#1
Hi

I have great confusion about using parallel scales and modes. Let's say I have a basic E minor progression of Em Cmaj7 Dmaj Em. I know I can play the E Aeolian over the whole thing. But can I also play any minor scale over the Em? Like E Phrygian or E dorian or E Hungarian Minor? Then as far as the other chords, can I throw in a C Lydian, C Harmonic Major (over Cmaj7) etc... What if for a verse I change the Em to Parallel EMaj7, can I then playit's parallel minor C# over it, or B Lydian? I have trouble finding these answers online. I like odd dynamic music and I want everything to fit.

Thanks
#2
Someone else has to give you the correct technical answer, but I can share a few thoughts.

You can play anything over anything as long as it sounds good. Traditionally, this means that you shouldn't play any notes that directly clash with the chord (for example, don't play G# over Em etc.) and that you resolve the "odd notes" correctly (don't end a phrase with a non-chord tone, and try to avoid stressing the outside notes). It all comes largely down to experimentation - try playing those scales over that progression, and if they sound good why shouldn't you play them?
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#3
C lydian shares the same notes as E minor, so it would sound exactly the same as E minor and therefore not a great choice if you're aiming to get a different sound.

Otherwise play what you want. Realsitically there are 5 notes that you are not playing if you stick to the E minor scale. Try out the other 5 and find out if you like the sounds. Playing any of these five notes is called "using accidentals".
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#4
This isn't an issue of correctness, but purpose.

When you throw in notes beyond what's in the chord, you are basically adding notes to the chord that still have tendency to resolve as if they were chord tones. When you throw in stuff like F and Bb and D# in the key of Em, you have to consider how those notes - or that mode - will resolve harmonically.


Ask yourself what the purpose is in playing non-diatonic modes over a diatonic progression. There are plenty of reasons to, but blindly picking accidentals or "out" scales generally sounds awful. Think in terms of resolution tendency and where in the phrase you want that kind of tension. Do not try to make everything an exercise in chromatics.

But since you're looking for a some kind of straightforward answer, I will say that picking random modes for a verse at a time will not yield good results in front of an audience. For your own practice, sure, but you should also practice moving in and out of diatonic melodies smoothly, so that they add elements of tension and texture.

These concepts are just like tools - you wouldn't use only a hammer to install plumbing or only a saw to dig a hole. You use these concepts in bits and pieces to break up the monotony of diatonic harmony.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jan 12, 2016,
#5
I wouldn't change scales over those chords. It doesn't really make that much sense over that progression. Well, you can always add accidentals, but that's not really the same thing as switching scales.

You can think theoretically like that ("play this scale over this chord") but it may not sound good at all. I would start with sound.

But of course experiment. Nothing wrong with it.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#6
I agree it's hard to justify calling it "changing scales" when it lasts for all of half a measure. Adding harmonic interest doesn't require wanking on a non-existent tonic chord just to hear tritones or somesuch.
#7
I'm of the opinion that scales and modes shouldn't be the guiding factor in what you play generally. Most often if the piece lends itself to it, I'll switch between scales and modes...but I won't really recognize that until I analyze it after the fact. I'm just letting my ear and intuition guide me in developing a line that has a unique feel and adds to the music. Changes in scale and mode are a consequence of playing what I'm hearing in my head.
#8
Quote by t146
Hi

I have great confusion about using parallel scales and modes. Let's say I have a basic E minor progression of Em Cmaj7 Dmaj Em. I know I can play the E Aeolian over the whole thing. But can I also play any minor scale over the Em? Like E Phrygian or E dorian or E Hungarian Minor?
You "can". No one's going to stop you.
Question is, how does it sound? Do you like it?
If you do, use it. If you don't, don't.
Quote by t146

Then as far as the other chords, can I throw in a C Lydian, C Harmonic Major (over Cmaj7) etc...
Again, try em and see.
Quote by t146

What if for a verse I change the Em to Parallel EMaj7, can I then play it's parallel minor C# over it, or B Lydian?
No problem - except here the issue is giving the scales the right names. (IOW, the rules are not about what you can or can't play, they're about what you call the sounds you're using.)
Over Emaj7, then the "C# minor scale" is simply E major (E ionian if you insist on modal terms).
"B lydian", meanwhile, has an E# in it, so is probably going to sound wrong.
Again, though, that's down to you to try it and listen.
Don't be put off by the false notion that some notes are theoretically "wrong". (Check out the current "Locrian" thread on that score....). Some notes are "in" and some "out" - and often it's those "out" ones we want.

