How To Play Modes Re-Vamped

author: DarthPew date: 10/08/2012 category: guitar techniques
rating: 5.5 / votes: 11 
How To Play Modes Re-Vamped
Hey guys, if you were expecting another "How To Use Modes", unfortunately you'll have to wait. I'm getting to learn all this cool new stuff, so I wanna make sure that I get it all under my belt before I share it with all of you. So I'll give you a little something that I should've mentioned earlier on when talking about constructing a mode. Modes are based on intervals. When people say, "Dorian" or "Mixolydian", these are not entirely just scales, but they are (dare I say) "scales" with modified intervals. I say modified intervals because the way I learned it, there are three basic scales every musician must know:
  • The Major/[relative]Minor Scale
  • The Minor Harmonic Scale
  • The Melodic Minor Scale If you look at the Major Scale, the intervals will always be as follows: Tonic -> Major 2nd -> Major 3rd -> Perfect 4th -> Perfect 5th -> Major 6th -> Major 7th -> Octave. When you translate these into numbers, they'd be as follows: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 And if I describe it in terms of how many tones away each interval is (half a tone is equal to one fret on your guitar, and a whole tone is equal to two frets), it would be as follows: Tonic [WT] Major 2nd [WT] Major 3rd [HT] Perfect 4th [WT] Perfect 5th [WT] Major 6th [WT] Major 7th [HT] Octave I guarantee you this is the exact and only intervals that exist for a major scale. You use this formula on any tonic, and you will have played the major scale! If we look at the Minor Scale, the intervals would start on the 6th (major 6th note) of any given Major Scale. So, a Minor Scale's intervals would be as follows: Tonic [WT] Major 2nd [HT] Minor 3rd [WT] Perfect 4th [WT] Perfect 5th [HT] Minor 6th [WT] Minor 7th [WT] Octave So now, translating that into numbers: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8 If you've read my previous articles, these numbers should be familiar, as the first set of numbers represent an Ionian mode construction, and this last one represents an Aeolian mode construction.

    *WARNING [Part 1]*

    Construction is the key word here. I'm just trying to emphasize a point that I haven't stressed out as much as I had wished, but modes are named on their intervals. These "constructions" have distinct sounds when played over certain chords, so for a guitarist, or better yet, a musician to use modes well, they must know what sound these modes make. So it would take one to know how to "construct" modes. We'll move onto the Harmonic Minor. Identical to the Minor Scale construction, it only has one difference from the Minor Scale, that being the Major 7th (a natural 7, opposed from the b7): Tonic [WT] Major 2nd [HT] Minor 3rd [WT] Perfect 4th [WT] Perfect 5th [HT] Minor 6th [WT and a half] Major 7th [HT] Octave And if put this formula into numbers: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7 8 Again, this is the base for any Harmonic Minor Scale. You start on a tonic, and you follow this formula, you will get that harmonic minor colour. The Melodic Minor is also based on the Minor Scale, except that instead of having the Minor 6th and Minor 7th (the b6 and b7 respectively), they are both major intervals: Tonic [WT] Major 2nd [HT] Minor 3rd [WT] Perfect 4th [WT] Perfect 5th [HT] Major 6th [WT] Major 7th [HT] Octave And the number formula would be as follows: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7 8 Hopefully, these different formulas won't get you lost, however, to further help you visualize these formulas, I shall tab out the Major, Minor, Harmonic and Melodic scales so that you can "see" the intervals and shapes. Hopefully, this will also help you in your interval recognition on your instrument (will take all these scales based on the key of A, and I will tab them out to two octaves each!): A Major Scale
    e|----------------------------4-5-|     e|--------------------------------|
    B|------------------------5-7-----|     B|-------------------------7-9-10-|
    G|------------------4-6-7---------| OR  G|-------------------6-7-9--------|
    D|------------4-6-7---------------|     D|--------------6-7-9-------------|
    A|------4-5-7---------------------|     A|--------5-7-9-------------------|
    E|--5-7---------------------------|     E|--5-7-9-------------------------|
    
    A Minor Scale
    e|------------------------------5-|
    B|--------------------------6-8---|
    G|--------------------5-7-9-------|
    D|--------------5-7-9-------------|
    A|--------5-7-8-------------------|
    E|--5-7-8-------------------------|
    
