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Aren't all the modes just one scale???

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by cire113, Mar 14, 2012.

  1. JehuJava

    JehuJava Bass Frequency Technician

    Oct 15, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    I might be off base here, but I think the difference between diatonic harmony and non-diatonic harmony (chromatic for lack of a better term) is part of the confusion. There is a large portion of musicians who do not create diatonic music. They combine chords based on how they sound together rather than combining chords that are ACTUALLY part of the same scale (pop and rock are two examples of this). I blame this on guitarists learning generic chord patterns rather than theory.

    Now a bass player struggles to link the theory that expert musicians tell them is important (ie: scales and modes) but cannot apply scales or modes in the CONTEXT that their music is being played. I believe this is why many musicians try to incorrectly apply modes to chords (I am very guilty of this). They try to affix meaning to the all important mode but the music is not based on diatonic anything. The problem is further compounded by countless instructional materials showing diatonic relations of modes or chordal relation of modes, neither of which are necessarily right for this type of music.

    Perhaps a person wanting to understand modes should be pointed in the direction of chord building based on the modes. A I in C ionian is going to be different than a I in dorian. A II in ionian is going to be different than a II in phrygian. My theory learning experiences were centered around writing out progressions on paper: start with the key signature, make your progression based degree (I, ii, iii, IV, V, etc), write out the chords degrees based on available notes, make your melody fit with the chord progression. I think it's this link to the diatonic portion that is confusing the modes for newbies.
  2. +1 to your statement about chords used not being diatonic.

    Lot of Country and especially Blues music will throw dominant sevenths around willie nilley with no regard to it fitting into the proper place. A7 is also often used because it is easier to make than a triad A, getting all three fingers into the right spot for the A triad is hard for the 6 string guys to do, so the songwriter just makes it an A7. On another note the Em is easier to make than the E triad and I find myself - when playing rhythm 6 string - using Em instead of E more and more. Sloppy.

    We've got over 200 Country songs in our gig book, only one song has a minor chord - Kawliga has a Dm chord and that is because the Dm chord sounds like an Indian tom-tom. No other reason. Lot of times minor chords are just shown as major, because Ole Classic Country 6 string guitar guys never learned their minor chords. Every thing is Major. Ole time Rock guys play power chords (two note R-5) to everything.

    We play a lot of Willie Nelson covers, now Willie knows his stuff and I end up dumbing down his sheet music so everyone can play it.

    Great thing about Classic Ole Time Country - there are no modes in Classic Ole Time Country. Modal Vamp, what's that........ but, the ole time Country lead guitars can play you the tune - by ear - from memory to hundreds of songs. So modes are not needed in ole time Country. If you want a mood the vocalist sets the mood and the solo instruments - when they get the lead - continue the mood by playing THE TUNE.

    Can't see everyone switching from a chord progression to a modal vamp while the lead guitar does 24 bars of Mixolydian. LOL There is tonal and then there is modal. Country is tonal. Talk modes to a Country player and most tune you out and go glassy eyed.
  3. ACalbass


    Dec 16, 2011
    You are correct.
    But the context of the song is carried by the melody,being that the riff of the song,and/or the singing part.
    So,In a way,there a definition of major or minor quality in context.
  4. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    This has not been the case in any country music I've played (and I've played a lot). Other than blues, nearly every dominant chord I've come across in traditional country music has been functional (i.e. resolving up a 4th). In fact, most old country is very similar harmonically to standards.

    Man, I'd love to see your book - 1 minor chord? No 2 chords, or 6 chords? Amazing. Again, like no Country that I've EVER heard.

    So you don't do Crazy, Mendocino County Line, All Of Me, Always On My Mind, Angel Flying Too Close To the Ground, or On the Road Again?

    Just because you can't identify them doesn't mean they're not there.

    No, there is tonal and atonal. Modal music is tonal.
  5. Please explain more. For example, Key of A I'm using the 5th mode pattern at the 12th fret (E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A, B).

    Please explain a different perspective and help me understand how to use the E Mixolydian in its own right instead of being glued to its role in the construction of the key of A.

    thanks in advance.
  6. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    This point of Jons sums up a lot of people who have limited theory through to myself and others with functional theory ( theory we use every day) that we are not qualified to comment on certain aspects if we do not have an open mind.
    Learning theory is the easy part, it is how it can be used in songwriting to create new music, or understanding music that is out there.....it is about application. So long as there are many different genres and combinations of instruments then it is a lifetimes job to understand all of it, but as Jon has said because we cannot hear certain ideas or identify them does not mean they are not there.