But you can see how knowing the right names for the scales - and what notes are contained in both chords and scales - will help you narrow down your choices before you experiment. You'll know which scales or modes will fit your chords, and which will clash. The ones that fit may be just fine - always worth trying those first.

It's also good to know (though it should still not inhibit your creativity) which scales - if any - will fit two chords in a row, or more, which will help the flow from chord to chord.
You need very little theory knowledge for this. Just look at your chord shapes and add them all together - that will usually give you a scale (it gives you E natural minor with your current chords).

BTW, if you're wondering about an Emaj-Cmaj change, check out John Barry's "Goldfinger" theme. Or indeed "Hey Joe", "Voodoo Chile", or Carl Perkins' "Honey Don't"
(As for terminology, "borrowed chord" and "chromatic mediant" would both cover it.)
Quote by t146

I have trouble finding these answers online.
That's because they're not online, they're in your head . You have to play them to decide how they sound, and whether those are the sounds you want.
Quote by t146

I like odd dynamic music and I want everything to fit.
OK, there's two potentially conflicting desires there . If you want "everything to fit" - in the easiest, most natural way - than you'd use the E minor scale over the whole thing. That's the scale all the chords are harmonised from, so it will make them sound like they belong together.
However, that's not a particularly "dynamic" sound. There's no (or very little) tension in that sequence.

But then it depends what you mean by "dynamic".

Essentially there's two kinds of ways of treating a bunch of chords: "functional" or "modal". (The two methods can be mixed, but it's good to understand them separately first.) (I imagine you know much of the following, so excuse me if I'm spelling out the obvious .)

"Functional" describes the way chords are used in most popular music, certainly vintage and mainstream pop, rock and jazz, in what we call "major and minor keys". There is a clear overall tonal centre to which all the chords relate (or at least all the chords in a particular section of the tune), which is the "key". The chords usually change fairly quickly - typically every two measures or less - and no one chord (other than the tonic) - sounds "at rest", relative to the others. Eg, in your sequence, D major is a stable chord in its own right, but following Em and Cmaj7 the ear will expect it to go somewhere else.
As long as you hear that effect in a chord progression - that each chord has the sense that another one is coming along soon, and that it only feels "at rest" when you hit the tonic chord - then what you have is a more or less traditional key-based song, with harmony you could broadly described as "functional". Each chord has a function, a job to do in the sequence: leading to the next one.

In this type of music, it makes no sense to apply different modes to each chord. It's a category error. The chords themselves (let alone the melody) imply the correct scale. When improvising, you can introduce chromatics to spice things up, but otherwise the "recipe" is fully contained n the melody and chords.

In terms of composition in that kind of music, modal interchange is a common way of expanding the palette of chords available. It means that a tune in E major can borrow chords from E minor, and vice versa - in fact any modes on E can be mixed, although generally on an overall base of either "major" or "minor". (The tonic chord can be switched from major to minor and vice versa, but it's more common to stick with one or the other and borrow other chords.)
You can modulate - change key - in any way you like, and there are plenty of "common practices" there. The only sensible restriction is that you spend enough time in any one key for the ear to accept it as tonal centre - otherwise, of course, you lose the impact of a key change!
E.g., you can stick a G major chord into a tune in E major and it will sound like a borrowed chord (from the parallel minor). But if you keep playing the G for several measures, then something else has happened - you've forced a key change.
(That's an example of "rules" - it's not about what you can and can't do. It's about identifying sounds and giving them the right names.)

In contrast, "modal" harmony (at least as employed in jazz, and in some forms of rock) - in its most distinctive form - employs chords which (a) tend to last a long time (at least 4 measures each), (b) don't share scales with each other, (c) are often built in 4ths rather than 3rds, (d) each form their own tonal centre, and therefore (e) don't necessarily lead from one to the next.
Usually, a modal tune will have one primary mode - the one it starts and ends on, or lasts longest - but it's possible for all the modes used to have equal weight, so there is no one overall tonal centre.
It's this form of music which employs different modes on each chord, not necessarily related in any way to the mode on the next chord. That's because there is no necessity to lead to the next chord; no chord has any functional meaning. You're thinking only about the sound of the scale on that chord alone - the sonorities, colours and mood it creates. Dissonances are used purely for immediate effect, and not to create tensions that need resolution by changing the chord.

