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#1
Forward: SORRY THIS IS SO LONG

I have done all too much reading around about modes both on UG and elsewhere on the net and like many authoritative threads state; there is tons of misinformation.

I have partially read some of the really advanced threads like that from Peguin / JRF explaining modality / tonality and the history behind it all. But I just want to get down to the nitty gritty and get a both simple understanding, but applicable knowledge of how to use modes without too much over-complication, as well as how to best memorize them.

From what I understand there are 7 modes. OK. 2 of them I already know; Ionion (major scale) and Aeolian (minor scale) so I'm not concerned with these. I also am not concerned with Locrian because from a lot of my readings they suggest to me that this mode is not particularly useful in almost any context except maybe some really advanced Jazz or Metal compositions which I am not interested in.

So this leaves me with trying to understand these four modes:

ii: Dorian
iii: Phryigian
IV: Lydian
V: Mixolydian

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So here are the questions: (and I will use the Mixolydian mode as my main mode, and C major as my general key questioning because I am mostly studying the blues and the blues which have a lot of Dominant 7 (b7's) in their progressions (which the Mixolydian mode has). So lets just stick with that for now.


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1. I understand that these modes correlate to the degrees of a scale, correct?
so in C:

D-Dorian = ii of C
E-Phrygian = iii of C
F-Lydian = IV of C
G-Mixolydian = V of C

so in this context. IS IT PROPER to say that in the context of playing a mode over a C major progression, like if I say C mixolydian over a C major progression, this would be incorrect? (because c major does not have a b7) It would be correct to say I am playing G mixolydian over a C major progression? And so in each context of a key you call the mode by its corresponding scale degree? (G mixo = 5th of C, and so over a C progression, to play mixolydian you would call it G mixolydian), .... (so you wont play C-mixo over a C progression, because C-mixo is actually the 5th of F, and C mixo would be played over an F major progression?)

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2. (and most likely an over simplification) ..
so in a C major progression, to play the G mixolydian mode (which is the V or 5th degree of the C major scale) you would basically be playing the C major scale starting on the note G, because (mixolydian is a major scale with a b7) and G major with a b7 are the same notes as the C major scale.... Correct? So G mixolydian notes are the same as the C major scale but starting on the note G.

because--------C maj = C,D,E,F,G,A,B
1,2,3,4,5,6,7

and------G-mixolydian= G,A,B,C,D,E,F
---------------------------1,2,3,4,5,6,b7

(same notes)

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3. Ok so if the true is above, what confuses me is in the context of say a C major progression, why would you say you are playing G mixolydian, instead of C mixolydian? is this because it just goes back to the scale degrees concept, that G = 5th of C, and the Mixolydian mode = 5th degree of a tonic? So C mixolydian would actually be played over an F major progression, because C is the 5th of F?


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4. (in limited terms and application) Can you use the same mode over a whole progression? like can I play G-Mixolydian over a C major progression like C7-Am-F7-G7 progression? since there are dominant 7th chords in that progression which mixolydian supposedly works over because of its b7th scale degree? OR would the mixolydian mode not work as well over the Am chord and so I would want to either go back to C major, or use an Am pentatonic or something?

Basically, is it best to use 1 mode per chord that it works over, or can you actually do a solo in a mode over a whole progression as long as each chord in the progression has the notes of the mode you're using? (or obviously both, but what considerations do I have to take into account? just theoretically)


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5. In the context of soloing, are you trying to highlight the degree that makes the mode? As in if you solo in Mixolydian are you trying to emphasize that b7 or simply the fact that the Mode starts on different notes over the progression (aka G mixo starts on G over a C major progression)

----


6. FINAL QUESTION: What are the best ways to memorize modes? I have heard 2 ways.

-----1. Memorize the mode as an independant scale. Memorize G mixolydian, and make mental note then that it works over Dominant 7th chords, and also in the key of C. But does G mixolydian apply to outside the C major scale, or would you use a different Mixolydian scale over a different progression of chords or key.

-----2. Memorize the mode as its parallel scale... that is (G mixolydian is simply relative the C major and is thus the same notes as C major (C major = G major with the F natural which equals G mixolydian) and then in this case if I want to play G mixolydian, should I just say (OK, G = the 5th of C, so play C major starting on G, and emphasize the b7 over chords where a b7 is used?) But then this gets into remembering chord tones and colors, so it would make sense to use the first method of memorizing the mode as an independant scale... but then again in order to properly utilize the mode you have to remember what relative chords it works over?
Last edited by twitcherzx at Sep 5, 2015,
#2
Moved to MT as modes aren't a technique
Actually called Mark!

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#3
Looks like a candidate for further redirection:
https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1042392
If you've really read all that, you may need to go through it again - or the stickie needs rewriting!! - because there's still fundamental misunderstandings governing your whole post.

(No time now, but I may try and address the questions later. But be prepared for many other excellent - if possible exasperated - answers shortly....)
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 5, 2015,
#4
Quote by twitcherzx


1. I understand that these modes correlate to the degrees of a scale, correct?
so in C:

D-Dorian = ii of C
E-Phrygian = iii of C
F-Lydian = IV of C
G-Mixolydian = V of C

so in this context. IS IT PROPER to say that in the context of playing a mode over a C major progression, like if I say C mixolydian over a C major progression, this would be incorrect? (because c major does not have a b7) It would be correct to say I am playing G mixolydian over a C major progression? And so in each context of a key you call the mode by its corresponding scale degree? (G mixo = 5th of C, and so over a C progression, to play mixolydian you would call it G mixolydian), .... (so you wont play C-mixo over a C progression, because C-mixo is actually the 5th of F, and C mixo would be played over an F major progression?)



No. Over a C major progression you're playing in C (NOT G) so it will be C something.

If the tonic chord is C major and you play the notes of G mixolydian then C will sound like the tonic. Thus you would simply be playing C major.

The tonal centre needs to be G for it to be considered G mixolydian.

Rather than focusing on the RELATIVE modes focus on the PARALLEL modes.

C Ionian
C Mixolydian
C Lydian.

Play around in the C Pentatonic scale for a while.
Then play around with the full C major scale.

Then play around in with C pentatonic for a while.
Then include the 4 and b7 and play around with the mixolydian mode for a while.

Then play around with the C pentatonic for a while.
Then include the #4 and 7 to play around with the Lydian mode for a while.

Try to listen to the differences that these notes make.

Similarly use the C minor pentatonic and the C Aeolian then Dorian and Phrygian modes.

When doing this use a backing track that is just a C bass grove or a C major chord vamp.
Si
#5
G mixolydian is the same notes as C major, and playing it over a C major progression will always sound like C major, not G mixolydian. (In other words, you can't really play G mixolydian over C major, because it will sound like C major - you are not really playing G mixolydian.)

To sound like G mixolydian, G needs to be your tonic. If you don't know what tonic is or how to find it, you need to learn about keys.

G mixolydian has nothing to do with C major, other than it just happens to have the same notes. It's more close to G major than C major soundwise.

Think about C major vs G mixolydian the same way as C major vs A minor. A song in A minor is not in C major. You can hear when a song is in a minor key, right? A minor is not C major, even though the key scales have the same notes. You can't play A minor over C major progression and expect it to sound like A minor, because the progression itself sounds like C major. It's harmony over melody. Harmony is what defines the key. If there are no chords, it's about the "implied harmony" of your melody. It's still all about harmony.

I would suggest learning about keys before starting to learn about modes. Learn the difference between major and minor, and it will be a lot easier to understand the modes.


As said above, focus on parallel modes rather than relative modes to understand them better. Compare C major to C mixolydian and C lydian. They are just one note different from C major. Compare C minor to C dorian and C phrygian. Again, they are both just one note different from C minor.

