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

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....

Hmmm... most of the time when I'm playing over progressions, I'll improvise melodies over them using some shapes I know will work out and a little bit of straight improvisation where I just kind of play what I hear and ignore the shapes for a little bit. All that to say that when I don't really process the scales as they relate to the progression unless their are out-of-key changes happening.

Does this put me below the level where this is going to be useful? I am hearing the differences, and enjoying the altered feel in a very controlled setting (i.e. Cmaj being played continuously on a keyboard while I play C Dorian), but I'm not sure if I'm ready to handle this full on.

Should I just memorize the alterations and try and emphasise those notes while maintaining the tonal center of the progression?

Teach me, master!

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

Ok, I should have explained the concept a bit more....

You're playing over a C progression, using a C scale. Some folks say that when the chord changes to F, you're magically in F Lydian mode. They're wrong, of course... but the difference between F Lyidian and F major is the Bb note.

So instead of saying "I'll play C Ionian over C, and F Lydian over F" - the approach most rock guitarists take... which gets them nowhere, because they play the F Lydian with a C tonal center, making it plain old C Ionian... we want to be able to actually alter scale notes when the chord changes.

Let's start with a riff in C: E-F-G-E-D-C. (It's important that the riff include the fourth). Now the chord changes to F... do the same riff in the key of F: A-Bb-C-A-G-F.

When you can do that consistently - when you're aware of the scale and chord tones for everything that's happening in the progression, then your ears are starting to develop the sensitivity needed to use modes.

Now let's try playing in Am. We'll start out with a i-bvii-vi-i progression, all minor chords. Here you want to stay away from i-iv-V progressions, because familiarity is going to steer your ears away from the modal sounds. We'll try Dorian modes:

A dorian = A-B-C-D-E-F#-G-A
G dorian = G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F-G
F# dorian = F#-G#-A-B-C#-D#-E-F#

Take a close look at those, and you'll see that only A, B, and E are common to all three. Also note that the root notes of two of the three chords are not among these common tones. I'll come back to that in a sec, after I digress into the differences in thinking and listening between jazz and rock players...

Jazz players learn the scales, scale tones, arpeggios, and fingerboard locations. The early efforts in improvisation involve some thought - where is the b7? Where do I need to start to do a 4-note chromatic run up to the fifth on this chord? They're very aware of the notes, and the sounds of those notes.

Rock players learn a fingering. They learn a pentatonic box, and where the root is... and then they use their ears to pick out notes from that pattern. They aren't thinking about notes at all.

There are some definate advantages to the rock approach - learn one fingering, you can play in all keys. There are some big drawbacks as well - your melodies will only be as good as the experience you bring to them; you'll have a hard time analyzing what somebody else did in reproducable terms. That's why I start to introduce target tones, and segue from there into jazz before winding back to modes: if you can't think notes, your ear is the only thing holding down your tonal center, and if your ear is going to rely on 'old' sounds instead of new ones.

Back to those common tones. Let's say the progression is I-IV-V, and we're talking about a pentatonic scale (1-b3-4-5-b7) instead of a mode:

A = A-C-D-E-G
D = D-F-G-A-C
E= E-G-A-B-D

Huh, whaddya know... they are ALL common tones!

The rock guitarist who's still hunting around by ear only has to rely on a fingering. No theory, not even note names, is required to avoid errors.

Back to those modes... three tones that will be safe over any chord means four 'unsafe' tones over any chord. There's a lot more doo-doo available to step in here. That's really why you need to be able to change a scale over a chord before you can attack modes - you need to know a) what notes make up the scale, and b) which note is which scale tone.

If you can't do that, the ear will almost certainly lose the tonal center, and you'll do what rock guitarists are prone to do: play major scales and talk about modes :)

Afterthought: I may draw some criticism in saying jazz players 'think' of scale tones - that jazz players don't 'think' at all when they play. This is true. I'm only thinking of tones at certain spots in a solo, when I'm aiming for a specific resolution, and players better than I don't even do that. However, I'm not talking about how the masters do it... I'm talking about how the masters learned to do it. To paraphrase Charlie Parker, you spend years practicing and learning everything you can, and then you forget about it. (Forgetting about it first won't work)

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

I now understand that I am totally, completely, unabashedly not even in the slightest way prepared to work with modes on a meaningful level. I need to take lessons that focus on jazz for a while.

I understand what you're saying, Tom (Yay! That wouldn't have happened 2 weeks ago!) But I'm definitely not at a place to apply that meaningfully.

Thanks for your time posting the best explanation I've seen so far of their application. You're the man!

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


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(@hairballxavier)
Trusted Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 93
 

You have to know the major scale in order to understand chord construction. Getting the Ionian major scale patterns up and down on the fretboard is very important because it trains your fingers to recognize those patterns. All the knowledge of music theory in the world won't help you if can't physically apply it to the fretboard. From a physical standpoint it important to recognize that all the notes from the all the diatonic chords in 7 modes in 12 keys are right at your fingertips in those 7 patterns or boxes as some people call them. That's all the chords in 84 keys. All you have to do is move them to the right spot. It helps to break you out of that open chord/barre chord rut that so many guitarists are stuck in. It's best not to get stuck in that rut in the first place.

.


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

That's all the chords in 84 keys

Ummm... that's all the chords in 12 keys. Any mode harmonized gives you exactly the same chords as one of the major scales (C Lydian = G major etc.).

There are 36 'keys' that have chords, but to learn the other 24 you need to harmonize the harmonic minor (12 keys) and the ascending melodic minor (12 more). Because of the alteration of scale degrees, you get chords that aren't native to the major keys - and therefore won't be found by learning the major scale boxes.

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 sirN
(@sirn)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 361
 

I feel so cheap. :?

check out my website for good recording/playing info


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 Kyle
(@kyle)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 186
 

I think some of the problem with guitarists wanting to learn modes has to do with their laziness. They can't phrase things properely themselves on the instrument, so they look for scales that fit the "mood" they are going after. Some guitarists know lydian has a kind of mystic feel to it, so they think if they play the notes in the lydian scale, it will sound mystic. Sadly, this is not the case. They may think it sounds good, but you can always tell when these kinds of people don't know what they are doing. When playing lead or improvising, I am aware of the modes in relation to the key I am in, but rarely if ever do I use one mode exclusively. Maybe if I feel the need to include a passing tone from another mode I will, but I won't dwell on it. I too have a backround in classical (oboe) and I definetly think that helps in seperating the good stuff from the malarcky for guitar playing.

The meaning of life? I've never heard a simpler question! Music.


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