#1
I'm trying to teach myself theory and I'm having a hard time understanding the point of modes. Why do I need to say a song is in A Dorian when I can just say its in G major?
#2
There is no point to modes. It's not G major because it doesn't resolve to G major, but it's also not A dorian. It's just the key of A minor that sometimes uses a major 6th flavor.

...modes and scales are still useless.


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#3
Quote by 757ian123
I'm trying to teach myself theory and I'm having a hard time understanding the point of modes. Why do I need to say a song is in A Dorian when I can just say its in G major?



Teaching yourself theory is going to be as difficult as it gets.

First of all, you won't say a song is in A Dorian, because it never will be.

The song would be in G Major.

The point of modes is that the central note in A dorian would be A and the G would not sound resolved. A would. This takes a skill and knowledge set way beyond most users to comprehend how to do this and why it works. Almost everything you see on modes is probably dead wrong.

Today I had an extended special lecture and we basically disseminated TrueFire's Robbie Calvo and demonstrated why even HIS Modal course was dead wrong. We only had to get as far as his Demo that went Bm7 to Amaj7, calling it B Dorian.... to blow his claims out of the water. Point is most people are dead wrong.

Best,

Sean
#4
this is modal. it goes from D dorian to Eb dorian


this is tonal, in the key of C major (goes to F in the bridge) (saying this is in D dorian is incorrect, no modality here)


hear the difference?
Last edited by SuperKid at Apr 24, 2014,
#5
Quote by SuperKid
this is modal. it goes from D dorian to Eb dorian


this is tonal, in the key of C major (goes to F in the bridge) (saying this is in D dorian is incorrect, no modality here)


hear the difference?


I'm still confused. Wouldn't Dorian in C be D Dorian anyway? So why would one think it was Dorian if it goes to F?
#6
Yes, a song can be in A dorian but the vast majority of contemporary music is tonal, so pretty much none of the songs you hear on the radio are modal. If a song was in A dorian, A would be the tonic, and that's the difference between G major and A dorian. But it is pretty usual that a song in A minor uses the A dorian scale. It doesn't make the song modal, though.

A dorian is soundwise closer to A minor than it is to G major. I wouldn't learn A dorian scale as G major with a different root. I would think it as A minor with a major 6th.

^ C major and D dorian scales share the same notes but are not the same thing, same as A minor and C major are not the same thing. Compare C dorian to C major and C dorian to C minor and you'll see the differences.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Apr 24, 2014,
#7
Quote by 757ian123
I'm still confused. Wouldn't Dorian in C be D Dorian anyway? So why would one think it was Dorian if it goes to F?

Because people learn about modes incorrectly. For some damn reason, among guitar players and bass players in particular, modes are seen as some stupid "holy grail". And this means, every idiot and their mother writes a lesson on modes, and 75% of them get it wrong.
#8
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
For some damn reason, among guitar players and bass players in particular, modes are seen as some stupid "holy grail".


What did modes ever do to you? Really. If it helps other people learn guitar, why do you care? You seem to take this very personally any time it comes up. If you don't see the point, don't use them. Simple as that.

When you say this fascination with modes is most common among guitar players, could it possibly be that there's a useful link between modes and guitar that you don't understand? And if so, are you just mad because you don't understand it? If you refuse to understand it, you only have yourself to blame for that. From what I can tell, this is the exact type of resistance (on UG especially) that makes the concept of using modal terminology seem more confusing than it really is.