Mixolydian is not C major starting on G. Mixolydian is a major scale with a b7.


When to use G mixolydian? Well, there are two ways of thinking about it. There's CST, Chord Scale Theory. What CST means is, all chords are treated as 13 chords. A 13 chord has 7 notes in it - this means you can build a seven note scale from any 13 chord. This basically means chord = scale.

But CST causes a lot of confusion. People start using it too early when they don't understand keys and chord functions yet, and start applying it to simple diatonic chord progressions like Am-Dm7-G7-C. Because this progression is completely diatonic, it makes no sense to think in four different scales (that are the same notes) when you could just think in one scale. CST starts making a lot more sense when the chord progression has a lot of non diatonic chords in it.

CST is not the same thing as modes. It just refers to the chord scales with mode names (because it's easier to understand "play G mixolydian over G7" than "play C major over G7" - chord root = scale root, that's just more simple).


The other way of using G mixolydian (not as a chord scale) is if the track you are playing over is actually in G mixolydian (which is less common). This will give you an actual G mixolydian sound. An actual G mixolydian progression would look something like this: G-F-G-F-G-F x infinity.

Jet Penguin talked about "modal frameworks" in his thread, so read that again if you are interested.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Sep 6, 2015,
#6
The most important thing you can do with modes is forget where they originated from. It really is irrelevant that G Mixolydian is found in the C major scale. That doesn't help you.

You need to learn how to bring out the sound of a scale (mode) centered around the pitch you choose to build that scale from. So, in Bb Mixolydian, you need to learn how to create music that draws attention to the Bb over time, primarily using the intervals in the Mixolydian scale.

You can do this using chord progression away from and back to Bb (using the chords in the Mix scale. e.g. Bb11 Gm7 Abmaj7 Bb11 Fm7 Cm7 ... repeated) and through melodic use of (some of) the scale (e.g Bb maj pentatonic).
#7
Quote by twitcherzx
I have done all too much reading around about modes both on UG and elsewhere on the net and like many authoritative threads state; there is tons of misinformation.
You won't find any here!
(Well let's say it's highly unlikely....)
Quote by twitcherzx

From what I understand there are 7 modes. OK. 2 of them I already know; Ionion (major scale) and Aeolian (minor scale) so I'm not concerned with these. I also am not concerned with Locrian because from a lot of my readings they suggest to me that this mode is not particularly useful in almost any context except maybe some really advanced Jazz or Metal compositions which I am not interested in.
Fair enough.
Ionian = major key (essentially)
Aeolian = minor key (essentially)
Locrian = almost never used for writing music of any kind

Quote by twitcherzx

So this leaves me with trying to understand these four modes:

ii: Dorian
iii: Phryigian
IV: Lydian
V: Mixolydian
The original four medieval modes! (But no need to go there. Modern mode usage is very different from medieval modal practice.)
Quote by twitcherzx

So here are the questions: (and I will use the Mixolydian mode as my main mode, and C major as my general key questioning because I am mostly studying the blues and the blues which have a lot of Dominant 7 (b7's) in their progressions (which the Mixolydian mode has). So lets just stick with that for now.
OK...
Quote by twitcherzx

1. I understand that these modes correlate to the degrees of a scale, correct?
Yes, in one sense. But that's "relative" modes, and is only a way of deriving them. Not a way of using them.
Quote by twitcherzx
so in this context. IS IT PROPER to say that in the context of playing a mode over a C major progression, like if I say C mixolydian over a C major progression, this would be incorrect?
No, that's correct. It means flattening the 7th, and will give you a (slightly) bluesy flavour.
Quote by twitcherzx

It would be correct to say I am playing G mixolydian over a C major progression?
No. See above (the excellent replies I knew you'd get ).
I'm just throwing in my $0.02 here... (sorry it's a LONG $0.02... )

That is, you "can" play "G mixolydian over a C major progression" if you like, but (a) it won't sound mixolydian, and (b) it's hard to know exactly what you mean by that anyway.
You'll be playing the C major scale notes, right? The note you start on, or the lowest note of your pattern, is neither here nor there. There is no such thing as a G mixolydian fret pattern (in case that's what you were thinking).
Of course you can start or end phrases on G, or otherwise accent the G note, but it will just sound like C major (C ionian if you like) with an accent on the 5th. That could be a good sound, but it's not a mixolydian sound.

IOW, this is not about what you can and can't do, or about what sounds good or bad, but simply about using the correct terms for whatever it is you're doing, or want to do. So as to avoid confusion!

Where you WILL get a G mixolydian sound is on the G chord - at least for as long as that chord lasts. But then you'd get that sound however you played the C major scale. And the G chord is not likely to last long enough to establish itself as a tonal centre. Much more likely it will just sound like V in C major.
Quote by twitcherzx
G mixolydian notes are the same as the C major scale but starting on the note G.
Correct, but as I said, that's just a way of deriving the mode, and spelling it, or writing it out. Nothing to do with how you use it in music.
Quote by twitcherzx

Basically, is it best to use 1 mode per chord that it works over, or can you actually do a solo in a mode over a whole progression as long as each chord in the progression has the notes of the mode you're using? (or obviously both, but what considerations do I have to take into account? just theoretically)
What makes you think modes are a solution to this question anyway?
Who told you that you needed (or even could) "apply" modes in a context like a major key progression?
Modes are not things you "apply" to chord progressions.
They are not a method of improvisation - not if correctly defined.
What they are is a method of composition, outside of keys. As mentioned above. G mixolydian is not "in the key of C". If it's in a key at all (and some would dispute that, by definition) it's the key of G. G major with a b7.

When the music itself is modal, then yes you "use modes". But only in the sense you "use keys" when playing a key-based progression.
IOW, you simply use the material the music presents you with. Don't try to apply any kind of concept (or scale) from outside. Just identify what is already there.

In modal music (in jazz at least), you may get a different mode on each chord. But the chord symbol (and/or melody) will normally tell you which one.

In non-modal music (key-based or functional), you might get modal sounds on each chord, if they last long enough; but they are incidental and irrelevant. If you use the key scale, they happen anyway, outside of your control. There no point or sense in labelling each chord modally.

They are certainly grey areas now and then, in blues and rock music. But the rule is always: use what the song gives you (whatever you want to call it).

[cont. below]
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 6, 2015,
#8
Quote by twitcherzx

6. FINAL QUESTION: What are the best ways to memorize modes? I have heard 2 ways.

-----1. Memorize the mode as an independant scale. Memorize G mixolydian, and make mental note then that it works over Dominant 7th chords, and also in the key of C. But does G mixolydian apply to outside the C major scale, or would you use a different Mixolydian scale over a different progression of chords or key.

-----2. Memorize the mode as its parallel scale... that is (G mixolydian is simply relative the C major and is thus the same notes as C major (C major = G major with the F natural which equals G mixolydian) and then in this case if I want to play G mixolydian, should I just say (OK, G = the 5th of C, so play C major starting on G, and emphasize the b7 over chords where a b7 is used?) But then this gets into remembering chord tones and colors, so it would make sense to use the first method of memorizing the mode as an independant scale... but then again in order to properly utilize the mode you have to remember what relative chords it works over?
OK - and sorry if I'm repeating some of the above answers, but your definitions are wrong:

Relative modes or scales are those that share the same notes. Eg, C major, A minor (aeolian), D dorian, G mixolydian, etc. Deriving modes in this way is a common beginner process - and actually has some historical validity, as the original medieval modes were relative. But it has little or no musical value today.

Parallel modes or scales are those that share a keynote, but with different scale structures built on them. C major, C minor, C dorian, C mixolydian.
In modern mode usage, the latter is by far the best way to begin to understand them.

