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Applying modes in songs I play with my band

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by deecher99, Apr 22, 2009.


  1. deecher99

    deecher99

    Mar 27, 2009
    I have gone through some threads on here about modes, looked up youtube videos and other websites and still can't figure out the answer to my question on modes. So, I apologize in advance if this question is redundant.

    Quick background:

    1. First off, I have practiced the modes and know what they are.

    2. My band just puts chords up on a whiteboard for our songs, but they're never more complex than G or F# or Am. Never is a C#7 put down.

    3. If the guitar player ever plays a strange chord, he doesn't know what it is, I would have to figure it out myself.

    So, when we play songs, I follow the chord chart of the songs, I simply follow along with the chords, and generally play the root of the chord on the '1' and will play notes within the scale, be it major or minor. We have a song with the chord progression of G Em D Am, and I apply this logic to the song.

    So, I basically play in two modes, major and minor. When would you apply, say mixolydian? Would it be when I know the guitar player plays a major chord with a flatted 7th?

    Or is it more complex than that where you need to know the key of the song and that determines the mode you play throughout the song?

    I really want to get this because I have a feeling once I know this it will open up a bunch of new possibilities to my playing. Thanks so much!
     
  2. Asher S

    Asher S

    Jan 31, 2008
    MA
    Have a look at the chart below.

    When your bandmates put up a dominant 7, you can play the Mixolydian mode, or even the whole tone scale although that might be too far out there. There are no rules, just what sounds good to you and what doesn't.

    attachment.
     
  3. afromoose

    afromoose Guest

    This is quite contextual. It depends on what sort of music you're playing, music is infinite and it's true to say there are no rules, but let's introduce some limitations to give us some rules so this becomes slightly useful. Let's say you're in C major and you're only going to use the notes of the C major scale - (in other words, no accidentals, so no key changes, and we're in what's called 'diatonic harmony' which means that the major scale acts as the parent scale for our modes).

    The mode you would have to play for each possible major or minor chord would be:

    C Major - Ionian
    Dm - Dorian
    Em - phrygian
    F - Lydian
    G - Mixolydian
    Am - Aeolian
    Bdim - Locrian

    Now, even though this is a complicated way of writing this, all it really means is that you're sticking to C major.

    There's only one scale on that list where it's appropriate to play the natural minor scale. (If you want to stay in C major at all times without introducing accidentals (by this I mean notes from other keys, Db, Eb, Gb, Ab, Bb))

    That's Am.

    For Dm and Em, if you play the natural minor from D you add a Bb. If you do it from Em, you add an F sharp.

    So, to answer a couple of your questions, within the realms of basic diatonic harmony

    When would you apply, say mixolydian?

    You could use the mixolydian when playing chord V (5). In C major, this would be the chord G major. If you stick to the notes in the C major scale (as discussed above) then from G, you get the mixolydian.

    Would it be when I know the guitar player plays a major chord with a flatted 7th?

    Yes. Usually this will be the V7 chord, which is referred to as a Dominant Seventh chord. Chord V is called the Dominant chord because of it's strong relationship with the tonic (chord I). You will hear and see people calling any Major chord with a flatted 7th a 'dominant seventh' chord because that type of seventh chord is found on chord V in major keys.


    Now, I said above that the example modes should be used if you're only using the notes out of one key and no others. That would be extremely limiting. But as for when to use a particular mode and introduce accidentals, you're best off learning this by using your ears. Scales are good for training your technique and getting your ear used to hearing intervals as you go around the fretboard, but you need to get into the context of tunes to start applying this knowledge on a case-by-case basis.

    I would recommend getting an aebersold jazz book called "How to play and improvise jazz". There is a chart there which has a list of chords on one side, and a list of scales (modes) on the other which you can play over each chord. By playing through tunes on a case by case basis you'll start to realise that some tunes stay in particular keys or modes, and some tunes do pretty much whatever they want. By following your ear and listening to the form of the music you can start to figure out what sounds good when, and this is when knowing the modes becomes useful, because it's helping you to remember and be able to communicate what you're doing.

    With other styles of music than jazz, you won't really get a chance to get as stuck in with the modes and their application and learn a lot. The reason is that in other styles, there aren't as many changes and generally jazz chords are a bit richer than in other styles.

    I've found a lot of the time, reggae is in natural minor (aeolian) with one key centre. Whereas blues will tend to be written in Dorian mode. In blues there's a whole different load of things you can do as compared with diatonic harmony. Again, it's contextual!!
     
    Macho McHorse likes this.
  4. afromoose

    afromoose Guest

    This is quite contextual. It depends on what sort of music you're playing, but let's say you're in C major and you're only going to use the notes of the C major scale - (in other words, no accidentals, so no key changes, and we're in what's called 'diatonic harmony' which means that the major scale acts as the parent scale for our modes).

