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Modes vs. Scales: difference?

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BmanCV-60
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Sorry if this is a repeat question, but in looking around I didn't see anything stating the difference between the two. Are they the same thing, and if not, what makes them different? How many are there?

"...I don't know - but whasomever I do, its gots ta be FUNKY!"


   
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hbriem
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Modes are scales.

Not all scales are modes. There are very many scales. Any assemblage of notes within one octave is a scale. The minimum is 2 notes, say 1 and 5. The maximum is 12 for the chromatic scale: 1-b2-2-b3-3-4-b5-5-b6-6-b7-7-8 although there are theoretically scales with microtones. We don't use them in Western music and authorities dispute whether they are actually used in other cultures.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_scale

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Fretsource
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To all intents and purposes, they are the same. We tend to talk about them differently though. A scale (from Scala) is simply the pitchwise arrangement of a one octave note set, e.g., A B C D E F G A). A mode (from Modus) is much the same thing but implies the method (Modus) by which those same notes are arranged musically. If we hear that a song is in the "minor mode", then we know it has been composed (mostly) by taking the notes of the minor scale(s) and arranging them around the key note of that scale. But it's something of a distinction without a difference.
Same applies to any other mode/scale, Dorian, Lydian, etc.
There are countless modes/scales from all over the world.


   
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Wes Inman
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I have been playing 35 years now, scales do not give me problems, but modes have always confused me. I have read countless articles on modes and practiced them, but still they don't quite click for me. I tend to ignore them simply because they confuse me.

For one thing, some of the modes seem really to use one scale. For instance, if you play the C major scale but start on the D note as your root, you are playing the D Dorian if I remember correctly. Why not just tell people to play the C Major scale, just start on the root note of the chord?

And I probably got that all wrong. Like I said, I have never caught on to modes. :roll:

But there are lots of folks here who seem to understand them. So you have come to the right place. :D

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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Fretsource
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For one thing, some of the modes seem really to use one scale. For instance, if you play the C major scale but start on the D note as your root, you are playing the D Dorian if I remember correctly. Why not just tell people to play the C Major scale, just start on the root note of the chord?

This is the source of most of the confusion surrounding modes, Wes. If you play the C major scale starting on D, many people (guitarists mostly, or even exclusively) assume that that's the Dorian mode. It's only the Dorian mode if there is a Dorian mode context within which it appears - otherwise it's just a set of notes. If the context is C major then it's the C major scale starting from note 2 and, like you, I wish those people would call it that instead of spreading confusion by calling it something that it's not, i.e., - the Dorian mode


   
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ldavis04
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From what I learned from my teacher about modes: 2 ways of looking at modes....relative and parellel.

Take the C major scale:
C D E F G A B C (C Ionian)
D E F G A B C D (D Dorian)
This is the relative dorian mode of C major. Same notes as C major, just starting on D

Take the C major scale:
C D E F G A B C (C Ionian)
C D Eb F G A Bb C (C Dorian)
This is the parellel C dorian mode of C major. Parellel modes have different notes, but start on the same note, C in this case. The formula for the Dorian mode is 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 8.

Not sure if this is 100% accurate?

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Wes Inman
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Fretsource

Glad to see you understand my confusion. Yeah, it's like you could use the C Major scale for chords with the roots D E F G A and B, simply start on the root note of the chord you are playing.

So how do I know when I am playing within the context of a particular mode? If I am playing a song in the key of Dm, could I play the notes of the C Major scale only starting on D and be playing the real D Dorian mode?

When I change to a chord like Gm for instance (minor blues) would I need to go to the G Dorian??

I appreciate the help, but doubt I'll grasp it. I listen to the difference in mood of the modes and simply try to remember that. I am just not much of a theory guy.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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hbriem
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Instead of thinking of D Dorian as some sort of C major, try thinking of it as a kind of D minor.

In C major you'd use the chords C, F and G or G7. Maybe Am sometimes. Dm and Em occasionally.

In D Dorian you'd use the chords Dm and G. Maybe an occasional Am. It's D minor with one note changed (and G instead of Gm).

Does that help?

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Wes Inman
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That helped a little, thanks. :D

I used the C Major scale as kind of a cheater. I know C Major all over the guitar, didn't really want to cram new scales in my head. So when playing over a Dm chord I would simply play the C Major, but starting on D. But I knew it was really a distinct individual scale.

I don't quite understand why the D Dorian would work over the G and Am though. Could you explain?

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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BmanCV-60
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For one thing, some of the modes seem really to use one scale. For instance, if you play the C major scale but start on the D note as your root, you are playing the D Dorian if I remember correctly. Why not just tell people to play the C Major scale, just start on the root note of the chord?

And I probably got that all wrong. Like I said, I have never caught on to modes. :roll:

But there are lots of folks here who seem to understand them. So you have come to the right place. :D
I was really struggling to grasp the concept of 'playing the C major scale starting on the D note as the root', but I take it that as long as you're playing the notes of the the scale you can start on any note within the scale as long as it comes round again to the root. Is this correct?

"...I don't know - but whasomever I do, its gots ta be FUNKY!"


   
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David Hodge
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Actually, the whole idea of scales beginning and ending on the root, while terrific for teaching, usually lead to the "all my leads sound like scales" or "all my leads sound the same" syndrome. Because most of us practice scales by playing them from root to root, we tend to lock that tonal center of the root in our brain. And this is also why modes tend to confuse people more than they should. It's really not worth it.

