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How to understand & use modes in guitar playing

Posted by John Brown 
John Brown
How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
January 06, 2011 06:36PM
I've been having trouble understanding modes & even more trouble finding people that know it well enough to help with it. Does that mean it's not important or relative?
Here are a few of my questions & problems.

How do I apply modes to what i already know?? for example, now that I know the modes & patterns for c major, how & when do i use them? are modes alternative scales so you don't have to always use major & minor scales?

If playing in cmaj key, could/should i (bass guitar) play out of the d dorian scale if the guitar or keyboard is playing a dmin chord? same with rest, ie should/could i play g mixolydian when g maj is being played?

My problem with the references that i'm using is that the scale patterns aren't matching up. I'm using a chart from an old guitar teacher and this website that shows you any scale/chord you want. [www.studybass.com] ... e-printer/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last night using the guitar teachers mode patterns I tried to figure out all of the modes for dmaj.
when i compared them to the website only 3 of the 7 modes were correct. A common problem was that the guitar teachers mode patterns call for flats when the website wouldn't agree. ie his pattern would call for a dflat when the website would list it as a d.


[ EDIT: echomusic hasn't posted in over 3 months so I'm splitting this questions away from the "Ask me anything" thread. Hope that's OK with the OP. ]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/07/2011 10:35AM by Zapped.
Re: Ask me anything Music Theory and I'll answer
January 06, 2011 08:02PM
John Brown Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> How do I apply modes to what i already know?? for
> example, now that I know the modes & patterns for
> c major, how & when do i use them? are modes
> alternative scales so you don't have to always use
> major & minor scales?
>

Yes, sort of.

Ok, let's try to simplify this:

You can use a Mode basic ways:

1. A piece can be in a Mode instead of a Key, so the notes for the harmony and melody are drawn from a mode rather than a Major or Minor scale.

Louie Louie is a great example. It's in A Mixolydian - the chords are A, D, and Em. Now normally in A Major, you'd have an E but because they were playing in A Mixolydian, the G notes are G Natural instead of G# as in A Major.

So if you were to "play a scale" during that song, you'd play A Mixolydian Mode.

2. A piece can use various modes over various chords, and there are 2 ways to do this:

A. A la Jazz players, you play Dorian over m7 chords, Mixolydian over 7 chords, Lydian over M7 chords, etc.

B. Play modes like you're thinking of them - D Dorian over Dm7, G Mixolydian over G7, and C Ionian over C.

Now, a lot of people notice, hey, these are just all chords from C Major, and when I'm playing D Dorian, I'm actually playing a C Major scale.

True.

In Louie Louie, if you were going to improvise a rock-type solo, you generally wouldn't say "I'm going to play E Dorian over the Em chord" - you'd simply burn A Mixolydian over the whole chord progression.

But, on a ii-V-I in Jazz, while you could burn a Major scale over the whole thing, people tend to play modes because they "focus" the attention on the chord tones.

It's a subtle, but effective difference.

Now, there's one other thing I want to mention, which is especially bad for guitarists (and bass) - some guitarists learn different PATTERNS for a Major scale - starting on the 2nd note, starting on the 3rd note, etc. They sometimes call these modes, but they're NOT - they're FINGERING PATTERNS, or SCALE PATTERNS starting on notes other than the Tonic. It will really help you if you don't confuse the two.

Does that help?

Steve
Steve,
Yes, it does help and thank you for your response.

The whole thing is still a little hazy but you've helped.
Before i get further into it, let me try a general question
1. Are modes too much for a beginner? I've got a little bit of guitar experience but I'm new to the bass. My overall goals are to understand music, to be able to improvise & to be a diverse, well-rounded bassist.
2. Are modes important for bass? Are there other scales I should worry about first?
Thanks a ton!
John Brown Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Steve,
> Yes, it does help and thank you for your response.
>
>
> The whole thing is still a little hazy but you've
> helped.
> Before i get further into it, let me try a general
> question
> 1. Are modes too much for a beginner?

IMO, yes. But it depends how you understand the terms. The crucial concept (even in modal music,IMO) is KEY. A piece of music always has a tonal centre. Many pieces have two or more, but most have one primary one.
That key is either MAJOR or MINOR. That just means what kind of chord the key chord is. So a song in E major will have E as its key chord. A song in E minor will have Em as key chord.
OK, that sounds a bit "duh!" - but "sound" is important here. The key chord is the one that sounds like it is: the final "home" chord of the song, its gravitational centre.

The thing to remember about rock music is that the type of key doesn't specify the rest of the scale or chords too precisely.
So when we say a song is "in E", that means the I (tonic) chord is E. But it doesn't mean the other chords will only be derived from the E major scale (E F# G# A B C# D#) - nor that other notes in tunes or solos are banned. It means you will probably have A and B major chords. Possibly also other diatonic chords such as C#m, F#m or G#m. But it's highly likely you'll also have D, and maybe G, C or Am. Those chords can all be explained as coming from the key of E minor; but we are not in E minor, because our tonic chord is E major. Nevertheless, the affinity of that "parallel" key (same root note) means the chords sound related - they add useful extra colour to the music without sounding "wrong". It's like the diatonic chords (E, A, B, C#m, F#m,G#m) are brothers and sisters, and the ones from E minor are cousins. A bit more distant but still family! :) (They're a moody bunch, but we like that.;))

Now, if we find a song in E that has A and D chords, maybe Bm, but no B or B7 - we can say that's "E mixolydian mode". That's only the same thing as saying "E major scale with b7", or "A major scale based on E". IOW, the modal term is a handy phrase for a familiar sound. But you don't need it if "E major scale with b7" explains it enough for you!
The main point - one way modal concepts are useful - is that this deivation from major key "rules" is not "wrong". It's a valid rock convention to lower the 7th of the scale. It's not a mistake, it's a deliberate choice by people who know what sound they want (and don't care too much about rules in books). We - as theorists - just come along and attach the label "mixolydian" to it, because we like labels! :)

The other labels we might use if this song in E also has G and C chords (and maybe Am) is "mode mixture", or "borrowing from the parallel minor" (inviting those moody cousins round). The "mixture" means we might have a combination of chords: some from the major key (E ionian), some from minor (E aeolian). It doesn't have to be consistent.

