#1
So I finally got a chance to take a music theory course - the first in a series of two anyway - and have some questions concerning its application during composition and improvisation. At the moment I have been doing both just "by ear" but it would be nice if I could also know what it is that I have been doing, and what else I can do.

While I was working on improvisation, I came across this backing track that said it was for G Mixolydian or G Minor Pentatonic w/Blues Note...but something about this confuses me...

1. Is it the case that a chord progression can be modal? If so, does the number of chords affect whether or not this is the case? Also, are there specific chords that need to be used in order for it to be modal?

2. If I wanted to improvise in a certain key, I'm "allowed" to use all the scale shapes along the fretboard right? Because the modality of each shape, when played from beginning to end, is established by the first note, i.e., the root in this case, of the shape?

3. What should I do if I wanted to improvise in a way that the solo has a certain modality, e.g., Mixolydian. Do I do the same thing I would do while improvising in a certain key since the chord progression would establish the Mixolydian feel? Or is there something else I should be doing over a "normal" chord progression that is needed to give the solo a Mixolydian vibe?

4. In another thread, I read that modal music does not contain accidentals. Does that mean I can't tonicize using secondary dominants or modulate to the mode of another key, e.g., from G Mixolydian to D Mixolydian?

And while composing and watching videos for ideas I came across a few more questions. I randomly came across John Myung's explanation of the Metropolis bass solo on YouTube, and he explained that it was a tapped pattern that progressed through a series of four different add11 chords with #F, G, A, and B...

1. What else is going on here in terms of theory? Based simply on the roots of the add11 chords, it seems like the song could be in D Major or some other key with those four notes in it. But then the other fifths and fourths make it hard for me to think of it in a key...so does that mean it isn't in a key?

2. What would be some strategies for coming up with other parts that complement this type of solo? Or even simpler, what if there was a progression of power chords or some other types of diads and/or triads that sounds good on its own, but doesn't seem to be in a certain key? What could I do to write the other parts?

3. Another related question...lets say I wrote a song using a power chord riff...something like Slither in which the roots of the power chords are within a certain scale, but the fifths add accidentals. If writing a solo or some melody over the riff...how should I treat it? Should I do what Marty Friedman said to do in Melodic Control, i.e., to outline the notes of the chord? Is there enough time to do that if each power chord only lasts for a fraction of a second? Would I run into problems if I use the scale implied by the roots of the power chords?

Thanks!
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Last edited by Colonel Sanders : Yesterday at 10:54 PM.
#3
1. A chord progression can definetly be modal. Just pick chords that have the notes that are in the mode you are writing in. Modal music is strict though and you can't use notes outiside of the mode otherwise it becomes key-based.

2. If i read that correctly, yes. Note that if you play D Dorian over a C major chord you're really playing C major because the progression is in C the notes are in it, etc, etc.

3. If you want it to sound mixolydian, play mixolydian. Play a D7 chord and solo with D Mixolydian over it or something like that.

4. I'm pretty sure. I guess modal music is real strict in that sense. You can use modes in cool ways though like pitch-axis. With pitch-axis you basically have a pedal tone (a repeated note that is basically the root of everything you do) and you solo using any scale with the pedal tone as the root and resolve back to that pedal tone.


I wouldn't take my word for it though. I'm a little out of it today.
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”


-Max Planck

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#4
Quote by Dr. Faustus
So I finally got a chance to take a music theory course - the first in a series of two anyway - and have some questions concerning its application during composition and improvisation. At the moment I have been doing both just "by ear" but it would be nice if I could also know what it is that I have been doing, and what else I can do.

While I was working on improvisation, I came across this backing track that said it was for G Mixolydian or G Minor Pentatonic w/Blues Note...but something about this confuses me...

1. Is it the case that a chord progression can be modal? If so, does the number of chords affect whether or not this is the case? Also, are there specific chords that need to be used in order for it to be modal?

yes very much so. more than likely it will be the progression that determines the mode.

the only problem with adding chords is that the progression tends to want to resolve away from the mode and towards the major/relitive minor keys


2. If I wanted to improvise in a certain key, I'm "allowed" to use all the scale shapes along the fretboard right? Because the modality of each shape, when played from beginning to end, is established by the first note, i.e., the root in this case, of the shape?

yes a scale covers the complete fret board and many scales are enharmonic(share the same notes) and are determined by root note, chord tones or a progression

3. What should I do if I wanted to improvise in a way that the solo has a certain modality, e.g., Mixolydian. Do I do the same thing I would do while improvising in a certain key since the chord progression would establish the Mixolydian feel? Or is there something else I should be doing over a "normal" chord progression that is needed to give the solo a Mixolydian vibe?

not nessicarily sclaes themselves are just notes and are not constricted to a certain type of music. i think the "feel" of a mode has more to do with a genre of musicc you are playing.

dorian for instance is used in alot of spanish music but it is also used in blues and rock music. the same exact scale will give you a different feel based on the genre.



