#1
So I've been taking private lessons almost a year now and am proud to say, I've made lots of progress as a guitarist versus trying to teach myself playing on and off for the past ten years. Having a teacher that shows me almost nothing but theory has opened my eyes to a lot of things in music I didn't even know existed. That said, I will continue to take lessons from this man as I still have lots to learn about functional harmony and my understanding of the instrument.

However I think I'm reaching another plateau as I find I'm not really composing my own music, nor really am I learning songs. I mean I learn plenty of riffs but I don't know very many songs in their entirety. Is this a good thing?

I can improvise pretty decently over backing tracks. My chops are slowly getting better, and all this other stuff, but for some reason I feel like I should be learning songs. Whether by ear, tab, whatever.

Also as far as my lessons are concerned I'm revisiting modes this week...

So let me see if I understand this concept before I go back next week.

To play in a mode you decide if the piece is gonna be in a Major or Minor key?

You then choose the mode you want to play in, corresponding to that key.

You establish the tonal center of the piece with the chord based on the mode you've chosen.

Then in the most rudimentary sense you play lead revolving around the interval the mode is based on according to the parent keys scale?

I came across an interesting article here on UG where it pointed out how modes are constructed but I'm still a little confused.

I know it's kind of wrong to view the modes like this...

G Ionian (Major) (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,1)
A Dorian (minor) (A,B,C,D,E,F#,G,A) (2,3,4,5,6,7,1,2)
B Phrygian (minor) (B,C,D,E,F#,G,A,B) (3,4,5,6,7,1,2,3)
C Lydian (Major) (C,D,E,F#,G,A,B,C) (4,5,6,7,1,2,3,4)
D Mixolydian (Major) (D,E,F#,G,A,B,C,D) (5,6,7,1,2,3,4,5)
E Aeolian (minor) (E,F#,G,A,B,C,D,E) (6,7,1,2,3,4,5,6)
F# Locrian (diminished) (F#,G,A,B,C,D,E,F#) (7,1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

And instead they should be seen like this. (My teacher even pointed this out.)

G Ionian (Major) (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,1)
G Dorian (minor) (G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F,G) (1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7,1)
G Phrygian (minor) (G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) (1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,1)
G Lydian (Major) (G,A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G) (1,2,3,#4,5,6,7,1)
G Mixolydian (Major) (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G) (1,2,3,4,5,6,b7,1)
G Aeolian (minor) (G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) (1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,1)
G Locrian (diminished) (G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G) (1,b2,b3,4,b5,b6,b7,1)

My question is why are the flats and sharps altering the intervals of the scale?

He didn't really point it out to me. I'm kind of a slow learner but I wanna get a grasp on this concept as quickly as possible

Like I know how to play using modes but trying to articulate it I don't know quite what it is I'm trying to explain.

Like there's no such things as modal scales right? They're all the same Major/Minor scale you're just shifting the tonic to alter the feel of the piece right?
Last edited by anthonymarisc at Apr 28, 2016,
#2
The modes are just the different combinations of pitches that can go over a given tonic, and those are the modes based on the interval pattern of the major scale.

So, with that in mind, you should look for a pattern in those modes. Write them out in order of sharps/flats. Which modes contain no sharps or flats? Which modes contain 1 sharp? One flat? two sharps? And so on... You'll see the relationships pretty quickly.

You can think of the word "mode" in very literal terms. Like, your TV has different modes: Cable, Antenna, Video 1, Video 2. A given tonic has different modes: ionian, dorian, phrygian, etc (and there are modes based on interval patterns other than the major scale).

I'd suggest asking your teacher for some examples of music that use modal concepts. There's a pretty wide variety of music, some of which only has some elements of modal harmony, and some that's centered entirely on the idea of changing mode rather than key.

And in terms of how you approach this stuff with the guitar, try not to think too much about lead vs rhythm or whatever. Modes are not about running scales. Modality is a concept of harmony.
Last edited by cdgraves at Apr 28, 2016,
#3
So if I'm understanding this correctly...

If I have a G major chord progression, I'm able to to use the G Ionian mode which would simply be the G major scale. However, I'm also able to use the G Lydian and Mixolydian modal shapes which are of course relative to major scales outside the key of G. So in essence, modes allow me the ability to play notes that are out of key but will still work due to the harmonic relationship between the chords and melody being played?
#4
Modes are not in a major key. You wouldn't say E minor is in the key of G major either. Similarly as E minor and G major are different (even though the notes are the same), all the modes are different.

