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Do I really need to know my modes?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by benchpress11782, Feb 26, 2020.

  1. benchpress11782

    benchpress11782 Supporting Member

    May 23, 2007
    Seems it’s only good for mainly soloing. And fills I guess. Your thoughts? And jazz I guess. I play for my church and doesn’t seem like I need it much. But I guess good to know anyway as a bassist. That’s why I wonder what your thoughts are. Thanks
    DJ Bebop and alanloomis1980 like this.
  2. flojob

    flojob Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2011
    It depends. You're already using modes. Plus, if you're doing what you like, and having fun, then there's no reason to take it any farther. Unless you're just curious.
  3. benchpress11782

    benchpress11782 Supporting Member

    May 23, 2007
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  4. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    You are right, modes are for soloing. Are they giving you any solos?

    Modes will take you down a road that will absorb a lot of your time. Now if you already have root on one -- follow the chords and play notes of the active chord down -- then sure dig into modes, but, you will not have a lot of use for them in your Praise music.

    Right now modes don't fit with what you are playing. When you start getting solos modes could be one way. A solo using the tune, beats modal every time. Modes fit when you want to vamp a mood.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2020
    jefkritz and benchpress11782 like this.
  5. I wouldnt worry about modes except if you have to create basslines from chord charts, do walking bass lines, create a solo or just understand why certain notes work.

    Otherwise, no.
    ErikP.Bass, Tekkers, Cheez and 8 others like this.
  6. benchpress11782

    benchpress11782 Supporting Member

    May 23, 2007
    Makes a lot of sense. Thank you
  7. benchpress11782

    benchpress11782 Supporting Member

    May 23, 2007
    Thank you
  8. I don’t really think about modes in relation to each other or their relative major; but I see the modes just as more scales. And each scale has a flavor, a character. The Aebersold scale syllabus shows all the flavors of C:

    So for each song I think “what flavor suits this song, or this section?” I play mostly rock, blues and country, and I find I use Dorian and Mixolydian quite often.

    But ultimately I’m thinking in terms of scale degrees. I don’t really think “I’m in Dorian” but rather “scale degrees 5 6 b7 1 would work here.” I will use a b2 > 1 in my walking, but I don’t really think “I’m switching to Phrygian” just “I’ll put a b2 here.”

    So even if you don’t study the whole scope of the modes, it’s nice to play around with them and see which flavors fit your music. If not for your fingers, then for your ears.

    hope that helps! :)
  9. benchpress11782

    benchpress11782 Supporting Member

    May 23, 2007
    Yes thanks
  10. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Modes are interesting to practice as alternate scales. They give the fingers a little different pathway (and breaking out of patterns is good thing do). Modes have a different sound and that helps keep the ear open, another good thing.
    But taken to extreme, they will build other patterns that will give you lines you don't have to think about (or hear)... and that basically is trading one problem for another.
    So, as far as walking bass lines go, connect the chord tones with scale steps and keep your ear open to the harmony so you don't hit notes that destroy the energy of the music.
    As for soloing, it's probably more productive to be aware of the chord tones of the harmony. Practice playing melodies you know so your fingers will go the sound in your head.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Learning the modes would just give you Greek names for the patterns of notes you are already playing. It might deepen your understanding for why certain things that sound good to you, sound good. But if you already are playing the correct notes to the song, in rhythm with the band, and your music director is happy, then in my opinion it's not necessary to know the Greek name for what you're playing. However I am a big nerd, so my own personal learning style is, I would rather have as much information as possible. Not knowing a piece of knowledge or trivia, that other people know, drives me crazy!!!

    Personally, I find the main usefulness of "modes," for me, is to quickly communicate musical ideas to tone-deaf guitarists who can't hear the musical idea. For example if the guitarist is incorrectly playing B naturals, and can't hear how bad his note choice sounds against the B flat in the C7 chord, I can yell out "C Mixolydian!" and hopefully he'll get the hint. When playing with non-tone-deaf musicians, the topic of "modes" seldom comes up, in the musical circles I hang with.