Thanks!


i don't know if that helps
#5
Here goes...
Quote by Dr. Faustus
So I finally got a chance to take a music theory course - the first in a series of two anyway - and have some questions concerning its application during composition and improvisation. At the moment I have been doing both just "by ear" but it would be nice if I could also know what it is that I have been doing, and what else I can do.

While I was working on improvisation, I came across this backing track that said it was for G Mixolydian or G Minor Pentatonic w/Blues Note...but something about this confuses me...

1. Is it the case that a chord progression can be modal? If so, does the number of chords affect whether or not this is the case? Also, are there specific chords that need to be used in order for it to be modal?
The progression determines the mode; more likely you'll see a vamp than a full-out progression. A vamp will be a fewer number of chords that repeats consistently and serves to maintain the tonal center, because a progression will want to resolve to somewhere other than the tonal center of the mode and destroy the modal nature. There are chords that are more suggestive of specific modes and work very well, yes.
2. If I wanted to improvise in a certain key, I'm "allowed" to use all the scale shapes along the fretboard right? Because the modality of each shape, when played from beginning to end, is established by the first note, i.e., the root in this case, of the shape?
The modality is not determine by the first note, it's determined by the harmonic context. If you're playing over a static C major chord but begin a lead lick on D, you're still playing C major, not D Dorian. You can use any pattern of the scale you want, since it's still the same scale.
3. What should I do if I wanted to improvise in a way that the solo has a certain modality, e.g., Mixolydian. Do I do the same thing I would do while improvising in a certain key since the chord progression would establish the Mixolydian feel? Or is there something else I should be doing over a "normal" chord progression that is needed to give the solo a Mixolydian vibe?
Well, the progression has to suggest Mixolydian; I'm not sure what you mean by a "normal" chord, but if the harmony doesn't suggest Mixolydian you won't sound like you're playing in Mixolydian, because you're not.
4. In another thread, I read that modal music does not contain accidentals. Does that mean I can't tonicize using secondary dominants or modulate to the mode of another key, e.g., from G Mixolydian to D Mixolydian?
You'll see a lot more motion to parallel modes (modes with the same root), like G Mixolydian to G Dorian, which only changes one note of the scale. Going from G Mixolydian to D Mixolydian would be difficult as you need to change tonal centers, so the harmony has to shift completely.
And while composing and watching videos for ideas I came across a few more questions. I randomly came across John Myung's explanation of the Metropolis bass solo on YouTube, and he explained that it was a tapped pattern that progressed through a series of four different add11 chords with #F, G, A, and B...

1. What else is going on here in terms of theory? Based simply on the roots of the add11 chords, it seems like the song could be in D Major or some other key with those four notes in it. But then the other fifths and fourths make it hard for me to think of it in a key...so does that mean it isn't in a key?
I haven't seen the video, but that would be most suggestive of D major or B minor depending on the tonal center. All you have to do is find the tonal center and then see if the progression suggests a specific key.
2. What would be some strategies for coming up with other parts that complement this type of solo? Or even simpler, what if there was a progression of power chords or some other types of diads and/or triads that sounds good on its own, but doesn't seem to be in a certain key? What could I do to write the other parts?
You'll almost always be in some key, as truly atonal music is very uncommon. Build up your ear and you'll be able to discern a key more easily.
3. Another related question...lets say I wrote a song using a power chord riff...something like Slither in which the roots of the power chords are within a certain scale, but the fifths add accidentals. If writing a solo or some melody over the riff...how should I treat it? Should I do what Marty Friedman said to do in Melodic Control, i.e., to outline the notes of the chord? Is there enough time to do that if each power chord only lasts for a fraction of a second? Would I run into problems if I use the scale implied by the roots of the power chords?
With power chords, you can't really outline the chord tones because a power chord is just an interval. You'll find notes that you don't like over specific chords, so just avoid them or use them to build tension and then resolve it.
Thanks!

Hope that was helpful, ask anything else you'd like to know.
#6
3B. You want to find the general tonality and work from there. For instance, "Slither" has a general tonality of D minor, despite having some weird F# tones thrown in, so perhaps it's just a bluesy D tonality. The corresponding scale is the D minor pentatonic/blues scale, which Slash uses heavily/exclusively in the solo.
#7
1. Yes. Like everyone else said, this is difficult to achieve because all the chords of the major scale want to resolve to the same chord, the I chord. This is why to achieve minor tonality you must use a couple out of key chords and to achieve modal progressions you must use only 2 or 3 chords. Sometimes you can only use one chord, like locrian progressions.