Another point underlying all this is that theory is only there to help make music SIMPLER - easier to understand. if you find any theoretical concept is making it all more complicated - you don't need it. You're not ready for it now - it may come in handy later, but you will know then because you will find yourself asking a question to which that theory is the answer - when it will click, and make a link.
IMO, it's a waste of time to study theory before you need it in your playing. Unless of course you are simply curious (which is a good thing).

> I've got a little bit of guitar experience but I'm new to the
> bass. My overall goals are to understand music, to
> be able to improvise & to be a diverse,
> well-rounded bassist.
> 2. Are modes important for bass? Are there other
> scales I should worry about first?
> Thanks a ton!

Learn the major scales in the most common keys for the music you will be playing. If that's rock, get totally familiar with the major keys of G, D, A, E and C, and minor keys Am and Em. (Am is basically the same notes as C, but the key might include an E major or E7 chord. Same with Em; same notes as G, but might include a B or B7 chord.)
Also - very important - flatten the 7ths in all those scales. Know the major 7ths - but be prepared to flatten them when playing lines, especially descending ones. (Listen to the difference.)
If it's jazz, start with the keys of C, F, Bb, Eb, and Ab, but eventually you need to know all 12 keys thoroughly. Also learn all the melodic minor scales (same as major but with b3). These are more important for lead instruments, but you need to know about them at least.

Of course, blues scale and the major and minor pents are crucial in both genres.

For bass, you need to play through chord arpeggios in all those keys. Work out how to play bass lines through typical chord sequences, which usually involves walking through the arpeggios in some way. In rock you might only have to play root notes, or roots and 5ths, but it's still good to know how to link chords with scale runs, maybe playing non-root notes on some chords.

I play both guitar and bass myself, and you will find your guitar experience a huge help in understanding chords and harmony - even though you don't play chords on bass, being able to picture them on the fretboard is invaluable.
But there are important fundamental differences:
1. Bass is much more of a rhythm instrument than guitar (even rhythm guitar). The groove is largely your responsibility. In rock, you share it with the drummer, but in jazz you often lead it. You are literally "fundamental".;) Not only the roots of the chords, but - more importantly - the whole bottom of the sound and rhythm.
2. Nobody will notice what you are doing - until you stop! Then they all go "wha? what happened?" 8-). The bottom has fallen out of the music, that's what. So - unlike guitar - you can't stop occasionally for a rest. You have to enjoy that background role - solid, reliable, loads of stamina. You KNOW you are the guy that matters. And so do the band (if they are a good band). The bassist's thrill doesn't come from standing out front wailing away with one foot on a monitor - it comes from creating a cooking groove with the drummer (your pal).

A great exercise a bass tutor once showed me is to play your lines with left hand only. Make sure (if seated) you are in a firm, centred position, feet firmly planted. Similar if standing: feet apart (tho not too far) like you mean business. Back straight, guitar neck at right position (not too low or far away). Play a scale, riff or walking line with fret hand only and keep it in time. Obviously some notes won't come out too clearly, that doesn't matter. What matters is hammering those left hand fingers on the notes right on the beat (or on the right off beat if necessary). Then when you bring in your right hand, the groove and articulation should lock in a lot better.
With the right hand too - forget those pretty little articulations you used to use on guitar. The big bass strings need a much more aggressive attack - not just because of the weight of the string, but because the rhythmic placement is so important. I'd say it needs at least twice as much physical effort to play bass effectively than guitar - maybe a lot more. You really need to get those strings moving to get the instrument to "speak". (Of course this applies a lot more on acoustic bass than electric.)
Also, don't dive for the volume control if you want more volume; try and get it by playing harder first. Loud volume on amp to make up for lazy articulation helps no one.

OK, that'll be $50 please! :D
Jon-
If I weren't broke I'd give you $100 :)
Thanks very much for your help.
Your answers do help clarify some of my modes questions.
I think I'm going to put modes on the shelf for awhile & concentrate on more important bass things like you mentioned. Major & minor scales in common keys, maj & min pentatonic & just working on my form & rhythm. Like you said, modes will be there for me when I'm ready for them.

Steve & Jon, thank you guys very, very much for your help. I'll be back when I'm stumped again!
Re: Ask me anything Music Theory and I'll answer
January 07, 2011 01:28PM
John Brown,

I'll add that a very useful way to think of Modes is in comparison to "known" scales (Major and minor):

Ionian is Major
Dorian is like Minor, but with a raised 6th
Phrygian is like Minor, but with a lowered 2nd
Lydian is like Major, but with a raised 4th
Mixolydian is like Major, but with a lowered 7th
Aeolian is Minor
Locrian is like Minor, but with a lowered 2nd AND lowered 5th.

IMHO this can help you "grasp on" to Modes because you'd be using them from the same conceptual standpoint you already use for scales.

There are of course other ways to approach Modes but this "comparison" method can yield miles of "light bulb" moments.

Best,
Steve
John Brown Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Jon-
> If I weren't broke I'd give you $100 :)
> Thanks very much for your help.
> Your answers do help clarify some of my modes
> questions.
> I think I'm going to put modes on the shelf for
> awhile & concentrate on more important bass things
> like you mentioned. Major & minor scales in common
> keys, maj & min pentatonic & just working on my
> form & rhythm. Like you said, modes will be there
> for me when I'm ready for them.
>
> Steve & Jon, thank you guys very, very much for
> your help. I'll be back when I'm stumped again!

