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(@hbriem)
Honorable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 646
 

I no longer say much on the subject of modes, Noteboat says it so much better than I can, but after researching the subject for a few months I came to an ironclad conclusion a couple of years ago:

Modes are an unnecessary and outmoded ( :) ) method of looking at music theory. Beginners should not waste one minute of their time on them, it will only confuse them and not add an iota to their musical understanding or skill.

Just say no!

--
Helgi Briem
hbriem AT gmail DOT com


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 Narn
(@narn)
Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 196
 

Thank You, Thank You, Thank you. I have done some reading on modes over the past while and found myself asking , "What's the point of all of this nomenclature and confusion, and what can I do with it?".

My sincerest thanks to Tom and Helgi for concise and clear answers and to domusaurea for asking the question. Thanks to all who contributed.

If you need me I'll be in my basement ignoring modes.

"You want WHAT on the *&%#ing ceiling?" - Michelangelo, 1566


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(@gary-j-foreman)
Eminent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 32
 

Just wondering,? when you guys write progressions do you just write them for a Major Key or a Natural Minor key from a Major scale if you dont use modes of the Major keys as starting point for the (1) chord?

what different ways are there of writing chord progressions as the aboves all I know at the moment, and has anyone some tips?

thanks,
gaz


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

Well, I never write a chord progression independent of a melody. A chord progression is there to support the melody, not to be the song itself (even the courts know this - you cannot copyright a chord progression).

Coming up with a chord progression as a guitar exercise is fine... trying to come up with a neat progression and build a song around it doesn't work for me. Melody comes first. A good melody with a simple I-IV-V can make a great song... a really cool progression with a melody that's an afterthought isn't going to get anyone excited.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@stratwrassler)
Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 17
 

Well, I never write a chord progression independent of a melody. A chord progression is there to support the melody, not to be the song itself (even the courts know this - you cannot copyright a chord progression)....

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This is so important. Playing music should not ultimately be a physical or theoretical excersise. It should sound good and people (especially the player) should want to listen to it. If you wouldn't like to sit and listen to what you play, whey should anyone else?

I've decided that if I ever take students on again, I want to teach them to hum or sing a melody along with the chords, and then try to play the ideas they come up with. The theory, scales, arpeggios etc. should be guides and tools to help them get their fingers to make the music they want to hear.

I also like to challenge students to make musical phrases out of as little as 2 or 3 different notes over an entire "solo".

Technical excersised with scaled, arpeggios, modes are to train your fingers to get to the right places to produce good sounding music. They should not dictate what that music is going to sound like.

Peace,
-Rick

Groove and Tone: If it don't got it, why play it?


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(@blutic1)
Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 280
 

When you say you compose the melody first and then the chord progression, are you talking about a vocal melody?

In the context of your everyday pop / rock song I would think a songwriter would create the chord progression first, then a vocal melody, then the instrumental solo, interludes, etc.


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

No, I do it the other way. I usually come up with lyrics, then a vocal melody, then the chords to support it.

All the parts of a song should work together, and the melody is what people remember, not the chords.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@blutic1)
Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 280
 

Sorry to swing off topic for a second, but I really have a need to know. I've been playing for a long time and have been in my first band for about a year now. I have not written anything other than a few improv progressions and jam solos. I'm ready to take the plunge.

So, you're saying that you think up a topic, then decide on the words to tell the story, then you use your guitar to help you construct the vocal melody? I suppose once that's done the rest is pretty easy to fill in. Chord progressions and solos are easy compared to that, I think.


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

In a nutshell, yeah, that's what I do. I do more composing than songwriting, but I've written about 300 songs over the years. I'll write out my general method and post it in the songwriting club - heck, I've never posted there anyway :)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@call_me_kido)
Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 188
 

Ive spent a good couple of years studying modes extensively, and Ive always come to the same conclusion after a few months of concentrated effort.

Modes are the single most useful and useless things on the music scene.

Contradictory, I know, but so true.

That probably only makes sense to some people, like me, who have sat down and read about all the things modes can possibly be.

If I had to come up with a quick definition to what a mode is and what its for, I couldnt. And Ive never received a very valuable outlook on the concept.

I find modes are alot like people, they can be viewed in different lights and identified as different types with different purposes.

You cant say "People" in general are lazy, or mean, or perfect, because people are so much more, and often times less.

In retrospect, you cant say that modes are independent scales, or major scales viewed from a differed perspective, or a soloing tool, or a songwriting tool. Because they are all of those things and alot more, and yeah, sometimes less.

I found that on my first journey through daily practicing of modes, I had acheived nothing in the scheme of modal playing, but improved my mastery of the major scale by leaps and bounds. Dexterity, articulation, and ingenuity all improved, hoewever I never felt like I had gained any extra knowledge into the modal world. Or did I? Was I playing a D dorian over a Dm chord in the key of C?? Yeah, maybe sometimes. But who cant simply shift their priority to the correct notes of the C-ionian based on the proggression itself. Everyone can.

If you think about it, modes are either dependant or independant functions anyway, and could be labeled both.

If you want to choose a key and chord proggression, modal playing is a valuable tool, when focusing on the physics behind the song. I for one dont focus on the physics of a song, even though I know its there. Knowing the chord changes is enough for me to dictate short changes in melody without filling my mind with empty promises of adjusting my modes per change, rather being aware they are there if I need them.