Think Dorian as a minor with a sharpened 6th (for example G minor has an Eb, G Dorian has an E, all the other notes are the same).

Think Phrygian as a minor with a flattened 2nd (for example G minor has an A, G dorian has an Ab, all the other notes are the same).

Think Lydian as a major with a sharpened 4th (for example G major has a C, G Lydian has a C#, all the other notes are the same).

Think Mixolydian as a major with a flattened 7th (for example G major has an F#, G Mixolydian has an F natural, all the other notes are the same).

Now, how do you use these new scales? Well, somebody here would say that you don't. But you use them like you would use major and minor. If the song is in a major key, you use a major scale. If the song is in a minor key, you use a minor scale. If the song is in some of the modes, you use that mode. I wouldn't just start playing Lydian if I saw a major chord. That wouldn't necessarily fit.

There's also CST that treats chords as scales. And that's where modes can be useful. You can add different extensions by playing different chord scales. But in that case you aren't necessarily really playing modal music. Some of the chord scales just have mode names.

Actually, I would suggest learning about chord functions first. If you know about that, learn about modal mixture (ie, borrowing chords/notes from the parallel minor/major) - you don't need modes to get access to out of key notes (and in a tonal context thinking it as modes doesn't make much sense). If you don't understand harmonic functions, understanding how to use modes can be a bit hard.


As suggested above, ask for some examples of modal music. If you are into jazz, modal jazz is one thing. Then there is of course pre-tonal stuff (middle ages/renaissance - that's where the modes come from). Some pop/rock songs are also modal. Oh, and modes are also used in folk music.
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
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Apr 28, 2016,
#5
Quote by anthonymarisc

I know it's kind of wrong to view the modes like this...

G Ionian (Major) (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,1)
A Dorian (minor) (A,B,C,D,E,F#,G,A) (2,3,4,5,6,7,1,2)
B Phrygian (minor) (B,C,D,E,F#,G,A,B) (3,4,5,6,7,1,2,3)
C Lydian (Major) (C,D,E,F#,G,A,B,C) (4,5,6,7,1,2,3,4)
D Mixolydian (Major) (D,E,F#,G,A,B,C,D) (5,6,7,1,2,3,4,5)
E Aeolian (minor) (E,F#,G,A,B,C,D,E) (6,7,1,2,3,4,5,6)
F# Locrian (diminished) (F#,G,A,B,C,D,E,F#) (7,1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

And instead they should be seen like this. (My teacher even pointed this out.)

G Ionian (Major) (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,1)
G Dorian (minor) (G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F,G) (1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7,1)
G Phrygian (minor) (G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) (1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,1)
G Lydian (Major) (G,A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G) (1,2,3,#4,5,6,7,1)
G Mixolydian (Major) (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G) (1,2,3,4,5,6,b7,1)
G Aeolian (minor) (G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) (1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,1)
G Locrian (diminished) (G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G) (1,b2,b3,4,b5,b6,b7,1)

My question is why are the flats and sharps altering the intervals of the scale?

You have 2 different types of scale analysis. The first block would be "C major modes".

The second block would be "C root modes".

When you start at a different note in the C scale, it gives you the intervals of the "C root modes. (Where every mode begins with C).

Look what happens. Here's "C "Ionian' < Let's just call that C major, OK?

Theses are the note "intervals" for a major scale in semitones: 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1

Ignore the sharps or flats any key might have, that pattern is all "natural notes", at least when we compare other modes against it. In other words, all the #5th or b7th shit, all relates back, and is compared to, the intervals of the major scale

Watch what happens we construct "D dorian". The notes are still those of C major. BUT, we start on the D. So, "D Dorian" is going to be D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D. No big surprise,right? It's still all the notes of C major.

BUT, the scale's spacing is now 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2. As above C Ionian goes 2, 2 (C, D, E)

But D Dorian goes 2, 1 (D, E, F) So, compared to C major, D Dorian has a "flat 3rd".

That's where the sharps and flats come from when you compare the scales using the same root note. That's what happens in you second block of "G root" scales.

Basically what you're doing is laying the new scale pattern over the major scale pattern, and marking the difference(s) with sharps and flats.
#7
Hi TS

What do you intend to do with "modes" once you know them?

