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Corwinoid 03-08-2005 08:45 PM

Modes and usage
 
This thread is a re-write of two other threads where I went over this; one of them was deleted and the other doesn't really make sense without the first. It also gives me a single reference point to direct people to when these questions come up. Some of the information is a direct copy from another thread, if some of the information seems out of context I apologize, and now you know why.

People often ask, "What are modes, and how do I use them?" A lot of the answers people give don't fully explain either part of this. So what is a mode? There are two ways to look at modes, mostly defined by how you're using them. First, a mode can be a scale played with a different starting degree. If we play the notes of the C major scale, starting and ending at D instead of C (D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D) we get the dorian mode; we'll see how this works later when we see how modes are applied in key. Second, we can view a mode as a unique scale. The major scale has the root, the major 2nd, maj 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, maj 6th, maj 7th, and octave. If we look at D dorian above, we can see that it has a minor 3rd and minor 7th (F, instead of F#, and C instead of C#, respectively). This gives us a distinct scale to work from.

With that said... There are five different ways to decide which mode to use. Or to answer the question in it's own words, there are five different ways you use modes. The different methods are Modal Setting, Melodic Interchange, Modal Interchange, Phrase Selection, and finally Pitch-Axis. I'll address these, pretty much in order. The first three are your basic methods of use; the different ways in which you can address modes. The last two build upon experience gained, and knowledge of the first three.

Modal Setting:
This is, most often, what people refer to when they're talking about modes. Especially guitarists. Your mode is chosen before hand, conciously or unconciously, and defines the music you're going to create. When we write a piece of music IN E phrygian, or IN G lydian, we're using a Modal Setting. Generally, each mode has it's own defining characterists, and each mode also has it's own defining progressions. In this type of environment, the progression does as much to define the mode as the melody does. Let's see how this works:

Code:
A melody in E phryg e:---------------------------------- B:---------------------------------- G:---------------------------------- D:---------------------------------2 A:---------------------5/3p2-0-----2 E:-0---0---0h3p0-0h1p0-----------3-0


We can see from this, that even though E phrygian is relative to C major, playing a C major chord over this probably won't sound all that good. So if we choose to write something in a modal setting, what chords do we use? Obviously the root is always a decent choice, but what else? More importantly, if we want to choose backing chords, so we can improve in a particular setting, what chords do we use?

Since I happen to have a handy little guide for this laying around, I'll give you those answers. These are the progressions that define what mode you're in, for the major modes (The degrees of the progression are relative to the root of the mode, ie 'i' in D dorian would be Dm):
I - Major -- I-IV-V7; V7-I; ii-V7-I
ii - Dorian -- i-ii; i-IV7
iii - Phrygian -- i-II
IV - Lydian -- I-II7
V - Mixolydian -- VII-I7; vi-VII-I7
vi - Aeolian (nat minor) -- i-iv-v; VI-VII7-i
vii - locrian -- i(dim)

Corwinoid 03-08-2005 08:46 PM

Melodic Interchange:
This is an aspect of modes that naturally occurs. It requires very little thought on your part to happen, it just does. Melodic Interchange is something you should be aware of, however, to avoid clashes between your melody and your progression. Let's say we have the following progression...

Code:
A progression in C C / / / F / / / G7 / / / C / / /


We can see pretty easily that we are in the key of C, playing a I-IV-V7 progression, nothing overtly complex going on here. Simply put, melodic interchange happens when the chords change, and we continue to play in key. If our melody is written in C major as well, the mode as we're playing over the C major chord is C major, as we're playing over the F major chord, the mode becomes F lydian, over the G7 it becomes G mixolydian. Over each chord, different tones in the relative major (C) become more important, and hold more emphasis. Even though our setting, C major, never changes, the fundamental mode that's being played does.
--------------------------------------------------------

Modal Interchange:
This is a slightly more complex way of applying modes, especially from the aspect of using it during improv; however it should be understood because it applies to what I'll be talking about afterwards.

Let's again use the progression above:
Code:
A progression in C C / / / F / / / G7 / / / C / / /


However, this time, let's assume we have a melody that revolves around D. Comparing our progression to the base of the melody, we'd see that D is the second degree of C, the 6th degree of F, and the 5th of G. Over each of these chords then, we could play D dorian, D aeolian, D mixolydian, and D dorian again. When we keep the tonal center of the melody stable, yet change the mode, we're using Modal Interchange.
--------------------------------------------------------

Prase Selection:
Quote:
This gives us compelling evidence to learn new scales, and the various modes of those scales, as well as the major modes! Quite a bit of learning we have to do? :/

Not really.

As you learn, you can add to your repetoire... but the final answer of scale selection is this: One you're comfortable soloing in.