You're welcome. As I say, for now the main use of the mode concept could be to have it in the back of your mind when studying songs. Instead of thinking "hey what's that chord doing there, it doesn't belong in this key!", you can just say to yourself, "oh that's probably something to do with them mode things." :)

The only rule that matters in music is "If it sounds good, it's correct." The rest is labels and filing systems - a language to help us talk (and write) about music, as much as give it some kind of conceptual form.
Use (or find) the language you need to describe the sounds you're working with at the moment. Maybe notes, chords, keys and scales are enough.
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 07, 2011 02:18AM
Hi guys, my name is Jonathan, i have been playing music for 20 years now. i started out with guitar, i am self taught. i know a little theory as far as key signature and circle of fifths and what not. i play lead but find myself using pentatonic, and blues scale, for every lead. i have gotten bored with the guitar and switched to a mandolin, which i have been playing for two years now, forget about me playing leads on that thing for now it's all backwards. i mean i keep a good rhythm on it but thats about it.

i come from the grateful dead school of musical background, and i'm playing bass in a grateful dead tribute band. i know all the songs on guitar. and i keep a good pocket with my drummer. Modes have baffled me from the get go. i know how to play a major scale in all keys. and like wise with the pentatonic. my feeble mind has trouble understanding the langue used in theory speak. and i read what was written above, but im still at odds with the whole concept.....

i watch youtube videos of phil lesh playing the bass to try to see what he's doing because his fingers are dancing all over the neck of his bass. mine stay pretty much in one "box".
i go to octaves and such, but i'd like to jam it out a bit more like phil does, but i have know idea what he's doing and there aren't much tabs out there for grateful dead bass....

my question is, is there any way you can dumb it down a bit so i can grasp what your saying.... maybe use a song like "dark star" or "knocking on heaven's door" as example's if you need to as im familiar with those.....

also when i play leads on guitar on say knocking on heaven's door i play an Em pentatonic i understand it's actually a G major pentatonic but i'd like to be able vary it up so it's not as boring to play. any help and/or feedback would be greatly appreciated
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 07, 2011 11:25AM
Hi Jonathan & welcome to the forum.

Your question is pretty broad - you're basically asking for the forum readers to serve up an improvisation course based on modes. But the description of your background does help us understand what experience level you have, so maybe we can offer some tips.

First up, I'm assuming you know that a pentatonic scale is missing just two notes from a full diatonic scale. You mentioned Em pent & G maj pent, and you said you do know they use the same notes: E G A B D. From an E minor perspective, the 2nd and 6th are missing - hopefully that's obvious to you. From a G major perspective, the 4th and 7th are missing.

Those missing notes are the key to transitioning from strict pentatonics to improvising in a full mode. The common major modes are Ionian, Lydian, and Mixolydian, and the common minor modes are Aeolian (aka "natural minor"), Dorian, and Phrygian. Do you know which notes to add to your pentatonics to make each of those modes? It might be good for me to stop here & await your answer, so we can figure out what else to tell you. So go ahead & fill in the question marks with note-names below...
G Ionian     =  G A B ? D E ?
G Lydian     =  G A B ? D E ?  
G Mixolydian =  G A B ? D E ?
E Aeolian    =  E ? G A B ? D
E Dorian     =  E ? G A B ? D
E Phrygian   =  E ? G A B ? D

- Jim in Austin, TX
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 07, 2011 05:20PM
Johnathan, I don't know Dark Star, but Knocking on Heaven's door is in G Major, so there's no need for a mode (unless you want to call it G Ionian).

Let's take a well-known simple example: Louie Louie. I'm sure you've heard it. It's in A Mixolydian. The chords are A - D - Em - D.

So you play A mixolydian lines/riffs over it.

Mixolydian is so common in Rock I suggest you start with it, as there are going to be many (probably even Dead) songs that use it. It's also the basis of a lot of blues soloing (that's more than just plain pentatonic).

A good way to think of Modes is which Major or Minor scale they're like, and what's different. For example:

Mixolydian is like Major, but with b7.

So C Major is

C D E F G A B C

C Mixolydian is

C D E F G A Bb C

See the difference?

Steve
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 07, 2011 07:46PM
stevel Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Let's take a well-known simple example: Louie
> Louie. I'm sure you've heard it. It's in A
> Mixolydian. The chords are A - D - Em - D.
>
> So you play A mixolydian lines/riffs over it.

Just to expand a little on Steve's example. If you're wondering why it's in A mixolydian, or why A mixolydian is the scale of choice for improvising over it, look at the notes of the chords that make up the song (A, D, & Em)
A major contains the notes: A C# E
D major contains the nortes D F# A
E minor contains the notes E G B

Arrange those notes into a scale and you have: A B C# D E F# G A, which is A mixolydian.

As you can see, it's almost an A major scale, but not quite. It has the note G, whereas A major would have G#. That G is called a "flat 7th". It's not flat by name of course, it's natural, but it's flat compared to the G# of the A major scale. That, as Steve pointed out, is what identifies it as mixolydian, i.e., a major scale but with the 7th note flatted (lowered).

If you improvised over those chords using the notes of the A major scale, with its G#, you'd have a potential problem everytime the E minor chord came along. Your G# note could clash discordantly with the G note contained in the E minor. A mixolydian avoids that as all of its notes agree with all of the chord tones in that song.
Just to add to the above...

