Do you use Major Scale MODES? Do you really understand them?

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Hi,

Just joined the forum. 

Am an Amateur/Hobbyist guitarist. Took it up as Retirement Hobby.

I've found my old fingers aren't very good for chords but I enjoy myself playing melody/solo lines to backing tracks in my little home studio.  Consequently, my focus has been/still is on scales and becoming reasonably adept at moving up and down the fretboard in major/minor scales and pentatonics. 

I wanted to broaden my improvising skills so my next stage was MODES.  Really struggled with it.  I couldn't find a learning resource that explained it in a way that made sense to me. So, I wrote my own "Manual" which helped me a lot to make sense of them. (If you are interested see the "MIsc. Sales" section).

I'd like to know how other "newbies" managed to get their heads round MODES, not the playing shapes so much as what they are, how they are similar and different, how they fit into a melody/harmony context etc. In other words, a theory framework that explains them in a logical, systematic and coherent way.  Nothing I've found so far does that which is why I tried to come up with my own.

Cheers,

Richard

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  • vizviz Frets: 5368
    edited February 9
    Yes it’s confusing at first isn’t it? I think most people start trying to get their heads round modes through the old “F lydian is the 4th mode of C Ionian” approach, but after a bit of time realise that Lydian is just Ionian except with a raised 4th, and mixolydian is just Ionian except with a lowered 7th, and hey presto there’s your 3 major modes. 

    I’d like to see your manual but can’t find it in misc sales - can you post a link to it? Cheers, viz

    edit - ah it’s up now, ignore me!
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  • MegiiMegii Frets: 1509
    Yes I use and understand them. Really they are just more scales, that can be used in a similar way to the ones you already know. Yes they can be derived from a "parent" scale, such as major, but maybe it's better to think of them as independent entities at first - although it's undeniably convenient that they use already learned scale shapes, but thinking from a different root note.

    Each scale/mode has it's own particular sound or flavour - try to familiarize your brain with that sound, and how that works/sounds over certain chords. Noodle around with the scale fingerings, try to find nice phrases and lines - you can also mix in non-scale chromatic passing tones and approach notes, it's allowed. This way over time, you build up a repertoire of nice line ideas, develop muscle memory for the fingers, and train your brain to hear at the same time, which is, in my opinion, essential.
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  • Thanks Viz and Megiii.  
    Viz - I came at it from a different angle but got to the same conclusion.  "Different drums" and all that.
    Megii - Yes, that's what I understand about them now, but it was a struggle for me.  I had to start from first principles and build up my own logic as to what they are, why they sound different and how they fit into the melody/harmony context. Hence my "manual".
    If you are both interested in having a look at it  I am happy to send you the e-version free. I just want to find out if forum guys like you think it has any general merit for others, like me, who struggle in the way I did. It's a fascinating topic.  
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  • FreebirdFreebird Frets: 1340
    edited February 10
    I sort of know the theory, but I tend to ignore it and play by ear. Whatever fits is good enough for me. I am always conscious of tonics and dominants though, as they anchor everything together. I'll typically construct a sound palette of notes, which I will use with whatever harmony is underpinning it. It seems like a more flexible way of doing things, and you can introduce a touch of unpredictability. I also like to skew the chords a bit, as I got tired of the tame sounding stuff quite a while ago. So yeah, roughly major scale modes, but maybe not always exactly like the manual states.
    “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
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  • mudslide73mudslide73 Frets: 1826
    I use them a lot. My eureka moment came with mixolydian - I was already using big sections of it in my "major blues rock" boxes. Then I got into moving the shapes around over progressions until they sounded right... then trying to work out which mode I was using. 

    I got a lot of mileage out of Quist's YouTube channel with its mode specific jam tracks which helped me with getting the "flavours" @Megii mentions.
    "A city star won’t shine too far"


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  • markblagdonmarkblagdon Frets: 1009
    I’m interested, but all the online reviews are you updating people on where to get the book. Do you have any pdf excerpts available so I can see your teaching style?
    Karma......
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  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 816
    edited February 10
    Although I'm aware of (and use) modes, I don't think in terms of modes of the major scale when I use them. I think in terms of notes added to the major or minor pentatonic scales.

    In fact I think of all scales, such as the harmonic minor, melodic minor, phrygian dominant etc as additions and modifications of a basic major pentatonic or minor pentatonic framework.

    My journey was as follows and my knowledge of scales evolved in parallel with my way of categorizing things I heard.

    I started playing nearly 50 years ago and learned by copying solos by ear. I started to identify certain patterns/scales to categorize sounds.

    In the early days I called one set of notes a 'country' scale, because it had a 'country' sound to my ear. I could also see it was a subset of the major scale. Years later I found out it was a major pentatonic scale

    I called another set of notes a 'minor or blues' pattern depending on whether the notes were played over an essentially minor key or an essentially major/blues key. I later found out it was called the minor pentatonic scale. I could see that the major and minor had the same patterns, but starting on a different note.