Kind of anti-climatic, aren't I? Well, yeah... let's count the ways. First, you've gotta be able to play it; that takes practice and adjustment to each scale, each mode, it's fingerings, it's patterns, locations. When we practice, we take all of that in, and take for granted how much we're actually learning by practicing scales as a fundamental part of our practice routine. Second, you have to know how the scale sounds--this is multipart!!--each scale has a unique flavor, and that flavor is influenced by various features. The position you play in; on each string there are a certain number of notes in each scale you'll easily be able to obtain. These notes frame what can easily be phrased legato, for instance. They also define what notes CAN'T be easily harmonized in a pattern. It takes time to develop familiarity like this. Also, each scale has it's own unique intervals, motions, harmonies. This is close to what's been said before, but on top of having it's own intervals (which define it as a unique scale), each scale has it's own defining features that are a little deeper than that. These also need to be learned in order to really grasp their use in soloing.

An aside: We often hear about 'greats' never learning theory, or not knowing scales. Really read that last paragraph and understand what I've said. They know at least one scale, and at least some of it's various features, and have learned through familiarity how to apply that effectively. I'm speaking of the ones who truely say they know nothing, or almost nothing--the scale I'm referring to would be the chromatic scale. Enough play will give you enough experience to use nothing else effectively. In fact, in the end you really don't use anything else... The structured scales merely give you a starting point to develop well familiar sounds from.

Third (I'm still counting). Each scale develops a unique flavor when played over each specific chord. A fine point to make. It's like adding spice to your foods. Learning how each scale will sound, and needs to resolve/lead in, over a specific chord also takes time. A lot of ear development involved in this, can we tell?

Now, if you become comfortable, on all three levels, with a particular scale, and understand how it can be applied over a certain chord to achieve a certain sound--you can use it effectively. Wonderful things will happen to you melodically; and your solos will go from being ok, to being good; or being good to being great.

This is where the familiarity of ALL of the scales comes into use, and where you need to know the sound of each, and the positions in which those sounds are fostered, as much as you know the notes. IF there's a specific phrase, sound, passage, or melody you want to play, or create; or an overall sound you want to get. THIS is the method of scale selection you want. Through all of that practice, we know how the scales sound. We know what we want to say. So we take the scale that says it and we use THAT scale. This is where your scale practice pays off; you strike gold when you need to say something, and you know HOW to say it. This is where all of that theory you're learning pays off, you want to say something and you know HOW to say it. This is where all of that practice pays off... I don't think I need to keep going.

<insert 5 minute pause here, for a cigarette...>

Corwinoid 03-08-2005 08:47 PM

Pitch-Axis Theory

While I'd like to start this section with a quote, I don't feel like taking the time to search for it... so I'll paraphrase. From Guitar magazine: There's a difference between feeling loose, and being loose. -- Satriani.

Your third method for scale/mode selection: Pitch Axis Theory. This isn't that complex; and I'll distill it and give you the essence first. Feel is created by the changes in the modes (and scales), as well as the scales themselves.

Say we've got four bars of D minor, followed by four bars of D major, followed by four bars of Dmaj7#11, followed by four bars of D minor. See the pedal tone concept emerging? Good... that's the fundamental concept. So what scales do we use to solo over these 16 measures?

Any scale we damned well please, as long as the root note is D.
This is so simple, isn't it? Yet it's so effective. Here's how it works.

The bass note (D) acts as a pedal tone. ANY note we play over that functions melodically. As a guideline, the more room you give yourself between the pedal tone and the melody, the MORE they fit. Technically, higher-register notes lose their distinguishability, as far as key is concerned--but you don't really have to play high to make this work.

With pitch axis, the idea is that every run you play has a logical home; that pedal tone. This gives you a point to change what mode, or scale, you're playing with absolutely NO effort on your part. You ALWAYS have a note to resolve to, and you ALWAYS have an easy place to make your lead changes. It doesn't matter if you're switching from D major to D minor hungarian mezzo-primatic #19th; if you bring it back to the root it's going to sound okay.

Using this and sounding good is... well just that easy, really. Using this and sounding great is... well almost as easy. Got a good grip on method two, above (phrase selection)? Well... apply it here, on a grander scale (pun intended).

We've practiced our scales, our modes, our... everything. We know how they sound. Take this to the next level now--your primary source of flavor is the way these scales sound played next to each other. Satch says, you'll find some changes work really well, and some are just ok.

So, which scales do we use? In our example, Dm-D-DM7#11-Dm... you could use D phryg, D maj, D lyd, D min. Why? Because I wanted to name some scales that have minor and major tonalities. You could use D min, D maj, D #4, D harmonic minor. Why? Because I wanted to name some more scales that have minor and major tonalities. You can use D loc, D harmonic major, D.... you get the idea? It's how you pair them up, and string them together that makes the sound work. And you always have a resolution point, that you don't have to think about. D.

So... what about a moving bassline? Heh, great, it still works! Say we go D - C - G - D, keeping it simple. We want our pedal tone to be D... well, not quite going to work. But let's pick our scales, and I'll keep it easy. D maj, D mixo, D locrian, D mixo. If we view each of these modes to be scales, instead of modes, this is pretty easy. We just take the mode of the scale we're playing that has the root note of the chord we're playing, and off we go. D mag, C lydian, G phrygian, D mixo.

