modal pentatonics!

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# modal pentatonics!

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(@megalomaniac)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 48
Topic starter

so this has been my recent challenge, to understand and being able to put to use.
i know what a mode is, and what a pentatonic scale is/consists of. my problem comes in understand both of them hand in hand. i'll explain where i'm at and what i'm confused with
so in one of my cases i understand that modes are just the normal scale starting at say the second interval and ending at the second. okay so, with that in mind i can easily apply it to a normal pentatonic major scale.
but what confuses me is that ultimately i'm confused with my definition of what a mode is, as i also know it as

Ionian - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Dorian - 1 2 3b 4 5 6 7b
Phrygian - 1 2b 3b 4 5 6b 7b
lydian - 1 2 3 4# 5 6 7
mixolydian - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7b
aeolian - 1 2 3b 4 5 6b 7b
locrain -1 2b 3b 4 5b 6b 7b

now disregarding my spelling, i know that modes in used in the context of jazz are this, because they have a relationship in conjunction with 7th, m7, and maj7, chords (besides the couple random half diminished and chord extensions)
but with these two definitions of what a mode is, it's confusing me on how i can apply it to another scale besides the major.
do i use the rules ( sharps and flats) of ionian dorian phrygian etc and apply it to the 1 2 3 4 5 6 of the pentatonic scale?
or rather do i use my original idea of starting at the second interval and ending at the second again and not pay
attention to the lydian aeolian and those guys instead?
thanks for the help!

(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 973

Both of your ways of finding the modes (Ionian, Dorian, etc) come to the same thing, but from different directions.

If you confine yourself to the notes of any major scale, you can find the mode that starts on each note of that scale, in the order of Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian.
So using C major as your reference major scale, you get:
C Ionian, D Dorian E Phrygian, etc

Second method.
If you limit yourself to a single key note and apply those formulas you listed in relation to the same major scale, you get:
C Ionian, C Dorian, C Phrygian, etc.

Bear in mind that neither of those are definitions of what a mode is, but are simply methods of finding the notes of modes by using a universally known "yardstick", i.e., the major scale. Those modes are diatonic scales in their own right. They don't actually belong to the major scale.

As for the pentatonic scale, you could use the first method to find the notes you're after by using the major pentatonic as the reference scale. e.g.,

C D E G A - C Major pentatonic
D E G A C
E G A C D
G A C D E
A C D E G - A Minor pentatonic
Only the major and minor ones have official names.

You could also use your second method if you know the formula for each mode, which can be found by comparing each of the above modes' intervals to the intervals of the major pentatonic. That would give you each mode starting from C (for example).

As for their uses, I'll let others comment as, apart from the major and minor ones, I'm unfamiliar with their uses in anything other than Scottish folk music (in which only about 3 are used).

(@kaspen)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 57

I honestly have a hard time understanding exactly what your question is so I'll do my best to answer.

What you are talking about seems to be a method for finding the scales. Yes, if you start from the second degree of a major scale you will end up with a Dorian scale, true. But a dorian is NOT a variation of the major scale. A dorian has a flat 3 which makes it a minor scale. You can use the method mentioned above to find the scale, but it's meant to be used to find them. But that is not a method for how to use them. You should think of every mode as its own scale. You should memorize the intervals for the scales and learn the shapes for them all. You should not think that D Dorian is the same as C major and therefore you can play C Major over a D Dorian progression. I just don't see people do that with enough speed to be able to apply it. Learn all the shapes for all the modes and view them as their own scales.

So, how do you use the scales? Let me give you a very simple answer.

Think of a standard chord progression, probably the most common scale. Let's use C major because it's easy and there's no sharps and flat. Let's think of a 1-4-5-1 progression (C Major, F major, G major, C major). In this you will play a C Major scale for a keycenter approach (which means that all the chords are from the C major mode and should be treated as such, as opposed to playing a separate scale for every chord, like a F major scale over the F major chord).

Let's move on. With Dorian, you simply use the same approach. Since we know a Dorian is like a C major scale that starts on the second degree, ask yourself, of which major scale is C the second scale degree? The answer is Bb. What's the 4 and 5 of Bb? The answer is Eb and F. So if you still use the C (since we want a C dorian), instead play the chord progression C Eb F. Over this, the C Dorian scale will be a great choice.

Moving on. The third mode is Phrygian. Of which major scale is C the third scale degree? The answer is Ab. What's the 4 and 5 of Ab? It's Db and Eb. So for C phrygian, play C Db Eb. Over this progression C phrygian will fit.

Next mode is Lydian. Of what major scale is C the 4th scale degree? The answer is G. What's the 4-5 of G? C and D. So over this progression, think a progression of C to D and play C lydian over it.

Next is mixolydian. Of what scale is c the 5th scale degree? F. What's the 4-5 of F major? Bb and C. So over Mixo, play a progression of C Bb C etc.

Next is Aeolian (Minor). Of what major scale is C the 6th degree? The answer is Eb. The 4-5 is Ab Bb. So play a progression of C Ab Bb and play C minor.