JonathanMelzer Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> also when i play leads on guitar on say knocking
> on heaven's door i play an Em pentatonic i
> understand it's actually a G major pentatonic but
> i'd like to be able vary it up so it's not as
> boring to play. any help and/or feedback would be
> greatly appreciated

The trick is to work from the chord shapes. As explained above, this song is in the key of G major - but improvising with that scale is not just a matter of adding the two notes missing from the pentatonic (C and F#).
The great thing about pentatonics is that you can play just about anything at random and it sounds musical. Most of the time... (That's why people love them so much!)
However, when you use a whole 7-note scale, you lose that pentatonic structure, so you need some other way of structuring what you play. The chords provide that. You can work just from the shapes (without knowing the notes involved), but of course knowing the notes will help. (You wouldn't expect a theory site to advise you any different, now would you...? ;))

Here's the chord tones for the chords in Knockin' on Heaven's Door:

G = G B D
D = D F# A
Am = A C E
C = C E G

You can see those notes are subsets of the G major scale (G A B C D E F#). Selecting only those notes on each chord will keep your solo totally "inside" the changes. But that will quickly get boring, and sound somewhat stiff. One way out of that is to expand each chord into its own pentatonic:

G major pent = G A B D E
D major pent = D E F# A B
A minor pent = A C D E G
C major pent = C D E G A

As you can see, we are still using subsets of the G major scale - so all is still cool. (And Am pent and Cmaj pent are the same notes; and the G and D pents are only one note different.) The additional 2 notes will still sound good against the chord - not exactly "inside", but not too "outside" either.
The trick is not to think of these as different patterns - at least not to feel you need to shift to a different part of the neck for each one. ALL the notes you need are available in ANY pattern of the G major scale. So you need to learn how to pick out the different chord shapes and pentatonics from EVERY pattern of a major scale.

Of course, you can still use the remaining 2 scale notes on any of chords - but it's best (to begin with) to regard them as passing notes only. They have a quite "strong" sound, a very noticeable character: they will stand out if you stress them. They won't necessarily sound wrong - and can sound very good - but you need to know when it's right to bring them out.

Treat all the available notes as a spectrum from "inside" to "outside", as follows - "1" is most inside, "4" is most outside:

1 = triad chord tones
2 = additional 2 notes of each chord's pentatonic
3 = additional 2 notes of the diatonic scale (scale of the key) -
4 = additional 5 chromatic notes.

Category 3 gives the "mode" sound of each chord - although this is not really worth knowing IMO. That is, you should know the effects they provide, but it all occurs within the overall key sound. The individual chords don't really represent different modes in their own right.

Category 4 is blues-jazz territory, Despite being technically "wrong notes", they can give very familiar sounds - such as using a minor pent or blues scale in a major key, which (in a blues) sounds more "right" than the major scale of the key.
Other times, they will sound very discordant, and it takes an experienced jazz player to handle them.


NB: the above refers largely to MAJOR keys. Minor keys use variable 6th and 7th steps as standard, so the "diatonic scale" (of the key) might incorporate 9 different notes at different times. It's still a safe strategy to work from the chord tones - but occasionally the chord pentatonics won't quite work. (Eg, if you find an E major chord in key of A minor - which you usually will - E major pent is not going to work.)
There is really no substitute here for understanding how minor key progressions work, and why the scale gets altered. Generally you can stick with natural minor, and just change a note when you see a chord that demands it (eg that major V chord).

I'm also not considering songs which use chords from outside the central key (which is very common). In those cases, it's still a pretty safe bet to go with the pent of each chord. But again - have a good look at what the chords are doing. One good strategy (almost always works) is - on any one chord - to use notes from the chord before or after as passing notes.
Confused Guy
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 09, 2011 01:28AM
> So C Major is
>
> C D E F G A B C
>
> C Mixolydian is
>
> C D E F G A Bb C
>
> See the difference?
>
> Steve

This is where I don't see modes being anything other than scale patterns starting on different notes. Isn't the C mixolydian you just described there essentially in the key of F, and using all the notes in the F major scale but just starting on the C note?
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 09, 2011 08:33AM
Confused Guy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Isn't the C mixolydian you just described
> there essentially in the key of F, and using all
> the notes in the F major scale but just starting
> on the C note?

No. There's a big difference.Despite having the same notes, music in the key of F 'resolves to' or is based around the note F as its 'home note' or tonal centre. Music in C Mixolydian resolves to C as its tonal centre.
So a C mixolydian song will be similar to a song in C major, in that both are based around the note C, The one in C major will have the note B and that B will lead home to C in a distinctive and familiar way. With C Mixolydian, that B is absent but it has Bb, which will give the song a different, but equally distinctive, flavour.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/09/2011 08:35AM by Fretsource.
So let me get this straight- you sit down to write something using chords from the key of F. You decide to start your progression on the C chord, IV. because this is going to be the tonal center of you song this becomes I in C mixolydian,, so the chords you would use would be I ii iiiø IV v vi VII. Also, because C is the tonal center, it is now technically in the key of C, despite being composed of notes from F, but different from the typical major Ionian I ii iii IV V vi viiø piece in C because it's in a mixolydian mode?
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 09, 2011 11:20AM
I don't think you're a "Confused Guy" at all, despite your user name. Your summary of C Mixolydian mode is spot on.

One minor nuance is that I believe most folks say "key of C" when they mean C major (Ionian), and "key of C minor" for example when they mean C natural minor (C Aeolian), which might also be modified to a harmonic or melodic minor depending on the use of the leading-tone in the key. You'd just say "C Mixolydian" when you mean that, not the "key of C". If you wanted to clarify the key signature being used, you might say "C Mixolydian, in other words the key signature is F, or one flat". Just avoid the shorthand "key of" when you're in Lydian, Mixolydian, Dorian, Phrygian, or (god forbid) Locrian modes.

- Jim in Austin, TX
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 09, 2011 12:34PM
Just to add a little. In printed music, you can't rely on key signatures to indicate the mode. From a major/ minor key perspective, a song in C mixolydian will usually be considered as being in the key of C major with the Bb note being a chromatic alteration of B shown within the music rather than in the key signature.