As I said, it makes no sense to think that way on a traditional key-based tune, in which moods are created by groups of chords, the shapes of melodic movement between chords, the sound of one chord relative to the one before. (Sometimes, indeed, "modal" effects are created by melody - eg by stressing a non-chord tone or extension, like a #4 on a major chord - but almost always within, and related to, the overall tonality of the song.)

You might find these links helpful (if you haven't already checked them):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatonic_function
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borrowed_chord
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modulation_(music)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromatic_mediant
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_jazz
Last edited by jongtr at Jan 12, 2016,
#9
I think it would make sense to stop thinking in scales. Start thinking in sound. Music isn't scales.

If you want weird sounds, maybe don't use a generic chord progression like Em C D Em. You can play all the wrong notes over it, but it will still sound like a basic Em C D Em progression. Well, of course you could "hide" that progression in your weird sounding music. But then you don't want to play over a straight forward rock backing track or anything like that.

Creating weird sounds is not about choosing a weird scale to solo over backing track.

Again, try all of those things you mentioned in your post. Maybe you'll find some cool sounds. Experiment. But why you may not find the answers to your questions is because your approach may not be best. Weird music is not all about playing weird scales over chords.

And you may be thinking too "theoretically". All of this will become a lot more clear when you know how all these theoretic concepts sound like. You can of course just randomly decide that you're going to write a song that uses Em-Cmaj7-D-Em progression and all these weird scales over it and then modulates to the parallel major. But how that works in practice is different. You need to know the sound.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#10
Wow, thank you everybody for the great responses!! I definitely have some work ahead of me.
#11
Quote by AlanHB
C lydian shares the same notes as E minor, so it would sound exactly the same as E minor and therefore not a great choice if you're aiming to get a different sound.

Otherwise play what you want. Realsitically there are 5 notes that you are not playing if you stick to the E minor scale. Try out the other 5 and find out if you like the sounds. Playing any of these five notes is called "using accidentals".


While it's true that E Aeolian and C Lydian have the same notes, if each of these is emphasised appropriately, they will sound very different (given enough chord duration to make the point).
#12
^^^ Sure. If you make the progression resolve to C, those notes will sound like C lydian.
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#14
^ just because someone sounds like they know what they're saying

a) doesn't mean that they actually do
b) doesn't mean that they're spreading good information
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#15
Quote by NeoMvsEu
^ just because someone sounds like they know what they're saying

a) doesn't mean that they actually do
b) doesn't mean that they're spreading good information


There was some proper mislabeling going on in that video (my favorite sentence was "the key of C phrygian, which is the same as the key of Ab major), I think the concept he presented sounds pretty nice. I'm just bothered by the throughout lack of explanation about anything going on in the video. I've never been a fan of the "here's a bunch of chords that sound cool, no explanation needed" style of teching.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#16
I've many times seen two different uses of the word "key".

One is that key only specifies the tonal centre.
The other is that it also specifies the scale type (major, minor, dorian ...)

I've also seen "scale" used two ways:

One restricts choices to major and minor (i.e. nat minor, HM, MM).
The other includes modes as scales.

I actually thought the video explanation was ok. The simplification back to Cm for the Dbmaj7 and Ebmaj7 is very helpful for a route into playing over the progresssion
#17
Quote by jerrykramskoy
I've many times seen two different uses of the word "key".

One is that key only specifies the tonal centre.
The other is that it also specifies the scale type (major, minor, dorian ...)

I've also seen "scale" used two ways:

One restricts choices to major and minor (i.e. nat minor, HM, MM).
The other includes modes as scales.
Yes, most of the problems and confusions in these kinds of discussions come down to the flexible definitions of those three terms: key, scale, mode.

People (like the guy in the video) use them in a way they understand them but often without defining them or explaining the context. Listeners may assume different meanings.

The worst one (IMO) is defining "key" as the same as "scale". (Why would we have two words if they meant the same thing? )

Likewise "mode" gets used in two senses, which get conflated. So "D dorian" is (in the least useful sense) a "mode of C major" (a rotation of those 7 notes), but it's not "in [the key of] C major".
The phrase "C major scale" is often used to mean just that pitch collection - the white notes of the piano. But naming it that way inevitably suggests that C is the keynote, when it doesn't have to be.
We don't have any name - at least not in common use - for the notes of a major scale without using one of those notes in the name, which confers an inappropriate bias.

