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Old 12-22-2012, 03:33 AM   #1
royisinabox
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Are all keys and modes just one scale moved around?

I was trying to figure out what key "Touch of Grey" was in, because it has four majors in it (B, F#, E, A is the verse). So it seems like E, except with an F# major instead of a minor. So I decided this would be a good start to see if I could figure out the mode.

So my train of thought went "Well, the minor third in F#min is the A, and an A is the 4th interval in an E major scale. So then, this would a mode of E that has an augmented fourth!" I hope I described that right. But it seems like, from what I've been reading, that every mode is just the major scale of another note. For example, C Mixolydian is just an F Major/ionian scale.

With this revelation, I feel I'm almost a little disappointed by the "mysterious world" of modes. I've always heard things like "this mode gives it a nice latin flavor" or "this mode is really dark." However, it almost seems like playing a mode is just playing out of key intentionally. Like, if somebody is playing a C-G-F progression, and I for accidentally play in F Major, am I being modal or am I just out of tune? My friends and I like to jam, but we only know the major scale (some of us all the way up and own the fretboard, some just know one position), so we always make sure that the lead is matching up with the chord progression. But now, it seems like it's okay to venture out a semitone or tone out of key, because that would be "modal."

I guess, I was expecting for each mode to have a unique set of intervals. But then all modes would contain the exact same arrangement of chords (major, minor, minor, major, major, minor, diminished) but starting on a different one depending on which mode?

I don't know what I'm asking here, just opening up discussion to anything I touched on. Was anyone else baffled by this revelation of one scale fitting all modes and keys?

Sorry for such a long message, I just had a lot of thoughts on the subject..
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Old 12-22-2012, 03:39 AM   #2
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LOL yes!!!!

Well sort of. The basic major scale really does cover all you need to know regarding basic concepts.

modes are just an illusion trying to make this stupidly simple concept sound more complex than it actually is
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Old 12-22-2012, 04:06 AM   #3
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Yes. Except for modes. Please see Xiaoxi's post for that.

BTW Xiaoxi, that Brahms thread is awesome.
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Old 12-22-2012, 08:21 AM   #4
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OK... Modes are not what you should look at. B, F#, E, A is a non diatonic chord progression in B major. The A chord is a borrowed chord from the parallel minor (B minor). And why do you think that would be in E major? That progression resolves to B (if the chords are in that order) so it's in B major.

But yeah, modes are really just a major scale started with a different root note. D dorian has the same notes as C major but a different root note (D). But you are not using D dorian over C major chord progression. You are using C major scale. But if there was a dorian vamp (Dm7-G7), you could play D dorian scale over it. In this case it wouldn't be C major. And why is that? It doesn't sound like C major, even if you emphasized C note all the time. It's due to the chord progression. The resolution is D minor and everything you play over it will sound like it's in D minor.

And keys are not scales. You use scales in a key but key is a bigger thing than a scale. It contains the chords. And what defines the key is the resolution. You feel a "pull" towards a chord. That's the resolution. If it's B major chord, then the key is B major. And you can use whatever scale, it doesn't change the key if the chords don't change.

And if you have C-F-G chord progression, you are not playing in F major, it's in C major no matter what notes you play over it. If you were playing the notes in F major scale over it, it would still be in C major. You would just play the b7 accidental over the chords. You could call that scale C mixolydian but in this case I would just say you are playing in C major sometimes using the b7 accidental.
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Old 12-22-2012, 04:41 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by royisinabox
I was trying to figure out what key "Touch of Grey" was in, because it has four majors in it (B, F#, E, A is the verse). So it seems like E, except with an F# major instead of a minor. So I decided this would be a good start to see if I could figure out the mode.


You already did.

This is in E major.

The F# is a very clear case of a secondary dominant. Basically, what it's doing is also "teasing" a super-quick change to the key of B. Notice how, in the verse, the F# always leads to the B? This is what we call a "V of V" and it's a very common songwriting trick.

Nobody would consider this a real modulation, however.

(Secondary dominants are one of those intermediate theory things that people really should learn INSTEAD of learning modes. For some reason guitarists get all obsessed with modes, though).

In your other example, playing the F major scale over a C F G progression. For the sake of simplicity I'm going to assume you are unambiguously in C major. (You might not be. You could be in F major, just like the F# in Touch of Grey doesn't change our key). Heck, you could also be in G major (where the F is a bVII). Remember, you don't determine key by checking notes against key signatures, you determine key by listening to the resolution.

Okay, let's talk about F major. For starters, what's the difference between F major and C major, just from the standpoint of what notes are involved?