To write a modal progression you must find chords that include the modal note of the mode your writing in. This outlines a points to that specific mode. Examples of a D dorian progression would be Dminor - G7. That G7 contains the B note which outlines the dorian mode. You can use other chords too, but make sure they fit well with the next set of criteria.
You must also not use any chord that points more towards the I chord (which will destroy the modal-ness) than the first chord of that mode (Dminor in the example above). This is why Bm7b5 cant be used, as it moves better to C major (the I chord) than to G7 or to Dminor.
When writing modal progressions, I would also suggest not using sevenths on the first chord of the mode your writing in. Seventh chords sort of lead to another chord, I dont usually resolve on these chords.
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2. No comment. Everything usefull that I can think of saying has already been said by everyone else. So why did I write such a useless answer?
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3. Apart from playing that mode, obviously, I would try to accencuate and stress that modal note. The modal notes are: 6 in dorian, #4 in lydian, b7 in mixolydian, b2 in phrygian and b6 in aeolian (yes modally aeolian progressions are possible). Normally those notes are avoid notes in diatonic music, as they carry alot of dissonance.
Thats just a suggestion. In my oppinion, the melody should be the least diatonic part of your song.
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4. The melody played over modal progressions can have as many accidentals as you like. I wouldn't suggest having non-diatonic chords, except BGC thinks its possible...
In some polymodal peices, you'll see movement between different modes and different progressions of the same root. When doing this, I would suggest you move between modes that have the least amount of differences as possible. Like theres only 1 difference between G dorian and G mixolydian or G aeolian (the 3rd and 6th respectively).
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And now the next set of questions....

1. Melodies/solo's and so on dont really need to be in key...
After watching that video, I have determined that he is playing the same shape (which uses a ridiculous amount of perfect fifths and octaves and unison intervals) ascending through F#, G, A, B. The shape itself is almost an arpeggiated powerchord. It basically modulates by following the scale (D major) starting on F# and ending on B. Very consonant and very in key...

2. When you have a progression that uses non-diatonic chords, you might want to think of the new non-diatonic chord as being modulated into a different key/scale, or being borrowed from a different key/scale. So you would use the new key/scale/mode as the basis of writing melodies or arpeggios or something. If all else fails, write melodies based solely on chord tones over these chords.
Try to use your theoretical knowledge and logic over your ear when determining what key these new non-diatonic chords are in. It's more reliable, especially if your ear isnt very developed. Sometimes you'll get a choice between 2 or 3 different keys/scales/modes to play with. Try to keep minor modes over minor chords and major modes over major chords.
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3. It doesnt really matter if a note clashes with the fifth of the chord. I'd take a minimalist aproach and play D minor pentatonic over that progression, like what BGC said.
#8
Thanks a ton for all the answers.

It's going to take a while to read and really understand everything, but learning this definately will not be a waste.
Welcome to BUCKETHEADLAND

Last edited by Colonel Sanders : Yesterday at 10:54 PM.
#9
Quote by demonofthenight
except BGC thinks its possible...
What did I say?

I would caution the use of chromatic tones in a lead over a modal progression, certainly at first. You could destroy the delicate harmony with your lead, not just the rhythm.
#10
Quote by bangoodcharlote
What did I say?

I would caution the use of chromatic tones in a lead over a modal progression, certainly at first. You could destroy the delicate harmony with your lead, not just the rhythm.
Remember back in that thread where I was asking you how modal progressions are made? I asked you if I could use out of key chords and you said it was possible but you would advise against it.
#11
Quote by demonofthenight
Remember back in that thread where I was asking you how modal progressions are made? I asked you if I could use out of key chords and you said it was possible but you would advise against it.
You could do a grace-note slide from a half-step below a chord. With anything more complex, you run the risk of destroying the delicate modal harmony, but you can try it and see what happens.


That is the new way I'm describing it, the delicate modal harmony, so get used to hearing that.
#12
Quote by demonofthenight
1. Yes. Like everyone else said, this is difficult to achieve because all the chords of the major sca

le want to resolve to the same chord, the I chord. This is why to achieve minor tonality you must use a couple out of key chords and to achieve modal progressions you must use only 2 or 3 chords. Sometimes you can only use one chord, like locrian progressions.

