Modes: Aaaaarrrggghhhh !

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sm55onlsm55onl Frets: 23
edited November 2017 in Theory
Modes - what is the basic premise behind these ?

Is the basis set upon playing notes/chords in a particular key (i’m assuming a Major key here ?....minor key ?) against a relative bass line (or root note ?) ?

For instance:
C Ionian - plays notes, or chords, from the Cmajor scale set against a relative bass note/riff set upon a C-note ?

Likewise, say;
G Dorian - plays notes, or chords, from the Fmajor scale set against a relative bass note/riff set upon a G-note ?
G Mixolydian - plays notes, or chords, from the Cmajor scale set against a relative bass note/riff set upon a G-note ?

or do i have the complete wrong end of the stick here ?

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  • RMJRMJ Frets: 802
    I think of them (incorrectly I'm sure) as pentatonic scales with two additional intervals. The choice of intervals affects the 'mood' of what you're playing. 

    Check out David Walliman on YouTube. He has some visa that break modes down quite nicely. 
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  • "1st Mode" = The major scale in the key you want
    2nd mode (the Dorian) = The same scale but played from its second note
    3rd mode (the Phrygian) = The same scale but played from its third note
    etc

    EG

    CDEFGAB = Ionian
    DEFGABC = Dorian
    EFGACBD = Phrygian

    You don't have to play them against the same bass note. EG Brick in the Wall is D Dorian. The tune uses notes from D Dorian and is harmonised by chords from the same key

    You can if you like try to construct a tune (with its harmonies) in a modal manner (check out Kind of Blue by Miles Davis), or consider folky tunes in the Aeolian mode (Natural minor scale).


    Or you can just treat these things as interesting musical constructs, and see how tweaking the Lydian mode by flattening its 4th degree gives you a new major scale starting on the 4th note of the major scale you started with (and thus construct the cycle of 4ths and show how flat keys get their key signatures), or  how tweaking the Mixolydian mode by sharpening its 7th degree gives you a new major scale starting on the 5th note of the major scale you started with (and thus construct the cycle of 5ths and show how sharp keys get their key signatures).
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • RMJ said:
    I think of them (incorrectly I'm sure) as pentatonic scales with two additional intervals. The choice of intervals affects the 'mood' of what you're playing. 
    That's basically the way I think as well :)
    It's not a competition.
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  • Phil, am still confused....you are saying that ‘D dorian’ is to be interpreted as translating from the key of C to the key of D; however one only uses the notes of the C (major scale) in order to do so ?

    Thus one should note that playing in modes does not fully translate to the ‘new’ key but, nevertheless, in doing so, interesting nuances/variations are introduced ?

    It’s this basic premise that i’m trying to get sorted in my feeble mind ;-)
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  • I go by major/minor chord tones, major or minor 3rd's and 7th's with added intervals. So if your major modes are Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian you need major 3rd's and 7th's. Just add the other ones that make up the sound of the mode. For Dorian/Phrygian/Aeloian and Locrian its the minor 3rd/7th's. The only thing that separates Ionian and Lydian is the #4, and Dorian/Aeolian the major 6th.
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  • notanonnotanon Frets: 193
    Instead of trying to think of 1st second, note as the starting point communions it with a key.  Try this: play a C chord several times to discuss the mind on a C key. Now play a C major scale over it. Sounds like a major.

    Stop for a few seconds and play an E major chord to re focus the mind to a key of E. Now play the exact same C scale but (maybe) start on an E and treat that as your home note to go back to. What sounded major and upbeat should seem darker almost a Spanish/gypsy sound. You are playing an E Phrygian scale.


    Stop for a second again and play B chord several times to focus the brain to the key of B and then play the C major scale but start and resolve back to Be. That is the Locrian, the one everybody says 'hard to work with unless you are Frank Zappa. You are playing a B Phrygian.

    Find some modal chord progressions on YouTube. If you find an E Phrygian progression, the 3rd scale degree so you count back E(3rd), D(2nd),  C(1st) so play the notes from C major scale. If you find a D Mixolydian that is the 5th scale degree count back C (4th),  B (3rd), . . . A(2nd), (G1st) so you play the notes from the G major scale.

    Of course the target notes change according to the mode you are in. For example B is a good target if you are in B Mixolydian, B Aeolian, . . . 

    This approach of playing the notes after setting the mind into a key by playing the chord for a while demonstrates it simply for me.


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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 3428
    I just think of them as scales. So you probably know 2 of them already, the major and the minor scale 

    Now to work out what intervals to use to get these other scales (yeah I know they are modes not scales but bear with me) 
    imagine a piano keyboard, all the white notes in the key of C major which is the first mode called ionian - which is the major scale 

    C D E F G A B C  so the intervals are tone - tone - semitone - tone -tone - tone -semitone right ?