Take the song "Hey Jude" for example. I can't remember the original key but let's call it C major for simplicity. The song is very much in the key of C major with all the usual chords and cadences that are the hallmark of major keys. But then at the end, it goes into the long repeating na na na section with chords, C - Bb - F - C. This is a C mixolydian progression, but the key signature doesn't change (in any printed version I've ever seen). And that makes sense. It's not actually changing key, just mode. A change of key signature would misleadingly indicate an actual key change to a new tonal centre.

In a similar way, songs in minor-flavoured modes such as dorian and phrygian, will usually be considered as being in the minor key of the tonal centre. I have a printed version of Scarborough Fair, which is in D dorian, (containing B natural and no Bb) but the key signature is one flat (Bb), indicating D minor.

Both ways of notating do exist, so you have to look/ listen deeper into the music if you want to know whether a particular mode is being used.
Confused Guy
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 09, 2011 02:21PM
Zapped Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> If you wanted to clarify the key
> SIGNATURE being used, you might say "C Mixolydian,
> in other words the key signature is F, or one
> flat".


BAM! You clarified years of misunderstanding with one differentiating word.
Just how half-lifes suddenly made complete sense when all someone had to do was say "exponential." :)

Hey Jude is in F... so to shorten it, you would regularly say it is in Key signature of F, but that part is in the Key of C because the basis (I) of the progression is C, correct? Despite it not being composed of notes that correlate with C major but rather with F major? Saying it is in C when the song is composed in the signature of F is indicative of C Mixolydian? So V becomes I, vi becomes ii, etc... establishing the mode just helps keep everything central to the I (or i), is what I'm getting out of this. Am I right or did I take it the wrong way?
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 09, 2011 03:49PM
Wait - you're on the right track but getting unclear. I said Hey Jude was in C for simplicity and because I couldn't remember the original key. But for accuracy and to minimise any confusion, look at it again in its real key which is F major (I just checked).

It opens with chords F - C - C7 - F. ( I - V - V7 - I). It's definitely in F major. But the end section has chords: F Eb Bb F (I - bVII - IV - I) repeated over and over. That makes it F mixolydian for that section because, as we can hear, the tonal centre (F) hasn't changed. Only the mode has changed from major/ionian to mixolydian.
As you know, those last chords also happen to occur in the key of Bb major, and if the tonal centre had changed to Bb, we'd be correct in saying that it's now changed key to Bb major. But the tonal centre is still clearly heard as F. So it has to be in F something. Those chords, F, Eb, Bb resolving to the tonal centre of F tell us it's F mixolydian.
Regarding key signatures, as F mixo and Bb major share the same notes, they can employ the same key signature (but as I said, I've never seen any version that bothered to change the key signature for that section of Hey Jude.)
So, regardless of key signature used, it's in F all the way.
First part: Key = F. Mode = major/ ionian
Last part: Key = F. Mode = mixolydian



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/09/2011 05:01PM by Fretsource.
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 09, 2011 04:44PM
That covers the A- and C-sections, but don't forget the lovely B-section that modulates to the key of Bb (again without changing key signature). "And anytime you feel the pain, Hey Jude, refrain" uses chords F7 - Bb - Bbmaj7, which is of course Bb:V7 - I - Imaj7. But then it continues with a ii-V-I back into F major. Mmmm good stuff!

Caveat: I personally think any cadence with a dominant chord like F7 - Bb is hitting a new key, but The Great Alan Pollack still calls it a V7/IV - IV in F. He's a flippin' genius so who am *I* to differ. Linkage for Pollack's analysis of Hey Jude:

[www.icce.rug.nl]

- Jim in Austin, TX
I was "brought up" differently, lets say, so this is why the difference between modes and major scales has always been so confusing to me.

From what I gather, you attribute key to the tonic center, as you put it. The mode can shift the chords and their variations while still remaining in the same key.

What I've been taught (and what I'm sure is a main point of confusion to us folk really trying to understand modes) is that each key is determined by which notes fit in series. so say that progression F-Eb-Bb-F only fits in the key of Bb major as V-IV-I-V naturally, without any alteration to I ii iii IV V vi viiø. For it to be in the key of F and in that pattern the progression would have to be C-Bb-F-C: that is not what we hear so it can't exist in F. It must be in Bb.

DISCLAIMER: I'm taking your word for it. I get the impression that the above is a wrong way of thinking from your responses.

Let's see if I got it right:

1. Dm - Am - C - G -F - G

2. F - G - Am - C - F

3. Am- C - G - F

My old way of understanding that it looks like I'm gonna ditch now ;) : these are all in the key of C. no other description.
I would play along with the C major scale with no regard to opening or closing notes. this is applied to all progressions.

Your way; Key of D, Dorian Mode. Play along with the D Dorian scale, starting and stopping on D.
It being "key of D" does not mean D major is appropriate to improvise with...
2: Key of F. F Lydian Mode.
3: Key of A. A Aeolian Mode a.k.a A Minor.

Did I get it right or did I get worse? :o

(man, just speculating about all of this is tremendous fun. I love all this so much :D )
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 09, 2011 05:31PM
If you think of F - Eb - Bb - F as V - IV - I - V in the key of Bb major when the tonal centre is clearly heard as F, then you have a contradiction. In Roman numeral analysis, the tonal centre is indicated by I. That's how it works. The purpose is to identify the tonal centre as I and to number all the other chords in relation to that I.
By labeling the Bb as I then you're indicating that Bb is the tonal centre, which is clearly not the case in Hey Jude or any pieces in F mixolydian.
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 09, 2011 06:19PM
Okey dokey. Got it! Now to find an application...

Oh here we go! If you wanted to play individual scales for each chord as you go along, take for example:

C - F - G

Key of C. You could improvise with C Ionian over the C, but what could you do about the F and G? If each chord within a key is assigned a separate mode, would you solo over the F with the C Lydian scale, and likewise the G with C Mixolydian? Or use F Lydian and G Mixolydian? I know the latter would fit the progression as a whole since it is all basically the same scale, but the former would serve to emphasize the other chords individually correct?

or perhaps F Ionian and G Ionian since they're both major chords as well?

