#1
I'm confused about applying modes over chord progressions. I read this article and it greatly explained modes and how they work, but I'm confused about something. Say we're talking about E Lydian mode. According to the article, the chords ifor E Lydian are E major, F# major, G# minor, A# diminished, B major, C# minor, and D# minor.

Question is, if you played a chord progression using those chords, what keeps them from resolving to B? Why would they be in the key of E Lydian (Can you be in the key of E Lydian??)? They're the same chords found in the key of B major. Can someone clear this up for me?

Also, could I use any mode that's in the key of E to solo over a progression in E? For example, could I solo over a E major - A major - B major progression with E Phrygian or would it sound wrong because of the flat 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th?

I'm pretty confused about this. Any help from you theory gurus would be greatly appreciated .
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#2
I'll assume you understand the basics and go right into modes.


First, you're not in the "key of E Lydian." You would describe it as a "modal E Lydian piece." I would write the song with a key signature of B major with a notes that says, "Key signature denotes E Lydian."

In order to have your progression not resolve to B, you don't want to play anything too complex. Limit your progression to 1 or 2 chords, maybe three if you're really bold. The way you find the proper chords to use is by identifying the modal tone. The unique note in E Lydian is the #4, so A# is the modal tone. The chords with A# in them are A#dim, D#m, and F#. A#dim leads pulls strongly to B, so that shouldn't be used. That leaves you with a progression containing D#m, F#, and of course E.
#3
Well E lydian is B major, just starting from the fourth. One of the ideas of modes is to evoke a certain feeling from your playing, so youd just not resolve it to B major, but instead E major, to get the feel that the lydian scale produces- dont forget that the A# is a key note, as it produces a diminiched 5th with the E, otherwise it would just be the major scale.
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#4
Great info, thanks! I'll have to try this out.

Does anyone by any chance know of any songs that use modes over a chord progression that eminently suggests the mode's sound? Basically, any song that obviously utilizies a mode for the entire song. I don't have my guitar right now and would really like to see an example of this. Thanks in advance!
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#5
Quote by philipp122
Great info, thanks! I'll have to try this out.

Does anyone by any chance know of any songs that use modes over a chord progression that eminently suggests the mode's sound? Basically, any song that obviously utilizies a mode for the entire song. I don't have my guitar right now and would really like to see an example of this. Thanks in advance!
"Oye Como Va" by Santana is largely based on the A (I think) Dorian mode.

Turely modal music is not all that common. The more common way to use a "mode" is in a modally neutral progression such as Am G Am G. Iver that progression, either F or F# could be played without any major clashes.
#6
^Haha, this gets more and more complicated, but I see what you're saying. Basically, you use C major or C Lydian over that progression right?
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#7
Quote by philipp122
^Haha, this gets more and more complicated, but I see what you're saying. Basically, you use C major or C Lydian over that progression right?
Well no. It's clearly an Am progression, so it would be inappropriate to describe the scale as a C scale of any kind. It would be either A natural minor or A dorian (which contain the same notes as C major and C lydian but are different).
#8
Quote by philipp122

Question is, if you played a chord progression using those chords, what keeps them from resolving to B? Why would they be in the key of E Lydian (Can you be in the key of E Lydian??)? They're the same chords found in the key of B major. Can someone clear this up for me?
I'm pretty confused about this. Any help from you theory gurus would be greatly appreciated .


What prevents it resolving to B major is the same thing that stops a piece in A minor resolving to C. This is the easiest way for me to understand it.

What it comes down to is the way you use harmonic progressions and melodies to build tension and resolve within a musical passage that determines the tonal centre.

You could flip the question and ask what stops a chord progression in B Ionian (B Major) from resolving to E Lydian. Yes they share the same notes and same diatonic chords but each chord serves a different function in relation to the tonic and so the chords would be put together in a different.

A chord passage like B - F# - B would give the feeling B is the tonal centre because of the I-V-I relationship. In E Lydian this would be V-II-V. Because the I-V-I is so much stronger than the V-II-V when your ear hears this passage in isolation it automatically recognizes B as the tonal centre.

Similarly a chord passage E-B-E would give the feeling that E was your tonal centre because you would hear it as a I-V-I relationship as opposed to the B Ionian relatinship of IV-I-IV. Again the V-I resolve tonicizes the E.
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#9
Quote by bangoodcharlote
Well no. It's clearly an Am progression, so it would be inappropriate to describe the scale as a C scale of any kind. It would be either A natural minor or A dorian (which contain the same notes as C major and C lydian but are different).