This is because "mode mixture" is a very common practice in modern music, especially rock music
If you've ever seen a song in E major which contains chords like D or G as well as A and B, then you've seen mode mixture in action. You will find way more instances of D chords in E major than you will the diatonic vii chord D#dim.
This is not because rock musicians have all learned from books that explain mode mixture and tell them that's how to write rock songs! They hear D chords in E major (and maybe G, C or Am too) and know it sounds cool, and that's enough.

But if you want to understand how to apply theory to those kind of songs (there's really no need, but you might be curious ), then parallel modes is the way to go:

E ionian = E major key (not just scale, but key)
E mixolydian = E major key with b7
E lydian = E major key with #4
E aeolian = E minor key *
E dorian = E minor key with major 6th
E phyrian = E minor key with b2

(*The conventional minor key actually incorporates occasional alterations, raising the 7th of the scale in particular. This is known as "harmonic minor" - not a scale in its own right, merely a temporary alteration of the key scale within a minor key song, mainly to provide a major V chord and a melodic "leading tone". Sometimes the 6th is also raised, which is known as melodic minor. Again, not a scale in its own right - except in jazz theory - but an occasional alteration of natural minor.)

You may well get some songs written entirely in one mode, but that's rare. More often you have major key tunes which show additions from parallel mixolydian, dorian or aeolian. Or minor key tunes with chords from dorian or harmonic minor as well as aeolian.
In fact, if - in a major key - you only borrow chords from parallel aeolian, then you include all the possibilities from mixolydian and dorian too. Hence the other term for this practice: "borrowing from the parallel minor":
E major key chords: E F#m G#m A B C#m D#dim
Chords that are often borrowed from E minor: D, G, C, Am.

Once again, the musicians that write songs in this way may never have heard of "mode mixture", and might never have even heard of modes. They know from experience (listening to older songs) that it all works. That the idea of a "key" is not limited to the narrow diatonic definition found in (beginner) theory books - which they probably haven't read anyway.
It's the theorist's problem to give names to that kind of (common) practice. It's not the composer's problem - and nor is it the improviser's problem!

The question I always come back to, in response to questions like yours (and they're common ) is: why do you think modes will help you? Why do you want to know how or when to "apply" them? What has persuaded you that modes are any kind of answer or solution to how to improvise?
Maybe some youtube, made by a musician who ought to know better, because they're forgetting all the basic stuff they take for granted?
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 6, 2015,
#9
Quote by twitcherzx


From what I understand there are 7 modes. OK. 2 of them I already know; Ionion (major scale) and Aeolian (minor scale) so I'm not concerned with these. I also am not concerned with Locrian because from a lot of my readings they suggest to me that this mode is not particularly useful in almost any context except maybe some really advanced Jazz or Metal compositions which I am not interested in.
well, why the heck not use Locrian, as long as you can convince your audience that B diminished is a resolution to anything. (Working in the notes of the C major scale, of course).


In rock, and in blues, a b7 is used quite often. You'll see an E, A, D progression all through the Stones, "Sympathy for the Devil", yet the key signature is written as E. I suppose you could argue that is a mixolydian "motif". But in reality, it's just the way old blues guys and rockers do stuff. The song does seem to chug along in A major, but then @ "pleased to meet you", the big B major V chord hits you in the face with a dose of reality. It's a fairly common device to resolve a b7 chord to a V.

It is sort of folly to try to attach modal theory to basic blues anyway. Since "the blues", doesn't even adhere to standard diatonic theory. Accordingly, where's your point of reference? I mean you're very often playing minor scales over major chords anyway.l
#10
^Cuz Locrian isn't a thing you can readily use. Anything you play in B locrian is going to sound like it's in E Phrygian 90% of the time because you have no P5 in the scale. Obviously there's exceptions...

Great advice in this thread so far, props to MAg for the mode thread shoutout. OP, you should really give this a read. But to answer your questions as basically as possible, you have a few answers.

1. When you're in a key, play in that key. When you're in a mode (which you aren't), play in that mode. Period.

2. You can take individual chords and attack them with something called chord scale theory. To use your blues idea as an example, if we had:

C7 - F7 - G7

We're doing a blues in C, so we could just deal with that the "normal" way, generalizing the harmony with C major and minor pentatonic scales (AKA EVERY classic rock solo ever).

OR we could use CST and match each chord with a resultant scale, without getting too much into it, the "vanilla" (meaning least "outside" and most normal) sound for a Dom7 chord is a Mixolydian scale.

So you'd use C mixo over the C7, F mixo over the F7, etc.

^Now, doing that (and this is important) does NOT make the music modal. We're still just jamming on a simple blues in C.

Lemme know if that makes sense, hopefully that combined with the excellent posts above should clear everything up. And go read that thread.
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#11
Thank ALL of you, you have cleared up basically my most confused conceptions on the matter. I have been slowly but steadily trying to understand modes just for the increase in my theory knowledge as a Musician and this all helped tons.
#12
Quote by twitcherzx
Thank ALL of you, you have cleared up basically my most confused conceptions on the matter. I have been slowly but steadily trying to understand modes just for the increase in my theory knowledge as a Musician and this all helped tons.
It's good to be curious about theory, but it makes little sense to study something you don't know the sound of. Ideally, you would be doing it the other way round: listening to music, finding a sound you didn't understand, and then asking questions about it - because a theoretical description would (hopefully!) help make sense of it.

The other reason for studying theory is if you're bored with what you currently play, and want some reliable new direction to explore (without just random noodling).
But the same injunction applies - make sure you know what each concept sounds like, ideally in a real musical context (not just some youtube demo, but an actual recorded tune or song). Then you will know whether it is indeed a sound you like and want to explore further. It would be quite common for some concepts to mean little or nothing to you even when you heard them - if they only applied to a kind of music you weren't much interested in (yet...).
In this case, you want to understand modes? Then find some modal music first. (Examples provided on request )

Oh yeah, there is a third reason - simple curiosity! Theory can make a fascinating topic in its own right, beyond any personal musical application. But it's important to bear in mind that while that knowledge will (if properly understood) increase your overall musicianship, it won't necessarily make you a better player.
Becoming a better player is all about practice - training the ear and the fingers. Reading theory is not going to do that. Knowing the names for what you're doing is obviously helpful (and should be interesting), but is not essential.
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 7, 2015,
#13
Quote by jongtr
...[ ]....(*The conventional minor key actually incorporates occasional alterations, raising the 7th of the scale in particular. This is known as "harmonic minor" - not a scale in its own right, merely a temporary alteration of the key scale within a minor key song, mainly to provide a major V chord and a melodic "leading tone". Sometimes the 6th is also raised, which is known as melodic minor. Again, not a scale in its own right - except in jazz theory - but an occasional alteration of natural minor.)
I would argue that the "harmonic minor" is certainly a scale in its own right, and damned near a key. This is because it alters the harmonic structure of the key of A natural minor, replacing the Em V chord, with an E major V chord. Which supplies a major key type "leading tone" (G# the 3rd of E major is now a natural 7th, as opposed to the b7th of Em). It causes the resolution to the tonic, to be a much smoother event..
#14
Quote by Captaincranky
I would argue that the "harmonic minor" is certainly a scale in its own right, and damned near a key. This is because it alters the harmonic structure of the key of A natural minor, replacing the Em V chord, with an E major V chord. Which supplies a major key type "leading tone" (G# the 3rd of E major is now a natural 7th, as opposed to the b7th of Em). It causes the resolution to the tonic, to be a much smoother event..


I'm pretty sure Yngwie Malmsteen would agree with you!