This is something I have always figured was related to modes, using different scales per chord instead of one scale over the whole progression.

Great example is in the outro of this song, and it tends to complicate things a bit on my end. This chord progression (which I also put up for examination in the chord progressions thread ;) ) is NOT diatonic, but the improv licks at the end of each chord are diatonic and correspond to that one chord. Now here's the question,,, if you are using chords that do not correspond to the key, how do you know which scale to use with the chord?

If you are going to take a look at the song skip to 5:38, where the intro starts.
Sir Psycho Sexy outro



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/09/2011 06:47PM by Confused Guy.
Confused Guy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Okey dokey. Got it! Now to find an application...
>
> Oh here we go! If you wanted to play individual
> scales for each chord as you go along,

Not sure why you'd want to do that, but anyway, thinking hypothetically... ;)

> take for
> example:
>
> C - F - G
>
> Key of C. You could improvise with C Ionian over
> the C, but what could you do about the F and G?

Keep using C major scale. Technically you could describe the sound of the scale on the F as "F lydian" and on the G as "G mixolydian" - but they're unnecessary labels. The KEY is C major, aka C ionian.
IOW, F is the IV in that mode, not a I in its own mode.

> If each chord within a key is assigned a separate
> mode, would you solo over the F with the C Lydian
> scale, and likewise the G with C Mixolydian? Or
> use F Lydian and G Mixolydian? I know the latter
> would fit the progression as a whole since it is
> all basically the same scale, but the former would
> serve to emphasize the other chords individually
> correct?

The former would have at least one wrong note.
C lydian has an F# in it, so is hardly appropriate on an F chord!
Likewise C mixolydian has a Bb, while a G chord has a B natural: less of a problem (it would just sound bluesy), but still not an exact fit.

In this hypothetical example - if you wanted to isolate the chords from each other, and destroy the sense of the C key centre - you could choose any of 3 major modes on each chord root..
On each chord, 2 of the 3 choices will be "out of key". I.e F ionian or mixolydian on F; and G ionian or lydian on the G.

> or perhaps F Ionian and G Ionian since they're
> both major chords as well?

Yes. Again the question is - why would you do this?
For most examples of such a chord sequence, it would both sound wrong and would make your job harder. (But I can see you're working towards something more interesting below...)

> This is something I have always figured was
> related to modes, using different scales per chord
> instead of one scale over the whole progression.

Yes. But it happens in modal music, which tends - at least in jazz - to consist of single chords lasting for some time (usually at least 4 bars each). And usually in that music the chords are clearly not related by key to start with.
Eg, you might have a sequence like this:
Cmaj7#11 - Abmaj7#11 - E7sus4 - Bbm11
That implies C lydian - Ab lydian - E mixolydian - Bb dorian.

If a chord progression is clearly in one major or minor key, then modal thinking is not appropriate, and not useful.
That doesn't mean a scale remains unchanged throughout. In minor keys at least, the 6th and 7th degrees may change - you may have passages using harmonic or melodic minor, as well as natural minor.
And in major or minor keys, chromaticism is quite common - either through chord substitution of various kinds or melodic decoration. But these changes are nothing to do with modes.

> Great example is in the outro of this song, and it
> tends to complicate things a bit on my end. This
> chord progression (which I also put up for
> examination in the chord progressions thread ;) )
> is NOT diatonic, but the improv licks at the end
> of each chord are diatonic and correspond to that
> one chord.

Right, though "diatonic" is not quite the right word for a chord on its own.

> Now here's the question,,, if you are
> using chords that do not correspond to the key,
> how do you know which scale to use with the
> chord?
>
> If you are going to take a look at the song skip
> to 5:38, where the intro starts.
> Sir Psycho Sexy outro

OK, here's the sequence:

| E - - - | Eb - - - | Bb - - - | D - - - |
|Ab - - Eb | C - - - | Ab - - - | G - - - |

The chords all seem to be power chords, but sound major by implication.
There are hints of minor key functionality here, Eg, the Eb-Bb-D could be in the key of G minor, and the Ab-G could be key of C minor.
In fact the whole last 4 bars suggest a C key centre, albeit minor rather than the C major we seem to get.
The first two bars could also be a bVI-V in G# minor (the Eb chord being D#).

So I would be tempted to bring out this minor key link across the chords where it fits. Eg playing a mode of G harmonic or melodic minor on the D chord instead of a D major scale. Likewise C harmonic minor would fit both Ab and G at the end.

But it's also possible to treat each chord as an isolated entity, and apply any root mode that sounds OK - which is what you're thinking, I guess!
You begin only from the notes in the chords, and apply any scale that contains those notes: that's rule #1.
If you regard these all as power chords, that only gives you 2 notes, and a huge amount of flexibility as to scale choice.
If you regard them as major chords, that gives you 3 notes, and limits your choices more. But you still have these options (at least):

Ionian
Lydian
Mixolydian
Phrygian dominant (5th mode harmonic minor)
Mixolydian b6 (5th mode melodic minor)

There are one or two other jazz scales that might fit too.

But I would personally (instinctively) go for scales that have as many notes in common with the chord before or after. That's because I like to make links across the chords, to convey a sense of logic even if the chords don't seem to have any.
Eg, on the Bb chord, I'd be torn between Bb ionian or mixolydian (to fit best with the Eb) and lydian (to fit best with the following D).
On the D I'd probably go for a scale containing Bb, to fit best with the Bb and Ab scales either side. D phrygian dominant (G harmonic minor) would be a suitable choice there, because it's only one note different from Bb major, and only 2 different from Ab lydian.

But these are personal choices as I say. Your ear rules!
Re: Ask me anything Music Theory and I'll answer
February 10, 2011 02:03PM
John Brown Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> 1. Are modes too much for a beginner? I've got a
> little bit of guitar experience but I'm new to the
> bass. My overall goals are to understand music, to
> be able to improvise & to be a diverse,
> well-rounded bassist.