Oh, that was my bad. I see what you're saying. So I could use either A minor or A Lydian depending on the sound I'm looking for over that chord progression (b6 or natural 6).


Quote by 20Tigers
What prevents it resolving to B major is the same thing that stops a piece in A minor resolving to C. This is the easiest way for me to understand it.

What it comes down to is the way you use harmonic progressions and melodies to build tension and resolve within a musical passage that determines the tonal centre.

You could flip the question and ask what stops a chord progression in B Ionian (B Major) from resolving to E Lydian. Yes they share the same notes and same diatonic chords but each chord serves a different function in relation to the tonic and so the chords would be put together in a different.

A chord passage like B - F# - B would give the feeling B is the tonal centre because of the I-V-I relationship. In E Lydian this would be V-II-V. Because the I-V-I is so much stronger than the V-II-V when your ear hears this passage in isolation it automatically recognizes B as the tonal centre.

Similarly a chord passage E-B-E would give the feeling that E was your tonal centre because you would hear it as a I-V-I relationship as opposed to the B Ionian relatinship of IV-I-IV. Again the V-I resolve tonicizes the E.


That's an interesting way of looking at it and I've never thought of it that way lol. That's really helpful.
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#10
Quote by philipp122
Oh, that was my bad. I see what you're saying. So I could use either A minor or A Lydian depending on the sound I'm looking for over that chord progression (b6 or natural 6).
A Dorian, not Lydian, but I'm guessing that was an innocent mistake.
#11
Quote by philipp122
Oh, that was my bad. I see what you're saying. So I could use either A minor or A Lydian depending on the sound I'm looking for over that chord progression (b6 or natural 6).

Don't you mean Dorian? And for modal improvisations, simple 2 chord vamps are the easiest way to go as everyone else has said.
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#12
^Yeah, I meant Dorian guys lol. Sorry, I've been studying theory for 2 hours and I'm all mixed up.

Ok, I know I should probably do this myself, but could you give me a bit of a more complex example than the Am-G-Am-G progression? The progression was missing the note F altogether and was in A minor, so you could either use A minor or A Dorian, simple.

But what about modes like Phrygian which have a flat 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th? Where could I apply something like that?
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#13
FInd a progression that offers some flexibility in the scales you can use. For instance, there is not F or F# note in Am G Am G, so either note works. Over Am F Am F, B or Bb works.
#14
Quote by philipp122
^Yeah, I meant Dorian guys lol. Sorry, I've been studying theory for 2 hours and I'm all mixed up.

Ok, I know I should probably do this myself, but could you give me a bit of a more complex example than the Am-G-Am-G progression? The progression was missing the note F altogether and was in A minor, so you could either use A minor or A Dorian, simple.

But what about modes like Phrygian which have a flat 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th? Where could I apply something like that?

A simple vamp for A Dorian would be Am7-D7-Am7-D7.

Phrygian should be treated the same way; just emphasize the modal tones and avoid resolving to the parent scale to keep it within the mode. The introduction to a song I've written is in E Phrygian and revolves around these two chords:
e--0--0------------------
B--0--0------------------
G--0--2------------------
D--2--3------------------
A--2--3------------------
E--0--0------------------


First chord being E minor, the second being E13sus4(b9). The b9 is the same as b2, which is the characteristic interval of the Phrygian mode, and as such the chord sounds decidedly Phrygian.
#15
Quote by :-D
A simple vamp for A Dorian would be Am7-D7-Am7-D7.

Man, I was just about to suggest that! I find plain vamps rather boring, so I usually play some simple extensions within the mode to create a simple melody underneath the chords.
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#16
Quote by Iron_Dude
Man, I was just about to suggest that! I find plain vamps rather boring, so I usually play some simple extensions within the mode to create a simple melody underneath the chords.

The Am7 D7 is the bare-bones vamp; sometimes you have to watch those extensions because they can end up creating pull to the parent scale that you may not necessarily want.
#17
Quote by :-D
The Am7 D7 is the bare-bones vamp; sometimes you have to watch those extensions because they can end up creating pull to the parent scale that you may not necessarily want.
Right. A chord with lots of extensions can sometimes be better called an inversion of another chord.
#18
Thanks so much man! That really makes sense. I should apply modes over chord progressions that resolve to the mode's root note and model the mode's characteristic interval(s). Finally, it clicks lol.
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#19
Quote by bangoodcharlote
In order to have your progression not resolve to B, you don't want to play anything too complex. Limit your progression to 1 or 2 chords, maybe three if you're really bold. The way you find the proper chords to use is by identifying the modal tone. The unique note in E Lydian is the #4, so A# is the modal tone. The chords with A# in them are A#dim, D#m, and F#. A#dim leads pulls strongly to B, so that shouldn't be used. That leaves you with a progression containing D#m, F#, and of course E.


