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Old 01-31-2013, 05:58 AM   #1
steve788
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Question Pentatonic scale and modes

Hi. I've got a question which will probably display my ignorance, but after all that's why I need to ask the question!

I'm familiar in both theory and practice with the pentatonic scale and its use on the guitar to noodle around a chord sequence whilst minimising the risk of the single notes clashing with the chords.

I'm also familiar with the theory (but not the practice) of the seven modes (Ionian thru Locrian).

It looks to me as though I can play all these modes in a limited way using the pentatonic scale (i.e. all except Lydian and Locrian), because, taking the key of C as an example, only the Lydian and the Locrian are dependent on starting and ending on the notes omitted from pentatonic C (F for Lydian, B for Locrian). Are you with me so far and if so is that a correct conclusion?

And if so, is there anything which anyone would like to highlight about this conclusion (e.g. "Yes mate you can play five of the seven modes with a pentatonic scale but only modes X and Y are useful, because............. etc".

And the other thing is do you have any comments, thoughts or guidance on how this (if indeed it does) relates to or is impacted by use of the "Blues scale" with the addition of the flattened 5th?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 01-31-2013, 06:17 AM   #2
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You have the wrong understanding of modes. Modes are not just the major scale starting on a different note. Forget what you know about modes and ignore them until you have a strong grasp of tonal harmony.
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Old 01-31-2013, 07:18 AM   #3
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Playing modally has more to do with the tonic center of a tune than the starting and ending notes of a scale. For example, if you take a song that has C firmly established as the tonic center, then playing the C major scale over it is always going to sound like the Ionian mode, no matter which note you start and end on. If you want to play in F Lydian mode, you would need to establish the F as the tonic center.

As for your question, whether or not it is possible to play certain modes using only the pentatonic scale, it really depends on what you're playing over.

Some pieces of music can establish a mode solely from the chords. Take a listen to "Jane Says" by Jane's Addiction. The entire song is just moving back and forth from IV to V. This sets the song's residence pretty firmly within Lydian territory. It doesn't really matter if you stick to the pentatonic scale when you play over this song, because the missing 4th and 7th are present within the chords, so the mode can still be established.

However, if you want to try and establish a mode over a single droning note, like a C, using only a pentatonic scale, that becomes far more challenging, and not just for the modes you mentioned. Even trying to establish C Ionian over a droning C is difficult without the 4th or the 7th. The 4th and the 7th are the only notes that distinguish the Ionian Mode, the Lydian Mode, and the Mixolydian Mode, so their absence from the C pentatonic scale makes it impossible for a listener to perceive one of those modes.
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Old 01-31-2013, 07:20 AM   #4
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learn to appreciate and understand the harmony, instrumentation, and rhythms present in the music. scales are nothing but a way to poorly fake legitimate understanding, and will ultimately hinder your ability to function fluently in beyond very specific contexts unless you plan on just shredding up and down arpeggios and scales until the end of time like the other 3 guitarists on your street and their grandpas
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Old 01-31-2013, 06:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sloop John D
Playing modally has more to do with the tonic center of a tune than the starting and ending notes of a scale. For example, if you take a song that has C firmly established as the tonic center, then playing the C major scale over it is always going to sound like the Ionian mode, no matter which note you start and end on. If you want to play in F Lydian mode, you would need to establish the F as the tonic center.



Explain to me a bit more about "tonic center". I have an idea of what you are talking about but I want clarification.

I am relatively new to how modes work. I learned how to make chords from taking the root, 3rd 5th and 7th of each mode. Take G major for example, Start with G ionian, and then go to A dorian, the B Phrygian. Lets make three chords from those three modes, G Maj7, A minor 7, and B Minor 7. Now I can play those three chords. If I want to solo over that, I can play G major all the way up the neck and its going to sound good.

So since GM7, Am7, and Bm7, are all in the "key of G" as long as I play G ionian, A dorian, B phyrgian, etc... over that "progression" it will sound good, or sound "right".... I understand that I dont necessarily have to play B phrygian over Bm7. I can play B phrygian over Am7 because they are the same notes. is that right?

When you speak in terms of "tonic center", in this case the "center" would be G?