Or maybe the whole idea of guitarists using modes is "stupid" or confusing to you because you're intimidated of having to learn 7 scales when you already know 2 that get the job done. (Yes, I'm talking about scales and intervals and not about roman numeral chord progressions. Deal with it.) If memorization is the issue... it's funny how the minor scale cycles through all the same intervals in exactly the same order as the major scale across multiple octaves (and every mode of the major scale, for that matter). IMO, it's a great feeling when you finally make sense of the relationship between the major scale, the 7 modes, the diatonic intervals, and the fretboard simultaneously. Being a guitarist that often plateaus, I have to say it is truly the single greatest breakthrough I've had in my 10 years of playing, and it just might help somebody else too. Best part is: there's only one scale to memorize! And it's the same major scale you already know. Can't beat that. Surely, you can treat Mixolydian as a major scale with a flat 7th. But what if you need to play Phrygian with a raised 3rd? Good luck calculating that for 3 octaves of the minor scale. You'll probably get discouraged, quit, and then whine online about how much Phrygian mode sucks. And that, to me, is what's actually stupid.


And INB4 all the "learn teh intervalz! not teh shapez!" comments... I think I know what a guitar sounds like after all this time, thank you very much. I would challenge you instead to tell me why calculating "A minor with a raised 6th" is easier than just immediately knowing how to play "A Dorian" with little effort, and also why calling it "A Dorian" makes a certain group of guitar players incredibly upset at the entire Dorian-playing world. Why bother figuring out Locrian the hard way when you can just use the intervals from a different point in the major scale? I'm sorry, but Eric Clapton doesn't just walk into your room and give you a cookie because you know the major and minor scales separately.
#9
So if learning the intervals is wrong what is the correct way?
And I'm still not getting how modes are any different if they use all the same notes. If I were to improv a solo in b phrygian how would you know its not g major when they use the same notes?
#10
Quote by 757ian123
And I'm still not getting how modes are any different if they use all the same notes. If I were to improv a solo in b phrygian how would you know its not g major when they use the same notes?


What's the root note?

And knowing the intervals is essential.

EDIT: Now that I'm on a real computer...

Your question here is similar to someone asking why C major is not the same as A minor even though they have the same notes. Think of modes as having a major key (Ionian), a minor key (Aeolian), and 5 others (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Locrian) that work the same way in that there is overlap, despite the tonal center being shifted. The Difference between G major and B Phrygian is the same difference as C major and A minor. The difference is the root note and subsequent intervals - even though the individual notes are the same in each scale.

If you want to really hear the difference between the 7 modes, play the G chord or a G note. Let it ring out (maybe record yourself or use a looper). Play the G major scale on top of that. Then G minor. Try all 7 modes of G in one octave just to get started. What makes modes worth learning is the variation from the major scale that comes from the intervals. Practice them in one octave to hear the augmented 4th in Lydian, or the minor 3rd in Aeolian/Dorian/Phrygian/Locrian.

Why guitar players find this useful as opposed to piano or wind players is that the fretboard is a very chromatic instrument by comparison. A flute player might have to learn one new major scale for every root note, whereas guitar players can learn one major "shape" derived from consistent intervals. Don't go crazy learning 12 Dorian scales on a flute. Do learn the major scale inside and out on a guitar. One major shape on a fretboard yields 7 modes from any one of 12 keys. One shape = 84 scales. You're welcome.
Last edited by cjohnson122989 at May 3, 2014,
#11
Quote by 757ian123
So if learning the intervals is wrong what is the correct way?
And I'm still not getting how modes are any different if they use all the same notes. If I were to improv a solo in b phrygian how would you know its not g major when they use the same notes?


Someone else mentioned this above, but you could ask the same question as: If I'm improvising a solo in A minor how do I know its not C major? It's all about the tonic.

It's also all about how you use the chords and the ways that they lead to each other. For example, one very common progression is a I IV V. This is because the I leads very nicely to the IV, the IV to the V, and the V ultimately resolves to the tonic I. This also sounds like a major progression, rather than a minor one.

I'd suggest before getting into modes to just learn a bit about the relative minor. I started by mentioning this at the start of the post, but A is the relative minor of C major. This means that if you play the scale C major but starting on the A, it can be considered a minor scale (but also has it's own modal name). In other words, by using the same chords you could make a minor feel, all because the chords are leading to each other in a different way and ultimately resolving on the root.