Rather than pick apart your post and explain why a lot of things you've said are incorrect, I'll simply advise that you use your ears. If that E phrygian sounds like C major, it's most likely C major, and not E phrygian.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#8
Quote by anthonymarisc

I know it's kind of wrong to view the modes like this...

G Ionian (Major) (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,1)
A Dorian (minor) (A,B,C,D,E,F#,G,A) (2,3,4,5,6,7,1,2)
B Phrygian (minor) (B,C,D,E,F#,G,A,B) (3,4,5,6,7,1,2,3)
C Lydian (Major) (C,D,E,F#,G,A,B,C) (4,5,6,7,1,2,3,4)
D Mixolydian (Major) (D,E,F#,G,A,B,C,D) (5,6,7,1,2,3,4,5)
E Aeolian (minor) (E,F#,G,A,B,C,D,E) (6,7,1,2,3,4,5,6)
F# Locrian (diminished) (F#,G,A,B,C,D,E,F#) (7,1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

And instead they should be seen like this. (My teacher even pointed this out.)

G Ionian (Major) (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,1)
G Dorian (minor) (G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F,G) (1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7,1)
G Phrygian (minor) (G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) (1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,1)
G Lydian (Major) (G,A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G) (1,2,3,#4,5,6,7,1)
G Mixolydian (Major) (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G) (1,2,3,4,5,6,b7,1)
G Aeolian (minor) (G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) (1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,1)
G Locrian (diminished) (G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G) (1,b2,b3,4,b5,b6,b7,1)

My question is why are the flats and sharps altering the intervals of the scale?

He didn't really point it out to me. I'm kind of a slow learner but I wanna get a grasp on this concept as quickly as possible

Like I know how to play using modes but trying to articulate it I don't know quite what it is I'm trying to explain.

Like there's no such things as modal scales right? They're all the same Major/Minor scale you're just shifting the tonic to alter the feel of the piece right?


The second view of modes is better. Modes do have a different scale pattern. That's what gives them a different sound from key-based music. The difference between, say, G Mixolydian and G Major is a not a shift of tonic at all; you're changing the scale degrees you use in the melody and harmony. The mode coincidentally resembles another key, but that has no bearing on the music.
#9
I find it much simpler to learn one key - like C, by learning all the modes of that key. Think of each mode like this:

C Ionian - 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
D Dorian - 1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7 ( the 1 being D and all intervals are listed in relation to D)

In the end the intervals in relation to the root of each chord are what is important and what you should focus on. If you're playing over a vamp riff in D dorian, you should just be focused on D and it's intervals rather than worry about where the note lies in relation to C major, especially when starting out.

By learning all the modes of C major you end up learning the C major scale inside and out everywhere on the fretboard - that is why it's important to do that. Kurt Rosenwinkel discusses that in one of his master classes.
Last edited by reverb66 at Apr 28, 2016,
#10
Quote by anthonymarisc
So if I'm understanding this correctly...

If I have a G major chord progression, I'm able to to use the G Ionian mode which would simply be the G major scale. However, I'm also able to use the G Lydian and Mixolydian modal shapes which are of course relative to major scales outside the key of G. So in essence, modes allow me the ability to play notes that are out of key but will still work due to the harmonic relationship between the chords and melody being played?
Yes, that's a more correct view - but still not quite there.

The idea is that the tonal centre (keynote) of a piece of music is governed by its chords, usually in combination, pointing to an overall "tonic" (eg G in key of G major).
You can play the G major scale in any pattern you like (and call it wherever mode name you like, A dorian, B phrygian etc) - it will make no difference to the modal sound of the music. You're in the G major key, and that's it - one ruling modal sound.
You can, of course, emphasise different notes in the scale, especially in relation to each chord in a sequence - but those are not modal differences. (Even on a Bm chord, you are not "in B phrygian mode". You are on the "iii chord on G major", the "iii in G ionian" if you want a modal term... and really you don't...)

What will make a modal difference to the sound (on the G chord anyway) is to lower the 7th of the scale (F# to F) to create a "mixolydian" sound, or raise the 4th (C to C#) to create a "Lydian" sound. Or - one of the most familiar and widespread effects! - lower both the 3rd and 7th to create a "blues" sound. (If the key wasn't G major to begin with, that would simply make G dorian mode. But against the G major context, it's "blues". Kind of, anyway... Blues is a lot more complicated - and also simpler - than that...)