Confused? Thats how I learned it. Dont know if its right but thats why I am asking.
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Old 01-31-2013, 07:03 PM   #6
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Tonic is the root of whatever chord the piece of music resolves to (though not necessarily the first or last chord).

You're over-using modes. You'll be playing Gmajor over all of them, but emphasizing different notes depending on the harmony. Think in terms of the chord tones rather than trying to make a scale of everything. You don't need to determine a whole scale for every chord when the chord itself gives you 3 or 4 notes already. Even the mode each chord is built on contains notes that you don't necessarily want to use much over the chord (such as an F over Cmaj7)

The way you use chord tones rhythmically is what will make your playing sound "in key" at all times.

Remember that modes are an analytical thing, not a thing you sit down and play. You can look at some chords and determine what mode or key signature applies, but you still have to look at the harmonies one by one to determine what your best note choices are.
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Old 01-31-2013, 11:45 PM   #7
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Learn the mixolydian mode its the best one it sounds good to everyone its the major scale with the b7 just throw a bVII chord in that prog. and you got yourself some magic
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Old 02-01-2013, 08:26 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steve788
It looks to me as though I can play all these modes in a limited way using the pentatonic scale (i.e. all except Lydian and Locrian), because, taking the key of C as an example, only the Lydian and the Locrian are dependent on starting and ending on the notes omitted from pentatonic C (F for Lydian, B for Locrian). Are you with me so far and if so is that a correct conclusion?


If you really are familiar with the theory of modes, it sounds like you're talking about pentatonic substitution, no?

Like, if you're playing over a C major chord, you can use C major pentatonic (starting from the C- major scale), or F major pentatonic (starting on the 5th note, C again, implying C mixolydian).

You can actually use the pentatonic scales to imply any of the modes.

Is that what you meant?

...just to offer some other advice to the standard "modes are impossible to understand and are never used DIE DIE DIE!" advice that usually appears around here...

If that isn't what you meant, then please clarify. It may well be that you misunderstand the the theory of modes.
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Old 02-01-2013, 09:22 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by chainsawguitar
If you really are familiar with the theory of modes, it sounds like you're talking about pentatonic substitution, no?

Like, if you're playing over a C major chord, you can use C major pentatonic (starting from the C- major scale), or F major pentatonic (starting on the 5th note, C again, implying C mixolydian).

You can actually use the pentatonic scales to imply any of the modes.

Is that what you meant?

...just to offer some other advice to the standard "modes are impossible to understand and are never used DIE DIE DIE!" advice that usually appears around here...

If that isn't what you meant, then please clarify. It may well be that you misunderstand the the theory of modes.

Yeah, people over react but they are sick of all these mode threads where TS doesn't know what he is talking about.

But seems like TS is thinking modes as scale shapes on fretboard (there's really nothing wrong with that because they really are modes of the major scale). But it doesn't mean you are playing modally when you use the different shapes. They really are just major scale all over the fretboard and I think they shouldn't be called modes because that's a bit misleading.

Also, treating every chord as a scale is not necessary. If we have a C-F-G progression, treating it as "ionian-lydian-mixolydian" is just stupid and over complicated. It's all in C major. And the notes you play over it are all in C major scale (C major scale can be played all over the fretboard). Notes in F lydian and G mixolydian are the same as in C major scale. You are playing C major scale all the time.

It also makes it harder to play. You kind of need to connect different "scales" in the most simple chord progression when you could only play one scale over the whole progression. It limits your playing. And really, F lydian and G mixolydian are all over the fretboard as well as C major scale is. And they use exactly the same notes. If you want to emphasize the chord tones and that "ionian-lydian-mixolydian" helps you, maybe just learn where the chord tones are and you don't need to think them as different scales (again, they are the same notes).
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Old 02-01-2013, 02:47 PM   #10
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Lydian = 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
Mixolydian = 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
Major = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Major Pentatonic = 1 2 3 5 6

Note the similarities and differences
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Old 02-01-2013, 07:44 PM   #11
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I think what the TS is getting at is::

Yes you can play the pentatonic scale in place of a mode, but, only as long as they share the same notes. But, even then, it's still just the pentatonic scale.

So, take a standard mixolydian tune. Pretty much anything bluegrass, for simplicity's sake. It is based off of a mixolydian mode, but, you can still use the maj. pent. scale since it has notes which are contained within that mode. But, you are still using the pent. scale. over a mixolydian progression.