    I have said many times about one of the last lessons I got from my music teacher was about modes. It was never mentioned in the 7 years of training and education I got until the very end, and then I was explained as "everything you have learned can be applied within modes and become something else.....if you want to and have the time."
    I know from experience, as that was nearly 40 years ago, that indeed learning about music and all it's applications can be hard enough without adding in the ideas of modes and model function all at once, a little as you go is fine.
    That I have learned can be a big distraction in learning, as having talked to my teachers in later years they all knew that,so they never bothered with it,q because we will encounter it and we have the foundation they gave us with practical experience we will work it out....if need be.

    But was I done a dis-service or left lacking because of it... Answer is no.
    Have I encountered them in discussions and books and learned more about them.....yes.
    It is great when someone give me an practical example of something I say I have never seen or used and they show me I have and do....like Jon says,
    "Just because I cannot identify something, does not mean it is not there", and so long as my mind is still open I will add it to what I know and that will help with something else further down the line.
    Knowing something and knowing what to do with it or even how to use it are two *separate things, time and experience sorts that one out for everybody.
    I have enjoyed the way Malcolm used the use of colours to explain part of what they can do, simple but effective from a functional point of view.
    I have seen the use from others though I do not understand it, because I do not move in those musical areas ( I play more than anything else's ) but I can see the points made and maybe one day look deeper into them and the music they say it applies to .....maybe even gather some more practical experience and it will fall into place.
    Music is a journey with no real end, so I say take the time to allow the journey to move on smoothly with little stops here and there as it goes....try not to create a block by staying on any one idea to long....maybe the next one or one further down the line will make it all clear....if you give yourself the chance to keep moving forward......again music is a leap of faith in that we keep on learning because new learning created new thinking from old ideas.:)
  7. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification


    In the key of A, that E mixolydian sound is the V chord, and has a strong pull to resolve to A. But in an E blues, it's fully resolved. In fact, you could look at the traditional 12 bar blues (I7 IV7 and V7) and the simplest modal form there is. (this is an oversimplification, due to the nature of blues as an art form, but serves the point in that it's non-diatonic harmony)
  8. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    I used to be a big advocate of modes, now not so much anymore. Anyways I always keep it simple and know that if I play a D dorian over a G7 chord, for example, it gives chord extensions like the 13 and the 9, . All I ever really worry about it.
  9. How to use modes in practice - such a simple-seeming question until you do this:

    "How to use modes ...?" Does this mean, "When I am playing it comes time for me to do something musical, can I use a mode?" - The answer is - yes, no, maybe, sometimes, never - depending on who answers, musical context, experience...

    "...in practice?" Does this mean what was stated above (when I'm PLAYING) or does it mean when you are sitting down with your music trying to compose or analyze and draw academic conclusions that might manifest themselves as interesting musical statements in performance.

    If it's the latter, then the way you "use modes in practice" is to study music theory and take what you learn and apply it to your personal musical pursuit.

    Many people have 'used modes' in many ways. That said, I'll try to offer my own experience as one example of how I 'used modes in practice' with one caveat. I don't 'use modes' anymore, sort of... But what I do know is that before I understood what the modes actually were, I thought I needed to know them. After I learned what they are and did practice them, I learned that I have been using them all along, I just didn't really know it and now that I do, I realize that knowing them does help but isn't necessary to be musical.

    I first learned that modes (the 7 popular ones, that is) are 7 scales that share the same notes, but whose interval patterns shift based on which note you start the scale on.

    The thing that makes modes sound the way they do is the INTERVAL patterns in context. A scale is made up of 8 notes (root repeated at the top) each note being either a half step or two half steps (a whole step) above the previous. A scale's interval pattern can be represented by numbers. For example, a major scales interval pattern is:

    2,2,1,2,2,2,1 - remember a whole step is 2 half steps.

    Now watch what happens when I lay out the interval patters of all 7 modes:


    You should easily see the pattern. Helpful? Not really. That is simply the clinical explanation of how the interval patterns are created.