Of course, then you will hit problems with certain chords in the sequence. Eg, if there is a C chord in the sequence, than playing a C# is not going to sound too good...

IOW, most of this kind of game is beside the point. Modes are really the wrong thing to be thinking about at all. Modes (if applicable) are written into the song in the first place. If you apply others, you're not changing the mood, you're simply introducing "wrong notes" (and for no good reason: there may be good reasons - see below - but modes are not it!)

It's not that you're limited to what the song gives you (its chords and melody and the scale(s) they imply) - although that's a very good place to start! (Why think about "applying" stuff from outside, when there's already plenty of material in the song to work with?)

You're free to add "chromatics" (notes from outside the scale), but they don't work as part of some other scale or mode. They work individually, as alterations or embellishments of what's already there. E.g., you can add a C# if you want, in passing between C and D in either direction. Even on a C chord. On a G chord, a B-C-D scale run might sound cooler if you make it B-C-C#-D. The C# is then a chromatic approach to the D chord tone. (You do know D is a chord tone in a G chord?) Chromatic approaches, especially from below chord tones, have a distinctive and common "jazzy" or "bluesy" sound.
So all 5 chromatic notes are usable at any time - it's just a matter of understanding how they relate to the key (in particular the chord) you're in.
If you want a metaphor, it's like adding salt or pepper or spices to a dish, to enhance the flavours already there. So you don't want to overdo the chromatics! (Not unless you maybe have very advanced "jazz" tastes.... .)
Last edited by jongtr at Apr 28, 2016,
#11
Quote by reverb66
I find it much simpler to learn one key - like C, by learning all the modes of that key. Think of each mode like this:

C Ionian - 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
D Dorian - 1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7 ( the 1 being D and all intervals are listed in relation to D)

In the end the intervals in relation to the root of each chord are what is important and what you should focus on. If you're playing over a vamp riff in D dorian, you should just be focused on D and it's intervals rather than worry about where the note lies in relation to C major, especially when starting out.

By learning all the modes of C major you end up learning the C major scale inside and out everywhere on the fretboard - that is why it's important to do that.
Yes, but that still runs the risk of thinking that D dorian mode is "in the key of C major". It isn't.

Also, if the "vamp riff" is indeed in D dorian, then you don't really need to focus on the D. The vamp does that for you. (Just as, when you're playing on a progression in key of C major, you don't need to focus on the C.)
If you're just jamming solo, no backing, that's different - yes a focus on the root note matters. But that's hardly a practical musical scenario...
Quote by reverb66

Kurt Rosenwinkel discusses that in one of his master classes.
I hope he doesn't talk about C major scale positions as "modes"...
Last edited by jongtr at Apr 28, 2016,
#12
Best advice I can give is to forget that modes derive from a parent scale. It doesn't help at all in using them. Any scale is just a pattern of intervals from the scale root. Each such pattern has a name. E.g. Major (1 2 3 4 5 6 7). Dorian (1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7). Chords are built out of combinations of these intervals.

Each different scale type creates its own sound flavour when used "properly".

The important thing is learning how to bring out the "flavour" of the scale, and at the same time make it clear the scale is built off a chosen tonal centre. Ask your teacher about bringing out the flavour ...

You'll find out each scale has one or two characteristic intervals that, when stressed, stamp their mark on the sound, making it clear that particular scale type is being used for your sound palette.

Bringing out the tonal centre is predominantly achieved by using the tonic triad pitches. Melodies start typically on the 1 or (b)3 of the scale, and ending on the 1. (This is a rough guideline). Preceding the first 1 by 5 is very common.

Chord progressions are constructed to draw attention to the tonic also (but chords they don't have to be present to create the flavour) ... Modes are often played using simple grooves between the tonic and another chord that contains the characteristic.

But you can also create functional progressions for a mode, though this is less frequently used.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Apr 28, 2016,
#13
Quote by anthonymarisc
So I've been taking private lessons almost a year now and am proud to say, I've made lots of progress as a guitarist versus trying to teach myself playing on and off for the past ten years. Having a teacher that shows me almost nothing but theory has opened my eyes to a lot of things in music I didn't even know existed. That said, I will continue to take lessons from this man as I still have lots to learn about functional harmony and my understanding of the instrument.

