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Tell me if I'm wrong about modes.

lynchpin

Member
Messages
94
I have been trying to understand these things for years. Last night I did some research and got to where it made sense, to me anyway. Epiphany! I looked at the usual mode charts In C of course, with all the Greek or Latin names and i realized they are the same scale patterns I've been using since I was a kid. I said OK i'l play along, so I memorized the names for each pattern instead of calling them box 1,2,3,4,& 5.
I was playing Mixolydian, Phrygian, and they didn't sound any different at all with the new names. Same fingering same scales different label. So I tried starting with C and ending with C and thought that was Modal. Still no real flavor change...then it sruck me to just plug in the Mixolydian into where the Ionian was and play from C to C. Thats when it all made sense and was getting the flats and sharps in the E and F keys.
I could do this with all of them. It seems (I may be wrong ) but, when I was playing Mixolydian it was basically the same as my box scales in the fey of F#. So are modes just playing in another key within the parameters of starting and stopping with the notes of the key that youre in?
 
Messages
7,411
We have nothing more to teach you, grass-hoppa! :)

Think of it as the notes from one key within the context of a different key (or chord). Which is basically what you said.
 

dewey decibel

Member
Messages
10,672
So are modes just playing in another key within the parameters of starting and stopping with the notes of the key that youre in?

Yes, but I wouldn't worry about what note you start or stop on. A lot of this modes talk gets confusing because in a rock/blues context a lot of information is missing. For instance, if you have just a C chord and nothing else, there's really no information to tell you what mode/key you're in. If you have C | F | C |F that helps, but you could be in either the key of C or the key of F. Now, if it's Cmajor7 then you know for sure C mixolydian doesn't work, it could be C ionian or C lydian. If it's C7 then it's C mixolydian.

So knowing the extensions of the chords helps greatly. For instance, there's only one dominant 7th chord in a key. So if you have say, G7 in a tune, you're likely in the key of C. But at the same time, not all songs stay in the same key. Take a blues for instance, let's say in- A. So you have the chords A7, D7 and E7. From a modal standpoint you're changing keys on every chord.

Anyway, my advice is to look at the modes that are similar to each other. For instance, the modes that have a major 3rd are ionian, lydian and mixolydian. Ionian and lydian both have maj7ths, while mixolydian has a dominant 7th. The difference between ionian and lydian is the later has a raised 4th. The minor modes are dorian, phrygian and aeolian. Dorian has a natural 6th and a dominant 7th, phrygian a b2nd, b6th and a dominant 7th, and aeolian a b6th and dominant 7th. These are the factors that will tell you what key/mode you're in. If you have an open section over a minor chord (let's say Amin) you can imply any of these modes. But if you have a vamp that's Amin | D7, then dorian is the choice as the D7 gives you that natural 6th. If it's Amin | Dmin, then aeolian is the choice although phrygian may work as well). If it's Amin | Bb then you want phrygian. Make sense?

A good way to look at this is to think of you basic major or minor pentatonic scale. Adding a natural 6th, b6th, maj7th, dom7th, raised 4th, etc will teach you how these different modes sound. But remember the most important thing here is not how they sound on their own but how they sound over the chord. Don't get hung up on a pattern, it's the notes that's important. Your G mixoydian pattern only sounds like G mixolydian over a G7 chord. It sounds like C major over a C major chord.
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,063
I have been trying to understand these things for years. Last night I did some research and got to where it made sense, to me anyway. Epiphany! I looked at the usual mode charts In C of course, with all the Greek or Latin names and i realized they are the same scale patterns I've been using since I was a kid. I said OK i'l play along, so I memorized the names for each pattern instead of calling them box 1,2,3,4,& 5.
I was playing Mixolydian, Phrygian, and they didn't sound any different at all with the new names. Same fingering same scales different label. So I tried starting with C and ending with C and thought that was Modal. Still no real flavor change...then it sruck me to just plug in the Mixolydian into where the Ionian was and play from C to C. Thats when it all made sense and was getting the flats and sharps in the E and F keys.
I could do this with all of them. It seems (I may be wrong ) but, when I was playing Mixolydian it was basically the same as my box scales in the fey of F#. So are modes just playing in another key within the parameters of starting and stopping with the notes of the key that youre in?
Well, that's one application, usually known as "modal interchange" or "pitch axis"
I'm not quite sure where you get the E or F# keys by applying mixolydian from C tho... :confused:
C mixolydian is the F major scale based on C.
As rockinrob says, you don't need to start or end on C, or use a specific pattern, as long as you play over a C bass or C chord, and you use an F major scale pattern. (The chord root/bass note will give you the tonal centre, which turns the scale into a C mode whatever you do.)
But the way you're working is a good way to discover the effect: parallel modes:

C ionian = C D E F G A B C = major scale
C mixolydian = C D E F G A Bb C (major with b7) = F major scale
C lydian = C D E F# G A B C (major with #4) = G major scale
(all work on a C major chord)

C aeolian = C D Eb F G Ab Bb C (natural minor) = Eb major scale
C dorian = C D Eb F G A Bb C (minor with major 6) = Bb major scale
C phrygian = C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C (minor with b2) = Ab major scale
(all work with a Cm chord, or Cm7)

NB: the "key" of all of these is C, because that's the tonal centre. Eg, C aeolian mode is not "in the key of Eb". It's the "key of C minor" (it just shares a scale with Eb major). C dorian mode is "key of C minor with raised 6th".

As rob also says, the opportunities you have for exploring these options in any normal song are extremely limited. For any chord in isolation, yes at least 3 modes will work (there may be one or two harmonic or melodic minor modes that fit too). But you never see a chord in isolation! It's always part of a sequence; or it has a melody or riff over it. The melody and/or the other chords will almost always point to one mode that is most appropriate for any single chord. Applying other modes tends to mean applying wrong notes. ;) (although there are important exceptions, usually on tonic chords.)
IOW, it comes back to identifying the key of a song or sequence, and going with that scale. Modes can be a distraction to the main business.

When composing or jamming, however, modes do offer some liberating and inspiring ways of breaking out of normal key-based habits.
As long as you listen properly to what you're playing (and what you're playing over), your ear should guide you as to what is right or wrong.
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,063
Anyway, my advice is to look at the modes that are similar to each other. For instance, the modes that have a major 3rd are ionian, lydian and mixolydian. Ionian and lydian both have maj7ths, while mixolydian has a dominant 7th. The difference between ionian and lydian is the later has a raised 4th. The minor modes are dorian, phrygian and aeolian. Dorian has a natural 6th and a dominant 7th, phrygian a b2nd, b6th and a dominant 7th, and aeolian a b6th and dominant 7th.
Great post, rob, but I have to pick you up on your jargon ;) .

The 7th in those modes is not "dominant", it's "minor" (or b7 if you prefer).
"Dominant" refers to the V step of a scale, or the triad chord built on it.
"Dominant 7th" therefore refers to the 7th chord built on the V step of a major scale: 1-3-5-b7. That chord has a major 3rd and a minor 7th. (The only chord of that type in the major scale, hence the use of the term "dominant 7th" to describe the chord type even when not used as a V chord.)
It's the same as describing Fmaj7 in key of C as the "subdominant 7th", or Dm7 as the "supertonic 7th". Those terms are not used as much because they don't describe unique chord types. (The supertonic, mediant and submediant 7ths are all the same chord type: "m7". The tonic and subdominant 7ths are the same chord type: "maj7".)
Also, the dominant chord is the one most likely to be given a 7th, because of the strong functional effect it has.

Ionian and Lydian modes have major 7ths (11 half-steps above the root), and the other 5 all have minor 7ths (10 half-steps).

OK, lecture over! :rolleyes:
Brilliant post otherwise! :) keep up the good work.
 

dewey decibel

Member
Messages
10,672
Great post, rob, but I have to pick you up on your jargon ;) .

The 7th in those modes is not "dominant", it's "minor" (or b7 if you prefer).
"Dominant" refers to the V step of a scale, or the triad chord built on it.
"Dominant 7th" therefore refers to the 7th chord built on the V step of a major scale: 1-3-5-b7. That chord has a major 3rd and a minor 7th. (The only chord of that type in the major scale, hence the use of the term "dominant 7th" to describe the chord type even when not used as a V chord.)
It's the same as describing Fmaj7 in key of C as the "subdominant 7th", or Dm7 as the "supertonic 7th". Those terms are not used as much because they don't describe unique chord types. (The supertonic, mediant and submediant 7ths are all the same chord type: "m7". The tonic and subdominant 7ths are the same chord type: "maj7".)
Also, the dominant chord is the one most likely to be given a 7th, because of the strong functional effect it has.