For example, a progression I like to play is Amin-Cmaj7-Gmaj-Dmin/Emin. What you should notice is that all of these chords are in the C major scale, but when you play them together they sound very minor rather than major. If you were to think of it in the minor scale, it is i-IIImaj7-VII-iv/v

You'll notice that in this same progression that at the end we still have a iv to the v to the i. But in this case the i is A minor. I honestly just played this progression and didn't think about the actual numbers of chords and how they lead, but its an interesting thought.

I would agree with some people that modes aren't necessarily the most useful thing for someone who doesn't know a whole lot about music theory. I would agree that they can be extremely useful for really advanced players, but there are a lot of important things I'd recommend learning first (just from my experience):

1) Chord theory, what makes it major, minor, dominant 7, etc.
2) Learning how chords lead to each other naturally, i.e. the V goes to the I, I goes to the IV. or even ii-V-I
3) Learn some basic scales, C major, A minor, the major and minor pentatonics, blues scales
4) Play simple progressions and attempt to solo over them using these basic scales
5) Learn more advanced chord leading, i.e. deceptive resolutions, sub and secondary dominants (just starting to learn about this)

If you get to that point, you'll already be able to make up a pretty decent song and even solo over it, which is what I'm assuming you're interested in. More advanced modes will more likely confuse you more than help as far as I can tell.

Edit: cjohnson also explained this pretty well as far as the Aminor vs. C major bit
Last edited by sarcoplasm at Apr 25, 2014,
#12
I think I get what you guys are saying.

I'm currently reading a music theory book so I'm just starting to learn this stuff. I've already done chord theory and progressions, but the book teaches modes before regular scales and I want to go through it in order. And yeah the reason I'm doing all this is because I want to learn how to improvise in a band situation, which I'm currently terrible at doing. Thanks for all the help so far.
#13
^^^ The book sounds horrible.

If you want to improvise over a song all you really need is:

1. To be able to identify the key of a song by ear.
2. The major and minor scales.

This way you can listen to a song, say "hey thats in E major", and then you play the E major scale over it. Anything to do with modes before this point (or arguably even after) is needlessly complicating the path.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#14
Quote by cjohnson122989
What did modes ever do to you? Really. If it helps other people learn guitar, why do you care? You seem to take this very personally any time it comes up. If you don't see the point, don't use them. Simple as that.

When you say this fascination with modes is most common among guitar players, could it possibly be that there's a useful link between modes and guitar that you don't understand? And if so, are you just mad because you don't understand it? If you refuse to understand it, you only have yourself to blame for that. From what I can tell, this is the exact type of resistance (on UG especially) that makes the concept of using modal terminology seem more confusing than it really is.

Or maybe the whole idea of guitarists using modes is "stupid" or confusing to you because you're intimidated of having to learn 7 scales when you already know 2 that get the job done. (Yes, I'm talking about scales and intervals and not about roman numeral chord progressions. Deal with it.) If memorization is the issue... it's funny how the minor scale cycles through all the same intervals in exactly the same order as the major scale across multiple octaves (and every mode of the major scale, for that matter). IMO, it's a great feeling when you finally make sense of the relationship between the major scale, the 7 modes, the diatonic intervals, and the fretboard simultaneously. Being a guitarist that often plateaus, I have to say it is truly the single greatest breakthrough I've had in my 10 years of playing, and it just might help somebody else too. Best part is: there's only one scale to memorize! And it's the same major scale you already know. Can't beat that. Surely, you can treat Mixolydian as a major scale with a flat 7th. But what if you need to play Phrygian with a raised 3rd? Good luck calculating that for 3 octaves of the minor scale. You'll probably get discouraged, quit, and then whine online about how much Phrygian mode sucks. And that, to me, is what's actually stupid.