    All that said, memorizing the modes of the major scale takes less than an hour, and at the end of it, you'll probably say to yourself, "Is that all it is? So easy! Can't believe I've been avoiding this so long."
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2020
  12. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    Do I really need to know my modes?
    depends on your goals and your 'level of satisfaction'.
    BOOG, Low Commotion, DJ Bebop and 5 others like this.
  13. Robbie J

    Robbie J

    Nov 24, 2018
    I think it is worth looking into modes because they help you to know what scale tones are available within the context of the chord you are playing. The key thing though is that you do still want to make sure that that you keep the chord tones at the center of your playing (See Chord Tones Are Primary | Bass Chord Patterns | StudyBass for a good explanation of this. If you aren't already familiar.)

    Like you I play in a church context and am just starting to look more into modes myself. Yes, you're extremely rarely going to have a bass solo, but as you say modes are useful for fills, which tastefully used can help support the harmony of the song, add to the momentum of the chord progression and support transitions between different sections of the song. As a simple example of this, for a I-IV transition (e.g. C to F when in the key of C) I might perform a litte run up of C D E F, i.e. a 1,2,3,4 run up the major scale. I find this natural to do because I'm familiar with the basic major scale. However for different chords I would need to use the a different scale in order to know what notes I'd be "allowed to use" for similar runs, and so learning the modes would help me out here. (Or rather, really it's still the major scale, just starting and finishing in a different position - but that's precisely what the modes are!)

    So by all means learn the modes - there's a big difference knowing the scales and how you make use them. Sadly, a lot of discussion of the application of modes forgets the importance of chord tones.
    TC424, IamGroot, Tricaptain and 2 others like this.
  14. benchpress11782

    benchpress11782 Supporting Member

    May 23, 2007
    Very well put. I think I will give it some time and see how it works out. Thank you
  15. benchpress11782

    benchpress11782 Supporting Member

    May 23, 2007
    Thank you for input
  16. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I'm going to quote my post from another thread because I think it applies here.
    These posts speak to someone wondering if pursuing some specific knowledge is worth effort.
    Sometimes it's "should I learn theory?" , sometimes "should I learn to read?", sometimes other stuff.
    Typically they make an arbitrary distinction between "essential" and "optional" musical knowledge,
    such that the thing they wish to avoid can be put in the "optional" group.

    The reality it's all optional. You don't have to pursue any of it.
    But be honest about your choices. Just say "I choose not to learn this (...yet)".

    There's no need to justify this choice, unless you yourself are truly unsure.
    And if you are unsure it's probably because you realize, on some level,
    what Anthony Wellington says about learning music:
    "knowing something is better than not knowing something."

    That said, with modes particular, there are more useful things -like harmony- to learn first.
    Instead of "should I learn modes?" ask "can I harmonize a major scale?"
    If you can't harmonize a major scale, learn that first.
    Harmony is basic theory, modes are intermediate.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2020
  17. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Do I really need to know my modes?

    benchpress11782 likes this.
  18. matty1039


    Oct 26, 2015
    New Orleans
    I've been working on the five pentatonic scales lately. It is pentatonic scales of the first five modes. Kind of a baby step into the modes. If anything it is just a good warm up exercise to move up and down the neck a little bit.

    Check this out: The 5 Pentatonic Positions You NEED To Learn - TalkingBass
  19. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Thoroughly Nice Guy Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    Bassists don't need to retain any theory. The guitarist in your church band can tell you everything you need to know about music. If there's no guitarist, ask the singer. You can probably get by on tab after that.
    benchpress11782 and IamGroot like this.
  20. Tricaptain


    Sep 21, 2011
    Right Hear (...it's a pun. Use your ears!). ;D
    I'm just a user/customer that plays gigs. I am not professionally affiliated with any vendor, etc.
    My theory is 'this': Music is a language, like any other. You can pick up the language just be hearing and practicing it, or you can 'study the book'. Ideally, SURE - everyone would 'study the book' (if, for nothing else, awareness on anything that's been captured). Education in music theory (like anything else) really helps with approach and reasoning*, though it's all something that can be 'felt out' as well.

    *I WILL also theorize, though... the more educated you are, the more you can shape your own experience, vice someone else shaping it for you (again, this could apply with anything in life)...

    That said... 'all' (not to downplay it) that 'the book' does is put what exists in reality in some kind of order, and on paper. End state, though - if it sounds/feels good... it IS good. Have a blast, either way. Cheers!
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2020
    CB3UK, aarjamson, DJ Bebop and 3 others like this.

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