    Now to get the next scale or mode start from the D and go up an octave to D and now you get :-1: 

    D E F G A B C D ...... this doesn't mean you play those notes - this is only to give you the intervals 

    tone - semitone - tone - tone - tone - semitone - tone

    So lets play that in the key of C using those intervals and now we are using the notes :-1: 

    C D Eb F G A Bb C 

    To get our next mode Phrygian we get our intervals by starting on the E note and move up the white notes to the next E and intervals are now 

    Semitone - Tone -tone -tone - semitone  - tone -tone so notes in C phrygian are 

    C - Db - Eb - F - G - Ab - Bb - C

    And so on


    The more learned people on here can probably explain it better but I think people get confused by modes when all they really are in practice are  different scales to our nornal major and minor  ..... but called a mode I think because they are referenced to themselves and their intervals not any particular note UNTIL you start to play in any given key




    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • ArchtopDaveArchtopDave Frets: 395
    edited November 2017
    sm55onl said:
    Phil, am still confused....you are saying that ‘D dorian’ is to be interpreted as translating from the key of C to the key of D; however one only uses the notes of the C (major scale) in order to do so ?

    Thus one should note that playing in modes does not fully translate to the ‘new’ key but, nevertheless, in doing so, interesting nuances/variations are introduced ?

    It’s this basic premise that i’m trying to get sorted in my feeble mind ;-)
    Your first statement is wrong. D Dorian contains the same notes as C Major, but instead of going from C to C , you play from D to D. You are not changing Key as such. The easiest way to start making sense of this, is to play the C Major scale  (Mode 1 of C Major - Ionian Mode) and the A (Natural) Minor scale (6th Mode  of C Major - Aeolian Mode). The usual description is to say the C Major scale sounds happy, whereas the A Minor scale sounds sad - the notes you use are the same, yet they each create a different feel. Personally, I find things like this fascinating, but others may not. The other Modes can be used in the same way to produce subtle differences to the "colour' of your playing.
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  • davewwdaveww Frets: 146
    I learned lots of modal scales but generally I just work out what the actual key and then centre what i'm playing around the mode if that makes sense.  Same for the chords.
    Life aint so easy when you're a ghetto child
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  • Try these, they may help





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  • BarneyBarney Frets: 329
    I think a good way to a grasp of modes is play them over a drone note ...use the bottom E for example or some sort of drone note backing ...then play every mode from the root note ..so E Ionian..E Dorian, ECT iff its done this way you will hear the sound of each mode ...iff you done the E Ionian..F# Dorian ECT over the E drone it would really sound all that much different ..
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  • UnclePsychosisUnclePsychosis Frets: 4920
    edited November 2017
    Modes aren't that complicated but people manage to get themselves in a right mess with them. 

    Each mode is a scale in its own right. The Dorian mode is a scale. The mixolydian mode is a scale. The phyrgian mode is a scale. The fact that you can construct each mode from the same notes as a major scale, but starting in a different place, is a nice way to remember what the notes in each mode are but you shouldn't really read much more into it than that. 

    As for harmonising them, there are some "obvious" places to play each mode but these aren't hard and fast rules. The dorian mode works great against a m7 chord and the mixolydian against a 7 chord. But you can use them in other places too, as with all scales. 


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  • vizviz Frets: 4544
    edited November 2017
    Modes aren't that complicated but people manage to get themselves in a right mess with them. 

    Each mode is a scale in its own right. The Dorian mode is a scale. The mixolydian mode is a scale. The phyrgian mode is a scale. The fact that you can construct each mode from the same notes as a major scale, but starting in a different place, is a nice way to remember what the notes in each mode are but you shouldn't really read much more into it than that. 

    As for harmonising them, there are some "obvious" places to play each mode but these aren't hard and fast rules. The dorian mode works great against a m7 chord and the mixolydian against a 7 chord. But you can use them in other places too, as with all scales. 


    Yep.

    Actually there are two ways to think about modes: the first is "absolute" modal music, as described above. Each mode is a scale in its own right. You know what the major scale (Ionian) sounds like, and you also know what the natural minor scale (Aeolian) sounds like. You can play a song in F# major, and you can play a song in f# natural minor. The fact that natural minor HAPPENS to be the "6th mode of major" is irrelevant - they're just two scales, each with differing intervals from the other. You can also play a scale in f# Dorian - it's the same as f# Aeolian except its 6th note is raised (from D to D#). These are all just scales you can learn, and write songs in, as unrelated constructs:

    Lydian is Ionian (major) but with a raised 4th

    Mixolydian is Ionian but with a lowered 7th. 

    Dorian is Aeolian (natural minor) but with a raised 6th.