> 2. Are modes important for bass? Are there other
> scales I should worry about first?
> Thanks a ton!

Yes, learn your major and minor scales first.

But it's FAR more important to know your notes, and where they fall on the fretboard.

In fact I'd say it's more important for a bassist (initally) to know CHORD TONES and NOTES IN THE KEY before scales. Now you might think there's no difference between notes in the key and scales but there is a subtle and important one - if you think "scales" you're likely to "play a scale" - a line of notes - but when you think "key" you start to think about "is this note in the key or not". Kind of 50/50 really, but Bass players (in most forms of music, Jazz excepted in some cases) don't really play scales. They generally play the Root, 3rd, or 5th of the chord - chord tones. Many Rock bass players don't ever play anything other than the root of hte chord (which is unfortunate). Country Bass players are notorius for using Root/5th patterns. That's not to say scales aren't important, but if you're starting, you might as well start at the beginning and build from there.

A lot of how bass players use "scalar" elements is as "connecting notes". For example, if the chords are Em, then G, the bass player may put an F or F#, or both in between those notes to "walk up". This is where knowing keys and scales is important because if it's the key of C, you'd pick F, but if it's the key of G, you'd pick F#. In Jazz, or in other contexts, you might want both. But by far, the two most important notes there are the E and the G.

You can certainly use scales (and modes of course) to find those connecting notes and to play little lines, but far and away knowing the chord tones will help you more initially.

Best,
Steve
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 10, 2011 02:16PM
Zapped Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> That covers the A- and C-sections, but don't
> forget the lovely B-section that modulates to the
> key of Bb (again without changing key signature).
> "And anytime you feel the pain, Hey Jude, refrain"
> uses chords F7 - Bb - Bbmaj7, which is of course
> Bb:V7 - I - Imaj7. But then it continues with a
> ii-V-I back into F major. Mmmm good stuff!
>
> Caveat: I personally think any cadence with a
> dominant chord like F7 - Bb is hitting a new key,
> but The Great Alan Pollack still calls it a V7/IV
> - IV in F. He's a flippin' genius so who am *I* to
> differ. Linkage for Pollack's analysis of Hey

A little clarification here for you Jim:

Classical analysts make a distinction between a Modulation and a Tonicization. A Modulation is a move to a new tonal center that is confirmed by a cadence or other pretty irrefutable evidence. A Tonicization is "temporarily making X chord sound like the Tonic by introducing a chord unique to its key (such as the V7) before it", but NOT confirming this move with a cadence.

What's confusing you is "cadence" - Every V7-I progression is not a cadence. Sometimes it's just a progression. Here the end of the phrase (the cadence) is the ii-V-I in F. The F7 *is* simply a Tonicization of the Bb key area - a secondary dominant (so a Tonicization is basically the fancy term for the "hinting at" a key through use of secondary dominant chords). So really it's:

V7/IV - IV - IVM7 - ii - V - I (or whatever else is there)

Best,
Steve
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 10, 2011 02:47PM
Confused Guy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

>
> From what I gather, you attribute key to the tonic
> center, as you put it. The mode can shift the
> chords and their variations while still remaining
> in the same key.

Yes. But of course, the key can change as well.

>
> What I've been taught (and what I'm sure is a main
> point of confusion to us folk really trying to
> understand modes) is that each key is determined
> by which notes fit in series. so say that
> progression F-Eb-Bb-F only fits in the key of Bb
> major as V-IV-I-V naturally, without any
> alteration to I ii iii IV V vi viiø.


Right. That's how you determine the KEY. But modes are not keys - they are similar to keys, but subtly different. Think of it like this - your progression above could be Bb Major. But, those chords also could be G minor, right? So what makes it more likely that it's Bb rather than Gm? Well, the absence of any Gm chord and the presence of Bb pretty much give favor to Bb (among other things).

But if this progression sounds like F is the chord of resolution, "home", then it is the "center" of F. If you say "key" of F - see right there it throws people because so many learned like you did. I always say "it's in F". Not key of F, not F Major, not F minor, etc. I *might* say it's F Mixolydian but try to make sure the person I'm talking to knows what Mixolydian is.

So F-Eb-Bb-F is "in F". It's also the Mixolydian mode. (again this assumes F is heard as the center).


For it to be
> in the key of F and in that pattern the
> progression would have to be C-Bb-F-C: that is not
> what we hear so it can't exist in F. It must be in
> Bb.

C-Bb-F-C is "in C" most likely. C Mixolydian. Because we'd generally hear C as the "home" chord in this progression (it' happens 3 times - twice in the progression and once again on the repeat, making it the first, last, and first again chords pretty much cementing it as "home").

The note content does happen to fit an F Major scale. It also fits Dm. It also fits Bb Lydian. It also fits A Phrygian. It's just that you've been taught from a "major-centric" starting point, so that's what you look for first. But really, any collection of 7 notes with the half and whole steps in the TTSTTTS pattern (or any rotation thereof) can be ANY of the 7 modes. It depends on what is felt as "home" as to what the Center is.



>
> 1. Dm - Am - C - G -F - G

Could be D Dorian. Could also be G Mixolydian depending on if the last chord is heard as "home" or not.

>
> 2. F - G - Am - C - F

Could be F Lydian.

>
> 3. Am- C - G - F

Could be Am (A Ionian). Could also be F Lydian depending if the last chord...

>
> My old way of understanding that it looks like I'm
> gonna ditch now ;) : these are all in the key of
> C. no other description.


Well, it still could be. It still could be useful to think of it that way. But given the absence of any C ending chords, it might be safer to think of it as X mode. The problem here is, if these were all three in the same song, it's sometimes better to find a single mode to fit all three, rather than changing focus each section (though again, you might want that effect).