(If you don't know this, you should not be thinking about modes.).

The difference is that F major as a Bb instead of a B. But ask yourself, is that particularly strange or unusual? And the answer is no. It turns out that the minor 7th (B is the 7th of C) is one of the most common accidentals (non-diatonic notes) used in popular music. You see it all the time in blues and rock. Heck, some would say that making the I chords a I7 by adding the minor seventh note is the defining sound of the blues. (I'm not sure I'd agree, but you could make the argument).

Now here's the thing: when a good musician is writing or improvising, they're not thinking (to the extent that they are thinking) "Oh, I'm switching into F major, let me use a new shape" rather they're thinking, "Okay, I can't play and B-naturals here because it'll interfere with the Bb in the chord." They can dynamically shift their playing to accomodate that because they know what every note is.

This is important, because one of the biggest (perhaps THE biggest) difference between a good improviser and a hack is that the good improviser doesn't think of a scale as a collection of interchangeable safe notes. Rather,he thinks of them as a collection of individual notes that all have their unique relationship with the tonic. His brain is thinking (if you could really slow it down and make an intuitive process literal) "I don't want THIS sound, I want THAT one" and playing the appropriate note. You get there by developing your ear.
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Old 12-22-2012, 04:51 PM   #6
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Sorry didn't really read through the thread, but that progression seems like it's in B major. The only weird chord is A, but if you look at b minor, A is the VII. So the A is a borrowed chord from b minor. So it goes I V IV bVII
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Old 12-23-2012, 03:17 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Mister A.J.
Yes. Except for modes. Please see Xiaoxi's post for that.

BTW Xiaoxi, that Brahms thread is awesome.

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Old 12-30-2012, 06:41 AM   #8
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Wow, thank you everybody. This all really broke down modes a little more for me, made it a lot easier to understand. They've always been this looming thing, like when a trigonometry student hears a calculus student talking about integrals and derivatives. Seems big and scary, but if broken down, can be made to understand.

I guess I'll practice of creating some modal chord progressions. Just off the top of my head, would a G Mixolydian chord progression be something like G7 and F major?

I was able to keep up with you guys for the most part, but concepts like "V to V"and borrowing from the parallel minor are new to me. Makes me think I should probably get a teacher other than my computer...
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:52 AM   #9
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^^^ Stick with keys a bit longer dude, I could easily explain that F major by borrowing it from the parallel minor.
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:21 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by royisinabox
I was able to keep up with you guys for the most part, but concepts like "V to V"and borrowing from the parallel minor are new to me. Makes me think I should probably get a teacher other than my computer...


THese concepts are MUCH more practical and useful than modes. Really.
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:56 AM   #11
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I spent the last few hours really getting the concept of modes down. I saw the stickie in the Musician Talk section about modes, checked out a couple of links that were listed in it.

This link really helped me, if anyone is interested:
http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/colu...l_centre.htm l

Would it be right to say that modes are, in a way, more dependent upon the chord progression? I just did a couple of practice runs making "modal" chord progressions. For example, I took a D major I-IV-V progression, and then made it modal by changing it to D Phrygian. So a D Phrygian progression would be Dmin7-Gmin7-Adim7. An A Aeolian progression would be A minor, D minor, and E minor, would that be right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HotspurJr
THese concepts are MUCH more practical and useful than modes. Really.


Yeah, I hope to scavenge the forums for more concepts like these, but I am glad that I (hopefully) started getting the hang of modes.
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Old 12-30-2012, 01:26 PM   #12
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Phrygian Dominant.

BAM!

No natural major scale contains those intervals.

Everything that has been said so far deals with modes of the major scale and related notions. That's important material for sure. Harmonic minor and its fifth mode (phrygian dominant) are far too common (in what I listen, at least) for me to not mention them. They are not permutations or shifts of a natural major scale. The harmonic minor scale contains a unique set of intervals; its modes are different from those of the major scale.
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Old 12-30-2012, 04:25 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by royisinabox
I spent the last few hours really getting the concept of modes down. I saw the stickie in the Musician Talk section about modes, checked out a couple of links that were listed in it.

This link really helped me, if anyone is interested:
http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/colu...l_centre.htm l

Would it be right to say that modes are, in a way, more dependent upon the chord progression? I just did a couple of practice runs making "modal" chord progressions. For example, I took a D major I-IV-V progression, and then made it modal by changing it to D Phrygian. So a D Phrygian progression would be Dmin7-Gmin7-Adim7. An A Aeolian progression would be A minor, D minor, and E minor, would that be right?



