#1
I posted a thread the other day asking for ways to improve my playing, understanding, and theory.
I got a lot of good stuff to look up and work on, but then i ran into another confusing topic.

I had believed that playing modes was no different than playing scales.
but it appears that its not, scales and modes are utilized differently even though they may contain the same notes.

I've been trying to lookup and understand the concept and how to properly apply my scales or modes. Can any one double check me, and give me any extra details.


as far as I've been able to understand, the difference between modes and scales is modality and tonality. when you use scales (major or minor), its tonality. by the way the scales are set up, they are suppose to highlight and pull toward the tonic (root note) of the scale

The major scale pulls more to the tonic than the minor scale does because of the half-step before the tonic, however the harmonic minor scale puts a half-step before the tonic as well (giving the natural minor a better pull)

This is about as much as i know for tonal music.
I did happen to read about tonal centers before, and applied the concept to my playing, but i didn't differentiate between modes and scales. whatever mode i would improvise in, i would try and emphasize the root of that mode.



As for as modality goes, I've learned that modes aren't really meant to emphasize or pull to a tonic. Modes each have their own "flavor" as some people like to say, but i already knew that.



Now that I've explained what I know so far, are there any problems with my understanding of tonality and modes? what are the benefits of playing either modal or tonal music? If I'm playing modal, since there is no tonal center, does that mean i can just jump around through my modes when improvising? When playing tonal how do i emphasize the tonic, when I normally do this I land on the root often and i try never to go lower than my lowest root note (this usually make the root note the tonal center in my ears, unless i go lower than the root which kinda throws it outta whack)

My original question in my other thread was how to create more consistent and coherent feeling with my guitar solo/improv, i try to use my modes to the best of my abilities. so what would be the difference in feeling when using modal music or tonal music. With a better understanding of modality and tonality I'm hoping to improve my improv
:P


Thanks
#2
It's not so much about what YOU play, it's more to do with the composition as a whole. If a song has a chord progression resolving to C major then C is your tonic and there's nothing you can do to change that by soloing over the top - the only way you can change the tonic is to change the chords themselves.

Likewise for modal music a piece has to be constructed in a way that fixes the tonal centre away from the stronger pull of the relative major or minor. That's why most people will suggest playing modes over a static drone note or chord, because that's a guaranteed way to establish a different tonal centre. You can also create modal chord progressions, but as a general rule of thumb the more complicated you make things the more likely it is that everything will drift back to the relative major or minor - as far as harmony goes simpler is usually better with modes.

If you're playing on your own with no backing whatsoever then you can play modally by staying away from the major and minor roots, but in reality that's pretty hard to do. The simple fact is that modes sound "wrong" to our ears, they're harmonically unstable. We're conditioned to expect the sounds of the major and minor scales because that's what we've been listening to since we were born. So if you're using a set of notes that conforms to the structure of the major scale it's very difficult to play them another way without a reference point to remind you of the tonal centre you were trying to establish (ie a bass line or chord vamp).
Actually called Mark!

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Last edited by steven seagull at Aug 11, 2010,
#3
modes all depend on the context


thats all i have to say
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#4
Quote by dlfloyd
If I'm playing modal, since there is no tonal center
Here's somewhere you're tripping up. There IS a tonal center in modal music.

C major and C ionian have the same tonal center. The difference is that one is major and one is ionian.

In execution, the C major scale and the C ionian mode are practically the same. They both use the 7 natural notes and resolve to C. Where you can observe an immediate difference is between the key of C major and the C ionian mode. The key of C major is defined solely by it's tonic of a specific quality (C major). You can use any compositional techniques you want as long as they support the resolution to this C major tonic. In modal music, on the other hand, supporting the quality of the mode is a bit more involved. There are major and minor modes, but they're a bit more specific than that. You must use only the notes within the mode in a way that supports the quality of the mode as well as the resolution to the tonic. The "quality of the mode" is about more than just the tonic. It has to do with the other "color tones" of the mode. In lydian, you are going to want to make sure you emphasize (or at least use) the #4. That's what distinguishes it from the major scale. The color tone of phrygian is the b2. That's what distinguishes it from the natural minor scale. The list goes on.

I hope that helped a bit. If you are confused or would like to learn more, don't hesitate to ask.
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#5
Quote by food1010
Here's somewhere you're tripping up. There IS a tonal center in modal music.

C major and C ionian have the same tonal center. The difference is that one is major and one is ionian.

