is. They have more notes, so they must mean MORE".

    THAT is the wrong way to look at them. And THAT is where the confusion starts.

    If there is any "secret" to modes in Western Music, it can be found in Diatonic Theory. Many people learn mode patterns thinking "scales", but they never learn any of the theory that makes modes a powerful resource.

    By learning some theory behind it, it will open your eyes up to a life long use for modes.

    Read through this document I did to give you a comprehensive "meaning" on modes:

    It'll explain things in a ground up approach. It not about playing like Randy Rhoads, it's not about burning up the fretrboard, it's about learn what those modes are used for as a underlying basis of MUSIC.

    Hopefully it give some ideas that might take you a long time to stumble on. And, I'm working on Part 2 of it which goes in to Key Changes, playing over changes and those "real life" types of music situations.
  8. gainiac

    gainiac Senior Member

    Sep 14, 2004
    Da Bronx
    For what it's worth I wish someone told me 15 years ago not to even THINK about modes until you KNOW all 12 major keys like the back of your hand.

    Modes don't exist without a background with which to contrast.
  9. KRosser

    KRosser Member

    Oct 15, 2004
    Pasadena, CA
    I'm not sure I'd go exactly that far, but yes, having a rudimentary knowledge of major/minor does help understand the modes if you can relate them to that (i.e., dorian is minor w/a raised 6th, mixo is major with a lowered 7th, etc), on the way to that 'instant knowledge' of all 12 keys, etc. (I used to run the notes of all the keys, major & minor, in my head when doing some big time-wasting task like standing in line at the grocery store or taking a long plane/bus/subway ride. Such as - "Ab major - Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab", etc.)

    Come to think of it, I'm not sure how well I know the back of my own hand....
  10. gainiac

    gainiac Senior Member

    Sep 14, 2004
    Da Bronx
    Yup, I gotchya, me being a rock guy and having depended upon finger memory and such for so long I have a lot of catching up to do. Their is no way around not having the fingerboard memorized if you plan to truly want to take command and have your own voice.

    My rational is that once you have the physics (fingering) under relatively good command across all keys then it would make more sense, and I think it would be easier, to instruct or learn modes purely from a tonal quality perspective meaning in context against harmony.
  11. jspax7

    jspax7 Member

    Dec 16, 2005
    Playing D Dorian is different than playing C Ionian. The difference is the tonal center.

    If you play a Dm pentatonic over a Dm chord, you are playing DFGAC. These notes are all in the key of C major, but the pentatonic clearly defines them as a Dm7 chord. (DFAC) Dm is the tonal center.

    The 2 missing notes; E and B complete the Dorian mode. I think if you approach a Dm(7) chord by playing Dm pentatonic, and then add the E or B note when you play over a chord that contains one or both of those notes, it will sound more like D Dorian.

    IMHO, modes are easier to learn and apply this way, rather than "just playing C major."

    Practice spelling out the chords. DFAC is not C major. It is Dm7. See the difference?

    When you get comfortable with this approach, triad substitutions, and chord extensions will make more sense.

    I hope this makes sense. :)
  12. lhallam

    lhallam Member

    Mar 4, 2004
    What gives a scale it's flavor is the relationship of each note to one another. In diatonic scales it's where the whole steps and half steps fall that gives each scale it's unique sound.

    IE Ionian


    I. C to D is a whole step
    ii. D to E is a whole step
    iii. E to F is a half step
    IV. F to G is a whole step
    V. G to A is a whole step
    vi. A to B is a whole step
    vii. B to C is a half step

    By changing the tonal center to the next note D making a dorian mode, you have changed the relationship of whole steps and half steps within the scale degrees denoted by the roman numerals above.

    So D to D with no sharps or flats gives you this sound (scale degrees are in roman numerals):


    i. D-E = Whole step
    ii. E-F = 1/2
    III. F-G = W
    IV. G-A = W
    V. A-B = W
    vi. B-C = 1/2
    VII. C-D = W
    viii. D-E = W

    This has a minor feel to it because the 3rd note (F) up from the root (D) is the minor 3rd in a D minor chord. D-F-A. Playing this sequence of notes over a C chord will have it's own unique effect.

    You do not have to start or end on the a note within the root-3rd-5th of a the root chord triad. You can play any of the modes based on C ionian (no sharps or flats) and they will sound OK over a C chord most of the time.

    For example, if you play D to D over a C major chord, the D will want to resolve to the C so if you end on the D it adds tension.

    Messing around with the modes within the C chord will give you more colors to play with, experiment, have fun.

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