It would be handy if we could refer to a "2-sharp scale", or a "4-flat scale" instead (assuming of course the usual allocation of sharps and flats).
And then - maybe - we can talk more meaningfully about distinctions between keys and modes.
Last edited by jongtr at Jan 14, 2016,
#18
Quote by jongtr at #33776320
It would be handy if we could refer to a "2-sharp scale", or a "4-flat scale" instead (assuming of course the usual allocation of sharps and flats).
And then - maybe - we can talk more meaningfully about distinctions between keys and modes.

Except for the part where modes are generally notated as variations of the major and minor scales of the key note. :\
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Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#19
Key refers to the chord/note of resolution. It's the "home" chord against which the other chords are heard. In the key of C, F sounds like IV because of its distance from I; in a different key, F would sound like a completely different function.

Mode refers to the specific set of notes being used within that key. If you are using flats and have C as a tonic, you are still in the "key of of C", but you're using the phyrgian mode of that key. You would still analyze and label everything against C (ie, F is still IV).
#20
Quote by NeoMvsEu
Except for the part where modes are generally notated as variations of the major and minor scales of the key note. :\
Yes - for those who are used to seeing key signatures as indicating keys.
#21
Quote by cdgraves
Key refers to the chord/note of resolution. It's the "home" chord against which the other chords are heard. In the key of C, F sounds like IV because of its distance from I; in a different key, F would sound like a completely different function.
Right.
Quote by cdgraves

Mode refers to the specific set of notes being used within that key.
If you are using flats and have C as a tonic, you are still in the "key of of C", but you're using the phyrgian mode of that key. You would still analyze and label everything against C (ie, F is still IV).
Yes, except in C phrygian the IV would be Fm. Yes?
#22
Quote by jongtr
Right.
Yes, except in C phrygian the IV would be Fm. Yes?


It's debatable whether a song could be in the C phrygian mode if it featured a F minor chord.
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#23
@Jon
1) major/minor of key note is general practice, ie it's the most common notation method for modes.
2) Modal music does not have tonal function; iv in what sounds like Phrygian is iv in minor with a flat 2nd scale degree.
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#24
Quote by jongtr
Right.
Yes, except in C phrygian the IV would be Fm. Yes?


Any kind of F would be generic IV (or iv, or ivº, etc). Modality isn't necessarily dependent on whether all of the chords conform. You can rock the C phryg for 12 bars and then turn around on a regular F G7, which would be a solid example of modal interchange. Worst blues progression ever, but still modal interchange.

There is legitimate gray area between whether a chord is tonally functional or just serves to imply a mode of the tonic. For example, in a i-IV dorian vamp, you could make a strong case for labeling the whole thing i (depending on the purpose of your analysis of course).

If you look to jazz applications of modality, you see extended modal sections with tonal turnarounds. Modality doesn't exclude tonicization.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jan 14, 2016,
#25
Quote by cdgraves
Any kind of F would be generic IV (or iv, or ivº, etc). Modality isn't necessarily dependent on whether all of the chords conform. You can rock the C phryg for 12 bars and then turn around on a regular F G7, which would be a solid example of modal interchange. Worst blues progression ever, but still modal interchange.
Point taken.

I was just a little concerned about potential confusion for those still not sure how modes relate to keys....
#26
Quote by jongtr
Point taken.

I was just a little concerned about potential confusion for those still not sure how modes relate to keys....


As the example clearly states that the key is E minor, and the TS is using modal names to refer to patterns of accidentals, I don't think there's much use in discussing songs that are "in modes". It's a separate issue.
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#27
Quote by AlanHB
As the example clearly states that the key is E minor, and the TS is using modal names to refer to patterns of accidentals, I don't think there's much use in discussing songs that are "in modes". It's a separate issue.
Absolutely. But he is asking about modal interchange.
#28
Quote by jongtr
Absolutely. But he is asking about modal interchange.


Although "modal interchange" features part of the word "mode" the discussion of songs being in a mode is still irrelevant.

The term "modal interchange" refers to borrowing a chord from the parallel major/minor, and is exclusive to songs in a key.
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#29
Quote by AlanHB
Although "modal interchange" features part of the word "mode" the discussion of songs being in a mode is still irrelevant.

The term "modal interchange" refers to borrowing a chord from the parallel major/minor, and is exclusive to songs in a key.
Yes, but the word is connected. The major and minor keys used to be (and occasionally still are) the "major mode" and the "minor mode" (on the same keynote).
"Key of C, major mode" = key of C major.
Modal interchange (as I understand it) also includes borrowing from any parallel mode.

