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Old 04-07-2013, 01:01 PM   #1
MissingSomethin
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Modes. The worst explanation of modes. And my real-world explanation.

"A mode is just the major scale started on a different note" was a useless definition for me. If one wants to dig deeper into nuances, that's great. But, for the people who have never been able to translate "modes are just starting counting on a different note of the major scale", into actual guitar soling, I personally found that definition to be rubbish. And that is why so many players have no idea what modes are, and never break out of the same rock scale for 10 to 20 years: pentatonic minor box position. So, put away the book, and start playing what I'm about to talk about. I've posted all you need to know about expanding your scale repertoire by a 7-fold right here in this thread.

For 15 years, people explained the order of notes and never pointed out that a mode is virtually meaningless unless you hear it over a progression. Don't miss the forest for trees. I think most teaching of modes gets in the way of learning to actually play guitar in real life. For people who don't know what a mode is, here is the only explanation that actually helped me to understand what modes are.

In a solo, you are going to play a bunch of notes in succession over a progression. Who cares if they are called 123 or 231? For me, the only thing that matters in a scale/mode is the inclusion of exclusion of the notes. There is no "order." Either the note is part of the scale or it's not. Are you stuck playing the same minor pentatonic for a decade? 1,-3,4,5-7. Well, you must try other notes over the same rhythm. For example, try the major scale. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. It will sound different than penta minor b/c the intervals are different. The flavor of the notes only comes to life against a backing chord. In the case of major scale, notice there is no -3 or -7. Who cares about the order? You will be playing hundreds of notes in ANY order you want.

Modes are just the major scale moved to a different location. You know how you slide the minor pentatonic scale down 3 frets, and it sounds major? Now, instead of 1,-3,4,5,-7 you have 1,2,3,5,6. This is the same idea behind modes.

Take the major scale: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.
Mixolydian mode is a scale that contains 1,2,3,4,5,6,-7.
You get this scale by sliding the major scale up a 4th (5 frets).
Dorian is scale that contains 1,2,-3,4,5,6,-7.
You get this scale by sliding the major scale down a whole step (2 frets)

A mode, in practical terms, is exactly a major scale shifted to a different location. What else is it? If you loop some basic 3 chord progression, and play each of those major scales shifted by those amounts, you will immediately hear the difference. This is the ONLY explanation that has ever made sense. The notes are meaningless without context of being contrasted to some rhythm progression.

To that end, the C major scale and E Phrygian mode are the exact same thing. They are the same exact 7 notes. What determines the flavor of the sound of these 7 notes are the chords played behind those 7 notes. If the rhythm is in the key of C, then this scale will sound major b/c they are 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 in relation to the backing track. So, in this context, call the 7 notes the C major scale. But, if the rhythm chords are in E, then call the same 7 notes E Phrygian, because you will now hear -3,-7, -6 notes, and it will not have the same flavor as C major b/c of the different backing track it is being contrasted against. But they are the same exact 7 notes. Tomato. Tomahto. That explanation of modes misses the entire point of what modes mean to a guitar player trying to incorporate new scales into his playing. Modes are variations of the intervals a scale has from the key your are playing over. That's it.

I never said I am some expert, but I do understand the concept of intervals and why the same note will sound different against 2 different chords. And that is what you need to know about modes, first and foremost.

The bottom line: Over a given progression in a given key, slide that major scale to different locations, and you've instantly incorporated 7 new "scales" into your repertoire, all with varying interval notes, and their own unique flavor. Just like when you slide the minor pentatonic down 3 frets. You get a whole new sound since you're now playing 1,2,3,5,6 instead of 1,-3,4,5,-7. In my opinion, that's really Everything You Need to Know About Modes.
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Last edited by MissingSomethin : 04-07-2013 at 05:47 PM.
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Old 04-07-2013, 01:13 PM   #2
Zaphod_Beeblebr
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Cool blog bro.

Seriously, there's a lesson submission system for a reason.
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Old 04-07-2013, 02:45 PM   #3
Iommianity
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To me, there's absolutely nothing simpler than the concept of playing the same scale shape you already know, but starting on a different note. Each mode has its own sound, and I find it much easier to simply relate a mode to the kind of sound I'm going for. You don't need to know the scale formula, you simply need to know which notes you have to drop or raise, and this will be reinforced over time by associating the modes with a particular sound.

Lydian has a dreamy sound, and also a bit of a whole tone vibe. All I have to do is hear it and know I'm hearing a #4.
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Old 04-07-2013, 03:07 PM   #4
MissingSomethin
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I agree, but when people try to explain modes why obsessing over all the half and whole step variations, they are totally missing the forest for the trees. You need to HEAR the mode over a rhythm to get it. I guess that is my point. Modes are never taught by simply listening. It is this nonsense about counting a blizzard of whole and half steps, instead of just telling you which notes are included (-3 and -7 for Dorian) and that you just slide the scale down a 4th to get those notes.
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Last edited by MissingSomethin : 04-07-2013 at 03:08 PM.
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Old 04-07-2013, 04:41 PM   #5
P_Trik
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MissingSomethin
I agree, but when people try to explain modes why obsessing over all the half and whole step variations, they are totally missing the forest for the trees. You need to HEAR the mode over a rhythm to get it. I guess that is my point. Modes are never taught by simply listening. It is this nonsense about counting a blizzard of whole and half steps, instead of just telling you which notes are included (-3 and -7 for Dorian) and that you just slide the scale down a 4th to get those notes.


Very nicely put in your original post and it's refreshing to see this information on here. I too first learned modes as a teenager as the same set of notes just starting on a different degree of the major scales and it never made sense to me until I learned harmony, chords and progressions. There are 3 major modes, Ionian is strictly major, Lydian is the major scale with a raised 4th which you hear as slightly 'brighter' than major as in C - D - G Mixolydian is major with a lowered 7th, so sounds a bit more 'aggressive' or 'bluesy' as in C - Bb - F.

The three minor modes: Aeolian is strictly natural minor, Dorian is minor with a raised 6th, so a minor 'mood' only slighly 'brighter' as in Am G D Am and the Phrygian mode is minor with a lowered 2nd as in Am C Bb Am.

If you do a pentatonic scale study along side this, you see that the pentatonic scale leaves out these tones. The major pentatonic contains the 1 2 3 5 and 6th degrees of the major scale and the minor pentatonic contains the 1 3 4 5 and 7th degrees of the natural minor scale.

Great lesson, great post. Thank you
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Old 04-07-2013, 04:46 PM   #6
Quinlan
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Similiar video explanation

The drone note he plays is essentially the backing you need to "hear" the modes, like you explained.
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Old 04-07-2013, 06:10 PM   #7
MissingSomethin
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This is so typical of the terrible way people try to teach modes. The intervals between the notes themselves, instead of the intervals between each note and the ROOT note!!

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Old 04-07-2013, 07:55 PM   #8
MissingSomethin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quinlan
Similiar video explanation

The drone note he plays is essentially the backing you need to "hear" the modes, like you explained.



Not the best execution, but yes, this is what I am talking about. It would be more effective to have a backing track or looper play that drone note, which allows the player to focus on the scale, and not consstatly striking that drone note.
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