In execution, the C major scale and the C ionian mode are practically the same. They both use the 7 natural notes and resolve to C. Where you can observe an immediate difference is between the key of C major and the C ionian mode. The key of C major is defined solely by it's tonic of a specific quality (C major). You can use any compositional techniques you want as long as they support the resolution to this C major tonic. In modal music, on the other hand, supporting the quality of the mode is a bit more involved. There are major and minor modes, but they're a bit more specific than that. You must use only the notes within the mode in a way that supports the quality of the mode as well as the resolution to the tonic. The "quality of the mode" is about more than just the tonic. It has to do with the other "color tones" of the mode. In lydian, you are going to want to make sure you emphasize (or at least use) the #4. That's what distinguishes it from the major scale. The color tone of phrygian is the b2. That's what distinguishes it from the natural minor scale. The list goes on.

I hope that helped a bit. If you are confused or would like to learn more, don't hesitate to ask.

I knew i wasn't gonna sleep good when i was confused about this topic, i had one of those stressful dreams about understanding concepts. (if you've ever had one, i normally get them when i have fevers, which is not often)

Ok, I'm understanding a little better now
tonal is more about resolving to the tonic
where as modal is more about exploiting what makes that mode "unique" while still highlighting the tonic

how do i know the "color tones" within the modes. I'm sure it will become more clear just by listening, my musical ear has become a lot better with some ear training in months past.

but do you have any reference to a quick guide, or could you just tell me like you did with lydian and phrygian?
#6
Quote by dlfloyd
how do i know the "color tones" within the modes. I'm sure it will become more clear just by listening, my musical ear has become a lot better with some ear training in months past.

Two particularly strong colours in any scale are the 3 and 5. If there's a b3 and 5, it's a minor-type scale; if there's a b3 and b5 it's a diminished-type scale etc.

The b7 or 7 is also important, as a 3 and b7 produces a dominant 7th sound (which would involve a 5 as well, but the other two are what we particularly pick up on); b3 and 7 can produce a harmonic minor sound etc.

The 2, 4 and 6 of the scale can each dramatically alter the sound of the scale and give it a more 'particular' flavour. For example, the b2 in Phrygian, the #4 in Lydian, the b6 in Aeolian and Phrygian, or the 6 combined with a b7 in Mixolydian (with its 3) and Dorian (with its b3).

The flavour of a mode is really how the notes in it all sound off each other, kind of in comparison to the major scale. So to find the 'colour tones', you could look at how each mode differentiates from the major scale:


Ionian

1 2 3 4 5 6 7


Dorian

1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7


Phrygian

1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7


Lydian

1 2 3 #4 5 6 7


Mixolydian

1 2 3 4 5 6 b7


Aeolian

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7


Locrian

1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
#7
Yeah these guys are right. You can't really make a piece modal by using melody (ie the guitar leads using modal patters), the progression, backing track and melodies all have to suggest modal tonality together. You have the right idea down now. The best way to let yourself or your ear per se figure it out through application is modal vamps. Either that or through a drone. Sometimes, I'll take out my synth, throw on an effect that has sustain such as the strings, stick a guitar pick between two keys so it's droning one note, and solo over it with a mode. This way you don't really have a choice but to resolve to the tonic and work your way around the mode or it won't sound right otherwise. Also, you could probably listen to and analyze some Joe Satriani. he uses lydian very often
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#8
Personally i find modes easier to apply in dropped tunings. This is because when playing in say Drop D, i tend to use the low D as a drone quite a lot. This allows me to easily emphasize the D as the tonic in a modal context (my favorite is D superlocrian for dropped D). Just my 2 cents.
#9
Ok, i know one of my big problems i suppose is harmonizing music.
I've never really had anyone to play with except my guitar teacher at one point but i didn't understand the concepts of harmony, he just play a simple jazz progression and would have me solo with the pentatonic that he showed me.

where can i find some backing tracks to play to
#11
Quote by steven seagull
It's not so much about what YOU play, it's more to do with the composition as a whole. If a song has a chord progression resolving to C major then C is your tonic and there's nothing you can do to change that by soloing over the top - the only way you can change the tonic is to change the chords themselves.

Likewise for modal music a piece has to be constructed in a way that fixes the tonal centre away from the stronger pull of the relative major or minor. That's why most people will suggest playing modes over a static drone note or chord, because that's a guaranteed way to establish a different tonal centre. You can also create modal chord progressions, but as a general rule of thumb the more complicated you make things the more likely it is that everything will drift back to the relative major or minor - as far as harmony goes simpler is usually better with modes.

If you're playing on your own with no backing whatsoever then you can play modally by staying away from the major and minor roots, but in reality that's pretty hard to do. The simple fact is that modes sound "wrong" to our ears, they're harmonically unstable. We're conditioned to expect the sounds of the major and minor scales because that's what we've been listening to since we were born. So if you're using a set of notes that conforms to the structure of the major scale it's very difficult to play them another way without a reference point to remind you of the tonal centre you were trying to establish (ie a bass line or chord vamp).



I'm scared now. This is the only post that I have ever read by you that made complete sense and that I am fully in agreement with...

Are you feeling okay...?

Am I....?

Whats happening here!!??

Sean