#1
i was talking to my buddy about playing guitar and he said that he is taking lessons from another guy and that he is learning alot of theory and scales and such. then he said he is taking what he is learning and converting it to modes and thats how he plays. my question is what are modes?
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#2
In its most simple definition, a mode is a flavor of the natural major or natural minor scale.

To really understand how they work is a fairly high level of theory. I suggest reading the theory link in my sig as it works you up to modes.
#3
I remember some guy saying...
Major are minor scales are your basic salt and pepper. Modes are a full spicerack.

But yeah, you should make sure you understand how the major scale works before tackling modes, or else you'd get really confused. There's nothing wrong with exploring though.
#4
Imagine modes as scales...
The difference with scales is that scales are defined by group of notes arranged in ascending or descending order (ABCDEFGA for isntance), while a mode is the relationship between each note, aka it would be defined as a series of intervals.
Modes have less diatonic functionality (maybe to the point of not having a tonic at all I think).
#5
Quote by gonzaw
Imagine modes as scales...
The difference with scales is that scales are defined by group of notes arranged in ascending or descending order (ABCDEFGA for isntance), while a mode is the relationship between each note, aka it would be defined as a series of intervals.
Modes have less diatonic functionality (maybe to the point of not having a tonic at all I think).
You usually know your stuff, but this post is at best confusing and at worst completely wrong. Please clarify.

For the time, that post should be ignored.

Edit: Actually, completely ignore it and just read the clarifications.
Last edited by bangoodcharlote at Sep 29, 2008,
#6
Okay, so I'm sure this has been done on other threads, but let me offer my assistance here. For every Key Signature in Western Music, there are seven different "modes". Now, a Key Signature indicates the exact set of notes that any of the modes will contain. So, let's look at the key of C.

The notes are
C - D - E - F - G - A - B

A Mode indicates which of those 7 notes will be the Harmonic Center, the overall goal of a piece of music. The idea is, you start on that note, play some music in between, blah blah, and end up back at that note. The major scale and the natural minor scale are 2 of the modes of a given key signature.

Okay, now, for each Key Signature, the note bearing the name of the key is considered the first note (i.e. C is the first note of the key of C, and further, D would be the second note). Bearing that in mind, the modes are named according to the number of the key that will be the harmonic center.

First Note - Ionian (Major Scale)
Second Note - Dorian
Third Note - Phrygian
Fourth Note - Lydian
Fifth Note - Mixolydian
Sixth Note - Aeolian (Natural Minor Scale)
Seventh Note - Locrian

Now, the harmonic center is first note of the "scale". You can notice the difference in sound by playing through a given key signature seven times, each time starting on a different note. Consider the scale formula for each mode. (W = Whole Step, H = Half Step)

Ionian - W-W-H-W-W-W-H
Dorian - W-H-W-W-W-H-W
Phrygian - H-W-W-W-H-W-W
Lydian - W-W-W-H-W-W-H
Mixolydian - W-W-H-W-W-H-W
Aeolian - W-H-W-W-H-W-W
Locrian - H-W-W-H-W-W-W

You can really hear the difference if you construct each mode starting from the same note (i.e. play C Ionian, C Dorian, etc.)

Sometimes notes in these scales are changed or become variable for Harmonic purposes. The most well known one is the Harmonic Minor Scale, in which the seventh tone of the scale is raised a half step (creating a Leading Tone, allowing for a Dominant Seventh Chord, which has a much stronger resolution to the Tonic Chord). For clarification, the Dominant Seventh Chord would be a Major 7th chord created on the 5th tone of the scale, and the tonic chord is the triad built on the 1st tone of the scale.
Last edited by El_Ghostly at Sep 30, 2008,
#7
Quote by bangoodcharlote
In its most simple definition, a mode is a flavor of the natural major or natural minor scale.

To really understand how they work is a fairly high level of theory. I suggest reading the theory link in my sig as it works you up to modes.


I like the way you describe modes as flavours, thats exactly how I see them too. On an emotional level, they're more refined versions of human experience.

For example the lydian mode sounds quite dreamy to me, but the phrygian mode sounds very dark, and the phrygian dominant mode sounds very middle eastern.

And for the theory masters of MT, what mode is this?
1 2 b3 #4 5 6 b7 1 (Used in Movement 5 of In The Presence Of Enemies by Dream Theater)
Is one of those crazy modes of the melodic minor scale that are almost only used by jazz fusion players?
#8
Quote by Myung-trucci

And for the theory masters of MT, what mode is this?
1 2 b3 #4 5 6 b7 1 (Used in Movement 5 of In The Presence Of Enemies by Dream Theater)
Is one of those crazy modes of the melodic minor scale that are almost only used by jazz fusion players?


That's a mode of the Harmonic Minor Scale. Actually, I don't know the official name of the mode. I guess technically you could look at it as a Dorian mode with a raised 4th, but the collection of notes will be that of the harmonic minor scale, but starting on a different tone. Check out A Harmonic Minor.

A-B-C-D-E-F-G#

If you start with the 4th note, D, you'll find that the intervals match those that you listed.
#9
Quote by El_Ghostly
That's a mode of the Harmonic Minor Scale. Actually, I don't know the official name of the mode. I guess technically you could look at it as a Dorian mode with a raised 4th, but the collection of notes will be that of the harmonic minor scale, but starting on a different tone. Check out A Harmonic Minor.

