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Old 01-16-2013, 05:58 PM   #1
Angusman60
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Practical Modal Application

Hi all,

I've seen a lot of posts lately that have portrayed a need for knowledge in the application of modes. It seems a lot of us know our modes, but, don't know how to put them to use. I thought I would try explain a practical way to use the modes. If this has already been explained, feel free to delete this thread, but I haven't seen it.

In early western music, before standardized notation, the modes were used to denote what order scale pitches were to be sounded in. Today, we don't need that. However, modes play a part in detailing what notes will be applicable over a certain chords.

First of all, it is important to note the nuances of each mode. Every mode serves a purpose, a different grouping of notes.

I - Ionian - Major Scale
ii - Dorian - Minor (#6)
iii - Phrygian - Minor (b2)
IV - Lydian - Major (#4)
V - Midolydian - Major (b7)
vi - Aeolian - Minor Scale
vii - Locrian - Minor (b2)(b3)(b5)(b6)(b7)

Note:: The Lorcian mode is usually thrown out for the more accessible Octotonic scale (aka Diminished Scale, Half/ Whole Scale)
As the later name suggests, it is simply a pattern of half step, whole step, half, whole, etc.


Now, there are a few of these that are rarely used in their true form. Phrygian, Locrian, and Lydian, are usually altered. In fact, most of the time, the modes are going to be altered by using various accidentals and elements of the harmonic minor scale.

At this point, the name is simply a way to describe what set of notes you are using, so the names can vary.

Say you are playing a song, and you come across a chord such as Cmaj7. This is a tonic function chord, so, you would mostly likely play a normal major scale over top of it. However, what if it was marked as Cmaj7 (#4)? This is when your brain should say, "Sharp four...That means Lydian!". So, over #4 chords, a possible solution is Lydian.

This applies to all chords, when you see a chord symbol, it is important to realize the chord's function, then figure out what alterations it is calling for.

Ex.
G7(b9). Dominant function and with a flatted 2nd degree, you could use Mixolydian (b2) over that chord.
Another choice, would be to use the H/W scale.

Am7(b5). This is a half diminished chord. So, it is possible Aeolian(b5), Locrian, or even G Lydian would work into this (b5 becomes #4 when transposed to G).

Another thing to note: It is not imperative that you only use notes contained in the chord. For instance, if given a simple E7, you could use various modes (Mixolydian(b2), Lydian(b7), or Phrygian, to create close harmonies that allow for tension in the music.

This is where it goes back to the basic structure of the chord. As long as (for instance E7) an E, G#, B (not required), and D, are present, you can fill in with other notes to give the chord different qualities.

This is very hard to explain in type. So, please ask if you have any questions.
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Last edited by Angusman60 : 01-16-2013 at 06:00 PM.
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Old 01-16-2013, 06:03 PM   #2
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This seems really hard to remember while improvising. I'll stick to major/minor keys and solfeggio
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Old 01-16-2013, 06:05 PM   #3
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It's like anything else, once you learn the patterns, it becomes second nature. Then the names are pretty meaningless...
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Old 01-16-2013, 06:07 PM   #4
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Word to that
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:35 PM   #5
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angusman60
It's like anything else, once you learn the patterns, it becomes second nature. Then the names are pretty meaningless...


yep. and then the entire method defeats itself - because the names are the only thing this method has.
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:09 PM   #7
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All I'm trying to say is, if you are going to learn modes, this would be the reason.
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Old 01-17-2013, 08:25 AM   #8
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^^^ I dunno, there are other reasons to learn modes. This one has blatant disregard for the harmonic context and tonic.
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Old 01-17-2013, 09:25 AM   #9
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Why can't we just make shit up as we go along? That would be so much better. While improvising, if you're looking at a chart, ok. But it may still sound mechanical. If you are just listening and making a soundscape, this outlined method is going to get in the way too.

Chords and scales go hand in hand but you rarely have a one chord song. So you'll need more chords to justify scale/chord relationships. What if the chord at that point in time passes in an 8th - you come from the previous chord widdle to focus on the single 8th duration. Will what you play gel with the next chord? Where will it lead? Will it take the listener away from said tonic and move to another?

Make a chart and outline it, followed with an mp3 of various things that can happen. This should be an interesting exercise to whomever takes it on. This forum section seems to be the teaching aspect, so it will be interesting to see it done.

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Old 01-17-2013, 10:11 AM   #10
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give a man a scale, feed him for a day. teach him how to make music, feed him for a lifetime.
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Old 01-17-2013, 02:44 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanHB
^^^ I dunno, there are other reasons to learn modes. This one has blatant disregard for the harmonic context and tonic.