    The mode you would have to play for each possible major or minor chord would be:

    C Major - Ionian
    Dm - Dorian
    Em - phrygian
    F - Lydian
    G - Mixolydian
    Am - Aeolian
    Bdim - Locrian

    Now, even though this is a complicated way of writing this, all it really means is that you're sticking to C major.

    There's only one scale on that list where it's appropriate to play the natural minor scale. (If you want to stay in C major at all times without introducing accidentals (by this I mean notes from other keys, Db, Eb, Gb, Ab, Bb))

    That's Am.

    For Dm and Em, if you play the natural minor from D you add a Bb. If you do it from Em, you add an F sharp.

    So, to answer a couple of your questions, within the realms of basic diatonic harmony

    When would you apply, say mixolydian?

    You could use the mixolydian when playing chord V (5). In C major, this would be the chord G major. If you stick to the notes in the C major scale (as discussed above) then from G, you get the mixolydian.

    Would it be when I know the guitar player plays a major chord with a flatted 7th?

    Yes. Usually this will be the V7 chord, which is referred to as a Dominant Seventh chord. Chord V is called the Dominant chord because of it's strong relationship with the tonic (chord I). You will hear and see people calling any Major chord with a flatted 7th a 'dominant seventh' chord because that type of seventh chord is found on chord V in major keys.


    Now, I said above that the example modes should be used if you're only using the notes out of one key and no others. That would be extremely limiting. But as for when to use a particular mode, you're best off learning this by using your ears. Scales are good for training your technique and getting your ear used to hearing intervals as you go around the fretboard, but you need to get into the context of tunes to start applying this knowledge on a case-by-case basis.

    I would recommend getting an aebersold jazz book called "How to play and improvise jazz". There is a chart there which has a list of chords on one side, and a list of scales (modes) on the other which you can play over each chord. By playing through tunes on a case by case basis you'll start to realise that some stay in particular keys or modes, and some do pretty much whatever they want. By following your ear and listening to the form of the music you can start to figure out what sounds good when, and this is when knowing the modes becomes useful, because it's helping you to remember and be able to communicate what you're doing.

    With other styles of music than jazz, you won't really get a chance to get as stuck in with the modes and their application and learn a lot. The reason is that in other styles, there aren't as many changes and generally jazz chords are a bit richer than in other styles.

    I've found a lot of the time, reggae is in natural minor (aeolian) with one key centre. Whereas blues will tend to be written in Dorian mode. In blues there's a whole different load of things you can do as compared with diatonic harmony. Again, it's contextual!!
     
  5. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Learn what the chords are. Then look at the notes of the chords, and use that to determine what your options are. Seriously, it's a lot simpler than you're making.

    Say for the G F# Am song... Those chords are G B D, F# A# C#, and A C E. That tells you the strong notes you need, and then you can apply the scales or modes as it works for the sound of the song.

    For the G Em D Am song- IGNORE the modes! Those four chords are clearly in the key center of G. How do you know? BASIC HARMONY. Harmonize a G major scale and you get these chords... G Am Bm C D Em F#m7b5. OWN the chord by knowing the notes of each one ( G B D, E G B, D F# A, and A C E in your song). Then you'll see that ONE SCALE covers all four of them. But you gotta do the work of not only playing them, but SEEING the chord within the scale, and HEARING them.

    If the guitarist plays a chord you don't recognize, stop, take the time to figure out exactly what note he's playing, and add that to your homework. See, bassists gotta own the harmony. A guitarist can get away with playing shapes and claiming to know chords. But the bass's job is to DEFINE the harmony, and you can't define what you don't know. So the guitar player can play a G chord in five different places on the guitar without knowing that he's playing G B D. But you gotta own that so that you can tell the whole band what's going on harmonically.

    Don't make it any more complicated than it is. That's why for chordal stuff like your G Em D Am song, eschew the obfuscation of modal thinking. It serves no purpose to switch from G Ionian to E Phrygian to D Mixolydian to A Dorian when they're all the same six notes (G A B C D E F#) AND the chord tones will guide you to the key notes for the bass line under each chord. And most importantly, thinkig of these four chords all in the same key helps you retain the sound of them all being toghether instead of each one being a separate entity. They all relate to each other, so USE that relationship to build a cohesive bassline.

    jte
     
  6. afromoose

    afromoose Guest

    Yeah this is kind of what I was saying too - if you're in 'normal' harmony in a major key, when you use modes you're just using the notes from the major scale, so it's much easier to think of it as the notes of the major scale.
     
  7. Calebmundy

    Calebmundy

    Apr 5, 2007
    Nashville
    Yeah so far the advice given is mostly for a regular major key and you're pretty much using the ionian mode off of the key center. Another way to think of "using" modes, is to experiement with using them over regular chords. It isn't often done in regular pop/rock tunes, but there can be a real emmotional difference.

    There is a certain mystery that comes across when you use Lydian over regular major chords (although it has to be done just right which usually means not playing it too low). Another sort of "modal" idea I really like is to try out using a minor V chord instead of the major. So if you were in the key of "C" you would use G minor chords instead of G major chords; this is more of a compositional use than a bass line use though-this would be a mixolydian way to think.