    Then I heard extra notes that players would add to the basic 5 notes. For example Wishbone Ash used what I called a 'classical minor' scale (because it sounded 'classical' to my ear), which was the minor pentatonic with an added 2 and b6. I later found out that it was the Aeolian mode.

    As another example, I heard Carlos Santana and Peter Frampton using a slightly different type of minor scale with 2 and a 6 instead of a b6, which I called a 'Jazz minor' scale because it sounded smoother and had jazzier sound to my ear. I later discovered it was the Dorian mode.

    There's a similar process for other scales. For example a Mixolydian mode is just a major pentatonic with an added 4 and b7. For some reason I used to call that my 'Jeff Beck' scale, probably because he seemed to use it a lot. The Harmonic minor scale is just a minor pentatonic with and added 2, b6 and 7 instead of a b7 (i.e an Aeolian mode with a 7 instead of a b7).

    For a lot of blues I think in terms of the major pentatonic overlaid on top of a minor pentatonic, which might be categorized as a Dorian mode with an added major third, or the Mixolydian mode with an added b3.

    But the names are just useful to categorize sounds for me.
    It's not a competition.
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  • I struggled more than I needed to with modes because I read stuff in guitar magazines about how hard they were to understand and this messed with my head.

    Actually from playing for years I already perfectly understood the concept of relative minors. If a player hasn't understood the relationship between, say, C major and A minor yet, then this approach wouldn't work, but if I'd just had a teacher ask me the following set of questions, I'm sure I'd have got it straight away:

    "What's the difference between C major and A natural minor?"

    "OK, what would happen if you took that set of notes and made D the root note?"

    "What if it so the same thing with all the other notes?"
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  • Thank you for all comments so far.  It seems to confirm that we have all had different experiences in trying to incorporate modes into our playing.  When you go to the available literature and online you get a lot of conflicting, even contradictory information, It's sort of like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces.  You gather as many of the pieces as you can but there are always missing bits so you never get the full picture.  That was why I wrote my book, to try to put lots of those separate pieces together in some sort of logical structure to explain the theory (so that I could understand it better) but also relate that theory to the fretboard.  
    On the book/e-version front I am not allowed to put a direct email contact in the information.  I hope I am allowed to here and not break any rules - it is clearyrich@aol.com.
    Best Regards,
    Richard
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  • By the way, my offer is still open to forum members - a copy of the e-version of my book.  All I ask is that if you find it reasonably useful (up to you how you interpret that) you will consider making a contribution towards my production costs .  (see info. in "Misc. Sales" section)
    Backgound - The publisher of my paperback version ceased trading in November.  I therefore have had to take on the marketing duties myself.  My main aim is to maximise circulation to those who might find it useful.  I am never going to cover my share of publication costs and did not ever set out to do so in the first place.  I have created the E-Version myself without any input from the publisher.
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 2467
    No and yes. I treat “non-scale” notes as extra colour. So in the major scale I’ll use a lot of flattened sevenths, major and minor thirds and the quarter notes between them. In the minor I will, at some point, use all twelve notes. Yes, I understand that these can be labelled mixolydian etc. I just don’t find it helpful to do so.
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  • rlwrlw Frets: 1917
    Maybe dumb question but...

    aren't modes just a more complicated way of dressing up a scale which starts on the next note of a scale, not the root of whatever, so shouldn't that new scale simply be named some variation of a one note higher scale? 


    Save a cow.  Eat a vegetarian.
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  • close2uclose2u Frets: 388


    On the book/e-version front I am not allowed to put a direct email contact in the information.  I hope I am allowed to here and not break any rules - it is clearyrich@aol.com.
    Best Regards,
    Richard
    Hi
    I'd certainly be interested to look at your ebook and check it out if you could please send it.
    Many thanks.


    I have sent email and pm.
    Cheers
    :)
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 7815
    edited February 12
    I understood in the sense of starting a major scale from a different point and how you would then construct different chords diatonically from within a scale ( and target chord tones for melody).  Even that not in a very sophisticated way ( and much better on paper than on the fingerboard). I kind of get the idea of using them as different flavours but unless it was something very simple ( like playing over a static vamp) I couldn't really use them in practice. 
    Assholes are like opinions - mine’s on the internet. 
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  • VaiaiVaiai Frets: 437
    Ross Campbell on YouTube has a few good vids that I always suggest to people as he explains things really well and this first vid does indeed clear up some of the confusion you see about modes - well demonstrated too.