    What does that mean? Well, it means you can technically play any 'mode' over any chord IF you know what that chord is and how the interval patters of the modes relate to it.

    If you are doing a vamp in C Major - you can craft melodies or voice chords from every mode and have them all be technically correct (in key) - but not necessarily musically appealing.

    You can also strategically utilize modes in a way that allows you to leverage each one's unique 'sound' (relative intervals) to create interesting 'flavors' or 'moods', as other folks have pointed out. In a CMaj vamp, a melodic statement that stars on the 3rd (E) and leverages the intervals of the phrygian mode will yield a sound that is not CMaj, but IS using all the notes of CMaj.

    In other words, your modes will give you all of the IN notes with interesting interval relationships. Here is one way I have 'used' modes.

    I learned the modal scales and arpeggios and practiced them so I could use them easily when I play. Using the CMaj example, if I wanted to improvise a nice sounding 'IN' melody I could just grab a Cmaj 'thing' - scales/arpeggios all using C as the root and the intervals of the ionian (major) mode - and that would sound fine - or that would sound basic, depending on how I used it.

    I could also start my melodic statement on E (the 3rd) and leverage the arpeggios and intervals of the phrygian mode - which would keep me entirely IN key, but provide an overall musical flavor that could sound rather interesting when compared to straight up major.

    But as for being 100% musical, the modes will keep you IN but they won't make you musical. OUT notes add tension and interest. Knowing the modes can help you to know where every single "IN" note is on the neck and prevent you from ever going "OUT" - in other words - sound 'safe'. Knowing where all the safe notes are can also allow you to selectively go OUT on purpose. When you can lead people's ears with your melody intelligently and selectively take them OUT and bring them back IN intelligently, that's musical. Yes, there are people who play "OUT" by accident and then spend the rest of their statement frantically searching for a way to make it all make 'sense' - and some people do that well - but that is NOT something I'd recommend to anyone as a way to go about developing as a musician. Knowing the modes and what they mean can provide you with information that can help you know how to go IN and OUT with purpose.

    So - how can you USE modes in practice? Learn the modes, practice them keeping in mind why they are what they are (a road map to all the safe, in notes) - then start to apply what you learn when you play or compose.
  10. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
  11. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
  12. Exactly.

    I swear I did not watch that before I posted what I posted. My (former) teacher studied with Adam Nitti... I was wondering where i got all that info...

    Man, is that a good video!! Everyone should watch that before posting a 'modes' question... Can it be stickied or something?
  13. Like an onion, peal back one level and other levels are revealed. Enough information here to keep you busy for years.

    Thanks for posting.
  14. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Thing is, you have to first grasp that a mode is a SOUND, not a pattern. While they have the same notes, C Major and A minor are fundementally different because of how they SOUND when used to create music.

    Ignore shapes, patterns, etc. on the neck. All this stuff is predicated on SOUND. Again if you think of them as the same scale started in the middle, you're not grasping the SOUND of the different modes.

  15. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    I am just getting my head around this concept.
  16. There are seven modes in each key. Start on whichever note you want and play the scale using the key and bam that's a mode. How modes started was with the weird tuning systems back in the medieval period when keyboards and fretted viol's were tuned using pythag's system. Which ended up giving you a separate f# and g flat key on their keyboards. So if you play a keyboard or a fretted instrument and play a modal piece prior to the equal temperament tuning it won't sound like it did back then. From my theory perspectives I look at things more from chords than it being scales or whatnot. Sorry for the history rant.
  17. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    You need to brush up or explain your history a bit better. Modes are Classical era ( Greek, Roman etc ) concept not Medieval concept and Medieval music's sound is due to the instruments available or developed in those times related to any tunings they used.
  18. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    Yeah that video is great and it was actually the beginning of my being able to wrap my head around modes.. (mind yo I still have more wrapping to do.. ) It broke it down in a way that was practical where you could actually see how the use of modes can work in practice.
  19. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Yeah I really like him as a teacher and musician, a little more than Anthony Wellington who is a little too much funk/r&b for my taste.
  20. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    As always agree^ I came form a n old school country band covers with a few originals to the Americana alt /country band I am in to today. The songwriter writes in allot of minor chords and it really threw me at first since almost all the old country standards I was used to playing were in majors chords. Country is tonal all the way and outlining and playing chord tones works everytime.

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