    In general I think a lot of good can come from experimenting with "wrong notes" and just seeing what happens. There are some interesting Weezer tunes out there where the bass player is playing 9ths under the chord etc. I am a big "learn the rules" kind of guy (which I could prove if I could find the diploma somewhere in my house), but a lot of the good use out of modal playing in rock is about finding the sweet moments to break the rules. It can also sound super super awful, so it's good to listen and bounce the idea off others. Whether or not it sounds "good" kind of comes down to the grayer areas of art.

    Hope this helps and isn't too confusing!
     
  8. deecher99

    deecher99

    Mar 27, 2009
    Thanks guys you really helped clear some things up. I play in a pretty standard rock band so I am guess I shouldn't worry about applying modes too often. I will however start throwing in mixo on the V chord and experiment with some songs and apply a different mode, like say, phrygian over a minor chord and see what happens. If notes start to sound wrong, I'll scrap the idea, but if they sound right, then cool.

    And thanks JTE for helping me by telling me to keep in simple. I'll heed your advice and go into modes slowly. And I'll continue to ask my guitarist what chords he's playing!
     
  9. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    well if the guitarist is playing a major triad you can play ionian, mixo, lydian, or lydian b7.

    if he's playing a minor chord you can play dorian, aolian, phygian...

    all this has to do with what sounds good... teh guide lines set up above deffinately work but remember that the guitar player isn't the only one defining the chords... I've played an F bass note durring a C major triad and it works... and personally I don't like the sound of a major 7th in MOST popular music (popular meaning not classical). I usually play dominant 7ths as my default and go from there.
     
  10. rditmars

    rditmars

    Aug 7, 2002
    Boulder, CO
    Here is a way to apply this. If you can get someone to play a basic IIm - V7 - I chord progression in C (Dm - G7 - C), play a line over that starting with D (G-string, 7th fret) and descend in the C major scale. You will play a line that not only "works" with the chords but starts each bar with the root of the chord.

    It would be a bit boring to do that too much, but it demonstrates how one mode works over diatonic chord changes.
     
  11. Andrew Jones

    Andrew Jones Banned

    Feb 28, 2001
    Northampton Mass
    I didn't read any of the post above,,,,,but.....


    Since your playing original Rock music allot of this stuff will be slippery and entirely up to you as is "how much and where to put a little rub"


    Simple advice?


    Learn Your Melodies!!!!!!!

    Your guitar player might play power 5ths all the time and your harmony could be "defined" by the crazy singer you have.


    When things move in whole steps take a good look at your 4th/ #11 relation.


    Be careful about your 13ths.



    Aj
     
  12. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    A big +1 to what JTE posted

    If you dig around you find many experienced bassists claim to think. In chords and chord tones rather than "chord X = mode Y"
    As I have posted elsewhere, modes are more important to memorize and understand than they are to actualluy use.

    One way to think about it:

    For each chord there will be two groups of notes to choose from :
    Chord tones and other tones.
    Chord tones, esp the root should be the starting point and the 'target' points of your creations.
    'Other tones' can be used to connect the dots, and they can be modal or chromatic. The primary influence on you choice of 'other tones' should be the style of music or feel you wish to convey . Folk or country will be very diatonic, old school rock or blues will use a lot of mixolydian and chromatic, metal more minor and diminished., etc. Unfortunately there's noshortcut to stylistic understanding - you just gotta learn a lot of bass lines.

    But to simplify things, just connect use your ears while connecting chord tones.
    And don't underestimate the power of simply pedaling on the root.
     
  13. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Philadelphia
    Another +1 to JTE's post, and Mambo 4. I sometimes think in terms of chord tones, which comes naturally because I started on guitar. And if I'm given only a chord chart, I automatically gravitate toward that approach, though I can usually figure out the scale/mode pretty quickly after that.

    But in my last two bands I've been learning modes, and then using them more consciously. I started learning them by figuring out a bass part that worked in those songs, and creating a "scale" using all those notes, with the song's tonal center as the root. (Obviously this doesn't account for possible key changes.) Taking this approach and looking up the modes, I learned one track was in lydian, others in dorian, and others in myxolidian (very common in rock, so I knew that one). And then I realized a simple bass solo I wrote was in phrygian. It's been a good education. I realize I've only scratched the surface, but it works for the relatively simple rock I usually play.

    Maybe this approach would work for you, because it seems you might be playing similar material. In many cases you'll know the scale quickly. If not, you can figure out what works, starting with the chord tones. You can "reverse engineer" the scales and modes from there, and once you realize what you're using, you'll be able to use it consciously in other contexts.
     
  14. EADG mx

    EADG mx

    Jul 4, 2005
    It sounds to me like you are trying to use modes just to use modes. In reality it's not necessary to play modally or think in terms of modes in the majority of modern Western music.
     

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