    A Minor Harmonic Scale
    e|----------------------------4-5-|
    B|--------------------------6-----|
    G|--------------------5-7-9-------|
    D|--------------6-7-9-------------|
    A|--------5-7-8-------------------|
    E|--5-7-8-------------------------|
    
    A Minor Melodic Scale
    e|--------------------------------|
    B|--------------------------7-9-10|
    G|--------------------5-7-9-------|
    D|--------------6-7-9-------------|
    A|--------5-7-9-------------------|
    E|--5-7-8-------------------------|
    
    These are the basic "shapes" of the Scales I have introduced. So now, let's move into the more interesting part, which is the construction of the 21 modes based on these scales. But first up, a recap just in case you got lost! So we learned that there are 3 different types of scales:
  • Major and Minor: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 and 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 respectively
  • Harmonic Minor: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
  • Melodic Minor: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7 The reason why I consider Major and Minor the same "scale" is because they are relative to each other, it's just that one scale is juxtaposed from another, because when you play modes starting on the root of a Major scale, you'd be starting on Ionian (which is in turn, the major scale intervals). And if you move on up the mode chart, when you get to Aeolian, you're playing the Minor Scale intervals. And same applies from starting on the Minor Scale. The first degree would be Aeolian, and when you move up to the the third degree, you're right back onto Ionian. Got lost? Well take a quick scroll back up, just take things nice and easy before moving on.

    *WARNING [Part 2]*

    I will now tell you all the 21 modes of these three different scales. Again, this lesson is based on the construction of the modes, not necessarily on how to apply them when harmony is involved. So hopefully by now, you're used to the formula of constructing intervals and modes and scales with the numbering system. I'll start off easy with the modes from the major scale which I'm guessing most have gotten used to. These modes are:
    Ima7      -  Ionian Mode     -   1 2 3 4 5 6 7     
    ii-7      -  Dorian Mode     -   1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7   
    iii-7     -  Phrygian Mode   -   1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 
    IVmaj7    -  Lydian Mode     -   1 2 3 #4 5 6 7    
    V7        -  Mixolydian Mode -   1 2 3 4 5 6 b7    
    vi-7      -  Aeolian Mode    -   1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7  
    vii-7(b5) -  Locrian Mode    -   1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
    
    So if take the example of the previous A Major Scale tab, the first shape starts on the first fret, meaning it would be an A Ionian mode construction. If you start on the second degree, being the B natural, and follow the rest of the tab construction until you hit the B natural's octave, you would have constructed a B Dorian mode, and same applies for C# Phrygian, or D Lydian, etc. The Roman Numerals I've added also represent whether the mode has a major or minor quality. Why, you ask? Well, that's because of the 3rd interval. In any mode, or scale might I add, the third interval will always define if the mode/scale has a major quality or not (depending on the construction). A major third interval means that the mode/scale has a major quality to it, so the modes with capitalized Roman Numerals represent the number of the degree the mode represents, and that it is also a major quality mode. The small Roman Numerals mean the opposite, they still represent the number of the degree of the mode, but that they are a minor mode. I have also included the chord qualities so that you can see what each degree's chord makes. Taking this principle, I shall now venture into demonstrating you the construction of modes from the Harmonic Minor Scale:
    i-(maj)7 - Aeolian n7  - 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 (7)     
    ii-7(b5) - Locrian n13 - 1 b2 b3 4 b5 (6) b7   
    III+7    - Ionian #5   - 1 2 3 4 (#5) 6 7      
    iv-7     - Dorian #11  - 1 2 b3 (#4) 5 6 b7    
    v-7      - Phrygian n3 - 1 b2 (3) 4 5 b6 b7    
    VI7      - Lydian b7   - 1 (2) 3 #4 5 6 b7     
    #viio7   - Locrian bb7 - (1) b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 bb7
    
    **the n stands for "natural"** **the - stands for "minor"** **the + stands for "augmented"** **the o stands for diminished** The number in parenthesis demonstrates the natural 7 of the original Harmonic minor scale and where it is found in the new mode. So if I put these modes into context, let's say in the key of C minor, the modes would have the following names:
  • C Aeolian n7
  • D Locrian n13
  • Eb Ionian #5
  • F Dorian #11
  • G Phrygian n3
  • Ab Lydian b7
  • B Locrian bb7 And all of these modes would have these notes, starting from their tonic, until the octave:
  • C Aeolian n7
    1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
    C D Eb F G Ab B
    
  • D Locrian n13
    1 b2 b3 4 b5 6 b7
    D Eb F  G Ab B C 
    
    And so on and so forth. Hopefully, you'll be able to find the construction of these modes on your instrument via the number formula. If you don't know how to do that, fear not, you can just scroll back up to the beginning part of this lesson to see how you do it!