Yeah, I hope to scavenge the forums for more concepts like these, but I am glad that I (hopefully) started getting the hang of modes.

Modal chord progressions are kind of a misnomer.

Chord progressions (Functional Harmony) is a characteristic of key based music. The harmony has functions. You have home (tonic) and various other chords that depart from tonic, create tension, and then resolve. There are two keys: Major & Minor. These key constructs encompass all available notes, and only imply a major or minor tonic and a dominant relationship that reaffirms the tonic.

So, with that said, if you want to hear to explore the sound of a mode...don't try by applying concepts that are incongruous. When you start sticking a chord sequence together it's going to start drawing to the parent major key...

If you want to explore some modal sounds try using vamps: 1 or 2 chord repeating cycles that aren't inherently functional and supply the notes in the mode, but don't create any tension or motion that would imply a key based tonality.

Or just play over a drone: A single sustained note/chord that is the tonic of the mode.
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Old 12-30-2012, 06:18 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by royisinabox

progression would be Dmin7-Gmin7-Adim7.

progression would be A minor, D minor, and E minor


Roy, if I told you these two progressions were in keys, what keys would they be in?
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:01 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chronowarp
Modal chord progressions are kind of a misnomer.

Chord progressions (Functional Harmony) is a characteristic of key based music. The harmony has functions. You have home (tonic) and various other chords that depart from tonic, create tension, and then resolve. There are two keys: Major & Minor. These key constructs encompass all available notes, and only imply a major or minor tonic and a dominant relationship that reaffirms the tonic.

So, with that said, if you want to hear to explore the sound of a mode...don't try by applying concepts that are incongruous. When you start sticking a chord sequence together it's going to start drawing to the parent major key...

If you want to explore some modal sounds try using vamps: 1 or 2 chord repeating cycles that aren't inherently functional and supply the notes in the mode, but don't create any tension or motion that would imply a key based tonality.

Or just play over a drone: A single sustained note/chord that is the tonic of the mode.


Mhm, I see what you mean. I felt that that relative major key sort of coming through when I tried designing modal progressions that included the tonic of said major key (e.g., Bb major in D Phrygian mode). And again with my earlier example, if I vamped with a Dmin7 and Gmin7, those two chords only contain the flatted 3rd, 7th, and 6th. Neither chord contains that flatted second that separates Aeolian from Phrygian. So, would this be more like an Aeolian vamp? But then, if I replaced that Gmin7 with a Cmin7, I would now have all of the Phrygian notes (flattened 2nd, 3rd, 6th, & 7th). However, I've got to admit, the i-ii vamp sounds a little less satisfying (or stable) than the i-iv one, but that makes sense considering an Aeolian mode is just the natural minor, which is much more common and familiar to my ears.

Sorry for the rambling, I'm just really trying to get this concept down.




Quote:
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Roy, if I told you these two progressions were in keys, what keys would they be in?


Well, the Dmin7-Gmin7-Adim would be in Bb Major, or Gmin.

The second progression, Amin-Dmin-Emin, would be in C major or A minor. Why?
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:08 PM   #16
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His point is that...these progressions, and even notes specific to modes are encompassed within the system of major & minor keys.

So unless your goal is to write a piece of music is 100% diatonic to a specific mode, then the simpler explanation and process is thinking in terms of: is my tonic major or minor, and how do these notes/chords relate to the key?

Using a bII chord doesn't make a minor key phrygian - it's just chromatic harmony.

The concept of modes doesn't extend far beyond understanding the tonality of each diatonic scale in a musical context...because all of the melodic devices are already contained within the larger system of keys, and to define something as modal, most times, requires an almost arbitrary distinction.
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Old 12-31-2012, 12:45 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chronowarp
His point is that...these progressions, and even notes specific to modes are encompassed within the system of major & minor keys.

So unless your goal is to write a piece of music is 100% diatonic to a specific mode, then the simpler explanation and process is thinking in terms of: is my tonic major or minor, and how do these notes/chords relate to the key?

Using a bII chord doesn't make a minor key phrygian - it's just chromatic harmony.

The concept of modes doesn't extend far beyond understanding the tonality of each diatonic scale in a musical context...because all of the melodic devices are already contained within the larger system of keys, and to define something as modal, most times, requires an almost arbitrary distinction.


But I could still see how having an understanding of modes helps in playing lead, maybe in improv. I now have a better idea of my choices if someone is doing something that looks like a minor key, but then does have a major flat second.