I use this approach often and find it works well, but it's not the only way to make a modal progression. The composition 'Out Of Time' in my profile begins with what I consider to be a D Dorian progression before the melody comes in. The chords are Dm7 - Em7 - F - G. I was just how other people would look at this progression, as I rarely see anyone here talking about modal progressions with more than 3 different chords. For the rest of the piece, I make use of D Dorian and D natural and harmonic minor.
Last edited by Eirien at Jul 3, 2008,
#20
Quote by philipp122
Question is, if you played a chord progression using those chords, what keeps them from resolving to B? Why would they be in the key of E Lydian (Can you be in the key of E Lydian??)? They're the same chords found in the key of B major. Can someone clear this up for me?
Nothing. Modal progressions are VERY different to diatonic progressions. Heres a repost of mine explaining how to do it:
What most musicians mean by modes is 'modal progressions', where the progression will specifically point to a specific mode. This is achieved by outlining that specific mode (usually dorian as it's the easiest).

But how do you outline a mode?
Each mode has a special note that only that mode has, in dorian it is its natural sixth, aeolian is an exception to this. BTW you should know the formula's of the modes before using them, not just their fingerings. Alot of guys call this special note the modal note.

So all we do is find chord that contain this special note. In D dorian these chords are G7, Bm7b5 and Em. But, we cant just throw these chords together, we have to make sure we dont resolve to the I chord of the parent scale, or else all modal feeling will be lost. So that means we cant use Bm7b5, as it only really moves to C well. I personally wouldnt use Em, as it doesnt really move well (in my opinion) to either Dm or G7. So this leaves us with G7, which still contains the modal note and still moves well to Dm.

So our progression is: Dm7 - G7.

Quote by philipp122
Also, could I use any mode that's in the key of E to solo over a progression in E? For example, could I solo over a E major - A major - B major progression with E Phrygian or would it sound wrong because of the flat 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th?
Um, heres another repost of mine explaining the same thing:
The other way I'm fairly proficient at is what corwinoid calls "modal interchange." It's basically a way jazzers play the "chord changes." After bop died down, alot of jazzers realised that each different chord would make the same note sound completely different. So many of them tried to improvise with different scales and modes over different chords. This way of thinking is for the improviser (whilst modal progressions is for the composer)

Say you look at this common progression: Cmajor7- G7 - Fmajor7. Most rock musicians will look at that and would improvise with a C major pentatonic over the whole thing, which is fine but is fairly limited. But a jazzer would look at that and try to tailor what they play over each chord to reflect what they want it to sound like.

So they might play either C lydian or C ionian over the first chord. Dominant chords normally only have mixolydian played over them, sometimes a lydian dominant mode (which is the same as the lydian mode except with a b7). And over that F major7 either ionian or lydian can be played over it.

You can look at modal interchange as if its a scale change. You can look at it like it's either C major (C ionian) or G major (C lydian) over the first chord. And C major (F lydian) or F major (F ionian) over the next chord.

It's important to remember, when thinking like this, that the chord underneath decides the mode, NOT what fingering you choose. If your chord is C, you must play a C mode or scale. Even if you play the fingering's of another mode with a different root note (but the same notes), over C major, the mode will still function as C ionian. This is what confuses alot of people.

As a rule of thumb: Ionian or lydian over Maj7 chords, Mixolydian* over dominant chords, and Aeolian or Dorian or Phrygian (sort of rare) over minor chords.

OTHER THINGS TO PLAY OVER DOMINANT CHORDS
*lydian dominant (fourth mode of the melodic minor scale), Superlocrian (seventh mode of melodic minor scale) and Phrygian Dominant (fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale) also work in special occasions.

Lydian dominant is just your usual lydian mode, except with a flat seventh. This is prefered by some musicians as they believe it's more consonant. They get this belief from the fact that the two tritones made by this mode is the third with the seventh (which is essential for that dominant feel) and the #4, which is actually a good tritone as it moves well to the perfect fifth. Whether it is or isnt is up to you.

Phrygian dominant only works if the chord after or before the dominant chord is minor and seven semitones (perfect fifth) below it or 5 semitones above it (perfect fourth). This is sort of more common in carribean style jazz (you know, the kind with calypso style rhthyms). Phrygian dominant sort of sounds eastern, sort of spicy and sort of dark. This is due to minor sixth (spicy-ness) and the minor second (darkness).