    And here's an older one which goes really basic too



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  • That first video above is brilliant in explaining what he calls "relative" and "parallel" approaches.  When I was doing the "method" part of my book  I came to a similar conclusion but named them differently as I was trying to think of my own way of understanding exactly the same concepts.  Fascinating stuff.  There's a lot of really good help out there (as above) but there's also a lot of confusing stuff too.  My approach in the book was to try to "explain it (theory and method) to myself" in a way that I could understand.  But I know I have only "scratched the surface" of the subject.
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  • close2uclose2u Frets: 388
    I think this video has much to recommend it:


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  • FarleyUKFarleyUK Frets: 549
    Interesting reading through the comments here; I've only recently starting looking at modes, and it was interesting to note that I actually mostly play mixolydian.... without ever realising I was doing it! Just seemed to sound 'right' for what I was doing.

    Can be bloody confusing though - I take the approach of playing a pentatonic, and then adding in the relevant modal notes as required. Well, in theory anyway....
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  • vizviz Frets: 5368
    FarleyUK said:


    Can be bloody confusing though - I take the approach of playing a pentatonic, and then adding in the relevant modal notes as required. Well, in theory anyway....
    Which is exactly correct :)

    the 4 and 7 for major penta, the 2 and 6 for minor penta. 
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  • vizviz Frets: 5368
    yes and No! @viz ;
    :) ah the king of the major pentatonic speaks!
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  • viz said:
    FarleyUK said:


    Can be bloody confusing though - I take the approach of playing a pentatonic, and then adding in the relevant modal notes as required. Well, in theory anyway....
    Which is exactly correct :)

    the 4 and 7 for major penta, the 2 and 6 for minor penta. 

    Put very succinctly and my approach in a nutshell.

    It's not a competition.
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  • FarleyUKFarleyUK Frets: 549
    viz said:
    FarleyUK said:


    Can be bloody confusing though - I take the approach of playing a pentatonic, and then adding in the relevant modal notes as required. Well, in theory anyway....
    Which is exactly correct :)

    the 4 and 7 for major penta, the 2 and 6 for minor penta. 
    You mean..... I've been doing something right?? :)
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  • vizviz Frets: 5368
    Roland said:
    Well I think you have.
    Yes and if you take major penta and raise the 4th but lower the 7th you get the overtone scale; ans if you take minor penta and raise the 6th but lower the 2nd you get dorian b2; both of these are modes of the melodic minor scale :)
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  • sev112sev112 Frets: 523
    Another long thread on modes.
    i can play the, all, I can remember them, I know why they exist, and I know they apparently have different feel

    still haven’t got a clue how to use them in day to day playing 


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  • vizviz Frets: 5368
    sev112 said:
    Another long thread on modes.
    i can play the, all, I can remember them, I know why they exist, and I know they apparently have different feel

    still haven’t got a clue how to use them in day to day playing 


    Just play something with them and see what pops out. 
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 2467
    edited February 14
    Viz, I’ve always found this “added note” approach a much more sensible way to think of modes. The dry “this is the TTS sequence” or “this is the fingering pattern” are dry text book stuff. Easy to show off with, or ask exam questions about, but of little value in playing music. If you learn scales then you play scales. If you learn finger patterns then that’s what you play. However, if you know what each note sounds like then you can play creatively.
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  • sev112sev112 Frets: 523
    viz said:
    sev112 said:
    Another long thread on modes.
    i can play the, all, I can remember them, I know why they exist, and I know they apparently have different feel

    still haven’t got a clue how to use them in day to day playing 


    Just play something with them and see what pops out. 
    I appreciate that, but it doesn’t help
    i can noodle til the cows come home
    and certainly since the recent post of Modal something or other which basically says you can just pick any note you want anywhere on the neck because it belongs to a different chord that’s not in the scale or progression and that’s fine !?

    is it the chord that you are playing over or the progression which defines / suggests the mode ?
    e.g. Am C Dm sounds like A Aeolian, by might be Dorian? 
    What if I stick E7 on the end ?  E7 isn’t in the scale above, so can I just play E Mixolydian over that chord because A aeolian doesn’t suit it?

    im not looking for that specific answer, but can you see that’s what I mean when I ask “how you use them”?
    .
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  • FreebirdFreebird Frets: 1340
    edited February 14
    FarleyUK said:
    Interesting reading through the comments here; I've only recently starting looking at modes, and it was interesting to note that I actually mostly play mixolydian.... without ever realising I was doing it! Just seemed to sound 'right' for what I was doing.

    Can be bloody confusing though - I take the approach of playing a pentatonic, and then adding in the relevant modal notes as required. Well, in theory anyway....
    Once I know the Key of the harmony I find the tonic and the dominant, and then decide which note I want to start on (it can be any note in the major scale). From there I see what other notes fit, and as mentioned above I anchor it in relation to the tonic and the dominant. So I am basically playing by ear, but also constructing a scale that fits the harmony. It's probably not a good idea to explain it in a book, but it works for me 
    “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
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