As has been pointed out, any major scale is seven different modal scales. You can learn each one in that manner. But another possibility is that you can learn one scale all over the neck and then use your ear to help you target different notes in the scale to create the mode that you'd like. More often than not, it's the chord progression of a song that dictates the type of scale (or modal scale) that you might choose to use for a solo.

So, if you're great with the C major scale, a good exercise would be to play it over the following different chord progressions:

C, Am, F, G and over and over (typical doo-wop progression and you'll want to focus on C as your tonal center)

Dm to G over and over (a la Evil Ways - use D as tonal center. If you want to do a nice comparision, try using the Dm pentatonic and see how much more color you have using D Dorian instead)

G to F to C to G (a time honored rock progression (think Taking Care of Business, among many others, or reverse the middle of the progression, going G to C to F and back to C, like in Warning by Green Day - use G as tonal center). Again, compare to the usual using of the Gm pentatonic. Some of you will like the pentatonic better but both offer interesting choices)

Am to G to F and back (like All Along the Watchtower - using A as your tonal center. The "natural minor" or "aeolian mode" will give you a lot more tonal color than the usual A pentatonic)

F to Em (like the beginning of Space Oddity - using E as a tonal center)

The idea here is to see that if you've learned your scale, you've only got a piece of the puzzle. Soloing is about creating sonic textures that either go along with your chord progression or cause dissonance that later gets resolved. You can say that in these examples you're just using the C major scale or that you're using different modes. It's really about how you best understand what you want to do.

(another big point is that a scale (modal or otherwise) is simply one of many soloing tools. don't live and die by scales - or fall into the trap that you always only want to use one scale - let the music help you decide which tools you want to use)

Hope this helps.

And Wes, the whole thing about D dorian going with the G and Am chords is because if you look at the notes of the D dorian scale:

D E F G A B C D

and create triads off of them, the "i" is Dm (D, F and A) and the "v" is Am (A, C and E) but the "IV" chord is G major (G, B and D). This is why when you see a song that goes from a minor root to a major IV (such as Am to D (The Story in Your Eyes), or Dm to G (Another Brick in the Wall), the dorian is a good way to go).

Again, hope this helps.

Peace


   
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Fretsource
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So how do I know when I am playing within the context of a particular mode?
If I am playing a song in the key of Dm, could I play the notes of the C Major scale only starting on D and be playing the real D Dorian mode?

Yes - as long as the key centre is D and not C then THAT'S the Dorian mode. If the key centre is C then it's NOT the Dorian mode, it's just C major starting from, or focused around D.


   
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Scrybe
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I appreciate the help, but doubt I'll grasp it. I listen to the difference in mood of the modes and simply try to remember that. I am just not much of a theory guy.

I feel ya mate, I keep trying to learn theory, and when it does go in, its in drips. :roll:

The best way I found for 'understanding' modes is to play them. Tape a Dm vamp or Dm-G or Dm-Am chord progression, then play over it using a D minor natural or D minor pentatonic or other D minor scale. Then play over it again, but using a C major scale and try to hear the differences. Stuff like Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, you can really tell some of the passages just don't sound, uh, 'regular'.

hth

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spides
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For one thing, some of the modes seem really to use one scale. For instance, if you play the C major scale but start on the D note as your root, you are playing the D Dorian if I remember correctly. Why not just tell people to play the C Major scale, just start on the root note of the chord?

hey man.

I think that a real trick with modes that i find works really well is use similar scales that you are particularly familiar with as a starting point and work into the modes. eg. with D Dorian, i use the D minor pentatonic, adding the 2 and the sharp 6, which, in the standard minor pentatonic position it is quite an easy and natural addition. obviously there are major and minor colorations within the modes that tie them in very closely to their parallel ionian or aeolian cousins. its just a matter of learning the structure of the mode, forgetting, for a moment, the key centre, and then setting about learning when and where to apply it.

lydian and mixolydian are both very close to a major scale. a sharp 4 in the former, and a flat seventh in the latter are the colors you are looking for here.
Lydian is not common, but can create a very ethereal atmosphere, almost like floating over the chords.
Mixolydian has about a million different applications but sounds fantastic over a dom7 chord.

dorian is a minor with a sharp 6.
Awesome for cool funky solos when you want to add a bit more pizazz to your minor pent funk licks
also fantastic to play over minor chords as a slightly more interesting sound than standard minor scales

phrygian is minor with a flat 2.
you can get some really interesting spanish flamenco style sounds out of this mode. sounds really interesting over a major chord in its key centre (eg E Phrygian over E major chord) which is interesting as the minor third in the phrygian mode could potentially clash with the major third in a major chord, but doesn't seem to.

Locrian is VERY rarely used (min7flat5 chords are really its primary application) but it is a natural minor with a flat 2 and a flat 5. This is a very hard mode to hear and can be tricky to find.

I think the main thing is getting to know the colors you are after by ear and after a while all of the scales and modes will liquefy into a nicely flowing solo.

Don't sweat it dude, just play!


   
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greybeard
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I feel lucky that I found modes through looking into the Major, minor, minor, Major, Major, minor, Dim chord sequence. Many people have modes shoved at them and just get the "they're the same notes as the home scale, just starting at a different place". I find modes somewhat confusing, so I am truly sorry for those that have them just thrown at them.

You have to look at modes as scales, in their own right. Think of playing a minor scale with a #6. You could call it a "minor scale with a #6" or you could call it a Dorian scale, just as you can call a major scale an Ionian scale. (I didn't use "mode" on purpose)

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