Out of interest, what's your definition of "Key"?
#15
Quote by Captaincranky
I would argue that the "harmonic minor" is certainly a scale in its own right, and damned near a key. This is because it alters the harmonic structure of the key of A natural minor, replacing the Em V chord, with an E major V chord. Which supplies a major key type "leading tone" (G# the 3rd of E major is now a natural 7th, as opposed to the b7th of Em). It causes the resolution to the tonic, to be a much smoother event..
Right (although I might quibble pedantically about your use of "natural" and "b7" )

But I regard that as part of the entity we call "the minor key" - in which the 6th and 7th degrees are variable
IOW, most of the harmony (and melody) in a minor key is derived form the natural minor scale; save for the V and viidim chords, which are harmonic minor. "Harmonic" minor being so-called because of the way it enhances the harmonic strength of the cadence.
In that sense, harmonic minor is an occasional alteration of natural minor, to provide exactly the effect you describe. (We only need that effect when approaching the tonic chord.)
The same applies to the traditional use of melodic minor - ascending only - because it's only required when ascending to the tonic. It can be used when descending too, but it's optional there and less common. Otherwise, when descending, the natural minor scale is (conventionally) preferred - if only because it sounds more "minor". (And a b6 resolves better to 5 than a major 6.)

Of course, we can extract harmonic minor (and melodic minor) as complete scales in their own right. But you don't often find pieces written entirely in one or the other. I'm not aware of any, and would like to know some! (I do know plenty with strong harmonic minor content, but not exclusively.) I'm disregarding the kind of Yngwie-inspired players who just like jamming in harmonic minor.
I'm also aware phrygian dominant is a common sound in flamenco and other gypsy musics. I guess I'm after songs outside that tradition that are exclusively - or even wholly - written in harmonic minor.
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 7, 2015,
#16
blues is about feel. you ain't playin blues if you're thinkin about anything but the bitch who fucked your best friend and ran off with all your money
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#18
Quote by jongtr
Right (although I might quibble pedantically about your use of "natural" and "b7" )
Every time scales or modes are explained here in MT, they are based on the intervals of the, and in relation to, the major scale. For example, Phrygian has a "b2". If a note isn't flat or sharp it's "natural". Since, the major scale interval is a semitone from 8va to 7th, that should become a "natural seventh", for purposes of a discussion here.

Keep in mind, the way beginners are introduced to 7th chords, and the way they are notated, might lead you to believe that a b7th chord, is a "natural 7th", but that's just an idiosyncrasy of the language, or "idiomatic musical expression". So yeah, I could go all pedantic right back at ya....!

Quote by jongtr
But I regard that as part of the entity we call "the minor key" - in which the 6th and 7th degrees are variable
IOW, most of the harmony (and melody) in a minor key is derived form the natural minor scale; save for the V and viidim chords, which are harmonic minor. "Harmonic" minor being so-called because of the way it enhances the harmonic strength of the cadence.
In that sense, harmonic minor is an occasional alteration of natural minor, to provide exactly the effect you describe. (We only need that effect when approaching the tonic chord.)
The same applies to the traditional use of melodic minor - ascending only - because it's only required when ascending to the tonic. It can be used when descending too, but it's optional there and less common. Otherwise, when descending, the natural minor scale is (conventionally) preferred - if only because it sounds more "minor". (And a b6 resolves better to 5 than a major 6.)

Of course, we can extract harmonic minor (and melodic minor) as complete scales in their own right. But you don't often find pieces written entirely in one or the other. I'm not aware of any, and would like to know some! (I do know plenty with strong harmonic minor content, but not exclusively.) I'm disregarding the kind of Yngwie-inspired players who just like jamming in harmonic minor.
I'm also aware phrygian dominant is a common sound in flamenco and other gypsy musics. I guess I'm after songs outside that tradition that are exclusively - or even wholly - written in harmonic minor.
All of which confirms my suspicions that we have to call "A harmonic minor" something, and "a scale", is plenty sufficient for the purposes of this discussion.

I do love Phrygian Dominant though. (In E, it's A harmonic minor played inside out, more or less). In A it's "Sultans of Swing".....
Last edited by Captaincranky at Sep 7, 2015,
#19
Quote by jerrykramskoy
I'm pretty sure Yngwie Malmsteen would agree with you!

Out of interest, what's your definition of "Key"?
I confess to not thinking very far outside the box in this. A "key" is the stuff I was shown when I first took up guitar. Major or minor, with specific intervals and based on western cultural traditional.

Anecdotally, more than 30 years ago, "Guitar Player" mag., ran a piece on "exotic scales", which was so fascinating, I have my copy of that very mag to this day. Of course I'm lazy enough I can't play you a Japanese scale or many of the others which were presented.

As far as a personal definition of a "key change", I consider that happening any time a chord is played, which doesn't occur in the the key signature of the piece.

Now, that's idiomatic on my part, and is more aligned with "chord scale theory". In that, if the chord goes out of key, I alter the scale to accommodate it. In other words, if the chord is A it would get an A scale, despite the fact the song might be in G. I call it a "key change".

That's an idiomatic concept on my part, which frequently does catch a lot of flack in this forum, but it's really saying the same thing as CST.
#20
^And that's the problem with CST.

To refer to Dm7-G7-C as being in three keys and needing three scales is misleading and inaccurate.

CST has its uses but harmonic analysis usually isn't one of them, regardless of what key or mode or neither we are in.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#21
Quote by Jet Penguin
^And that's the problem with CST.

To refer to Dm7-G7-C as being in three keys and needing three scales is misleading and inaccurate.

CST has its uses but harmonic analysis usually isn't one of them, regardless of what key or mode or neither we are in.
Oh but , I use CST for dummies. Say we're playing in C and some smart aleck throws in an A major. I'd probably humor them by playing C#. instead of C. That's about the extent of it.

I use CST to the limit of my meager abilities, and then only to avoid what I see might become a major dissonance.

Besides Dm7, G7, C is only in one key anyway, C major. I wouldn't attempt to attach CST to that progression. Truth is, I wouldn't even know how....
Last edited by Captaincranky at Sep 8, 2015,
#22
^Well some people blindly jump on the CST bandwagon and look at that II-V in C like:

D Dorian - G Mixolydian - C Ionian

Which, for (hopefully) obvious reasons, is completely insane.

The 'correct' way to use CST without the dogma is:

1. If you're in one of the 24 major/minor keys, play in it.

2. If you're in a mode, play in that mode.

3. If a fancy non diatonic chord shows up, use CST to determine the set of "vanilla" notes that'll work and save your solo.

4 (optional). Go back and "spice up" some normal diatonic chords with other scalar choices.


That's all there is to it, but it, like modes, has become bogged down into this weird prescriptive dogmatic thingy instead of what it actually is, a descriptive tool to help an improviser/composer connect harmony with melodic lines by making intelligent and informed decisions about harmonic relationships.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#23
I'm new here so I really appreciate the on-going discussion as it's providing me more insight. You guys are all awesome. I was really just wanting to clear up my confusion about modes just for knowledge of what it was all about, but I guess as I started this thread about my interest in blues then the application of modes isn't ultra important since I'm not all too interested in modal music, rather maybe incorporating a couple motif's or notes from modes into my solos.

