#1
Right.

I understand what modes are, I can make them. I know if you take an E from the C Major Scale its E phrygian and all that jazz.

But I don't get how to use them with improvising. Can I just skip from E phyrgian to E lydian and still sound good? Or is there a certain order? Or can I just pick and choose, can I go from E phyrigian then randomly go to A dorian as long as the chord progression allows it?

Thanks a lot.
#2
You virtually have to be playing over a modal vamp/progression to use a mode. If you're not, then you're not actually playing the modes.
#3
You wouldn't realize use modes during most improvisation, since most Western music is tonal not modal. You would mainly use the major and minor scales, and the pentatonic scales if you want to be safer.

The only time you really use modes when improvising is over a modal backing track of some kind. Is that what you're talking about?
#4
improvising modes is extremely difficult and like mentioned already you can only play what will work with the underlying chord progression. It also depends on the type of chords being played. You cant just expect to jump from E phyrigian to E lydian and expect it to sound good.
#5
Ah fair enough. I just want to make my current solos *different* instead of using minor and major all the time, 'cause its frankly boring.
#7
well i would suggest focusing more on phrasing than modes because most music is the major and minor scales. They can sound all sorts of different ways its just up to how you use them.
#8
Quote by HeavyDT
well i would suggest focusing more on phrasing than modes because most music is the major and minor scales. They can sound all sorts of different ways its just up to how you use them.


I supose but most music bores me. I prefer the likes of Steve Vai and Marty Friedman, and they seem to improvise and use modes seamlessly.

Before you say, ''but your not steve vai or marty!'' I do know, but, their must be a way of getting round to being able to do it.

Or even, just how I would use modes to compose. Like what mode works with which key e.t.c
Last edited by Ritley at Aug 7, 2009,
#9
Quote by Ritley
Right.

I understand what modes are, I can make them. I know if you take an E from the C Major Scale its E phrygian and all that jazz.

But I don't get how to use them with improvising. Can I just skip from E phyrgian to E lydian and still sound good? Or is there a certain order? Or can I just pick and choose, can I go from E phyrigian then randomly go to A dorian as long as the chord progression allows it?

Thanks a lot.


This is incorrect. I'll quote another post of mine that I think could be relevant here.

(I came to this next conclusion from reading posts by xxdarrenxx and others. Sorry if I spelled your username wrong, I can never remember exactly what it is)

Modes are hardly ever used in modern music in a truly modal setting. The most logical way to use modes is through studying the parallel modes. Let me explain. There are two main ways I see of looking at modes:

"Parallel" modes, in which you look at modes as relating to other modes of the same tonic. i.e. compare C lydian to C ionian, or C phrygian to C aeolian. Same tonics, different intervals/notes. This is the type of studying modes I'll be referring to for the rest of the post unless I specify otherwise.

"Relative" modes, in which you look at modes as relating to the same notes with a different tonic. i.e. compare C ionain to D dorian, or B locrian to F lydian. Same notes, different tonics.

As I stated above, the most useful (in my opinion) way to study modes for use in modern music is looking at parallel modes. This allows you to do a number of things. First, it breaks you out of the mindset that modes are "the same scale starting on a different note". This is an all-too-common misconception that many guitarists share. Modes are, in fact, NOT the same scale starting on a different note; which brings us to... Second, parallel modes allows you to see modes as alterations of a scale rather than scales on their own. An example:

I have a progression in the key of C. It's strictly diatonic, so using the C major (or even safer, major pentatonic) scale would be safe to use. Sticking with chord tones, I can come up with a fairly decent-sounding improvisation. I feel this is starting to sound stale, though. What can I do to add a little more to my solo? Accidentals are a great place to start. But how can I choose which accidentals to use? This is where parallel modes commes in. I know the sound of the modes. I know I really like the sound of the b2 in Phrygian. Say I have a V7 chord coming up. If you know about tritone substitutions, you know that a V7 chord in any key can be replaced by a bII7 chord. Knowing this, I know I can hit a b2 over a V7 chord that's leading to the I chord for a nice chromatic resolution (b2 to 1).