    *WARNING [Part 3]*

    There are many different names to call these modes, I am very well aware of that, but for a more direct and easy naming, I just gave these modes the name of the original mode they'd give because of the certain characteristic pitches they have, on addition to the "tweaks" made on these modes. So I identified them with their respective interval change. And just a heads up, so I don't have to make this article TOO long, if you're wondering what a characteristic pitch is, read my first article "How To Play Modes" so that you may have a grasp on what they are (I know I am considering this the Re-Vamped version, however, if I try to fit everything into one article, I fear it may demotivate some from reading on)! And now, moving onto the last one, the Melodic Minor! Before moving on, I must say that there are two ways of looking at the Melodic Minor; You can look at it ascending, and then you can look at it descending. In most traditional harmony/composition, when you play a Melodic Minor scale ASCENDING, you play the natural 6 and 7, however, when playing the Melodic Minor scale DESCENDING, you play the b6 and b7, like a minor scale. In my opinion, playing like this is HARD. It makes me have to think twice as hard as normal, however, this version of the Melodic Scale has a specific colour to it. However, in contemporary harmony, I learned that most people now a days play the natural 6 and 7 both ascending and descending down the scale. Both ways of playing it are considered the Melodic Minor, it's just that one way of playing it suits one's taste's, and another way the other's. Let's move onto the construction of the 7 modes of the Melodic Minor:
    i-(maj7)   - Dorian n7      - 1 2 b3 4 5 (6) (7)     
    ii-7       - Phrygian n13   - 1 b2 b3 4 (5) (6) b7   
    III+7      - Lydian #5 #13  - 1 2 3 (#4) (#5) 6 7    
    IV7        - Lydian b7      - 1 2 (3) (#4) 5 6 b7    
    V7         - Mixolydian b13 - 1 (2) (3) 4 5 b6 b7    
    #vi-7(b5)  - Aeolian b5     - (1) (2) b3 4 b5 b6 b7  
    #vii-7(b5) - Locrian b4     - (1) b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 (b7)
    
    Again, the parenthesis represent the natural 6 and 7 respectively when looking at one given Melodic Minor key. So if we take the example of C Melodic Minor, the notes would be the same for all the modes, just starting on a different tonic:
  • C Dorian n7
    1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
    C D Eb F G A B
    
  • D Phrygian n13
    1 b2 b3 4 5 6 b7
    D Eb F  G A B C 
    
    And so on and so forth.

    *WARNING [Part 4]*

    I hope you guys don't get confused with the #4 or #6s and whatknot. In a number formula, based on the relative major or minor(harmonic/melodic) scale you construct the mode from, a sharp means a half-tone raise of the note you would originally play in the original scale. A flat meaning that you would go down a half-tone, and a natural meaning you make sure the interval fits the degree number (so if it's a n6, that means the number must be a major 6th from the tonic, same with a n7, n2... Hopefully you get the idea). So here's a recap of all the 21 modes of the three different scales:
  • Based on a Major Scale:
    Ima7      -  Ionian Mode     -   1 2 3 4 5 6 7     
    ii-7      -  Dorian Mode     -   1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7   
    iii-7     -  Phrygian Mode   -   1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 
    IVmaj7    -  Lydian Mode     -   1 2 3 #4 5 6 7    
    V7        -  Mixolydian Mode -   1 2 3 4 5 6 b7    
    vi-7      -  Aeolian Mode    -   1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7  
    vii-7(b5) -  Locrian Mode    -   1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
    