Now this new concept of CST is appearing but you guys seem to say it is more of a 'tool' for playing scales over individual chords in a progression so as to outline chord tones (which I alluded to in my first post about 'playing a mode for each chord in a prog.' ) I have been aware of this idea but not the name CST put to the idea. It does seem like a good Tool for practicing scales over chords, but not ultra practical in forming a nice continuous blues solo over a blues or rock progression (Do you guys think B.B. king used this technique?? it does sound more like BB just used a lot of mixtures of major/minor blues and pentatonics with maybe a little chromaticism added in where necessary and of course the 'feel'..)

so I digress a little bit
I'm still a rather intermediate guitarist, I started with studying guys like Dylan and the Beatles for nice simple songs. Then I began studying guys like B.B. / Freddie, Hendrix, Page, Iommi, etc. and the whole world of Pentatonics and blues really opened up for me in terms of soloing. I know all the scale connections between the pentatonics so I can move all the way up and down the fretboard in a solo, and make nice singing bends in all the right areas occasionally adding in chromatic ideas (or some idea I just havent put a theoretical name to yet..), but I continue to feel like almost all my solos at some point sound the same, just being played in different orders... I'll do some riffs in the first pentatonic box, then slide up and do the b.b. / albert king bend on the second pentatonic box and in the third box. Then I can scale up further but again although I will be playing similar motifs on different areas of the guitar so that the pitches are different, my licks and notes are all basically the same during my solos so they end up sounding repetitive. Other than listening to more music, studying what the guys are doing in their solo's and progressions, are there more techniques I can learn or should I continue (for now at my stage) to keep messing with mixtures of maj/min blues solos. Especially because right now I am not too great at starting mixing pentatonics/scales..

.. maybe I just need to practice and listen more, because as much as I want to learn all I can about theory, I'm much more interested in just playing, sometimes playing very fast like the damned solo in 'Heartbreaker' from Zep.. that kind of WTF pentatonic explosion...


--------------------
HERE is an example of my playing, (notice how I just kind of end up repeating riffs over and over my looped progression.. albeit in different spots) ..(also this is a jazzier experimentation but kind of bluesy too..) so is there any advice and or criticisms to be given?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJiZQefjnBA

-----

and here is an example of me trying to rock out... (note LOWER YOUR VOLUME!!!) (and yes I know it sucks.... lol especially when I get out of time with my looper)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIQ-129K6VQ


----------


and now here is an example of a song from an album that my friend's band made, its like psychedelic blues folk rock and its the type of musicianship level that I want to attain... but ahhh.

(1 from the album, 2 a live show) and these are all my buddies, so I guess its a good thing to be surrounded by musicians who are your friends and maintain that lifestyle around you. (p.p.s - I took the album cover photos and am credited in all the art surrounding their album )

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gEVeqU513Y (album)

(live song from my friends band)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga_Gc0LoZUI

(did anyone notice my buddy nick (hes effing 16 here) played the solo from freebird ? ...
------


in terms of soloing/artistry/writing songs...

but so now I mean all in all I want to become a better artist in terms of soloing, but also in composition because my friend basically wrote an entire album of pretty good sounding material all on his own... and I know I have a similar level of creativity I just am still a much less experienced guitarist and just get caught up in little things here and there, or if I am writing a song (some kind of progression) ill just start getting way too many melodies and ideas in my head that It becomes hard to finish the song and stick with several concrete ideas for progressions / changes... I think I lack a discipline of some sort -_- or maybe I'm over analyzing myself...
Last edited by twitcherzx at Sep 8, 2015,
#24
Quote by Jet Penguin
^Well some people blindly jump on the CST bandwagon and look at that II-V in C like:

D Dorian - G Mixolydian - C Ionian

Which, for (hopefully) obvious reasons, is completely insane.

The 'correct' way to use CST without the dogma is:

1. If you're in one of the 24 major/minor keys, play in it.

2. If you're in a mode, play in that mode.

3. If a fancy non diatonic chord shows up, use CST to determine the set of "vanilla" notes that'll work and save your solo.
Or simply alter the diatonic scale to accommodate the chromatic chord tones. Generally works.

After all, what did all those jazz dudes do before CST was invented? Charlie Parker - to name only one - managed fine without it.
#25
Quote by twitcherzx
I'm new here so I really appreciate the on-going discussion as it's providing me more insight. You guys are all awesome. I was really just wanting to clear up my confusion about modes just for knowledge of what it was all about, but I guess as I started this thread about my interest in blues then the application of modes isn't ultra important since I'm not all too interested in modal music, rather maybe incorporating a couple motif's or notes from modes into my solos.
OK...
Quote by twitcherzx

Now this new concept of CST is appearing but you guys seem to say it is more of a 'tool' for playing scales over individual chords in a progression so as to outline chord tones (which I alluded to in my first post about 'playing a mode for each chord in a prog.' ) I have been aware of this idea but not the name CST put to the idea. It does seem like a good Tool for practicing scales over chords, but not ultra practical in forming a nice continuous blues solo over a blues or rock progression (Do you guys think B.B. king used this technique?? it does sound more like BB just used a lot of mixtures of major/minor blues and pentatonics with maybe a little chromaticism added in where necessary and of course the 'feel'..)
CST (chord-scale theory) is really a concept invented to go with the "modal" jazz of the 1960s and later, begun by Miles Davis. (It may be debatable which came first, but they certainly go together.)

In that kind of music (in its pure form), chords are not connected in the way they are in traditional major and minor key progressions. You may get only one chord (mode) for a long time. And when it changes, it's quite likely to be to a chord totally unrelated by key. (Maybe a chord of the same type on a different root, or different type on the same root - or neither.)
In those circumstances, there is no overarching "key" context to guide you. So you need to be able to look at a single chord and determine the best scale for it, without reference to chords either side.

The confusion comes when people attempt to apply CST to sequences in keys. To some extent, the concepts can seem to apply. Eg, the notion of the altered scale or HW dim on certain V7 chords, lydian dominant on non-V dom7s, melodic minor on tonic minors; etc. But mostly these are just fancy names for sets of notes that can easily be determined from the context.
Eg, the altered scale is simply a load of chromatic options for getting from a ii to a I. (V7-I normally provides only two; the altered scale gives you 4 more, and they can go in either direction.) IOW, to see it as a "scale on a chord" is to miss its purpose.
The same problem applies to all CST in functional harmony - it distracts from the forward motion of the chords, the voice-leading, the "melodic imperative" if you like. It's not seeing the forest for the trees.

However, provided one doesn't inflate CST into a "method for improvisation", and just sees it as a way of categorising note choices at any point, it's not too bad. It's when it gets treated as some kind of short cut or solution - or more interesting soloing options - that it starts to muddy the waters....

and hey, with that phrase, we're back with the blues!
Quote by twitcherzx

I'm still a rather intermediate guitarist, I started with studying guys like Dylan and the Beatles for nice simple songs. Then I began studying guys like B.B. / Freddie, Hendrix, Page, Iommi, etc. and the whole world of Pentatonics and blues really opened up for me in terms of soloing. I know all the scale connections between the pentatonics so I can move all the way up and down the fretboard in a solo, and make nice singing bends in all the right areas occasionally adding in chromatic ideas (or some idea I just havent put a theoretical name to yet..),
"chromatic ideas" is probably all you need. I'm sure you understand that the idea with chromatics is occasional contrast, which resolves back to diatonic notes (probably chord tones). That's the only "theory" you need. "Inside" vs "outside".
Enough listening to blues will tell you the kind of chromaticism that's common to the genre. (Basic tip: the more chromatic you get, the more "jazzy" you will sound. But the more you need to understand how to handle it )
Quote by twitcherzx

but I continue to feel like almost all my solos at some point sound the same, just being played in different orders... I'll do some riffs in the first pentatonic box, then slide up and do the b.b. / albert king bend on the second pentatonic box and in the third box. Then I can scale up further but again although I will be playing similar motifs on different areas of the guitar so that the pitches are different, my licks and notes are all basically the same during my solos so they end up sounding repetitive. Other than listening to more music, studying what the guys are doing in their solo's and progressions, are there more techniques I can learn or should I continue (for now at my stage) to keep messing with mixtures of maj/min blues solos. Especially because right now I am not too great at starting mixing pentatonics/scales.
IMO, it comes down to chord tones. Make sure you know all your arpeggios for every chord in the sequence. And understand how the blues scale of the key interacts with them. Blues is all about that tension between blues scale (minor pent plus b5) and the chord tones. You can bend into the chord tones to resolve phrases, or bend away from them to create expressive tension.