And INB4 all the "learn teh intervalz! not teh shapez!" comments... I think I know what a guitar sounds like after all this time, thank you very much. I would challenge you instead to tell me why calculating "A minor with a raised 6th" is easier than just immediately knowing how to play "A Dorian" with little effort, and also why calling it "A Dorian" makes a certain group of guitar players incredibly upset at the entire Dorian-playing world. Why bother figuring out Locrian the hard way when you can just use the intervals from a different point in the major scale? I'm sorry, but Eric Clapton doesn't just walk into your room and give you a cookie because you know the major and minor scales separately.

Thinking dorian as a minor with a major 6th just tells more about how it works than thinking it as a major scale starting with a different note.

It is not incorrect to call the scale dorian. But I think it helps you understand all these scales easier if you just see how they differ from each other. How A minor differs from A major and A dorian from A mixo, etc.

I don't think A minor as C major with a different root. I used to think that way but noticed it just doesn't work for me. I think A minor as a scale with a minor third, minor sixth and minor seventh (all other intervals are perfect or major). This just makes you understand the differences between different scales. Because scales aren't just patterns on the fretboard. They also have their own sound (and this is what matters the most). And intervals tell the differences between the sounds.

But this modal stuff is widely misunderstood. Modes aren't everywhere. It's not common for a song to be in A dorian or G mixolydian. It is common to use accidentals (that are easy to understand if you know the intervals).
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#15
Quote by MaggaraMarine
Thinking dorian as a minor with a major 6th just tells more about how it works than thinking it as a major scale starting with a different note.

This is what confused me for years........

UNTIL someone told me it's not a major scale STARTING ON a different note, but a major scale RESOLVING to a different note. In Dorian, instead of I, ii is the home base. What you get is a scale identical to a natural minor #6 scale. You can treat it as such.

But yeah, I've never actually composed modal music (except for Fux's modal counterpoint exercises) I just use the modes tonally aka. major and minor scales with accidentals.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Apr 26, 2014,
#16
Quote by Elintasokas
This is what confused me for years........

UNTIL someone told me it's not a major scale STARTING ON a different note, but a major scale RESOLVING to a different note. In Dorian, instead of I, ii is the home base. What you get is a scale identical to a natural minor #6 scale. You can treat it as such.

Same with me. I didn't understand the "point of modes" before I understood this. I also thought minor scale as a major scale starting on a different note but now I have started treating it as a completely different scale.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#17
Quote by Elintasokas
This is what confused me for years........

UNTIL someone told me it's not a major scale STARTING ON a different note, but a major scale RESOLVING to a different note. In Dorian, instead of I, ii is the home base. What you get is a scale identical to a natural minor #6 scale. You can treat it as such.


I don't see the advantage of calling an ii the home if it is not home (it HAS to be i), or comparing dorian to a major scale when it has more in common with the minor scale.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#18
I actually agree a little with everyone on modes here...

I totally see how the minor is a minor 3rd, minor 6th and minor 7th also,
but man! what a long way of explaining it (regardless of wether technically correct or not), just saying natural minor or aeolian suits me much better (unless there's something people here aren't sharing).

I think of dorian (note I didn't say dorian "mode") as more of a scale/pattern (ie: conjures up a minor 3rd with a major 6th and minor 7th immediately) and don't veiw it as a mode in the strictest sense of the word, except for when appropriately being used in it's truest modal context.

CONTEXT being the opperative word here!

Nothing more unenlightening to me that someone describing a minor 3rd with a major 6th and minor 7th as "minor or major with accidentals" (wtf?) for fear of being "technically incorrect" who care's, dorian's easier to understand for me, and doesn't make it necessarily modal... again, context!

If there is a better/quicker more efficient way of saying Minor 3rd with a major 6th and minor 7th as opposed to just saying dorian (in context) then please, do share!

Hoping this is not too off thread?
Last edited by tonibet72 at Apr 26, 2014,
#19
^ No, there's nothing wrong with referring to that scale as the dorian scale because that's what it is. But using the dorian scale doesn't make your music modal (as you pointed out in your post).
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#20
Quote by 757ian123
I'm trying to teach myself theory and I'm having a hard time understanding the point of modes. Why do I need to say a song is in A Dorian when I can just say its in G major?