Ionian and Lydian modes have major 7ths (11 half-steps above the root), and the other 5 all have minor 7ths (10 half-steps).

OK, lecture over! :rolleyes:
Brilliant post otherwise! :) keep up the good work.


No, good call! I learned this stuff on my own, so I often get the nomenclature incorrect. Thanks.
 

Jon

Member
Messages
1,571
I have been trying to understand these things for years. Last night I did some research and got to where it made sense, to me anyway. Epiphany! I looked at the usual mode charts In C of course, with all the Greek or Latin names and i realized they are the same scale patterns I've been using since I was a kid. I said OK i'l play along, so I memorized the names for each pattern instead of calling them box 1,2,3,4,& 5.
I was playing Mixolydian, Phrygian, and they didn't sound any different at all with the new names. Same fingering same scales different label. So I tried starting with C and ending with C and thought that was Modal. Still no real flavor change...then it sruck me to just plug in the Mixolydian into where the Ionian was and play from C to C. Thats when it all made sense and was getting the flats and sharps in the E and F keys.
I could do this with all of them. It seems (I may be wrong ) but, when I was playing Mixolydian it was basically the same as my box scales in the fey of F#. So are modes just playing in another key within the parameters of starting and stopping with the notes of the key that youre in?
I think you've started to understood what's going on - to separate modes from fingering patterns and positions and start thinking of them as sounds. If you take C major as an example - the modes of C major only function as modes or sound like modes when the chords that you are playing them over sound like the root note of that mode is 'home' i.e. D dorian only sounds like D dorian when the backing sounds like it's in Dm and E phrygian only sounds like E phrygian when the chordal backing sounds like Em is 'home'.

Try this experiment - record a rhythm track (perhaps with a bass just playing the root of each chord) where you go through all the chords (4 note chords e.g. Cmaj7, Dmin7, Emin7 etc) within the key of C major in order, and solo over them using just the notes from the C major scale. Use a medium tempo and give each chord 1 bar before changing to the next one. Your solo will probably sound pretty much as though it's in C major. Next try extending the duration of each chord to 8 bars (or longer) - the backing should sit on each chord long enough for the sound of that chord to become 'home' and the flavour of each mode to become apparent - the 'root' of the track will sound like it's C, then D, then E etc. The notes are still those contained in C major but the overall sound is that of each mode. With the '1-chord-per-bar' version, as soon as you hear the second chord your mind/ear starts to anticipate the harmony and sells you the idea that the track is in C major. Without this quick change your mind/ear doesn't start to make so many assumptions and so the focus is on how the notes you are playing relate just to that chord. Try creating a long backing track just using a Dm7 chord and then play over it using the notes from the C major scale for 8 bars, then the notes from Bb major for 8 bars and then the notes from F major scale for 8 bars - by doing this you are playing D Dorian, D Phrygian and D Aeolian - try to play phases using those sets of notes rather than running up and down the scale patterns from root to root. Look for the common notes between these 3 modes and also the notes that are different which give them their different flavours. Compare these to the notes with Dm pentatonic - take some of your standard minor pentatonic phrases and change notes to give them a flavour of each of the modes. This is how a lot of rock/blues player incorporate modal sounds into their playing.

As another experiment, take your '1-chord-per-bar' backing and when you are on a chord which, in isolation could have several mode choices (i.e. the I and IV major 7th chords and the II, III and VI minor 7th chords) try swapping between the possible major or minor modes eg over Cmaj7 try playing C lydian (same notes as F major) and over Dm7 try playing D phrygian or D aeolian (same notes as Bb major and F major respectively).

It doesn't hurt to relate each mode back to its parent major scale in the short term - it gives you a framework to hang the whole thing on. However in the long run however you should aim to regard each mode as a separate scale with it's own identity (and you probably will automatically as you become more familiar with them).
 

wes37

Member
Messages
921
Personally, I don't like to think of modes belonging to any other scales as the other scales are a different tonality.

For example, E phrygian is more related to E Aeolian (one note difference) than it is to C Major, as there are 4 different notes between those two modes. Some people think, "No, the notes are the same, e-f-g-a-b-c-d, just starting on a different note", but you have to relate every note back to the tonal center, thus Major is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 and Phrygian is 1-2b-3b-4-5-6b-7b.