I can hear people screaming at me... I'm not really putting a lot of thought into these examples, they're examples and you should be playing around, first off. Second... the theory behind using G phryg over G, well... works. Remember, we're giving ourselves some space between where we're playing, melodically, and our bass function (usually an octave, or two). The notes used lose some identity. Second, the pedial tone is what is important, and the motions used. Maybe D locrian isn't a good choice, I'm not playing it to find out at the moment (it's 4am as I write this), and maybe it would work out beautifully. The theory is still sound, so stop screaming.

Generally, when using pitch axis, you want to keep the bassline motion to a minimum, to avoid clashes like I just described, and also to keep things centered around your pedal tone. Part of what makes this method so unique is that the pedal tone is heard distinctly, and gives everything it's home. Homeless notes are just notes, and they're unhappy notes.
---------------------------------

Now you have five ways to choose which scale to use and how to use them. Learn your scales, learn their sound, learn how they sound next to each other. Have fun, and remember to practice with a metronome, drum machine, or back track. Pay attention to how you play. And... THINK BEFORE YOU PLAY.

page59 03-08-2005 09:02 PM

write an article, then i'll read it

SilentDeftone 03-08-2005 09:17 PM

Quote:
Originally posted by Corwinoid
You can use D loc, D harmonic major, D.... you get the idea?
I wouldn't recommend using D locrian because of its b5, although you could get some cool dissonance using it.

Somehow I get the feeling that this is just going to become a reference thread for you, Cor? nonetheless, I don't see it hurting anyone, being that the info seems to be all correct.

-SilentDeftone :dance:

heggazz 03-08-2005 09:46 PM

:golfclap:
Very nice article helped me out with a few things. You should ask this to be stickied or archived.

Corwinoid 03-08-2005 09:52 PM

Quote:
Originally posted by SilentDeftone
I wouldn't recommend using D locrian because of its b5, although you could get some cool dissonance using it.

Somehow I get the feeling that this is just going to become a reference thread for you, Cor? nonetheless, I don't see it hurting anyone, being that the info seems to be all correct.

-SilentDeftone :dance:


Mmmmm links... links. Saves me future typing ;)

Edit: BTW, again, the further you seperate the melody from the harmonization, the less harmonic identity the notes have. You don't really hear the relationship of the b5 after the 2nd octave, so up in the higher registers, when the only thing grounding you is the bassline, you can get away with almost anything and it won't sound like you just landed on a hard avoid note; it may not sound altogether good, but it won't sound just wrong either.

Iboseth 03-08-2005 10:38 PM

Thanks!

SilentDeftone 03-08-2005 10:45 PM

Yes, obviously you COULD use it, I mostly meant just don't hold the b5 overtop the chord.

Iboseth, WTF is your avatar? I've been bothered by it for a few weeks now?

casualty01 03-09-2005 05:52 AM

Quote:
Originally posted by SilentDeftone
Yes, obviously you COULD use it, I mostly meant just don't hold the b5 overtop the chord.

Iboseth, WTF is your avatar? I've been bothered by it for a few weeks now?


artwork from Pink Floyds "The Wall"


Cas-:peace:

Iboseth 03-31-2005 07:29 PM

lol

SilentDeftone 03-31-2005 09:59 PM

Nice bump. :confused:

renato 04-01-2005 03:15 PM

don't ignore the b5 too much thought, b3-b5th chords give a specific colouring that can be used over most minor chord progressions.

Captain Colon 04-01-2005 03:33 PM

Finally someone explained this whole pitch-axis thing.

I bow before you...even though it's apparently disgustingly easy, I could never find anything explaining it. Maybe that's why ;)

WindJammer 04-22-2005 10:58 AM

Into the archives? It'd be a shame to lose this thread, as users have been forwarded to it so many times (and seeing as a bit of work was put into it).

EDIT: When did the P.A. Theory develop?

gpb0216 04-22-2005 11:24 AM

I'm new to U-G, so please forgive this question if it's addressed elsewhere.

In the tab shown for "A melody in E phrig", what in the world does this notation mean:

0h3p0-0h1p0 ?

Corwinoid 04-22-2005 03:08 PM

Quote:
Originally posted by WindJammer
Into the archives? It'd be a shame to lose this thread, as users have been forwarded to it so many times (and seeing as a bit of work was put into it).

EDIT: When did the P.A. Theory develop?


Satch is credited with developing PA so many times I'm sure it's true, but I don't know when. Late 80's I would imagine, I think I remember seeing someone say something along the lines of 'the only addition to music theory in the last 20 years'. Vai and others attribute it to him, and it's most commonly seen in his playing. GWM had an interview with him quite a few years ago that talked about it, but I don't know if any dates were given or what not; if anybody has the magazine and can quote the full article that would be awesome.

Quote:
Originally posted by gpb0216
I'm new to U-G, so please forgive this question if it's addressed elsewhere.

In the tab shown for "A melody in E phrig", what in the world does this notation mean:

0h3p0-0h1p0 ?


Play the open A string, hammer on to the third fret, pull off to the open string, play the open string, hammer on to the first fret, pull off again.


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