If that's over your head, don't worry. It will make sense if you take the time to really look at the modes in this way. First, there are some things you should know before you start to even THINK about studying modes:

1. Constructing a major scale starting on ANY note (or at least the 15 keys)
2. Constructing a minor scale starting on ANY note (or at least the 15 keys)
3. Harmonizing the major scale
4. Good knowledge of chord construction, extensions, alterations, and substitutions (in major and minor keys)
5. All about harmonic minor and melodic minor (HOW they are constructed, WHY they exist, etc.)

If you have a solid (and I mean SOLID) grasp of these concepts, you might be ready to start looking at modes. If not, keep studying the above items. They should be enough to keep you busy for a while, and will serve you well for most of your songwriting/playing purposes.

A good way to begin studying modes is experimentation. Here are the formulas for the modes as compared to the major scale:

Lydian: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
Ionian (major): 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Mixolydian: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
Dorian: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
Aeolian (natural minor): 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Phrygian: 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Locrian:P 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7

I list them in this order to show how each mode differs from the others. I put lydian first because it's the only mode with a raised interval. From there, you can see how each successive mode has a different alteration. Now you need to know the individual sounds that modes have...

Experimenting with modes is easy (and vital if you want to learn them). Say you want to familiarize yourself with how Lydian sounds (in this example, in the key of C). A good way to do this is to record a droning Cmaj7 chord and play over it. See how the #4 can create tension and find out how to resolve that tension. I suggest doing this for each mode to get familiar with how they sound. Because you understand harmonizing, you can construct chords to drone behind each mode on your own. If you can't, then you didn't learn what I suggested and you should go back and learn it.

Once you have the sound of each mode in your head, you can use that knowledge to apply it to solos/improvisations. Like I gave in my example above, you can take the chords in the progression you're playing over and decide which accidentals to apply based on what you know about the sound of the modes.

I hope this hasn't been too confusing. Now, this isn't to say modes can't be used to creat purely modal music. But I don't know enough about that subject to explain it, as I assume is the case with almost all people on this site.

I hope this helps clear things up.
#10
Ah so Parralel modes are like E Phrygian, E lydian e.t.c, where as relative modes would be like G major, E aeolian e.t.c

And so I want use them in a parrellel manner, so say I had E Minor and I wanted to branch out a bit I could add a note from E lydian or something.

Thanks for the reply
#11
Quote by Ritley
Ah so Parralel modes are like E Phrygian, E lydian e.t.c, where as relative modes would be like G major, E aeolian e.t.c

And so I want use them in a parrellel manner, so say I had E Minor and I wanted to branch out a bit I could add a note from E lydian or something.

Thanks for the reply


Yes. ish. Keep in mind, that you're not really 'playing' modes that way. It's just a helpful way to get in your head how different alterations to the major and minor scales sound. You're really just playing major or minor with accidentals. If you're playing in a minor key, a popular thing to do is throw in a b2, which is reminiscent of Phrygian. You're not playing Phrygian per se, you're just adding accidentals.

Makes sense?
#12
Quote by timeconsumer09
Yes. ish. Keep in mind, that you're not really 'playing' modes that way. It's just a helpful way to get in your head how different alterations to the major and minor scales sound. You're really just playing major or minor with accidentals. If you're playing in a minor key, a popular thing to do is throw in a b2, which is reminiscent of Phrygian. You're not playing Phrygian per se, you're just adding accidentals.

Makes sense?



I think so, yeah. Kinda like using chromatic notes which would go out of the scale, but would fit the chord.

Its odd then that Steve Vai often uses lydian to compose solos... but I guess thats part of what makes him so damn good

Thanks again
#13
Yes, exactly! You just understood what most guitarists on this forum fail to understand for a LONG time. Congrats.

About Vai, I've never analyzed any of his songs. I'm not really sure if he actually plays 'lydian' or if he utilizes a #4 a lot as an accidental (a la parallel modes). Anyone else know for sure? I've always wondered this, actually.
#14
Quote by timeconsumer09
Yes, exactly! You just understood what most guitarists on this forum fail to understand for a LONG time. Congrats.

About Vai, I've never analyzed any of his songs. I'm not really sure if he actually plays 'lydian' or if he utilizes a #4 a lot as an accidental (a la parallel modes). Anyone else know for sure? I've always wondered this, actually.


