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Aaaaahhhrrrr these modes aren't working for me?

Active Member
Joined: 6 years ago
Posts: 13
Topic starter  

Ok, here we go,

I have a song in A minor.... so I am playing
chord progressions such as A minor, C major, D minor ,
F major etc....

I get to where my guitar solo starts and it starts
on an F major chord. Remember I am still in A minor key.

So to get the F equivalent in the major relative key ( Because modes are in majors and I'm in A Minor) I go forwards 1-1/2 step which puts me to a G#. The same way if I were playing
an A minor chord I would go up 1-1/2 steps to get the relative major which is C .... right?

So a G# major key would be Ionian but I want Phrygian so
G# Phrygian puts me in a key of E major and here's the key:
E, F#, G#, A, B, C#,D#, E

So here I am ready to use these notes over the F Major chord of my solo and knowing that the first note of any scale should be the root note of my chord which is "F" and ...... wwwwwwooooopssss no 'F' to be found in the E major scale ..... bof .... discouraged....

someone please Help!

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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4933

My sense is you're overthinking things. You've also got one inaccuracy in the way you're thinking.

First the inaccuracy: modes are related to a major scale, but they are not "in majors". What makes something sound "major" (as either a scale or a triad chord) is the presence of a tone a major third above the root. If it has a tone a minor third above the root, it'll sound minor.

Because of that, you've got three "major modes": Ionian, Lydian, and Mixolydian. You've got three minor modes: Dorian, Phrygian, and Aeolian. And you've got one oddball, the Locrian - because that's got a flatted fifth in addition to the flatted third, it really won't sound like the familiar scales, because all major AND minor scales have a perfect fifth.

The overthinking part is relating a mode to a chord. I know there are tons of people who do that, but from a practical standpoint it doesn't make any difference. Let's say you have a progression in C major: C-F-G7-C. The scale/mode folks say you'll play C Ionian (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C) over C, F Lydian (F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F) over the F, and G Mixolydian (G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G) over the G7.

Those modes all have the SAME notes. So your (or your listener's) ears will NOT perceive you as changing modes. One of my teachers called this approach "mental m...." (rhymes with peturbation). You'll only be heard as changing modes if you are changing some pitch over a chord. If you play C Ionian over the C chord and F Ionian over the F chord, you'll be using a B natural over the C and a Bb over the F... THEN people will hear a difference.

So the problem you've got here is that you're in A minor, and you want to know what goes over the F. Since F is a MAJOR chord, you could play F Ionian (F-G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F), F Lydian (F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F) or F Mixolydian (F-G-A-Bb-C-D-Eb-F). Since you're in the key of A minor, those "relate" to A Phrygian, A Aeolian, or A Locrian.

Another thing that's confusing you is thinking that it's G# that's 1-1/2 steps above F. Do NOT think in terms of half steps or frets when navigating scales - think in terms of NOTE NAMES. The third note name above F will ALWAYS be some kind of A (A, Ab, or A#), so thinking it's G# instead of Ab puts you completely out of whack. If you had thought of it as Ab, you'd have the Ab major scale: Ab-Bb-C-Db-Eb-F-G-Ab. And that does have an F in it. (The G# major scale is actually G#-A#-B#-C#-D#-E#-Fx-G#, so that's got E#, which is the enharmonic equivalent. You can see why thinking in scales that use double sharps will get messy!)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL

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Joined: 6 years ago
Posts: 13
Topic starter  

ok Thankyou for your reply!