Modes are a pleasant promise of skills to come. They are a step-up from the Pentatonic grinding alot of us players have grown accustomed to over time, and in fact may be the secret to guitar playing profficiency. In the long run all of the skills and concepts inherent in modes can be found elsewhere, just as in a library you may find similar information under different headings.

Thomas Edison may be found in an index under lots of names. Inventors, diplomacy, education, politics, U.S history. In the end they all bring you to the life of the same man.

Modes are the same way. On a scalar level they will bring you to the knowledge of music, which unfortunately can be found under hundreds of relevant queries. Its up to you which you choose.

Wow, biggest rant Ive had in a while.

Peace.

Kido


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(@lee-n)
Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 142
 

I still don't know if I understand modes properly and I certainly can't put them to any meaningful use but since discovering this site I think I'm getting a better understanding of them. Noteboats often used term "tonal centre" has made me think harder about things I could never quite grasp.

I used to be one of those that argued that D dorian doesn't sound anything different to my ears than a C Ionian. With all the discussions that go on this site I have learnt to try different things and try to contradict my own arguments.

One thing I have found is that D dorian sounds no different to my ears immediately after playing a C Ionian because I have already set my ears up around C Ionian, but if I play any mode other than Ionian as the first thing I do when I pick my guitar up for the first time in the day it suddenly sounds nothing like a major scale.

This is the best thing I have learnt from coming here, learning to look at things differently (not just modes), so far I am no better a guitarist but I have always been held back from getting better at certain things because if I cannot see a point to something especially when there is so much contradiction in music theory, I know it shouldn't but it does hold me back.

I think the key to modes (not that I really care much about them at the moment) is not so much trying to learn what the point is to them but knowing how to actually play around Dorion mode so that it actually sounds Dorion etc. Something I guess that can only be learnt by experience of playing them and never by discussion alone.

Or am I just waffling :)

lee


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

No, you're not waffling. As you noticed, D Dorian sounds just like C Ionian when you play a C scale before the mode - your ears are very accustomed to the major scale, and they organize the Dorian sounds in that context.

The way to get it to sound like D Dorian (at least the way I teach it) is not a shifting of C, but an alteration of D. Play D Ionian, then play D Dorian, and the difference will jump right out at you. The flatted third and seventh seem rather obvious when you ear is hearing things in terms of D major - and you've established that as the tonal center with the scale.

Music has a time element to it, and a memory aspect that's essential. At any given moment in time, you're hearing only a few select tones... they sound 'good' or 'bad' because of what you've heard before it, whether you focused on it or not. Folks who show the modes as shifts of the major scale may make it easy to understand, but very difficult to experience as something other than a major scale - and therefore very hard to use.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@undercat)
Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 963
 

Just wanted to throw this in here: Since I read this discussion a few weeks ago, I've been starting to incorporate different modes using the correct tonal center, and it's working out pretty well.

I'm not fluent in it yet, but I feel it coming, You're totally right about the flatted 3rd and all that stuff Tom, it really does jump out at you if you've just played the ionian in the same key. Good times! It's weird how the EXACT same notes can feel totally different in different contexts, even if there's no music happening behind me, one time it sounds very major, the next time it sounds pretty minor (ionian/dorian same key).

Any advice for someone getting started actually putting them in musical context?

Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life...


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(@domusaurea)
Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5
Topic starter  

No hope for me... confusing modes with tones makes me sick... I just can't accept that.


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

I wouldn't start using them until you can fluently change scales over a progression (playing C major over C, F major over F, C major again over G7, etc.). If you're already there....

I think the easiest way to start using them is by using a jam track. Start with one in a minor key - although minor sounds are familiar to your ear, they're not as ingrained as major ones. If you're playing in D, use D dorian instead of D Aeolian or harmonic minor. Play D dorian over Dm, G dorian over Gm, and then A mixolydian over A7. The mixolydian will sound a bit tense - you'll hear an altered A instead of D major.

Next, I'd try major progressions using the Lydian mode in the same way - play a Lydian over major chords.

The reason I'd do this sequence is that Lydian = major with the #4; Dorian = natural minor with the b6. Having only one altered tone to deal with will make most of the line conform to what your ear expects, and you'll better focus on how to use the odd tones.

One more thing - I teach modes in the context of jazz performance. Rock students who want to play modally find me doing one of two things:

1. I talk them out of it
2. I teach them exotic scales instead

The reason I do this is that I've never had a student who didn't use at least some 'outside' sources of information. The way the internet is today, most students are exploring a lot of stuff, and in modes applied to rock it'll almost all be wrong. I'd be wasting my time and their money correcting stuff.... a rock musician who wants to use modes should learn some jazz first. The altered chords will help your ear appreciate what's going on; the chromatic alterations to melody will develop finger independence well beyond the pentatonic 'box' playing. At that point, I'll teach modes in the context of jazz, and you can apply it to rock or fusion if you want.

Playing modally is a lot like a sonic meat grinder. Rock players stuff in a cow (the mode fingering) and get hamburger (the Ionian sound). Jazz players have the ear to stuff in hamburger (the Ionian notes) and crank out cows (the modal sounds).

The whats of modes are too easy - they're the notes of the related Ionian scale. The vast majority of rock players, because of the simplicity of memorizing a fingering pattern, are used to dealing with easy things and playing easy ideas - no matter how technically demanding they may be, they're still musically easy ideas.

I don't think I'm a good enough teacher to show someone how to use modes as an introduction to harder musical ideas... I can only do it if they already have a foundation in other hard ideas first.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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