(may come back on the rest of your post later. gotta dash)
#26
none of that sounded like blues

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd60nI4sa9A

blues rock isn't blues

playing the blues scale doesn't mean you're playing blues

playing "not quite rock but not quite jazz" isn't playing blues
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You win. I'm done here.
#27
^This is good stuff here. To expand on Jon's stuff:

CST is really more geared towards non-diatonic chords, or determining alternate coloristic ideas over diatonic chords.

Basically, when you play a melody you have two options:

1. Be general with harmony and play to the key center.

2. Be specific with the harmony and use lines that connect the chords.

The majority of bluesy solos are the first one, using major and minor pentatonic scales to generalize the harmony.

Number 2 is very difficult to do with only pentatonic scales of the key you are in, because that's not how they work (but that's a whole different issue).

Now, one option isn't better or more musical than the other, and I'd argue that a great solo is probably going to contain elements of both.

You might want to track down the first three Jet Talks Jazz threads, they deal with very basic CST and harmonically specific vs general improv.

If the whole modes thing is still odd, I've stickied my mode thread (since it gets referred to a lot now), give that a read.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#28
How good is your ear? If you hear something in your head, can you play it? Can you figure it out? Do you hear things in your head?

If you can think of interesting ideas, but can't play them, then your ear is the problem. But if you can play what you hear, but what you hear sucks, then I guess you need to listen to more music.

Many times when people "improvise", they go on autopilot mode, and just move their fingers inside the scale boxes. This of course doesn't result in anything special (unless you have memorized hundreds of different licks), because you are just playing things that your fingers are most familiar with. How could you expect yourself to play good melodies if you are not thinking melodically? I don't know if this applies to you, but it's a pretty common problem.

If you haven't already done it, learn how the different notes in the pentatonic scale sound first. After you know the sound of the notes in minor pentatonic, start adding more notes to it. (2nd and 6th and you get the minor scale, but usually in blues you use the major 6th. Alternating between the major and minor third is also pretty common. And to get the "full" blues scale, add the tritone to your pentatonic scale.)
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#29
Quote by jongtr
"chromatic ideas" is probably all you need. I'm sure you understand that the idea with chromatics is occasional contrast, which resolves back to diatonic notes (probably chord tones). That's the only "theory" you need. "Inside" vs "outside".
Enough listening to blues will tell you the kind of chromaticism that's common to the genre. (Basic tip: the more chromatic you get, the more "jazzy" you will sound. But the more you need to understand how to handle it )

Agreed.


Quote by jongtr
IMO, it comes down to chord tones. Make sure you know all your arpeggios for every chord in the sequence. And understand how the blues scale of the key interacts with them. Blues is all about that tension between blues scale (minor pent plus b5) and the chord tones. You can bend into the chord tones to resolve phrases, or bend away from them to create expressive tension.

This is probably some of the stuff I do actually need to work on. I can do lots of sliding, bending all over the place (and through chord tones for resolution) with some chromatic ideas, but I am not super proficient in arpeggios, and actually being aware of chord tones over particular chords/ how a lick may interact with a chord. I guess I just kind of noodle around quite a bit (of course trying to use my ears to an extent so it atleast SOMEWHAT sounds in tune with the progression.. but yeah the general noodling isnt a healthy practice so I need to start consciously thinking about some of these things.


Quote by MaggaraMarine
How good is your ear? If you hear something in your head, can you play it? Can you figure it out? Do you hear things in your head?

If you can think of interesting ideas, but can't play them, then your ear is the problem. But if you can play what you hear, but what you hear sucks, then I guess you need to listen to more music.

Many times when people "improvise", they go on autopilot mode, and just move their fingers inside the scale boxes. This of course doesn't result in anything special (unless you have memorized hundreds of different licks), because you are just playing things that your fingers are most familiar with. How could you expect yourself to play good melodies if you are not thinking melodically? I don't know if this applies to you, but it's a pretty common problem.

If you haven't already done it, learn how the different notes in the pentatonic scale sound first. After you know the sound of the notes in minor pentatonic, start adding more notes to it. (2nd and 6th and you get the minor scale, but usually in blues you use the major 6th. Alternating between the major and minor third is also pretty common. And to get the "full" blues scale, add the tritone to your pentatonic scale.)

My ear is relatively good for my 5 ish years of playing. For one I can easily tune a guitar (in relative pitches) almost perfectly. Obviously not if the low E string is off but I can get the rest of the strings tuned to each other. And I do hear tons of interesting melodies in my head all the time. I can usually figure it out, but not always string several ideas together into a coherent progression, and then I just start getting more ideas and forgetting my original one which makes writing songs chaotic until I just sit and stick with a verse/chorus/bridge etc and try not to keep adding more and more ideas so that a song is like 5 songs in 1... I think my problem is a little bit of both, I need to continue ear training, and putting those ideas onto the fretboard, while also listening and analyzing more music..

-------
As for your 'autopilot' / 'noodling' mode reference, I think this is my largest problem with when I try to get off a Thoughtful improvised solo. In my head, if I take my time over something I wrote, then I can easily come up with my own uniquely melodic riffs just by the way they sound to me and if I like it. But when it comes to jamming with other people, I instantly bust out my noodling pentatonics because I guess I do have less experience actually looking at progressions and being able to think melodically in a moment of pressure (when jamming with others). So this; I could work on by analyzing chord / color tones when soloing? I just am not quick at this while jamming with others, only really if I'm sitting writing a song because theres less pressure to Quickly create a melody. Would you suggest going back to backing tracks and taking time to think about the chords rather than generalizing the key and just busting out a bunch of pentatonic/blues scales?


------------------
I guess all in all now I'm moving this thread direction slightly away from modes now and more to technique again, because I kind of just wanted to clear up confusion about where and when modes are used and how they were derived. But my main deal was application of scales over progressions and my problem seems to be that I know my main scales (maj/min, pentatonics/blues) but I just mindlessly noodle and occasionally create chromatic/ melodic ideas outside a scale but for the most part my technique and timing arent great.

Does anyone have any good resources on arpeggios, ways of thinking about outlining chord tones in solos, and applying those to progressions in a linear/non broken fastion? I know I need to just keep practicing the right techniques, and listening to music for ideas. ALSO, in the contexts of exercising scales for blues/rock what are your opinions on the caged system vs. 3 note per string scales? Because it seems like the caged system aligns better with the 5 pentatonics, but the 7 pattern 3-nps scales I read are generally better for arpeggios, shredding, etc... should I just know both?