Last is Locrian. This one is a little screwed up. What you will see is that it has a 1, b3, b5 and a b7 which makes up a Minor 7 b5 chord. So play it over m7b5 chords, like a Cm7b5.

This is one approach to finding how to use it.

The other approach is to think of them over chords. For example, a 7th chord has a b7 so a mixolydian scale fits perfectly. Over a c7, play C mixolydian. Over a major #11 chord you should see that the #11 is the same as a #4, so here you should play a lydian scale. Over a minor 6 chord you should play Dorian because it has a natural six. Etc etc.

And also, you have the option to play whatever you want. If it's a C major chord, play C lydian just because it sounds cool. Play any major scale (Ionian, lydian, mixolydian). Over a minor chord, play any minor scale (Phrygian, Aeolian, (Locrian)) just cause it sounds cool.

If this was not what you were asking about ask again. If you want more help let me know.

so this has been my recent challenge, to understand and being able to put to use.
i know what a mode is, and what a pentatonic scale is/consists of. my problem comes in understand both of them hand in hand. i'll explain where i'm at and what i'm confused with
so in one of my cases i understand that modes are just the normal scale starting at say the second interval and ending at the second. okay so, with that in mind i can easily apply it to a normal pentatonic major scale.
but what confuses me is that ultimately i'm confused with my definition of what a mode is, as i also know it as

Ionian - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Dorian - 1 2 3b 4 5 6 7b
Phrygian - 1 2b 3b 4 5 6b 7b
lydian - 1 2 3 4# 5 6 7
mixolydian - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7b
aeolian - 1 2 3b 4 5 6b 7b
locrain -1 2b 3b 4 5b 6b 7b

now disregarding my spelling, i know that modes in used in the context of jazz are this, because they have a relationship in conjunction with 7th, m7, and maj7, chords (besides the couple random half diminished and chord extensions)
but with these two definitions of what a mode is, it's confusing me on how i can apply it to another scale besides the major.
do i use the rules ( sharps and flats) of ionian dorian phrygian etc and apply it to the 1 2 3 4 5 6 of the pentatonic scale?
or rather do i use my original idea of starting at the second interval and ending at the second again and not pay
attention to the lydian aeolian and those guys instead?
thanks for the help!

(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1281

i know i have a lot to learn on this - but from what i have just read it seems to me that what your suggesting is - for example, to get a c dorian sound - to change the chord progression into the Key of Bb major and then simply play the Bb major scale over it?

maybe i have misread what you mean but i dont see how that is different from playing a c major scale over a c major chord progression but calling it d dorian because you chose to start on a d note??

by the way, i am writing this because i am confused (and most probably wrong)- not because i am trying to be pedantic and awkward.

thanks.

Al

i did try to learn about modes a few months ago but after some reading and advice I still kept coming back to the idea that all the modes can be replaced by the major or minor scale. i do hope i am wrong and i can actually develop a better understanding to improve my playing - but i just dont see the use of modes.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)

(@kaspen)
Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 57

That is absolutely not what I'm suggesting. If you play Bb major over a Bb major progression you're simply playing in Bb Major. If you take the 4-5 of a Bb major scale and start with the root of C, it's NOT a Bb major progression but a C dorian Progression. The chords are C-Eb-F-C. There's not even a Bb chord in there. If you play the notes of Bb over this progression you will realize that it is a TOTALLY different sound than major. Think of this as a C scale and start it with this note and then play all the notes of Bb major until you reach the other C and this is the dorian scale. The notes in the scale would be C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb-C. It fits over progressions like the one above (about two million songs, like Smoke On The Water, Get Back, My Sharona etc etc etc).

You do NOT get the D dorian sound if you play a C major scale over a C major progression. While it's technically correct it doesn't make sense. How can you have a sound of a completely different key? Yeah, it's also the B Locrian scale but since the key center is in C major and the chords are in this key and the root is a C, how can it be a D dorian? There's not even a D chord in the C-F-G progression.

It is also a variation of a major scale so it may be played over a minor chord too. And since it has the natural 6 you can play it over a Minor 6 chord. In fact, it pretty much has to be played here.

I think, with this in mind, you should read my post above more closely.

And no, I don't think it's a good idea to even think about which major scale it really is. You should think of modes as separate scales. Because I have not seen anyone yet who in the heat of the moment is able to think "Oh, Bb lydian, that's the same as F major" when someone throws a Bbma9#11 chord at them. instead, learn your Bb lydian on its own terms. If you have trouble finding the modes, use the method of thinking of the relative major scale, but only to identifying it. If you really want to be good at using it, learn the patterns for all the modes.

I don't know how to explain it any better than that. If you still don't understand I can try to explain better.
i know i have a lot to learn on this - but from what i have just read it seems to me that what your suggesting is - for example, to get a c dorian sound - to change the chord progression into the Key of Bb major and then simply play the Bb major scale over it?

maybe i have misread what you mean but i dont see how that is different from playing a c major scale over a c major chord progression but calling it d dorian because you chose to start on a d note??

by the way, i am writing this because i am confused (and most probably wrong)- not because i am trying to be pedantic and awkward.

thanks.