    Phrygian is Aeolian but with a lowered 2nd. 

    And Locrian is Aeolian but with a lowered 2nd and a lowered 5th. 

    ------------------------------ . . -----------------------------
                                                           ~

    The other way to think of modes is as scales "relative" to one another IN THE SAME KEY. This is helpful for constructing modes, and for seeing how each scale connects to other scales. This is what the word "mode" really means - if one scale is a "mode" of another, it means it uses the same notes but has a different starting point. It's like "ONKEYD" is the 2nd mode of "DONKEY". It's that simple. Thus:

    The Ionian (major) scale has the intervals TTsTTTs (for Tones & semitones). Well, if you start at the 2nd note of the major scale and play the notes in ascending order, the intervals you get are TsTTTsT (that last T is the bottom one added to the top). You have played the 2nd mode of the major scale. It's called Dorian. 

    So, let's try it in C.

    C Ionian starts at bottom C and ends at top C, and has the notes CDEFGABC.

    Its Dorian mode is D Dorian, because Dorian is the 2nd mode of Ionian. (That's just a fact). D Dorian starts at D and ends at D, and has the notes DEFGABCD. It has the intervals TsTTTsT. 

    So if you play a I chord in a major key (say G major) and play the scale, then you've played G Ionian. G A B C D E F# G. If you then play the ii chord (which is minor), and play the scale, you've played A Dorian (A B C D E F# G A). And if you play the V chord and its scale, you will play D Mixolydian (D E F# G A B C D). They've all got the same notes, so they're all modes of each other. Dorian is the 2nd mode of Ionian. Ionian is the 7th mode of Dorian.

    The order of modes is:
    Ionian
    Dorian
    Phrygian
    Lydian
    Mixolydian
    Aeolian
    Locrian
    and back to Ionian. 

    Of course you can drag Dorian to any starting note, because as well as being the 2nd mode of Ionian, it's also just a scale with the unique fingerprint of TsTTTsT. So, back to what I said at the beginning, f# Dorian would start and end on f# and would be F# G# A B C# D# E F#. 
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  • spark240spark240 Frets: 820
    Im either in guitar mode....or Im not...thats it


    Mac Mini i7, 2.3Ghz.
    Presonus Studio One Pro.
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  • ClarkyClarky Frets: 2693
    @sm55onl a few questions:
    - to you have a DAW [Logic / Cubase etc]?
    - can you improvise [even to a basic level]?
    - are you comfortable playing / improvising with a major scale in any key?
    play every note as if it were your first
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  • @viz as usual, accurately and eloquently put, sir. :)
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 1545
    edited November 2017
    Modes aren't that complicated but people manage to get themselves in a right mess with them.
    Yep. Modes are a way of categorising sequences of notes. You can think about them in the two ways that @viz describes. Both can help you remember what the notes are. The challenge is to know what to do with them. For that you need to know what they sound like when played against other notes. When I started I found this more useful than memorising modal theory.

    In the old days we used to use @Barney 's approach, and use the E or A string as a drone. Nowadays there are so many
    methods of recording and playing back, even an iPhone. Once you begin to train your ears you will notice how some songs use particular notes for impact.
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  • BradBrad Frets: 197
    edited November 2017
    I'd bear in mind that simply saying D Dorian is just the C major scale from D to D etc is not the whole story. There are two schools of thought for learning modes that @Barney and @Viz have alluded to - 'Derivative' and 'Parallel'.

    Derivative - deriving the modes from a parent scale so D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian etc all come from the parent scale of C major - they all share the same notes. As @Barney said, you really need the harmony under each mode to differentiate the sounds of each mode - Maj7 for Ionian and Lydian, Dom7 for Mixolydian, min7 for Dorian, Aeolian and Phrygian and m7b5 for Locrian. Otherwise you run the risk of everything morphing into sounding like the major scale. That can happen even when playing a chord progression like a ii V I etc. 

    Parallel - To get the modes from a fixed point and altering the formula to get the modes. So C Dorian is the C Major scale with a b3 and b7, C Phrygian is a C Major scale with a b2 b3 b6 b7 etc... I think Satriani also called this the 'Pitch Axis Theory' too, I could be wrong on that though...

    I got my head around modes (unwittingly) using the derivative approach, but I much prefer the parallel approach. 

    Regardless what approach you take (do both!), it is important it to know what notes give each mode it's character and also which notes you need to be careful with. The natural 6th of Dorian and the b6 of Aeolian give different results and sounds so you'll have to handle them differently. The 4th of Ionian needs to be used carefully but the #4 of Lydian is THE sound for that mode and sounds great to stay on. So explore the notes that make each mode unique.