----
and to Hail: I know none of my examples sounded like pure blues (not 100% what im going for aynway although I do study the ol Robert Johnson because I do want to have a good capability of playing a pure sounding blues), but it was mostly just an example of my level of technique that i'm at and how my solo's begin to sound repetitive... but now that I realize it if you jam over a loop for 5 minutes its hard to come up with a million uniquely melodic ideas...
Last edited by twitcherzx at Sep 8, 2015,
#30
"I guess all in all now I'm moving this thread direction slightly away from modes now and more to technique again, because I kind of just wanted to clear up confusion about where and when modes are used and how they were derived. But my main deal was application of scales over progressions and my problem seems to be that I know my main scales (maj/min, pentatonics/blues) but I just mindlessly noodle and occasionally create chromatic/ melodic ideas outside a scale but for the most part my technique and timing arent great. "

how well do you understand diatonic harmony..this is a springboard into developing an understanding of chord relationships and the notes that make up the chords..which become main ingredients of melodic development within a key .. arpeggios become a skeleton of a melodic idea..chromatic notes help connect those melodic ideas .. intervals and scale runs may offer relief from repetition .. chord runs (using several notes from a chord mixed with chromatic or diatonic lines)

a lesson I stress to start melodic development-see if this helps

key of C : chords in triads C Dmi Emi F G Ami Bdim

melody notes( from mary had a little lamb) E D C D EE E played over the C chord
melody notes F E D E FF F played over the Dmin chord

and so on for all the chords (except the Bdim)

now mix and match some of the melodic lines over different chords ( for D min play the melody notes for E min) etc then mix and match some of the lines with other lines but keep the rhythmic values in tact..

when you feel you understand the logic of the exercise begin using four-note chords Cmaj7 Dmi7 etc.. now begin to "stretch the melody" add chromatic notes..use an arpeggio to introduce the melody..use a blues cliché to end the melodic phrase..

this will take time to digest..go slow until you really know it..then begin using songs you like and see if you can develop a solo..now you will know every note you are playing and why you are playing it..

I recently watched a concert with larry carlton and lee ritenour .. lee sang his solos..carlton knew what he was playing..and how it would sound..there was no guess work..that is not to say when they were improvising they weren't taking chances..they just had a very good idea how those chances would sound
Last edited by wolflen at Sep 8, 2015,
#31
You are over complicating things. You are also doing it all backwards. You are trying to find some logical recipe for learning modes.

Forget all that. Modes, what they are, is simple, right? You know that. 7 modes for 7 degrees of what I call "the pattern"

The next thing you need to know, is that how important that is, is directly proportional to the type of music you want to play.

Blues is a surprisingly flexible genre. The twelve bar is so basic and common, but all the options available is really high.

Some music, you will just want to keep to the key scale, and that's it.

Other music, will demand that you switch scale every chord, or every couple of chords.

You will need to learn these things by the sound they make, not by analyzing whether there are 7ths and which mode goes with 7ths. You might pick that up, but your choices should be by sound.

So pick a song you want to learn, and experiment with some modes, and learn how they sound.

There actually isn't that much misinformation about modes, but some people use them differently than others because they play a different style of music that requires them to.
#32
Quote by twitcherzx
This is probably some of the stuff I do actually need to work on. I can do lots of sliding, bending all over the place (and through chord tones for resolution) with some chromatic ideas, but I am not super proficient in arpeggios, and actually being aware of chord tones over particular chords/ how a lick may interact with a chord. I guess I just kind of noodle around quite a bit (of course trying to use my ears to an extent so it atleast SOMEWHAT sounds in tune with the progression.. but yeah the general noodling isnt a healthy practice so I need to start consciously thinking about some of these things.
A lesson from the master, on precisely this issue:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVe24YFGoiM
That's chord tones (bending into them).
And that's The Blues, ain't it?

Of course, he knows his chord tones everywhere (ie arpeggios), and he's thinking in phrases, which is critical.

Oh yes - no modes in evidence anywhere! It's all blues scale and chord tones.
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 9, 2015,
#33
Quote by Jet Penguin
^Well some people blindly jump on the CST bandwagon and look at that II-V in C like:

D Dorian - G Mixolydian - C Ionian

Which, for (hopefully) obvious reasons, is completely insane.

The 'correct' way to use CST without the dogma is:

1. If you're in one of the 24 major/minor keys, play in it.

2. If you're in a mode, play in that mode.

3. If a fancy non diatonic chord shows up, use CST to determine the set of "vanilla" notes that'll work and save your solo.

4 (optional). Go back and "spice up" some normal diatonic chords with other scalar choices.


That's all there is to it, but it, like modes, has become bogged down into this weird prescriptive dogmatic thingy instead of what it actually is, a descriptive tool to help an improviser/composer connect harmony with melodic lines by making intelligent and informed decisions about harmonic relationships.



Amen to that.

Only thing I'd add to this is to be wary of two related points, purely around the terminology that gets used.

One is the word "key". I've seen various definitions of this. The most popular is that key is only used for music based on the major/minor system (major scale, and for minor scales, the natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor). So, key of C means using the major scale built off C. The key of C minor means some blend of these minor scales, again built off C.

I've also seen key used when talking about music dervied from other scales (modes), such as "the key of C Dorian". Regardless of the correctness or otherwise, in this context this means using Dorian scale built off C as the main source for the music.

Some folk will deny the use of "key" for the C Dorian example, but it will still be clear that the Dorian is used, built off C. They may say we're playing "in a mode of C Dorian".

So, watch out for these.

The second point is the difference between playing "in a mode", versus "modal".

It is quite possible to construct chord progressions from a mode, and I gave an example earlier in this thread. Ditto to write a melody to go with it (or indeed just have a melody), analogous to writing in the major/minor system. Here, we're "in a mode", "in the key of C Dorian", etc. (choose your terminology).

When we use any of the usual 7 note scales, 4 of the intervals create various strengths of tendency to move to the tonic triad ... these 4 intervals not being in that triad. These tendencies get inherited into chords using these, and so we get different "strength" chords that set up a desire (in the listener) to move back to chords with weaker tendencies (more stable), and ultimately the tonic (the most stable). These tendencies don't go away, just because we're using a mode. They differ from mode to mode, but they don't go away ... hence chord progressions are achievable.

Improvising for this doesn't mean chasing the chords ... the main choice being the mode itself.

However, there is also playing "modally". This uses minimal chord changes ... e.g. "So what" by Miles Davis, with the most used chord being the "I" chord of the mode. In this style of music, it can be challenging to maintain a stream of interesting ideas against this sparse harmonic background. Again, the obvious choice is the mode itself for improvisation. In this type of music, it is common to say play 8 bars in one key, then 8 bars in another key, and so on ... (e.g. E m7 for 8 bars, then F m7 for 8 bars). Here' you follow the key change (E Dorian, then F Dorian).
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Sep 9, 2015,
#34
^ excellent post!

All I'd add is that with progressions "in a mode", the "key" chord is weaker than in the relative major (or "ionian mode progression" if you prefer).
Some modes are nearly as strong - due to familiarity - such as aeolian, mixolydian and dorian, which can all take chord sequences (using traditional tertian chords) reasonably well. (These kind of sequences are common in rock music, less so in jazz.)
Dorian is perhaps the weakest of these three. (The common dorian scenario in rock is only two chords.)
But lydian and phrygian tend to need a lot more emphasis on their key chords - or even a drone or pedal bass - so as not to sound like the relative major key.

I'd say "chasing the chords" is still an option in those kind of sequences, but I agree they tend to be a lot more diatonic than major or minor key progressions (chromaticism will be very rare), and the mode is the thing.

The mode is even more the thing in what we can call "modal jazz", such as "So What". Within the single mode in this kind of music, there are really no chord changes to speak of - and barely any chords at all as we know them (in other forms of music). The harmonies tend to be quartal (not tertian), and often seem like random voicings from the mode. It's as if the chord players are exploring the mode harmonically in the same way as the soloist does melodically, trying to avoid any hint of functional harmony.
What changes there are will be from one mode to another. (D dorian to Eb dorian and back in So What.)
This kind of modal music is much rarer in rock (although it does occur).
#35
Quote by jongtr
A lesson from the master, on precisely this issue:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVe24YFGoiM
That's chord tones (bending into them).
And that's The Blues, ain't it?

Of course, he knows his chord tones everywhere (ie arpeggios), and he's thinking in phrases, which is critical.

Oh yes - no modes in evidence anywhere! It's all blues scale and chord tones.


Ya BB King has a very sort pentatonic sounding style blues. Which is actually pretty common for blues because the minor pentatonic it is that trademark blues sound. But he makes it interesting with how he phrases and bends. He also does use passing notes of course.