Al

i did try to learn about modes a few months ago but after some reading and advice I still kept coming back to the idea that all the modes can be replaced by the major or minor scale. i do hope i am wrong and i can actually develop a better understanding to improve my playing - but i just dont see the use of modes.

(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1281

thanks for the explanation - kaspen. i understand a bit better now - i think

so in a nutshell - if you use a c major as your first chord, but the 4 and 5 from e.g the D major scale, then that c major scale becomes D dorian? :D

i hope i have grasped it and thanks for taking the time to explain. Al

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)

(@kaspen)
Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 57

thanks for the explanation - kaspen. i understand a bit better now - i think

so in a nutshell - if you use a c major as your first chord, but the 4 and 5 from e.g the D major scale, then that c major scale becomes D dorian? :D

i hope i have grasped it and thanks for taking the time to explain. Al

No man, you still don't quite get it.

Don't put too much weight on the chord progressions. That was just to give you a quick idea of where you can play the modes.

A dorian scale is simply a scale with the intervals 1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7. So, if you apply that to any scale, like Eb, you end up with a Eb-F-Gb-Ab-Bb-C-Db-Eb. This is the Eb dorian scale. And yes, Eb Dorian is the same thing as Db major. But this doesn't really matter, what matters is the intervals.

Do you know how to construct major scales? Can you tell me the notes of a B major scale? Let's take it from the beginning. I'm gonna teach you this if it kills me!! :D

(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1281

okay - here is the level i am at.
a major scale is constructed by starting at the root using the intervals wwhwwwh.

a flat 3rd and flat 6th will give you a minor scale.

another version of the minor scale also has a flat 7th.

if i want to make up a lead i will analyse the chords to find the notes used and choose the most suitable minor, major or pentatonic scale i can find to use..

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)

(@kaspen)
Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 57

okay - here is the level i am at.
a major scale is constructed by starting at the root using the intervals wwhwwwh.

a flat 3rd and flat 6th will give you a minor scale.

another version of the minor scale also has a flat 7th.

if i want to make up a lead i will analyse the chords to find the notes used and choose the most suitable minor, major or pentatonic scale i can find to use..

Alright.

First of all, a minor scale has a flat 3,flat 6 and a flat 7. What you describe above is a Harmonic Minor. That is not something you should think about before you know the modes, harmonic minor and melodic minor is the next step.

If you know the intervals and can construct a major scale you should be able to create any mode. Here are the intervals for the modes:

Ionian - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Dorian - 1 2 3b 4 5 6 7b
Phrygian - 1 2b 3b 4 5 6b 7b
lydian - 1 2 3 4# 5 6 7
mixolydian - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7b
aeolian - 1 2 3b 4 5 6b 7b
locrian -1 2b 3b 4 5b 6b 7b

Now, given that, construct a F phrygian scale and get back to me. I want to see that you truly understand intervals and scale construction. Do this without thinking about relative major scales, just use the formula above and construct a F phrygian.

(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1281

F G A A# C D E F :D

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)

(@kaspen)
Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 57

Wrong.

We need to start with scale construction and intervals, otherwise it doesn't make sense.

What are the notes of a B major scale?

(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1281

sorry, i gave you f major by mistake

F Phrygian - 1 2b 3b 4 5 6b 7b
F F# G# A# C C# D#

Bb MAJOR
Bb C D D# F G A Bb

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)

(@kaspen)
Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 57

There you go! You get it, awesome.

So, play the different modes given the intervals above. Play a C phrygian/dorian/lydian etc over a C in the base and get used to the sound.

Then read my post above about where you can play these scales. Try it and then get back to me if you still don't get it. Gotta go for guitar lessons. I'll be back in a few hours if you're still up

One thing though: You CANNOT write scales like that. In every 7-tone scale there has to be the seven notes included. They all have to have a C-d-e-f-g-a-b or a variation of those. You cannot have a common mode and write f-g-A-A#-c-d-e. There can't be two A's. You have to use an A and a B. So the correct way to write it would be f-g-a-Bb-c-d-e.

You cannot write the same key quality twice, even if one is sharp and one is natural. You also cannot write Bb B in the same order. when you write a Gb scale. All seven letters have to be represented in the scale. Just wanted to point this out so nobody slaps me on the fingers.

(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1281

thanks for the help, and your patients. im off to load up my backing tracks as we speak!!

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)

(@megalomaniac)
Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 48
Topic starter

that's exactly what i needed,
and i truly mean that, thanks ever-so much
for enlightening me on upon it, i understand the concept and i've been trying to find the right place to apply it
and thats what i'll be doing in the next little while, before i forget, thanks for asking questions aswell, the other poster,
chances are i wouldn't understand it to what extent i do now if questions werent asked as i'd have my own perception of it
thanks you guys!
i'll re-post in a couple of days if some questions re-arise or begin to linger!

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