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Modes, Please Help

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(@crackerjim)
Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 31
 

Noteboat,

Thanks for the clarification.

BTW, I'm enjoying your book which I recently purchased. That book, in conjunction with the Berkley book on composition/improv for guitar, has got me headed in the right direction to get a much better understanding of music .

Jim


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(@321barf)
Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 133
 

If you're using D Dorian as an altered D minor scale, you're really trying to exploit the difference in the B note - D Dorian has B natural; D minor has Bb.

The best way to do that is to use D Dorian over a D minor progression, like Dm-Gm-A7-Dm. When you get to the Gm chord, you'll get the tension between the Bs (Gm = G-Bb-D), and let the listener know you're doing something different.

Some sites do say to use modes only over the I/i chord. I think that comes from a misunderstanding of the history... modes aren't harmonized, typically, because you get the same chords as the major scale. If you try to apply the harmony from a major scale to the mode, the V7-I ends up in the wrong place - in D Dorian you'd get IV7-vii, which doesn't reinforce the tonic.

The original use of modes was in plainsong, which wasn't harmonized at all. So while you certainly CAN stick to just the I/i chord, doing so really doesn't give you either the historic or modern sense of modes.

Noteboat,

So are you talking about using both Dorian and Harmonic minor(as well as nat. minor and mel. minor or whatever) to color a minor composition by using them in the appropriate places? Or to get interesting chromatic lines at times in certain places that lead from one chord to the next and such? Since the differences between scales may only be slight.Is this kind of what you are getting at?

This is interesting.

A melody note is a melody note and as long as the underlying chord (whatever it is) contains that particualr melody note then you are making the necessary harmonic connection between that melody note and that chord and so chromatic tones from parallel modes may sound okay if phrased right,right? Perhaps they sound good as color tones or perhaps they're better treated as passing tones?

If this is what you're saying then I think it's essentially the same thing that someone else was talking about in another thread which was essentially that modes are a good shortcut to chromatic playing.

Is this kind of the point you're trying to drive home here?

If so,then is this your view of the most practical way to use modes? Or are you just saying that it is one way to use them that is often overlooked?

Is there anything wrong in your opinion with viewing modes as one big I/i chord?

Or are you just trying to make people fully aware of all of their options in all playing situations?

thanks


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(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Well, you can switch back and forth between scales... but you probably lose the modal quality, particularly in minor keys.

I mean, D Dorian is D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D. D melodic minor ascending is D-E-F-G-A-B-C#-D. D harmonic minor is D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C#-D. D natural minor is D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C-D.

So if you go switching back and forth... that B natural note doesn't stand out anymore. Are you in Dorian, or melodic minor? Switching back and forth tends to make the B and C notes are just chromatic decorations on a D minor theme, which really isn't the same thing as D Dorian.

What I'm getting at with modes, at least the way I find them best used, is to stay within the mode. Our ears are conditioned to hear harmonic minor; when it's repeatedly a B note instead of the Bb we're expecting, that's what makes it modal.

Because there are so many variations of the minor scales, start with Lydian. The #4 is what makes all the difference... but if you use 4 sometimes and #4 at other times, it's a chromatic alteration. If you always hit the #4, it's the Lydian mode. Once your ear is accustomed to that, try Dorian next in place of harmonic minor, then try Mixolydian in place of major - by then you'll have the hang of it.

I don't see modes as being one big I/i chord. I suppose you could make a case for that, but I'm not sure what the point would be - C Mixolydian is the C13 arpeggio; C Ionian is the Cmaj13 arpeggio, C Dorian is the Cm13 arpeggio, and so on.... but thinking of them as arpeggios might be a bit limiting; I'd rather think of them as scale alterations.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@321barf)
Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 133
 

Thinking of them as 13th chords I think enables you to understand how their notes function over that root and thus keeps you in that mode as you say you want to be.But I see what you're saying about seeing them as scale alterations enabling you to see mode changes as just one or two notes getting altered which would allow you to be in another mode if you want to be by altering the proper note or notes.So I think "all the above" are important as I'm sure you'd agree.

Thanks


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