The blues can be played in a lot of modes though. It's the most flexible common music like that I find. Although I tend to play more simply, like BB, when I play blues, since I don't often play music that switches modes a lot so I am not very accustomed to it, and don't think of that sort of music a lot of the time.

I have tinkered with it though in the past and it's pretty cool. If I played more blues, I'd practice a lot more mode switching.

But I guess it goes to show, it's not quite so important to learn all this theory, and know all these scales and all that stuff. His theoretical approach is real basic actually. But if your timing and phrasing and feel is great, then the music is good. It's good to learn theory, but learning every chord shape and every scale is not the same thing as becoming a better musician. It doesn't mean your music will necessarily be better.

Just like an artist could make great works of art in black and white which is amazing, and another uses all these colors but doesn't produce amazing works of art.

To me, the biggest misconception I see about modes is not so much the sources of information, but the idea that modes are somehow some secret to unlock all these new ideas, and all this interesting creativity. But they are not really that.

If you are having trouble making interesting music and interesting phrasing using only the key scale over a diatonic progression, then you're gonna have even more trouble if your bring modes into the picture. They aren't going to make your phrasing or soloing all of a sudden becoming interesting.

Just like buying a bunch of new paint brushes and colors won't make you a great painter. You'd probably want to master the easier stuff first. Just black and white for still life, in order to learn shading, and then color is more advanced once you get that.

Except modes are different, in that the music needs to want you to, or allow you to use modes. It's not something you learn and then can apply to anything and make it more awesome.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Sep 9, 2015,
#36
Quote by jongtr
^ excellent post!

All I'd add is that with progressions "in a mode", the "key" chord is weaker than in the relative major (or "ionian mode progression" if you prefer).
Some modes are nearly as strong - due to familiarity - such as aeolian, mixolydian and dorian, which can all take chord sequences (using traditional tertian chords) reasonably well. (These kind of sequences are common in rock music, less so in jazz.)
Dorian is perhaps the weakest of these three. (The common dorian scenario in rock is only two chords.)
But lydian and phrygian tend to need a lot more emphasis on their key chords - or even a drone or pedal bass - so as not to sound like the relative major key.

I'd say "chasing the chords" is still an option in those kind of sequences, but I agree they tend to be a lot more diatonic than major or minor key progressions (chromaticism will be very rare), and the mode is the thing.

The mode is even more the thing in what we can call "modal jazz", such as "So What". Within the single mode in this kind of music, there are really no chord changes to speak of - and barely any chords at all as we know them (in other forms of music). The harmonies tend to be quartal (not tertian), and often seem like random voicings from the mode. It's as if the chord players are exploring the mode harmonically in the same way as the soloist does melodically, trying to avoid any hint of functional harmony.
What changes there are will be from one mode to another. (D dorian to Eb dorian and back in So What.)
This kind of modal music is much rarer in rock (although it does occur).


Good points.

Frank Gambale used to teach the pedal bass, using the tonal centre pitch in the bass, and using the two major triads a tone apart (wherever they are found in the mode) on top. e.g. in E Phrygian, E in the bass, with F and G triads on top, or E Lydian, with E and F# triads on top.

On the "chord chasing" point, I was reinforcing Jet's statement ... same way as it's wrong, with a chord progression Dm7 G7 C, to think of playing over these using D Dorian, G Mixolydian, C major, rather than C major (and arpeggios of those chords, depending on speed), so it's wrong to think of say G11 Em7 Fmaj7 G11, using G Mixolydian, E Dorian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, rather than G Mixolydian across these (and again arpeggios) ... or a subset of G Mixolydian (G maj pentatonic).
#37
CST is fundamentally about re-arranging gigantic arpeggios into scales. It's a way of looking at jazz improv that assumes all fully extended chords. It's a pretty useless approach when you're just dealing with diatonic progressions that don't go past the 7th. But it's very useful when you get something like a #5b9 resolving out of key. Where are your chord tones? If you practice them scalewise, they're pretty easy to find.
#38
Quote by cdgraves
CST is fundamentally about re-arranging gigantic arpeggios into scales. It's a way of looking at jazz improv that assumes all fully extended chords. It's a pretty useless approach when you're just dealing with diatonic progressions that don't go past the 7th. But it's very useful when you get something like a #5b9 resolving out of key. Where are your chord tones? If you practice them scalewise, they're pretty easy to find.
Fair point, but they're also easy to find if you know how to add #5 and b9 to a chord . And they will resolve to some other chord (in or out of key) and you simply need to know the chord tones on that chord.
(The altered scale is probably the best example of useful CST, but it only becomes useful in practice when you see it as chord tones and alterations and chromatic resolutions. The point is not the scale on the chord itself, but the way it resolves the chord alterations.)

IOW, it really depends on the way one is used to learning. I learned (accidentally, through self-teaching) through chord shapes, and always improvised off chord shapes. (Easy - passing notes were always in neighbouring chords, and chromatic transitions were always available. Formulas not needed.) So by the time I started reading about scale patterns (and - many many years later - CST and modes), it gave me nothing I didn't know already. (Nothing of practical use, that is.)
But if one begins from scales, and is used to understanding the fretboard that way, then I can see it makes sense to build on that.
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 10, 2015,
#39
Quote by jongtr
Fair point, but they're also easy to find if you know how to add #5 and b9 to a chord . And they will resolve to some other chord (in or out of key) and you simply need to know the chord tones on that chord.
(The altered scale is probably the best example of useful CST, but it only becomes useful in practice when you see it as chord tones and alterations and chromatic resolutions. The point is not the scale on the chord itself, but the way it resolves the chord alterations.)

IOW, it really depends on the way one is used to learning. I learned (accidentally, through self-teaching) through chord shapes, and always improvised off chord shapes. (Easy - passing notes were always in neighbouring chords, and chromatic transitions were always available. Formulas not needed.) So by the time I started reading about scale patterns (and - many many years later - CST and modes), it gave me nothing I didn't know already. (Nothing of practical use, that is.)
But if one begins from scales, and is used to understanding the fretboard that way, then I can see it makes sense to build on that.


Where scales really give you what you could not otherwise get is when you're playing at pace running through a scale or parts of it.

I find it is also a better way for the brain to be able to think its way through the fretboard.

It will allow or incite different ways of playing, and allow different ideas to be more or less easily accomplished.

I don't find it is a linear black and white thing, like "the notes you can play and the notse you can't" or something like that. I mean, there are only 12 notes. If you just play chord tones and accidentals, then that's 12 notes. However, if your chord is a 5 note chord, then you have 7 accidentals to organize in your mind, which are not part of the chord. It also makes it difficult if you want to move into the next chord with a note that isn't a chord tone. One obviously could do that, again, treating it as accidentals, but the approach for the mind is different. The music a person will play will be different based on how they have organized the instrument in their mind. I personally find chords and scales very important. Certain ones, anyway.

You will notice how different players with different ways at looking at the guitar, will play differently. It's not just like learning the alphabet, one thing, and if you know it, you know it. It is more than that. You may think that scales would have nothing to bring to how you play, but I find that doubtful. Not saying you'd play better with scales or worse, but you'd play differently. My brain could not do what I can do on a guitar without having learned scales, I know that much.
#40
^Agreed.

CST doesn't assume every chord is a 13th, it just attempts to logically come up with possibilities to fill out the tones.

It comes down to implied harmony. Just because G7 is a mixo scale in the vanilla verse doesn't mean its my only option.

If I saw a plain old G13 I could still play G altered, or G Lydian dominant if those are sounds I want to imply melodically. You're never locked into anything, it's just a list of diagnostic tools to give my options beyond "only play 1 3 5 7 and chromatically enclose them"
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
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