To write a modal progression you must find chords that include the modal note of the mode your writing in. This outlines a points to that specific mode. Examples of a D dorian progression would be Dminor - G7. That G7 contains the B note which outlines the dorian mode. You can use other chords too, but make sure they fit well with the next set of criteria.
You must also not use any chord that points more towards the I chord (which will destroy the modal-ness) than the first chord of that mode (Dminor in the example above). This is why Bm7b5 cant be used, as it moves better to C major (the I chord) than to G7 or to Dminor.
When writing modal progressions, I would also suggest not using sevenths on the first chord of the mode your writing in. Seventh chords sort of lead to another chord, I dont usually resolve on these chords.
__________________________
2. No comment. Everything usefull that I can think of saying has already been said by everyone else. So why did I write such a useless answer?
__________________________
3. Apart from playing that mode, obviously, I would try to accencuate and stress that modal note. The modal notes are: 6 in dorian, #4 in lydian, b7 in mixolydian, b2 in phrygian and b6 in aeolian (yes modally aeolian progressions are possible). Normally those notes are avoid notes in diatonic music, as they carry alot of dissonance.
Thats just a suggestion. In my oppinion, the melody should be the least diatonic part of your song.
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4. The melody played over modal progressions can have as many accidentals as you like. I wouldn't suggest having non-diatonic chords, except BGC thinks its possible...
In some polymodal peices, you'll see movement between different modes and different progressions of the same root. When doing this, I would suggest you move between modes that have the least amount of differences as possible. Like theres only 1 difference between G dorian and G mixolydian or G aeolian (the 3rd and 6th respectively).
__________________________
And now the next set of questions....

1. Melodies/solo's and so on dont really need to be in key...
After watching that video, I have determined that he is playing the same shape (which uses a ridiculous amount of perfect fifths and octaves and unison intervals) ascending through F#, G, A, B. The shape itself is almost an arpeggiated powerchord. It basically modulates by following the scale (D major) starting on F# and ending on B. Very consonant and very in key...

2. When you have a progression that uses non-diatonic chords, you might want to think of the new non-diatonic chord as being modulated into a different key/scale, or being borrowed from a different key/scale. So you would use the new key/scale/mode as the basis of writing melodies or arpeggios or something. If all else fails, write melodies based solely on chord tones over these chords.
Try to use your theoretical knowledge and logic over your ear when determining what key these new non-diatonic chords are in. It's more reliable, especially if your ear isnt very developed. Sometimes you'll get a choice between 2 or 3 different keys/scales/modes to play with. Try to keep minor modes over minor chords and major modes over major chords.
__________________________
3. It doesnt really matter if a note clashes with the fifth of the chord. I'd take a minimalist aproach and play D minor pentatonic over that progression, like what BGC said.



i thought that if you played in a minor key you werent out of key... or what do you mean?
#13
Quote by alexcp94
i thought that if you played in a minor key you werent out of key... or what do you mean?
Not sure which part of my post you're trying to post about.

Anyway, in minor keys most composers would use a leading tone (raised seventh) to resolve. This leading tone is actually an out of key note (in A minor, the leading tone would be G#). So yeah, effectively if you're using minor keys you're going to go out of key.
#14
Quote by demonofthenight
Not sure which part of my post you're trying to post about.

Anyway, in minor keys most composers would use a leading tone (raised seventh) to resolve. This leading tone is actually an out of key note (in A minor, the leading tone would be G#). So yeah, effectively if you're using minor keys you're going to go out of key.


the g# is to resolve to a?

you can also do that with major scales?

also is it completely necessary?

and how if it is out of key it sounds good?

i dont understand, i thought that you are supposed to play in key, and how are you are out of key if you are playing a minor scale, i thought you were out of key if "you were playing out of the scale" also what does it mean to resolve and the leading tone and all that?
Last edited by alexcp94 at Dec 4, 2008,
#15
Quote by alexcp94
the g# is to resolve to a? In a scale, the best resolution will be semitonal movement upwards to the tonic. So if we are in the key of A (minor or major, whatever) the best way to resolve the song is the go G# to A. The next best resolution is B to A (tonal movement downwards). Actually, the way all notes want to move is either semitonal upwards or tonal movement downwards.

you can also do that with major scales? Theres already a leading tone in every major scale. Check out any major scale and you will find a note thats a semitone below the root

also is it completely necessary? Yes and no. You probably should resolve a song, but hey it's your song. You don't want to resolve like most other songs, your .

and how if it is out of key it sounds good? Because perfect in key doesn't mean perfect sound.

i dont understand, i thought that you are supposed to play in key, and how are you are out of key if you are playing a minor scale, i thought you were out of key if "you were playing out of the scale" also what does it mean to resolve and the leading tone and all that? What? Resolve means finish the song in a finishing sort of way with a finishing sort of sound. Why do you think playing out of key is bad? Leading tone is just the note thats a semitone below the tonic . It's called a leading tone because it leads to the tonic.
Jesus I could barely answer thsseo questions.