Or take Amazing Grace for instance. The melody of that song uses only notes of the maj. pent. scale. However, the underlying chords use notes from the full major scale (Ionian mode)....Still, you would say the melody is pentatonic.
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Old 02-01-2013, 09:51 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angusman60
I think what the TS is getting at is::

Yes you can play the pentatonic scale in place of a mode, but, only as long as they share the same notes. But, even then, it's still just the pentatonic scale.

So, take a standard mixolydian tune. Pretty much anything bluegrass, for simplicity's sake. It is based off of a mixolydian mode, but, you can still use the maj. pent. scale since it has notes which are contained within that mode. But, you are still using the pent. scale. over a mixolydian progression.

Or take Amazing Grace for instance. The melody of that song uses only notes of the maj. pent. scale. However, the underlying chords use notes from the full major scale (Ionian mode)....Still, you would say the melody is pentatonic.


or you can play music, that's cool too
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Old 02-01-2013, 09:59 PM   #13
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Indeed. I try not to play and analyze at the same time. Gets dangerous; like walking and chewing gum.
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Old 02-04-2013, 04:13 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 20Tigers
Lydian = 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
Mixolydian = 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
Major = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Major Pentatonic = 1 2 3 5 6

Note the similarities and differences


I'm not sure that's helpful, but...

C major: C D E F G A B
C Major Pentatonic: C D E G A

C Mixolydian: C D E F G A Bb
F Major Pentatonic: F G A C D
G Minor pentatonic: G Bb C D F
D Minor Pentatonic: D F G A C

Note the similarities
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Old 02-04-2013, 10:56 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chainsawguitar
I'm not sure that's helpful, but...

C major: C D E F G A B
C Major Pentatonic: C D E G A

C Mixolydian: C D E F G A Bb
F Major Pentatonic: F G A C D
G Minor pentatonic: G Bb C D F
D Minor Pentatonic: D F G A C

Note the similarities

to put it in key...
C Pentatonic = C D E G A C

C Major = C D E F G A B C
C Mixolydian = C D Eb F G A Bb C
C Lydian = C D E F# G A B C

All of these are based off the tonic C note. The parallel "major" modes all share a common thread and that common thread is the parallel major scale.

I honestly don't mean to sound contrary but while I see the relevance of the relationships you describe as addressing the wording of the question in the OP I fail to see the relationship between C Mixolydian, F major pentatonic, Gm pent, and Dm pent as being worthwhile....I may well be missing something.

But that's just me.

I also understand that there are those that see modes as completely irrelevant and so by extension the relationships that either of us have pointed out would also be irrelevant. But we can leave that for them to worry about.

p.s. the same relationship can be found in the "minor" modes and the minor pentatonic scale

C Pentatonic scale C Eb F G Bb C

C Aeolian = C D Eb F G Ab Bb C
C Dorian = C D Eb F G A Bb C
C Phrygian = C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:58 AM   #16
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What he was trying to show is that those pentatonic scales contain notes from C mixolydian. They just occur in a different order.
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:11 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Angusman60
What he was trying to show is that those pentatonic scales contain notes from C mixolydian. They just occur in a different order.


This.

Therefore, you can use the shapes of the pentatonic scales to play modal sounds. It's called "pentatonic substitution", and is a fairly common thing to do.
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Old 02-06-2013, 04:15 AM   #18
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Yeah I got that the pentatonic scales you mentioned were using the same notes. However, I had never heard of them used that way. Cheers.
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Old 02-06-2013, 08:22 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by chainsawguitar
If you really are familiar with the theory of modes, it sounds like you're talking about pentatonic substitution, no?

Like, if you're playing over a C major chord, you can use C major pentatonic (starting from the C- major scale), or F major pentatonic (starting on the 5th note, C again, implying C mixolydian).

100% this. The majority on here don't understand pentatonic substitution, but this is it.
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Old 02-06-2013, 09:12 AM   #20
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100% this. The majority on here don't understand pentatonic substitution, but this is it.


uhhhhhhhhhhhh

isn't it the same thing as "jazz" modes but with 5 notes instead of 7

what's confusing about that lol, it's not difficult, it's just dumb
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