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Modes And intervals

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Famed Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 2241

Learn lots of songs and see what chords and modes were used and how they were used.
The more songs you learn the more you will come to grips with how to use modes.

the problem with doing that is that unless you know a bit about modes, finding tunes which use modes is gonna be a bit tough. and there's plenty of debate over (e.g.) did he use a mode there, or was that just a passing note?

Yup, I'm going about it on keyboard. Haven't done much on this yet, but its on the list. I agree with you that 'relying' on your ear generally leaves you repeating what you're familiar with, my drunken point was more that I think a lot of the time when guitarists decide they wanna learn modes, what they're actually after is a general creativity-boost, and that needn't come from learning about modes. Lol, I just saw some book advertised where the spiel said "Wanna know why random-person-I've-never-heard-of plays such brilliant solos?" (uh, perhaps they aint all that 'brilliant' if I've never heard of this guy? shot in the dark there?) "Because they've sussed an easy way to use modes on you can too! For only $49.99!!" Heh. Can anyone spell 'chump'?

I've also read e.g. Hal Leonards TABs of Hendrix (exam performance, the TABs are pretty spot on, ime, the 'theory' less so) where they bang on about Hendrix 'using modes for this riff' and I listen and think, "No, I'm pretty sure Hendrix didn't go, 'oh yeah, I'll throw a mixolydian run in here....' I'm pretty sure that was just a quick slurred passage which happened to use the same notes as would be found in the mixolydian scale cited." The tonal centre hasn't shifted one iota.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

Prominent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 680

Yup Scrybe I doubt Hendrix knew what a mode was, I wonder if he even knew the name for the pentatonic patterns :lol: I think he just played what he felt, what he could hear and knew his guitar inside out.

I too have been learning theory, I scraped a pass for for my grade 5 theory exam and still would like to get a better understanding. I've been reading Eric Taylors pink music theory book some of it goes over my head but a lot of it's starting to sink in especially when I talk about it with people who also know about theory.

together we stand, divided we fall..........

Ignar Hillström
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5349

There's a difference between knowing a mode and knowing the name of a mode. Hendrix knew the pentatonic scale. Maybe not the name but obviously how it sounds and how it should be used. Same goes for the other scales and modes. It doesnt really matter if you don't know the names as long as you don't feel like talking about it, but you gotta know how it sounds if you're going to play it. That's why I don't understand why so many guitarists spend so much time reading about them without listening. Unless you can read music notation in your head you really have to play them and listen to how they sound before anything else. Ten bucks say that every guitarists who spend thirty minutes a day just listening to modes, ascending, descending and melodic, will after a week much better understand what all the hoohaa is about. Whether you know the names or not.

Prominent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 680

I've been learning how to sing the scales and about the characteristics of each, it is helping I think. Anyway! I know Hendrix could play those scales but I think a lot of great musicians use their ears and don't really know what they are doing (sharpening this, flattening that etc) technically.

together we stand, divided we fall..........

Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 133

unless you know a bit about modes

Well that's why there is a whole internet full of modes lessons.

First you've got to learn them, then you've got to learn how to use them.

So first learn all you can about them.

Then learn how to apply them by figuring out songs and seeing if it's a blues song or a modal song or a major key song,etc.

There's no excuse for not knowing a bit about modes.

There's a whole internet full of information out there.

What you do with that information is dig in to some real music and see what's going on.

The more you do it the more sense it'll all make.

The more it'll be familiar to you and therefore easier to spot what is happening in a song.

You might even find lessons or info on modes that'll give you some songs as examples for this or that mode.

That's probably a good place to start.
That's why I don't understand why so many guitarists spend so much time reading about them without listening.

Exactly my point. You've got to learn about them inside and out, and learn them,etc. But to use them you've got
to learn from real musical examples. Learn from songs. Alof of those old players knew more theory than some people think. But they also probaby forgot most of it once they knew what to do which is to learn from songs. Some of them then even learned to skip the learning theory part of it altogether and just went straight to learning it all from the records. Theory just helps you be more organized about it so that you have convenient labels for things. Then you can more easily catalogue it somewhere in your brain and just file it away. That way it's like it's all in order and alphabetized and easier to recall instead of just being some randomly filed obscure sound or concept. If you've got a name to go with the sound picture then it's easier to call up.

At some point you've got to learn songs in order to learn and gain further understanding.

Theory on it's own will only get you so far in and of itself.

Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2171

There's no excuse for not knowing a bit about modes.

Sure there is, they're superfluous to most musical styles, offer no real instructional value not obtained more easily by really learning the most important scales (major, minor, augmented, diminished and whole tone) and how to use them, including how to alter them for melodic purposes.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST

Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 157

As much as i love getting involved in theory discussions, I'm gonna comment on the original question, how to get away from same sounding solos. Ooh, alliteration ;)

One thing I find is EXTREMELY beneficial to getting new sounds under my fingers is learning melodies and phrases and solos that were played on other instruments. The phrasing of a saxophone solo is often quite different from that of a guitar, and the note choices and intervals can be quite interesting to get you're fingers around.

I learned this from my improv teacher at uni, he made us transcribe and play the sax part in Charlie parkers "Au Privave"
What falls easily under a sax's fingers can be quite unusually shaped on a guitar, but it gets you thinking differently and playing different sounds and ideas.

That's my advice.
Here is a collection on youtube of a few good jazz tunes to get started on, Au Privave is the first one you hear.

Don't sweat it dude, just play!

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