You simply can't think of one tonality as belonging to another. The nomenclature for the notes might be similar, but the difference is sound is huge. Once you star thinking about modes as individual tonal relationships, hearing them and making music with them are MUCH easier.

Wes
 

davya

Member
Messages
187
When I hear someone say that they are playing something "modally" I gotta chuckle a little. I always sounds like its something so complicated and so advanced that a mere mortal could hardly be expected to comprehend the concept.

I chuckle because it's so simple! It seems to me that we want to overthink these things....make it harder that it really is....

Have Fun!
 

Jon

Member
Messages
1,571
Personally, I don't like to think of modes belonging to any other scales as the other scales are a different tonality.

For example, E phrygian is more related to E Aeolian (one note difference) than it is to C Major, as there are 4 different notes between those two modes. Some people think, "No, the notes are the same, e-f-g-a-b-c-d, just starting on a different note", but you have to relate every note back to the tonal center, thus Major is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 and Phrygian is 1-2b-3b-4-5-6b-7b.

You simply can't think of one tonality as belonging to another. The nomenclature for the notes might be similar, but the difference is sound is huge. Once you star thinking about modes as individual tonal relationships, hearing them and making music with them are MUCH easier.

Wes
That's fine if you already understand modes and are able to use them - I don't disagree that this is ultimately how you should view them - I just think for someone just starting out on trying to understand modes it does help to relate back to the major scale that the modes belong to - even if it's just for the practical ability to use familiar scale shapes on the fretboard but also to be able to explain WHY they are different. It gives rise to the question 'isn't D Dorian just the C major scale but starting on a different note?' but the big 'ahaaa' moment usually comes when it's explained that it's the chord(s) that it's played over that give it the modal sound. I think that once a player grasps this and starts to use modes regularly in his or her playing, the issue of the parent major scale starts to become irrelevant - as you become familiar with that mode's sound you use it instinctively - as with anything theoretical, it's best to use theory to describe something which is already familiar as a sound to the player.
 

Austinrocks

Member
Messages
7,020
patterns of mode are IMO useless, learn the notes on the guitar, and the notes of the keys and the chords, then modes will be very natural, not some pattern with a cool name that you have no comprehension of. Then you can use the whole guitar to play not just a few frets, you would be better off in the long run playing pentatonics, but you would not understand.
 

Clifford-D

Senior Member
Messages
17,048
This is a very informative post by Ed Byrne over at the AAJ forum.
Here is the current thread
http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?t=11178
I just had to share it.


Linear Improvistion: Modality, Scales, and More
Hi Novice,

Below are excerpts from several threads I have previously written in this forum which will hopefully be both germane and helpful to you with regard to your question:

Miles and Modality

To learn what Miles Davis thought of his music from his modal period (c.1958-63), the best source is Davis' autobiography, in which he states that he was indeed prompted into this style of improvising on fewer chords by Gil Evans' arrangements of Porgy and Bess. He also states that George Russell recommended Bill Evans to Davis on the strength of Evans' knowledge of French Impressionist composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Davis became infatuated with Revel’s Concerto for the Left Hand, and spent roughly the next 13 years incorporating the composer's devices into a distinctive Davis style of what some historians (Winthrop Sargeant, for example) termed Impressionist Jazz.

Having said all of this, however, I must point out that jazz is not modal, including Davis' music of the period in question. Jazz scholar Barry Kernfeld, for example, calls this music Vamp Music, explaining that this style does not fulfill the musical characteristics that scholars attribute to Modal music. Check out the New Groves Dictionary of Music and the New Groves Dictionary of Jazz. In brief, modality is a medieval style based entirely on melody--not chords, unlike Mozart's music, whose melodies are guided by, and outline, chord progressions in tonal keys. Modal melodies, on the other hand, need no reference to chords or keys whatsoever.

Since Davis' music was beautiful by most standards, it is beside the point that he misunderstood the term modal: while it has no impact upon the success of his musical statement that he thought of it as such, it nonetheless can be stated that regardless of the fact that he thought of his music as modal, it doesn't make it so.

This misunderstanding of modality has had a profound effect on jazz improvisation pedagogy. The prevailing approach in modern times is to arbitrarily assign scales to each chord in a tonal progression that was designed to accompany a tune. The problem with this approach, however, is that it fails to address the primary stuff of the composition on which one improvises: melody, guide tone lines, root progression, and melodic rhythms. Moreover, to assign three different Greek mode names to a ii7-V7-IMA7 (D Dorian, G Mixolydian, & CMA7), for example, is ludicrous. First, the progression is in the key of C Major, and if you combine these three modes, you come up with the obvious: a C Major scale.