I.e., we're still in the context of keys, but the word "mode" has the same meaning, in terms of a scale structure relative to a given keynote or tonal centre.
#30
^^^ That isn't a correct use of those terms.

Major mode = any mode with a major 3rd

Ionian mode = a mode that shares the same notes as the major scale
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Last edited by AlanHB at Jan 17, 2016,
#31
^ Nah. Jongtr is right. The word mode has many meanings. If we are talking about the "church modes", then yes, a major mode is any church mode with a major 3rd (well, that's the "modern" way of understanding them - you compare them to minor and major scales and kind of treat them "tonally"). But when we refer to tonal music, a key is defined by two things - the tonic and the mode (which refers to the collection of pitches we use, ie major or minor). I guess that's where the "modal interchange" or "modal mixture" comes from - you keep the tonic the same and change the mode. It's another way of saying "mixing major and minor".

But that's why it's such a confusing word. It can mean so many different things. I think it's better if we just avoid using the word because just using the word causes confusion. It means different things to different people (church modes, modes of a scale, a collection of pitches, fretboard positions). And people who don't know much theory may only know one of the meanings of the word (or may have even misunderstood it). So they may think people are talking about something else.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
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Hartke HyDrive 210c
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Yamaha FG720S-12
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#32
Quote by MaggaraMarine
^ Nah. Jongtr is right. The word mode has many meanings. If we are talking about the "church modes", then yes, a major mode is any church mode with a major 3rd (well, that's the "modern" way of understanding them - you compare them to minor and major scales and kind of treat them "tonally"). But when we refer to tonal music, a key is defined by two things - the tonic and the mode (which refers to the collection of pitches we use, ie major or minor). I guess that's where the "modal interchange" or "modal mixture" comes from - you keep the tonic the same and change the mode. It's another way of saying "mixing major and minor".

But that's why it's such a confusing word. It can mean so many different things. I think it's better if we just avoid using the word because just using the word causes confusion. It means different things to different people (church modes, modes of a scale, a collection of pitches, fretboard positions). And people who don't know much theory may only know one of the meanings of the word (or may have even misunderstood it). So they may think people are talking about something else.
Exactly.
I have no problem with any of those definitions (except maybe the fretboard position! ), as long as people make it clear which one they are using, rather than just assume everyone understands it the same way they do.
#33
Quote by MaggaraMarine
^ Nah. Jongtr is right. The word mode has many meanings. If we are talking about the "church modes", then yes, a major mode is any church mode with a major 3rd (well, that's the "modern" way of understanding them - you compare them to minor and major scales and kind of treat them "tonally"). But when we refer to tonal music, a key is defined by two things - the tonic and the mode (which refers to the collection of pitches we use, ie major or minor). I guess that's where the "modal interchange" or "modal mixture" comes from - you keep the tonic the same and change the mode. It's another way of saying "mixing major and minor".


I'm not sure. If a song was "in a mode" (ie. Traditional church mode) and it then employed modal interchange to borrow a chord from a parallel mode, the song would likey not be "in a mode" anymore. It's also highly unlikely that the song would be in a different mode for the duration of that single chord.

For this reason I'm struggling to the their relevance to this topic.
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#34
^ Church modes have nothing to do with this topic. That is true.

But the "major mode" and the "minor mode" are not church modes. They are the other part that defines the key we are in. If we are in the key of C and use the major mode, we call it C major, and if we use the minor mode, we call it C minor. But then again, that definition of "mode" is not that useful. You could say it in other words - for example, mixing parallel keys - to lack confusion (because whenever somebody mentions "mode", everybody thinks it's some kind of an "exotic scale", or that people are talking about "the guitar modes", ie fretboard positions).
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
#35
More or less this.

The official idea of modal interchange is that we can borrow chords from major and minor modes that are parallel (sharing the same letter name) as our key.

A classic example would be this:

C - C7 - Fmaj7 - Fm7 - Cmaj7

The Fm7 is borrowed from C Aeolian. We are in the key of C major.

C7 is NOT modal interchange, but a secondary dominant chord, V7/IV.

This is most often done from major and minor, but it can also be done with the other modes, albeit less often.

You don't want to confuse this with chord scale theory, AKA "I'm going to play Hungarian minor (aka MM#4) over this m7 chord now (begins shredding).
"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
#36
No worries. I actually haven't heard the terms "major mode" or "minor mode" being used in this way, so thanks for correcting me.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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