Understanding modes helps you understand intervals better and provides a vocabulary for certain sounds. Lydian has a sound, dorian has a sound, phrygian has a sound etc.

If you're interested in composing or improvising, then understanding the modes will provide you with more options. It can also help develop your ear and make learning songs by ear easier.

Research songs that have melodies or solos built around a given mode to get an idea for how they can be used in context.
#21
Quote by tonibet72
Nothing more unenlightening to me that someone describing a minor 3rd with a major 6th and minor 7th as "minor or major with accidentals" (wtf?) for fear of being "technically incorrect" who care's, dorian's easier to understand for me, and doesn't make it necessarily modal... again, context!

If there is a better/quicker more efficient way of saying Minor 3rd with a major 6th and minor 7th as opposed to just saying dorian (in context) then please, do share!

Hoping this is not too off thread?


Nah it's fine. As mentioned above, calling certain patterns of accidentals the dorian scale is fine, just as valid as referring to the blues scale.

The main issue with bringing up modes (on UG anyway) is that it's not always clear what is being referred to.

For example if someone says "play the E phrygian mode" it could mean:

1. Play an E minor scale with a b2 in the key of E minor.
2. Play an E minor scale with a b2 in the key of A minor.
3. Play a C major scale starting on the 12th fret.
4. Play a C major scale starting on E.
5. Play a C major scale "resolving" to E.
6. Play an E phrygian vamp (eg. E-Fmaj7 x forever)
7. Play a chord progression that uses chords diatonic to C major but starts and ends on E minor.
8. Play a chord progression that uses chords diatonic to C major but "resolves" to E minor.

And there's a lot more definitions running around. Obviously some of these methods above are more valid than others, but everyone is really hard set in their ways and won't budge from which of the above they believe to be the "true" mode.

At least everyone can agree on the notes/intervals that are employed by each mode. The issue is always with the application.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#22
To answer OP's question, the most likely reason something would be in A Dorian instead of G Major is because you are using Am as your tonic chord, but using the borrowed IV of Dmaj a lot, which contains an F#. This is an incredibly common move, especially in early western music.

Most people on this forum dont know shit about modes for better or worse, and pretend no one needs to learn about them. Truth is, modes have pretty specific rules that are easy to find out about. For ****s sake, there are entire treatises written on how to use modes.

Modes are like scales, they just have different chord functions. Also, what kind of idiot would say that the harmonic minor scale has the same function as the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale?

^AlanHB, modes as we know them go back to early church music. During this time, most composers played organs and harpsichords. Equal Temperament didnt exist yet, so the distance between half steps was not equal (A major sounded different than E Major because of the distribution of the Pythagorean comma. On top of this, organs were tuned differently from each other. Harpsichords need to be tuned every 6-8 hours of playing, and composers certainly experimented with tuning systems.

Due to all these reasons, I would strongly recommend anyone think of a phrygian scale as a collection of notes with a half step, a minor third, a perfect fourth, etc. Specifically thinking of modes as patterns based on the fretboard is a guitar players luxury
Last edited by bassalloverthe at Apr 28, 2014,
#23
Quote by bassalloverthe
To answer OP's question, the most likely reason something would be in A Dorian instead of G Major is because you are using Am as your tonic chord, but using the borrowed IV of Dmaj a lot, which contains an F#.

^^^AlanHB, modes as we know them go back to early church music. During this time, most composers played organs and harpsichords. Equal Temperament didnt exist yet, so the distance between half steps was not equal (A major sounded different than E Major because of the distribution of the Pythagorean comma. On top of this, organs were tuned differently from each other. Harpsichords need to be tuned every 6-8 hours of playing, and composers certainly experimented with tuning systems.


Thanks, I was simply listing the most common versions of modes on this site. Not all are valid. For example simply because a D major chord features in an A minor progression does not mean that the progression is in A dorian.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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