However I think I'm reaching another plateau as I find I'm not really composing my own music, nor really am I learning songs. I mean I learn plenty of riffs but I don't know very many songs in their entirety. Is this a good thing?

Yes you want to learn songs in their entirety. As many as you can as completely as you can.

It's also good practice to sit down and analyse a song. Not just a harmonic analysis but also a structural analysis and breaking each section of a song down into it's smallest units looking for patterns to see how they fit together. Doing this can teach you a lot about how songs are put together and starts to demystify the songwriting process. When you see that a song is made up of small simple parts that are put together in a clear and logical way then you can start to apply the same kind of logic to your own writing and ideas. This helps tremendously with crafting an idea into a song.
Si
#14
Quote by jerrykramskoy
Best advice I can give is to forget that modes derive from a parent scale. It doesn't help at all in using them. Any scale is just a pattern of intervals from the scale root. Each such pattern has a name. E.g. Major (1 2 3 4 5 6 7). Dorian (1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7). Chords are built out of combinations of these intervals.

Each different scale type creates its own sound flavour when used "properly".

The important thing is learning how to bring out the "flavour" of the scale, and at the same time make it clear the scale is built off a chosen tonal centre. Ask your teacher about bringing out the flavour ...

You'll find out each scale has one or two characteristic intervals that, when stressed, stamp their mark on the sound, making it clear that particular scale type is being used for your sound palette.

Bringing out the tonal centre is predominantly achieved by using the tonic triad pitches. Melodies start typically on the 1 or (b)3 of the scale, and ending on the 1. (This is a rough guideline). Preceding the first 1 by 5 is very common.

Chord progressions are constructed to draw attention to the tonic also (but chords they don't have to be present to create the flavour) ... Modes are often played using simple grooves between the tonic and another chord that contains the characteristic.

But you can also create functional progressions for a mode, though this is less frequently used.
All good - but this brings up an important distinction - not often spelled out: composition or improvisation?

What you're talking about is investigating modes for the purposes of composition, or maybe for understanding compositions. Hearing the differences in modes as standalone entities.

That's essential, but some people confuse it with improvisation on an existing piece of music - thinking they have to (or even can) "bring out" modal flavours in it by how they play. Not so.

The creative value of modes is not (generally speaking) in improvisation - it's in composition. There are occasions when its possible to apply other modes to an existing piece, but it's very rare. Typically one just use the material given by the piece itself. It might be modal, it might not.
Last edited by jongtr at Apr 28, 2016,
#15
Quote by jongtr

Also, if the "vamp riff" is indeed in D dorian, then you don't really need to focus on the D.


You need to focus on D because every note you play is in relation to it. Visually and conceptually it simplifies the fretboard. That's the point - playing a b3 has a certain sound, playing a 4th a natural 6th etc. If you're not thinking in relation to D, then you're lost.
#16
Quote by reverb66
You need to focus on D because every note you play is in relation to it. Visually and conceptually it simplifies the fretboard. That's the point - playing a b3 has a certain sound, playing a 4th a natural 6th etc. If you're not thinking in relation to D, then you're lost.

My point was that if you're playing over a Dm chord (or D bass note) then that provides the tonal focus. You just need to use the right scale. Naturally ending phrases on D will help underline it, but the backing is giving the context.
#17
Quote by jongtr
All good - but this brings up an important distinction - not often spelled out: composition or improvisation?

What you're talking about is investigating modes for the purposes of composition, or maybe for understanding compositions. Hearing the differences in modes as standalone entities.

That's essential, but some people confuse it with improvisation on an existing piece of music - thinking they have to (or even can) "bring out" modal flavours in it by how they play. Not so.

The creative value of modes is not (generally speaking) in improvisation - it's in composition. There are occasions when its possible to apply other modes to an existing piece, but it's very rare. Typically one just use the material given by the piece itself. It might be modal, it might not.


Hi Jongtr,

Can you elaborate some more, please? ... I'm not sure I get your point.

Yes, the composition will hopefully do the job of creating the particular modal flavour.

As you say in a later post, the improviser's attention to bringing out the mode can be lightened up where the backing is making the tonal centre and modality clear.

But that doesn't exonerate the improviser from working to strengthen (or contradict at times) that mode. At least, that's what I would do.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Apr 29, 2016,