Yeah, a lot of his music is in Lydian. The chord progressions as well as the lead lines suggest it. And man, does he use it well.
#15
Quote by timeconsumer09
Yes. ish. Keep in mind, that you're not really 'playing' modes that way. It's just a helpful way to get in your head how different alterations to the major and minor scales sound. You're really just playing major or minor with accidentals. If you're playing in a minor key, a popular thing to do is throw in a b2, which is reminiscent of Phrygian. You're not playing Phrygian per se, you're just adding accidentals.


Something's been bothering me. I've read time and time again (on this forum) that most western music doesn't really utilise modes and that most people have a wrong idea of what modes really are.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but what you're explaining is just spicing up your playing with different "flavors" of the major and minor scales. Some songs have ambiguous progressions, so you could switch between the different modes (e.g. from A aeolian to A phryg) to create a different feel whenever you want to.

But there's plenty of music I would call "modal" in itself. Isn't a piece, based around an Am7-G7 progession considered G mixolydian? (I just made up this progression, I don't know if it'll sound the way I intend. And I admit I don't know as much about chord progression theory as I would like.)

The notes are the same as C major, but if you make the G7 the tonal center of your progression, it'll be clear that the key is in fact G. Since it's a dominant chord, it'll fit G mixolydian. If the chords are alternated very slowly, you could even try to guide your playing towards the A and C (minor third) and G (m7) when the Am chord is being played, to establish an A aeolian feel.

Wouldn't that be called, modal playing? Playing the right flavor over the right flavor of chord, i.e. mixo fits dominant 7's. You're using the mixo or whatever mode, as a scale, a flavor, just like you'd use the regular major, minor or even harmonic scales. The whole progression can imply a certain modal feel by emphasing on certain notes of the mode (b7 for mixo, b2 for phryg, etc).

I might have contradicted myself a couple of times in this post (I'm no theory guru ), so I'll put it more simply: flying in a blue dream by Satch is a song in lydian, because the progression implies a lydian feel, contains chords with lydian notes and the soloing is mostly in lydian. Aye?
Not only would it disrupt the fabric of time and space, but it would totally ruin the surprise!
Last edited by Kailoq at Aug 8, 2009,
#16
Quote by Kailoq
Something's been bothering me. I've read time and time again (on this forum) that most western music doesn't really utilise modes and that most people have a wrong idea of what modes really are.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but what you're explaining is just spicing up your playing with different "flavors" of the major and minor scales. Some songs have ambiguous progressions, so you could switch between the different modes (e.g. from A aeolian to A phryg) to create a different feel whenever you want to.

But there's plenty of music I would call "modal" in itself. Isn't a piece, based around an Am7-G7 progession considered G mixolydian? (I just made up this progression, I don't know if it'll sound the way I intend. And I admit I don't know as much about chord progression theory as I would like.)

The notes are the same as C major, but if you make the G7 the tonal center of your progression, it'll be clear that the key is in fact G. Since it's a dominant chord, it'll fit G mixolydian. If the chords are alternated very slowly, you could even try to guide your playing towards the A and C (minor third) and G (m7) when the Am chord is being played, to establish an A aeolian feel.

Wouldn't that be called, modal playing? Playing the right flavor over the right flavor of chord, i.e. mixo fits dominant 7's. You're using the mixo or whatever mode, as a scale, a flavor, just like you'd use the regular major, minor or even harmonic scales. The whole progression can imply a certain modal feel by emphasing on certain notes of the mode (b7 for mixo, b2 for phryg, etc).

I might have contradicted myself a couple of times in this post (I'm no theory guru ), so I'll put it more simply: flying in a blue dream by Satch is a song in lydian, because the progression implies a lydian feel, contains chords with lydian notes and the soloing is mostly in lydian. Aye?



this is kinda right... but the thing is, the term "modal" is a very very very specific term. Modal music is only modal if every single note in the piece fits into the mode. So with G mixolydian, for example, you can't use the note F# anywhere in any part of your song, or else you're just playing regular G major, and adding the mixolydian flavour when your lead bits make use of the b7.

now, the two-chord vamp you described oughta work with a mixolydian solo... but as soon as you try to add another chord change, you will begin to encounter problems... applying a mode to the construction of chords from a scale will always yield two or three chords within any key that are diminished, augmented, or just generally off-sounding. These will be the chords that use the modal note.