  • Based on a Harmonic Minor Scale:
    i-(maj)7 - Aeolian n7  - 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 (7)      
    ii-7(b5) - Locrian n13 - 1 b2 b3 4 b5 (6) b7    
    III+7    - Ionian #5   - 1 2 3 4 (#5) 6 7       
    iv-7     - Dorian #11  - 1 2 b3 (#4) 5 6 b7     
    v-7      - Phrygian n3 - 1 b2 (3) 4 5 b6 b7     
    VI7      - Lydian b7   - 1 (2) 3 #4 5 6 b7      
    #viio7    - Locrian bb7 - (1) b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 bb7
    
  • Based on a Melodic Minor Scale:
    i-(maj7)   - Dorian n7      - 1 2 b3 4 5 (6) (7)     
    ii-7       - Phrygian n13   - 1 b2 b3 4 (5) (6) b7   
    III+7      - Lydian #5 #13  - 1 2 3 (#4) (#5) 6 7    
    IV7        - Lydian b7      - 1 2 (3) (#4) 5 6 b7    
    V7         - Mixolydian b13 - 1 (2) (3) 4 5 b6 b7    
    #vi-7(b5)  - Aeolian b5     - (1) (2) b3 4 b5 b6 b7  
    #vii-7(b5) - Locrian b4     - (1) b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 (b7)
    
    There. These are all of the modes that I know that exist. I guess you could also derive modes from Half Diminished Scales, Pentatonic Scales, Whole Tone Scales, Augmented Scales... You name, however, I can almost guarantee you that the modes you'd construct from there would be similar, if not the same, to the mode constructions covered here, only that the mode would be missing a note or two. Except for the Whole Tone Scale... that one is just bizarre in my opinion! And there you have it folks. The construction of these modes. Remember, this is only the construction of modes! It takes to know your harmony to know how to use them modally!

    *Notes From The Author*

    Hopefully you enjoyed this lesson, so now I have an interesting side note to tell you. I was in a Guitar Technique class in college one day, and I had these questions about harmony and melody (the topic being modes) to my lecturer. So, after class I decided to ask him, "Hey, could you check these modes for me? See if the intervals and avoid notes are correct for my analysis." He looked at the first modes (which were the modes diatonic to the Major Scale) and when he got to the first degree of the Harmonic Minor, he said, "I can't check it anymore because I don't know the rest of my theory". Upon hearing this, I was stunned. Because earlier before the technique class, I had another class with the same teacher, and he was improvising over these chords in a manor that just left me dumbfounded. He was playing all these accidentals that just fit with the chord progression, and it was magnificent (I'll give you the name of the teacher in the comments section later, as I forgot what his first name was xD). So when he tells me he doesn't know much of the theory, he goes on and says this, "I know enough to know how to change the rules". So it hit me. Because, I was always taught that there are 7 notes to a scale: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 OR 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 And their given modes. However, his way of thinking is that, even though he doesn't know his theory, he knows what accidental would sound like. So he's not thinking modally, rather he's thinking of playing "intervally". It's actually easier than trying to think in modes, but more risky to play if you don't know the affect of these dissonant intervals. So instead of playing with 7 numbers, he's actually thinking like this: 1 #1 b2 2 #2 b3 #3 4 #4 b5 5 #5 b6 6 bb7 b7 7 At first glance, it was bizarre for me, but it began to make sense when I put the notes into place (let's take the example of the key of C): 1 #1 b2 2 2# b3 3 #3 4 #4 b5 5 #5 b6 6 bb7 b7 7 C C# Db D D# Eb E E# F F# Gb G G# bA A Bbb Bb B Mind gork right? It absolutely blew me away. It's not that he's thinking in chromaticism, rather that he attacks each chord as it comes. So when a random chord comes at him, his brain immediately recognizes the chord's quality, and he goofs around the sharps and flats and naturals. Hard to explain in detail, so I'll get you his name for you next time. So study this lesson well! I hope you guys enjoyed the read and didn't get discouraged! This is hard stuff! so if you make to the end of each lesson, I recommend you give yourself a pat on the back, and reward yourself to a refreshing drink :) Until next time!
  • More DarthPew lessons:
    + How To Use Modes. Part 3 Guitar Techniques 04/05/2013
    + Beginner Intervals For Beginners 11/07/2012
    + How To Use Modes. Part 2 Guitar Techniques 10/01/2012
    + How To Use Modes. Part 1 Guitar Techniques 09/20/2012
    + How To Play Modes Guitar Techniques 09/13/2012
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