    P.s *Pedant Alert* @Viz the V chord in G is D7 so it's D Mixolydian... wink     
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  • PhiltrePhiltre Frets: 608
    edited November 2017
    If ever you get stuck on what Lydian or Dorian sounds like, think Frank Zappa's guitar solos.

    Lydian:



    Dorian:

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  • PhiltrePhiltre Frets: 608
    edited November 2017
    If ever you get stuck on what Lydian or Dorian sounds like, think Frank Zappa's guitar solos.

    Dorian:

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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1114
    edited November 2017
    Some great comments so far...

    Now, if a picture paints a thousand words, then what is a video worth ?

    It is quite easy once you get your head around the concept, but that takes some doing !
    I thought that these videos, between them, explained things quite well.


    Duration 11:50
    https: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjyDx4647QA

    And Rob Chapman (no, don't start!) explains things pretty well here in this old video (if I have the right ones)

    Learn the modes In Just 15 minutes - Part One (Very easy lesson)


    Duration 7:46
    https: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKbPIGnqt80


    Duration 7:45
    https: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uhN5h1o7ww

    Plenty more on YouTube, sometimes it just takes time to read and watch different approaches, looking at the same thing from different angles, and then the penny slowly drops, HTH D 

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  • PhiltrePhiltre Frets: 608
    A Dorian, C Lydian, and D Mixolydian share the same notes - C D E F# G A B C - but it depends on the tonal centre.

    If the anchor bass is a C then we hear the typical Zappa Lydian mode (solo on "Inca Roads"), if it's an A then it's Dorian (solo on "The Torture Never Stops") and centring on D will give more of a bluesy type thing.

    But think about it in terms of chords - vamp on A minor, C major and D major and all those notes fit in nicely. Choose a tonal centre and it turns into, "Hey Ma, I'm improvising in D Mixolydian!"
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  • Viz, in your explanation of modes (the ‘relative’ rather than ‘absolute’ option) you note an example of playing I, ii and V chords.
    You note, initially, the key of G. However for E Mixolydian shouldn’t that be E Aeolian - a vi chord with the diatonic scale from E F# G A B C D E ? You seem to have taken E Mixolydian from A Dorian....confused, much
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  • Clarky, i would probably only answer in the affirmative to your third option.
    Is this possibly a problem with learning modes...that is trying to learn it by itself where, in reality, it really requires accompaniment to discern the nuances ?
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  • Thanks to all other commenters....there’s a good few things to try and get a handle on with some interesting vids.
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  • vizviz Frets: 4544
    Brad said:

    P.s *Pedant Alert* @Viz the V chord in G is D7 so it's D Mixolydian... wink     
    lol ta - corrected! I'd done the whole think in A originally but changed it to G and forgot to change the V chord :D
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  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 702
    edited November 2017
    sm55onl said:
    Viz, in your explanation of modes (the ‘relative’ rather than ‘absolute’ option) you note an example of playing I, ii and V chords.
    You note, initially, the key of G. However for E Mixolydian shouldn’t that be E Aeolian - a vi chord with the diatonic scale from E F# G A B C D E ? You seem to have taken E Mixolydian from A Dorian....confused, much
    I think that might be a typo. I believe it should be D Mixolydian, as D is the V of the key of G.

    Edit: Beat me to it.
    It's not a competition.
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  • Int’resting vid here...
    https://youtu.be/CTYJgmEvcKA
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  • ClarkyClarky Frets: 2693
    sm55onl said:
    Clarky, i would probably only answer in the affirmative to your third option.
    Is this possibly a problem with learning modes...that is trying to learn it by itself where, in reality, it really requires accompaniment to discern the nuances ?
    ah ok..
    if you want to learn them face to face, and don't live millions of miles from Berkshire, you can book a one off face to face session with me and I'll walk you through them..
    they're not that difficult when the penny drops..
    play every note as if it were your first
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  • RMJ said:
    I think of them (incorrectly I'm sure) as pentatonic scales with two additional intervals. The choice of intervals affects the 'mood' of what you're playing. 

    Check out David Walliman on YouTube. He has some visa that break modes down quite nicely. 
    Yep, this is the way I think of them too- there’s also a Guthrie Govan vid out there too with him talking about them in this way.

     I think the hardest thing for my students to learn is WHERE to use each one. Most find they’re already doing it without actually labelling it. It’s getting to know the sound of each mode and and example piece of music that highlights that sound. For example, the old satriani Classic ‘flying In a blue dream’ quite nicely outlines the Lydian sound in the first part of the track. I’ll even use something like ‘September’ by Earth Wind and Fire- ‘A’ major through the most part of the (verse) sequence then changing to ‘A’ mixolydian over the last chord to highlight the b7. It’s the much needed ‘ear training’ that’s needed, not just learning a shape. 
    Just my take on it...
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