From 1958 on, Davis was searching for a way to play more motivically and less constricted by running chord changes. In the process, he became captivated by Ravel's various devices, such as quartal harmony, pedal point, bi-tonality, unresolved melodic tensions, and so on. He thought that this constituted modality, while he was really incorporating Impressionist devices into jazz.

This also, in my view, was the last great example of the assimilative process that jazz musicians traditionally pursued with regard to European musical forms and harmonies. Since then, especially with the tenure of Wynton Marcalles at Lincoln Center--his bully pulpit--jazz has been languishing in a mediocre retrograde. Unfortunately, we have not even begun to use the devices of the composers of the second half of the Twentieth century. The music--at least the music that finds its way into the media--is no longer in the now.


Easy Method for Deriving Scales
________________________________________
While my improvisation method is not much about scales, since everybody seems focused on scales, here perhaps is an easier way to derive them than assigning arbitrary modes to them.

Begin by employing the scale of the key of the piece (or passage of the composition). When chords appear that contain notes that are chromatic (foreign) to that key, alter those pitches. For example, when a G7 appears in the key of F, use the F scale, only change the Bb to a B.

While the results are sometimes the same as with chord scale theory, they often they are different. For example, the last chord of the A section of Desifinado in the key of F is a GbMA7. Berklee would call it Gb Lydian, but with my suggested approach, you could come up with: Gb, A, Bb, C, Db, E, and F. No Greek names needed; no theories--just simplicity.

The added benefit to this mode of thinking is that, rather than thinking locally (from chord to chord), you are liberated to think more globally (the key of the entire 8 measure phrase).

While I recognize that chord scale theory is the prevailing pedagogy in jazz, I do not believe it is the most direct path to meaningful improvisation--on the essential elements of specific compositions (melody, guide tone line, and root progression, for starters).

While chord scale theory can be useful, I have found from experience that seven-note scales are too much information for the listener, especially when they are based on chords rather than melodies. Also, how often do you hear a good melody or line that moves stepwise exclusively (is conjunct), as with scales and modes? Many artists agree: Joe Henderson, for example, used to say, "I don't want to sound like the index of a book." He meant that the graduates of these jazz departments sounded to him like they were demonstrating their knowledge of scales out of a book, rather than improvising meaningful statements on the essential compositional material.

In addition, modes do not address the larger issue: that most master jazz artists do not, in actual performance, play that way. Good lines are usually propelled forward by means of chromatic nonharmonic tones (as with Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, et al). Chord scales also don't address the blues.

Moreover, jazz is not (believe it or not) modal. This is one of the most misleading things about current jazz theory. (It's a big issue, so check out Barry Kernfeld's extensive article in the Groves Dictionary of Jazz.


How Do You Learn a Tune? Here's What I Do--It's Very Effective.

The primary three elements are actually LINES. Harmony is secondary.

1. I reduce the melody by eliminating repeated notes and non harmonic notes.

2. I learn the guide tone line, based on the thirds and sevenths, which gives me the essence of the tune's harmonic progression, but in the form of lines.

3. I then learn the song's root progression.

4. Having done all the above, I develop these essential compositional elements by adding any one of ten chromatic targeting groups.

5. In addition, I do all of the above with the song's rhythms -- which can be developed through permutation.

6. Lastly, I combine all of these elements systematically and then ultimately intuitively.

Solo lines developed in this fashion will work with ANY harmonization.


Check out my new web site and improvisation method, Linear Improvisation:

www.byrnejazz.com

ed@byrnejazz.com
 

Slow Reflexes

Member
Messages
738
I was gonna make the smartass comment about everything being Greek, and wishing that I could really speak it...

...then Ed comes along and speaks English to me and says I don't need that other crap anyway.

Now I really need to learn the Greek so I can see why I don't need it... :bkw
 

Clifford-D

Senior Member
Messages
17,048
Thanks for that, Clifford. Ed is currently my #1 jazz guru. :)
Everything he says just makes perfect sense. (To me, anyhow...)
Yes, Ed explains things with so much clarity.

I'd like to check out his books.
 




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