A-B-C-D-E-F-G#

If you start with the 4th note, D, you'll find that the intervals match those that you listed.


So if a harmonic minor scale starting on the fifth note is the phrygian dominant, would this be the phrygian/whatever subdominant?
#11
Quote by Myung-trucci
I just found it listed as Dorian #4, actually.


Not everything is a mode. That song is not modal, and they are most likely doing what they always do: Minor with frequent use of chromatic tones.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#12
Quote by one vision
I remember some guy saying...
Major are minor scales are your basic salt and pepper. Modes are a full spicerack.

Dave Weiner.

How about this one lol! Black & White. Modes are the shades of grey in between.
#13
Quote by mdc
Dave Weiner.

How about this one lol! Black & White. Modes are the shades of grey in between.


I still disagree with that. Modal music is just very different from tonal music, and the major and minor scales are far more versatile.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#14
What Arch is trying to say is that, to truely establish a Dorian tonality (I use Dorian as an example because it is the easiest to work with), you must basically confine yourself to the notes of the dorian scale: no chromatic tones except for maybe the b5 since Dorian is usually bluesly. You generally have to stick to a simple vamp of one or two, maybe three chords. A typical E Dorian progression, a modal progression, would be Em7 A7 repeating over and over, while an E minor progression, a key-based progression, could be something like Em Am Em D Em C B7 B7 Em Am Em F Em C B7 B7. Do you see how much more flexibility you have with keys?

Modes are unstable. If you play E Dorian with too many frills, extra chords or weird chromatic phrasing, you'll end up resolving to D major rather than Em and that's what you want to avoid. I'm not trying to tell you not to try writing modally, it can be a lot of fun, but it's quite difficult.

The common way to "use" modes is by borrowing tones from parallel modes. In my Em progression, I used three scales or modes, it doesn't really matter which you call them: E natural minor for most of the progression, E harmonic minor for the B7, and E Phrygian for the F chord. I say you can use "scale" and "mode" as synonyms in this case, and it isn't always the case, because you chould view the progression as bouncing between the sixth mode of G Major: E Aeolian, the first mode of E Harmonic Minor: E Harmonic Minor, and the third mode of C major: E Phrygian.

As long as I'm talking about the B7 chord, I should note that, while the 5 chord in the natural minor scale is minor, composers almost always make it major or dominant as that has a better resolution to the tonic, Em. Try looping the first half of the above progression, but replace B7 with Bm. Doesn't B7 resolve back to Em better?
#15
Quote by bangoodcharlote
You usually know your stuff, but this post is at best confusing and at worst completely wrong. Please clarify.

For the time, that post should be ignored.

Edit: Actually, completely ignore it and just read the clarifications.


I dunno, it is a definition I found in a site (can't remember which).
It is that I find it difficult to just view a mode as "just a scale" like everybody says, and I don't know how to define it either (modes are not my strong)...
Series of intervals with a certain harmonic function sounds kind of good to me, at least for a definition of a "modern" conception of modes (kind of different than the gothic conception of it), althought there is more to it.

Also, I am not sure about the "diatonic functionality", but I guess it means how each note or degree has a certain function on relation to a tonic, like stabilizing it or destabilizing it. I think it would also refer to the functions of each degree, dominant, subdominant etc (I heard something about pandiatonic music or sorts, where the tonality lacks functionality, but I can't remember)...

I just can't find a suiting definition
#18
^ modes of a scale are names for the flavours you get by arranging the same notes with a different tonic. If you can move between a relative major and minor (better yet, a parallel major and minor), you have the idea.
#19
Quote by Archeo Avis
Not everything is a mode. That song is not modal, and they are most likely doing what they always do: Minor with frequent use of chromatic tones.

The note choice comes from the Dorian #4 scale. If it was dorian with a chromatic b5 then there would be a regular perfect 4 in the scale which eliminates the harmonic minor style tone and a half interval between b3 and #4
#20
Quote by Freepower
^ modes of a scale are names for the flavours you get by arranging the same notes with a different tonic. If you can move between a relative major and minor (better yet, a parallel major and minor), you have the idea.


But that doesn't tell me anything about their function in modal music...
#21
In a way, they're the leftover diatonic scales that weren't harmonically strong enough to come into such mainstream use as the major and minors did. Diatonic here means 7 notes, with 2 half steps as far apart as possible(C D E F G A B would be a great example).
#22
God i wish i new more theory. When i used to get lessons i would learn notes and time signatures; yet vary rarely would i learn scales etc.

Would anyone be able to give me a link to a site that maybe might break it down a bit more? Just so it could be a bit easier to absorb
#23
If you don't understand this -

Quote by Freepower
^ modes of a scale are names for the flavours you get by arranging the same notes with a different tonic. If you can move between a relative major and minor (better yet, a parallel major and minor), you have the idea.


- then you aren't ready. Can you move between a relative major and minor?
#24
Blargh at BGC's point on chromatic notes.


It's 100% possible to use chromatic notes in a modal piece. If you know where you are going with the phrase you're playing and that destination continues implying your tonal centre you can perfectly use chromatic notes. The thing about playing on the border of the mode, bending the interval pattern slightly to suit you is that it's more important to know what notes to finish on than what notes you want to add in between.