Well, in this case, the harmonic context is within the chord you are playing over. To another point, often in jazz music, the "normal" harmonic function of the chord is thrown out, anyway. As far as tonic, I was coming into this hoping that most people here knew the harmonic function of each mode in the first place, since there is so much talk of it on this forum.

As far as reasons, I'm coming from a performance stand point. If I'm using modes in a performance, it is to use them to alter my major or minor scale to fit the changes I'm playing over. Granted, I've studied jazz theory, so, it's a little less confusing from my point of view.

Modes are useful in several fashions. For performance, they are only practical in learning sets of notes. Since there seems to be confusion about modes here, I thought I'd try and help using the knowledge I have.
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Old 01-17-2013, 04:03 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angusman60
Well, in this case, the harmonic context is within the chord you are playing over. To another point, often in jazz music, the "normal" harmonic function of the chord is thrown out, anyway. As far as tonic, I was coming into this hoping that most people here knew the harmonic function of each mode in the first place, since there is so much talk of it on this forum.

As far as reasons, I'm coming from a performance stand point. If I'm using modes in a performance, it is to use them to alter my major or minor scale to fit the changes I'm playing over. Granted, I've studied jazz theory, so, it's a little less confusing from my point of view.

Modes are useful in several fashions. For performance, they are only practical in learning sets of notes. Since there seems to be confusion about modes here, I thought I'd try and help using the knowledge I have.


there's nothing confusing about it, it's just an inefficient line of thought and it's inherently restricted to a finite number of scales rather than a rational and intuitive ability to create melodies on the fly based on context beyond the note choices available to you.
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Old 01-17-2013, 04:48 PM   #13
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I agree that it is rather inefficient, which is why I am trying to stress that is only useful insofar as learning scale patterns.
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Old 01-17-2013, 06:02 PM   #14
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And then why would you not rather spend the time doing something more useful?
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Old 01-17-2013, 06:09 PM   #15
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This method helped me learn the basic of jazz improvisation.
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Old 01-17-2013, 06:10 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angusman60
This method helped me learn the basic of jazz improvisation.

What, modes?
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Old 01-17-2013, 06:13 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angusman60
Well, in this case, the harmonic context is within the chord you are playing over. To another point, often in jazz music, the "normal" harmonic function of the chord is thrown out, anyway. As far as tonic, I was coming into this hoping that most people here knew the harmonic function of each mode in the first place, since there is so much talk of it on this forum.

As far as reasons, I'm coming from a performance stand point. If I'm using modes in a performance, it is to use them to alter my major or minor scale to fit the changes I'm playing over. Granted, I've studied jazz theory, so, it's a little less confusing from my point of view.

Modes are useful in several fashions. For performance, they are only practical in learning sets of notes. Since there seems to be confusion about modes here, I thought I'd try and help using the knowledge I have.


Mate, I'm not confused by his approach, it simply does not care about whether a song is major/minor or what the tonic is, which is pretty destructive because those two things are omnipresent throughout a song regardless of what chord is played.

However you say that in jazz music the harmonic function of chords no longer exist? Surely not. Unless you are in fact talking about atonal jazz (I dont even want to imagine), there is a harmonic context, giving function to the chords.
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Old 01-17-2013, 07:45 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanHB
Mate, I'm not confused by his approach, it simply does not care about whether a song is major/minor or what the tonic is, which is pretty destructive because those two things are omnipresent throughout a song regardless of what chord is played.


this is exactly the thought process that those of us who do not subscribe to the method in question take. ultimately thinking in this vein requires you to ignore what's happening around you on a grander scale - you are thinking only in terms of chords.

when playing bebop lead, i sometimes think something like this, but it never has anything to do with modes -- none of this mixolydian #5 crap. i simply play them for what they are -- chromatic alterations, leading tones, or what have you. it's not really so much a chord-scale approach as it is embellishment.
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Old 01-17-2013, 09:16 PM   #19
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This is basically saying "follow with the chords"
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Old 01-17-2013, 10:46 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanHB
Mate, I'm not confused by his approach, it simply does not care about whether a song is major/minor or what the tonic is, which is pretty destructive because those two things are omnipresent throughout a song regardless of what chord is played.

However you say that in jazz music the harmonic function of chords no longer exist? Surely not. Unless you are in fact talking about atonal jazz (I dont even want to imagine), there is a harmonic context, giving function to the chords.



It actually does consider that. But, that isn't what I was addressing. I was addressing how to alter the scale to fit a certain chord. Of course if you are playing a tune in Bb, you will use all modes with Bb.

Also, in jazz music, at times, function is thrown out the window. For instance, in many, many cases, a dominant chord is used as a tonic.

Your accusations are simply putting words in my mouth.
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