Superlocrian sort of works too. As that b4 of the superlocrian mode is enharmonic with the M3 of the dominant chord. This mode can give a dominant chord (which is naturally bright) a darker, more bluesier feel. The minor thirds over dominant chords generally sounds very bluesy and so does the flat fifth. I'd recomend you avoided the minor second (too dark) and used a perfect fifth (even if the mode's formula doesnt include it).

IMPORTANT: AS IN READ THIS
Dont attempt trying this until your fairly good at improvising over chords. Otherwise your phrasing will go out the window, and most musicians will agree that phrasing is the most important element of improvising. Before you try all these tricky things with modes (but after your phrasing is developed ofcourse) try some simple pentatonic changes. Play Minor pentatonics over minor chords and major pentatonics over major chords, just to get the hang of playing the changes.
#21
^WOw,now that's some detailed and excellent help. I've been improvising over chords but I've only used pentatonic minor scales and the natural minor scale, and sometimes the major scale but I don't really like the sound. I've never really worked on switching scales depending on the current chord of the progression, so I'll really have to start paying attention to that.

Thanks for the help!
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#22
Quote by philipp122
^WOw,now that's some detailed and excellent help. I've been improvising over chords but I've only used pentatonic minor scales and the natural minor scale, and sometimes the major scale but I don't really like the sound. I've never really worked on switching scales depending on the current chord of the progression, so I'll really have to start paying attention to that.

Thanks for the help!
Um, if your improvising with the pentatonics scale and still dont like what your producing, I'd suggest you stick to the pentatonics. What I described is a million times harder than what it seems.

I'd suggest you read this other repost on improvising (2 in the same night *):
I think you should take it back a step. If I said you were playing major/minor scales (instead of pentatonics) would I be right? Well take a step back and start playing the simple pentatonic scales.

Once you've learnt a few shapes (2 or 3 is fine) of the pentatonic scale, you probably should try to focus on what you feel is the right next note and play REALLY slow. Try to listen to some of those slow expressive blues solo's to get what I mean. Whilst doing this, try to become proficient at moving around the fretboard and between shapes. Aim to be able to slide between 3 or 4 notes on the same string.
Copying a singers phrasing and rhthym is generally a good idea to when learning how to improvise. And I dont mean metal singers/screamers, who sing really fast. Copy something slow. This is how people started writing those slow blues solo's.

Doing this will get your phrasing (by copying those singers) and your technique (by moving between shapes) ready for doing some real solo's (as in, stuff that sounds good).

Than after you've got all that down and when you're good enough to say that you personally enjoy what you're playing (it took me a couple of years to enjoy my pentatonic wankery), you'll be ready to move on. Than study the major scale, the intervals behind it, the way these intervals create harmonic/melodic consonance and dissonance and watch melodic control by marty friedman. Pretty much look for and study as much theory as you can eat. And analyse solo's, ask yourself, why do they sound good?
At this stage you should start realising that the same note can sound better or worse over different chords and some notes sound better or worse when followed (or preceeded) by some notes. Exploiting this will enable you to control what you're solo's are going to feel like, instead of blindly looking for the right note.
#23
^I don't think I was clear enough when I said that. I know the pentatonic minor scale forwards and backwards lol. Also, I've been studying theory for a while now. I started with the major scale, chord construction, staying in key, etc. But I never really moved away from using the pentatonic minor scale to improvise over a chord progression. Now I'm trying to take it to the next step and move on to more complex scales and progresions.
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#24
i've always found that if you want modal progressions... learn em from a jazz book or song... "jazzology" can help you there as well as mark levine's book "The jazz theory book". or how about miles davis' "so what". its a gorgeous song that when you transpose it, you learn so many different ways to play a song... the best way to understand and use modes is your ear. by all means learn from books and whatever people here write on the subject... but in the end, all our ears hear different things. same thing playing, different message being broadcast to each others ears.

a great learning tool to hear the sound of modes, get frank gambale's "modes, no more mystery". its brilliant, very easy to understand and apply, just dont try sound like him because we all fail miserably

keep this in mind though... the greatest amount of theory in your head does nothin for your fingers... your ears have to make sense of it before yr audience can
#25
two of the best players to analyse would be dann huff and richie kotzen. cant go wrong there. richie and dann have the best technique and both use their ears to guide the solo. another old cat would be kee marcello from europe. watch his video. when he solos its like a voice. watch his video and listen to what he says. the same goes for richie kotzen, though dont get his early reh video, you'll crap yr pants cos i certainly did. that said, go for his later stuff, he explains better. his use of pentatonics is amazin. and they'll show you how to colour your sound without addin too many outside notes... hope this helps