Like a chord progression in A Aoelian would look like Amin, Dmin. I would for sure just use the natural minor scale as a basis for my improv there. But now, if I see a progression like Amin, BbMjr, I see it more clearly as Phrygian and play the notes found in an Fmajor scale rather than the notes found in a C major scale.

I definitely see what you're saying though. I could have just looked at the Amin-BbMajor vamp and seen them as the iii-IV in a song that's in F major.

And though you're right in saying that its largely arbitrary, it could be said that a lot of music theory is, but thats besides the point. Theres definitely cases where it isn't arbitrary, like where a song sounds modal (to me atleast). Like in Uncle John's Band, theres a point where the D in a G D C progression is replaced with a Dmin. It doesn't particularly sound like C major, even though the chords suggest it. I guess the people who who write enthusastically about modes would say that "it's gravitating/pulling towards the G. The G is still the tonal center." That sort of thing, and maybe that distinction needs to be made when Jerry Garcia is thinking up the licks for this part of the song.

But hell if I know..
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Old 12-31-2012, 01:19 AM   #18
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^^^ You're missing "accidentals" as well. In keys you can play any note you want, as it will have little to no bearing on the tonal center.

The issue, as chronowarp pointed out, is that your progressions not only appear to be explained by being in a key, but are in a key, and not modal. It's ok, at this early point in your understanding you haven't conquered accidentals, borrowed chords, or simply listening to a song to identify what key it's in. These early forays into modes are lacking the fundamentals to be able to distinguish them from keys, and as a result you're employing a round-about type of reasoning to explain why a song is in a mode, when it is in fact in a key.

I understand that you want "extra options" or something like that to accommodate for out-of-key chords, and you wish to use patterns of accidentals derived from modes to achieve those extra options. That's cool, but use of accidentals does not a modal song make.

I'm not saying it arbitrary, modes and keys are real things, it's just that a knowledge of keys is required before you venture into the harmonic background behind it (modes developed into keys).
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Old 12-31-2012, 02:03 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by royisinabox
But I could still see how having an understanding of modes helps in playing lead, maybe in improv. I now have a better idea of my choices if someone is doing something that looks like a minor key, but then does have a major flat second.

Like a chord progression in A Aoelian would look like Amin, Dmin. I would for sure just use the natural minor scale as a basis for my improv there. But now, if I see a progression like Amin, BbMjr, I see it more clearly as Phrygian and play the notes found in an Fmajor scale rather than the notes found in a C major scale.

I definitely see what you're saying though. I could have just looked at the Amin-BbMajor vamp and seen them as the iii-IV in a song that's in F major.

And though you're right in saying that its largely arbitrary, it could be said that a lot of music theory is, but thats besides the point. Theres definitely cases where it isn't arbitrary, like where a song sounds modal (to me atleast). Like in Uncle John's Band, theres a point where the D in a G D C progression is replaced with a Dmin. It doesn't particularly sound like C major, even though the chords suggest it. I guess the people who who write enthusastically about modes would say that "it's gravitating/pulling towards the G. The G is still the tonal center." That sort of thing, and maybe that distinction needs to be made when Jerry Garcia is thinking up the licks for this part of the song.

But hell if I know..

No, I would say anything in music theory is arbitrary - well maybe some things, but not most.

The issues of modes is arbitrary as it relates to modern music. If you buy a college theory book...it might have 20 chapters, and guess how many chapters will b e devoted to modes? 0. You'd be lucky if there was more than a page or two. Why? Because, like I said, a key encompasses what a mode can be in most modern musical situations. So it's a largely irrelevant subject in the scheme of things.

Your problem, from what I'm reading, is that your understanding of harmony seems to be purely diatonic. Don't think you can simplify every set of chords into "well this mode/scale makes sense", because a lot of music uses non-diatonic harmony.

If you had a chord progression that went: [G7-F], you might want to think "mixolydian" but how many times has that happened, and how many times WILL it happen? Most songs aren't 2 chord vamps with no functional harmony.

What would you play over this:
|Am(maj7) | Dm 7 | Bm7b5 | Bb7 E7#5#9 |
| Am7 | D7 | Gm7 | C7 |
| C#dim7 | Dm | Ebm7 | Bb7 |
| Am |

...Ok. So...hmm, doesn't look like one scale is going to fit those chords. I know it's in A minor...but there are F#'s, and Bb's and also F naturals and B naturals, And C#'s...So do I need to play a different mode or scale for every chord?

Think in terms of key, then recognize what is chromatic in the key, and integrate that sounds into your ear, and realize what pitches need to change in relation to the parent scale of the key in order to match the chords. No modes needed.
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