For example, with G mixolydian, you have to use the following notes: G A B C D E F

your chords in this "key" would be:

G major (G, B, D)

A minor (A, C, E)

Bmb5 (B, D, F) - now you've got a iii chord that is much harder to use in any context, due to it's own dissonance with itself

C major (C, E, G)

D minor (D, F, A) - now you've got a minor chord as your fifth in a major key

E minor (E, G, B)

F major (F, A, C) - now you've got a chord with a root note that isn't "right" with the rest of the notes in the chord... normally, it would be F#dim, but now it's just regular F major

now, none of the chords i've shown you here are blasphemous on their own... but try making up a nice complete chord progression with these chords, and you'll discover that it just won't resolve the way you'd like it to, and the chord changes won't sound natural. especially with the minor chord now in the V position, and the iii chord being so dissonant.

now, with all that said, you can still make extended chords and altered chords that you can fit into a modal melody... but you're still limited to the exact notes of the modal scale, and that will limit your options... you have to sort of look at each chord and say: "hmm... what's the one other note from the scale i can throw in here and not make it sound like ass" rather than "hmmm... what if i just played a _____ chord, because it'll sound good, and screw whether it's modal or not"

this is why almost all the music you'll hear that is considered to be truly modal will be one or two chord vamps, with extended melody solos over the two chords than can work with the mode and not interfere with it.

- inb4 - everyone who is about to post and tell me that music doesn't have to sound "right" or "correct" or "good" or "natural" to be considered proper music.... screw you guys... we're in the musician talk forum.

use parallel modes to spice up solos in the same key... think of it as knowing which accidentals will sound better than others... it's not true modal play, but it's what you've been hearing in all those guitar-god compositions that makes them sound so exotic. how do you know which modes to use? if you're in a major key, avoid modes with a flat 3rd. if you're in a minor key, avoid modes with a major third. that's all you need to know to get started.
Last edited by frigginjerk at Aug 8, 2009,
#17
Quote by Ritley
And so I want use them in a parallel manner, so say I had E Minor and I wanted to branch out a bit I could add a note from E lydian or something.


Typically when you're in a minor key you borrow from other minor modes, Dorian, Phrygian, or Locrian*. When you're in a major key, typically you borrow from other major modes, Mixolydian, or Lydian. So if you were playing in E major and you introduced a #4 (B#, in this case) then you could be said to be borrowing from Lydian. Introducing a #4 in a minor key probably won't have the desired results; I've never tried it, but it will probably sound like a b5 instead.

In Jazz, there is something called a Lydian chord. It's a maj7#11 chord. The #11 (otherwise known as a #4) is borrowed from the native Lydian (if the chord is, say, Amaj7#11, the #4 would be from A Lydian, regardless of the key your in). Sometimes the #11 isn't present in the chord and it is used only in the melody. This is a just a cool example; it's really only common in Jazz AFAIK.

*It's a diminished mode, but borrowing a b5 from Locrian is ridiculously common.
#18
Quote by frigginjerk
great explanation


Cool! Thanks man, that really helped me!

I haven't tried making any "modal" progressions yet. Seems like I overlooked the fact that the position of the chord (as in the Roman number) affects the progression and how you resolve it. Just goes to show I need to spend some more time learning about (and playing around with) chord progressions!

use parallel modes to spice up solos in the same key... think of it as knowing which accidentals will sound better than others... it's not true modal play, but it's what you've been hearing in all those guitar-god compositions that makes them sound so exotic. how do you know which modes to use? if you're in a major key, avoid modes with a flat 3rd. if you're in a minor key, avoid modes with a major third. that's all you need to know to get started.


Cheers! I've been messing around with something like this in a song I'm writing. It's basically 2 bars of B minor and 2 bars of G major and I'm playing E harmonic minor (or the B mode of E harmonic minor) and B minor over them, which works surprisingly well (imo ).

I figured most of that out by ear though. It was my intention to change from harmonic minor to something with a happier feel, but I just tried a couple of things and it turns out I was using Bminor. It's still a bit different from what you're describing, but the gist is the same I guess. It's really fun to change the feel/flow of a solo by messing around with different scales like that.
Not only would it disrupt the fabric of time and space, but it would totally ruin the surprise!
Last edited by Kailoq at Aug 8, 2009,