But I'd still say it's in the key of C. Description being key. This would tell other musicians what to expect without getting into the intricacies of if the B section is F Lydian instead.


> I would play along with the C major scale with no
> regard to opening or closing notes. this is
> applied to all progressions.

You could, but it would possibly sound like you're just burning C Major scales up and down. On the Dm chords for example, you could be thinking C Major, but focus on the D, F and A notes.

>
> Your way; Key of D, Dorian Mode. Play along with
> the D Dorian scale, starting and stopping on D.
> It being "key of D" does not mean D major is
> appropriate to improvise with...
> 2: Key of F. F Lydian Mode.
> 3: Key of A. A Aeolian Mode a.k.a A Minor.
>
> Did I get it right or did I get worse? :o
>
> (man, just speculating about all of this is
> tremendous fun. I love all this so much :D )

I think it can be, but a word of caution:

I used to have these guitar magazines that would say:

His solo begins in E Aeolian, then moves to C Lydian.

Well, all that was really happening was the soloist was soloing in E minor, and when the harmony changed to C, he was still playing E minor.

Ok, when a piece is in C Major, here are some chords:

C - F - G7 - C

Now, over these chords, I'm going to play, in quarter notes:

C-E-F-G | A-B-C-A | B-A-G-F | E-D-C__|

I am NOT going to think "oh, I'm playing F lydian over the F chord and G Mixolydian over the C chord. That's WAY over-analyzing what's going on.

Steve
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 10, 2011 02:50PM
Yes, that's exactly how Alan Pollack notates it - V7/IV - IV - IVM7 - ii - V - I.

What I was doing was sharing my *perception* that the F7-->Bb chords have modulated us to a new key - meaning that my ear really picks up on the newness of the Eb note in the F7 chord, and when the F7 moves to the Bb it's like a big thud into a new key. I understand now that's not the agreed-upon definition of modulation & it muddies the water when I call it modulation in a forum like this.

My personal perception as a listener isn't terribly relevant since it's idiosyncratic to me - what's important is to describe the harmonic function correctly based on academic convention so that we're all talking the same language. So thanks for the clarification, Steve!

- Jim in Austin, TX
Re: How to understand & use modes in guitar playing
February 10, 2011 02:59PM
JonR Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> You begin only from the notes in the chords, and
> apply any scale that contains those notes: that's
> rule #1.

Agreed. In music that's driven by harmonies, the first rule is to go for chord tones and then implied chord tones.

Power chords only give you two notes as Jon said, but there might be an implied major or minor 3rd.

Interestingly, just from the "we're used to hearing it" standpoint in pop, especially rock music, Pentatonic scales are "safe" choices because they don't contain the "signature" notes that define the key so obviously.

So if you take a C5 (C power chord), you'd have C and G of course. If it's implied that it's major, minor, you have the 3rd.

MOST other modes use a 2 and not flat 2 (phrygian being the exception) so D is a pretty safe choice. C-D-E-G or C-D-Eb-G.

Likewise, most other modes us 4 and not #4 (lydian excepted) so F is a pretty safe choice.

Interestingly, in the Jazz world, they don't use a Minor chord with a minor 6, so natural 6th is the default choice for a lot of chord-scales - thus A would be pretty safe, using only Ab if strongly implied.

Likewise, the b7 is common in rock and blues, and might be more appropriate than natural 7.

The obvious thing to do is to try them, and see which work the best (or give you the effect you want). What works in one context might not in another.

Steve



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/10/2011 03:00PM by stevel.
Re: Ask me anything Music Theory and I'll answer
July 14, 2011 09:59PM
stevel Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> John Brown Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
>
> > 1. Are modes too much for a beginner? I've got
> a
> > little bit of guitar experience but I'm new to
> the
> > bass. My overall goals are to understand music,
> to
> > be able to improvise & to be a diverse,
> > well-rounded bassist.
>
> > 2. Are modes important for bass? Are there
> other
> > scales I should worry about first?
> > Thanks a ton!
>
> Yes, learn your major and minor scales first.
>
> But it's FAR more important to know your notes,
> and where they fall on the fretboard.
>
> In fact I'd say it's more important for a bassist
> (initally) to know CHORD TONES and NOTES IN THE
> KEY before scales. Now you might think there's no
> difference between notes in the key and scales but
> there is a subtle and important one - if you think
> "scales" you're likely to "play a scale" - a line
> of notes - but when you think "key" you start to
> think about "is this note in the key or not". Kind
> of 50/50 really, but Bass players (in most forms
> of music, Jazz excepted in some cases) don't
> really play scales. They generally play the Root,
> 3rd, or 5th of the chord - chord tones. Many Rock
> bass players don't ever play anything other than
> the root of hte chord (which is unfortunate).
> Country Bass players are notorius for using
> Root/5th patterns. That's not to say scales aren't
> important, but if you're starting, you might as
> well start at the beginning and build from there.
>
> A lot of how bass players use "scalar" elements is
> as "connecting notes". For example, if the chords
> are Em, then G, the bass player may put an F or
> F#, or both in between those notes to "walk up".
> This is where knowing keys and scales is important
> because if it's the key of C, you'd pick F, but if
> it's the key of G, you'd pick F#. In Jazz, or in
> other contexts, you might want both. But by far,
> the two most important notes there are the E and
> the G.
>
> You can certainly use scales (and modes of course)
> to find those connecting notes and to play little
> lines, but far and away knowing the chord tones
> will help you more initially.
>
> Best,
> Steve

As a newbe to this whole modal thing what I find useful is (for solo guitar) is playing modal notes or building chords from the mode when passing to the actual chord I want to play in the progression. Example I might play some C mix chords and alterations when going to an F chord in a C tonal center progression. Or constructing chords from C melodic minor to add flavor passing to a Dm in the progression. That sort of thing. Don't know if this is "right" but it sounds good to my ear...
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