1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

how to go about learning the modes

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by xdanxx, Aug 19, 2012.

  1. xdanxx


    Mar 12, 2008
    Is it more effective to learn all the modes in one given scale say C

    C Ionian
    C Dorian
    C Phrygian

    Or does it make more sense to learn one kind of mode throughout all the different keys for instance

    A Phrygian
    B Phrygian
    C Phrygian
  2. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    All from the same root, C Ionian, C Dorian, etc. That helps remove the perception that Dorian is simply Ionian started on the second.

    A mode is a SOUND, not a finger pattern. That pattern helps you play the notes, but does precious little to help you actually know the mode. Here's the best secret though... learn chord construction through 7th chords and learn the harmonized scale carried out through 7th chords. If you have that down, most of what passes for "learning modes" becomes moot.

    THEN you'll be on a position to learn what it is about modes that's actually useful.

  3. Kobaia


    Oct 29, 2005
    Denton TX
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar Amp Gruv Gear and Mono Cases
    I believe its better to learn them in context of how they're actually made, and not just as patterns. But I come from a chord scale background.

    Play only natural notes from C to C, D to D, E to E, F to F, and so on. the concept is taught that they all share the same notes, the pattern is developed as the person plays them more. then you can label them with numbers and names. and then get into improve based on numbers. knowing that a II V I in C is D dorian G myxo and C Ionian
  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, a thousand times this.
  5. Yes again to C Ionian, C Dorian, pitch axis or parallel modes is much easier to use. The other way is easier to teach and is what most end up being taught.

    Scott Devine's video lesson on practicing modes is one of the better modal lessons I've found. Here he talks about both methods. http://scottsbasslessons.com/welcome-to-the-shed See what Scott has to say and then you make up your mind which way is best for you. People swear by both methods, I prefer Parallel Modes, for what ever that is worth. Most of what you see on the Internet deal with how to make the mode, that's just half of the story. After you've made the mode how you go about using it is the important part of the story. With Parallel you use the Major scale and the natural minor scale as your home base and then change one or two notes. Want the Dorian sound use the natural minor scale degrees and sharp the b6 into a natural 6. Or if you prefer to let the major scale be your home base for everything - to get Dorian use the major scale pattern and flat the 3 and 7. Want Lydian's sound use the major scale and sharp the 4. Want Mixolydian, flat the 7, etc. I find that easy to utilize.

    Which ever way you decide to go what you play that mode over must enter the picture, i.e. Scott's droning E string. Gotta have some droning for the modal sound to develop. Spend some time with how to use a modal vamp to get the drone: http://www.riddleworks.com/modalharm3.html

    Until you start getting lead breaks modes IMO will not really add all that much to your bass line. So, like has been said spend your time learning how to develop your chord tones first.

    Have fun.
  6. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Yes to all of the above.

    When people say "the best way to learn this is xxx", quite often what they really mean is "the thing I was doing at the time that I finally latched onto the concept, was xxx."

    IMO, no experience is wasted. Dive in. Read about modes as they relate to harmony as well as melody, and vice versa. Listen to how they sound by themselves, and in combination with different chord changes. Think about them as scale tones. Teach yourself to read and recognize them in conventional notation, in every key. Run them up and down the neck in every key as finger patterns, until you don't have to think about fingering anymore. Listen to great recordings. Transcribe solos. Write your own music in every mode, even if it's just little fragments for practice. Learn to start off different strings and different fingers.

    Brain science teaches us that the more cross-connections you make between visual and auditory stimuli, muscle memory, imagination, etc., the deeper you'll understand a subject, and the more pleasure you'll get out of it.

    Simple experience has taught me that in the process, you'll receive more than you bargained for. Even if you never play another modal passage the rest of your life, look at all the stuff you'll have picked up: greater strength and dexterity, fingerboard knowledge, music appreciation, etc., etc., etc...
  7. xdanxx


    Mar 12, 2008
    Thanks for the great responses.
  8. Sloop John D

    Sloop John D

    Jun 29, 2012
    As a bassist, I found it incredibly helpful to learn modes in terms of the chords they fall on top of.

    You take your Roman Numeral Chords, I - ii - iii - IV - V - vi - vii*, pick a key, and then run through the modes for each chord.

    In C, I would have a C Ionian played over it, ii would have a D Dorian, iii would have an E Phrygian.

    Learning it this way helped me to think of modes in terms of chord tones. Now I know that if I'm playing over a IV chord, the notes I can draw from come from the Lydian mode.

    It's really about the same method that everyone else mentioned, but thinking of it this way helped me keep everything organized in my head while playing.
  9. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Lots of good responses so far, so I'll just add my bit-
    Modes are NOT "theory" and not that terribly useful for making music. It's a little bit like knowing that Picasso used Green #4, as opposed to having an idea how to paint. Triads and 7th chords and Form are just a few other areas to spend time on.

    Just keep your studying in balance, and don't forget to learn a lot of tunes and play good time with the drummer!
  10. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    ^ agreed.
    The most effective way to learn modes is after you learn harmony.
  11. LayDownABoogie


    Jan 3, 2012
    Most sensible mode discussion yet. A couple of different points of view, yet no argument....................... I look at it the same way as sloop john by the way.

    ............................wait for it....
  12. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    I think the answer to "how to go about learning the modes" depends on what aspect of learning is being tackled.

    To understand how the natural modes are derived and constructed, then the usual C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian et cetera will get you started. This is the simple bit.

    To be able to physically play the modes, you should really work on playing the notes of any mode (or any section of any mode) in any key, and not necessarily in just ascending or descending order. To do this, you need to know the sequence of tones and semitones that make up each mode, the intervals these sequences create and the patterns on the instrument itself that correspond to them.

    To be able to use the modes musically, you need to analyse various aspects of a wide range of music - basslines, melody, solos - in terms of the notes being played and how they relate to the underlying harmonic structure and then apply that to your own playing.

    Modes can be useful concepts in this latter process in some circumstances. But they're just another tool in the toolbox, and you don't do any job by using all the tools you have all the time. And modes are pretty useless most of the time if you don't understand how they relate to chords or if you're weak on spelling chords in a playing situation.
  13. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    I see them in two different ways.

    For once it is what chords each mode gives you
    Ionian = maj7
    Dorian = min13
    Phrygian = min7b9
    Lydian = maj7#11
    Myxolydian = 7
    Aeolian = min7
    Locrian = min7b5

    and the other ( if you are doing a solo ) is to look at each mode like a Question or Surprise etc.
  14. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Correct. A mode IS A SOUND.

    - - - - -

    This method misuses what a mode is. Playing a diatonic scale over a IV chord is not a Lydian mode - it's better labeled as the scale of the Key Center beginning on the fourth scale step, if you need a label. And why would one exclude the other 5 chromatic tones? Great improvisors don't. Or perhaps some kind of Pentatonic scale, as a possibility? Why put on limitations? Why only one choice?

    This method gets you into trouble.

    Example: A Major Seventh chord should not be constricted to only using what is being called Ionian. You can also use what is being called Lydian. Similarly, a Minor Seventh chord is not only Aeolian, it could also be Dorian or Phrygian (using this this-mode-to-this-chord method - which I don't).

    There are so many different "scales" one can use over an X7 chord, besides just this so-called Mixolydian.

    Get out of assigning this-mode-to-this-chord, as quick as possible Do not think Dorian-Mixolydian-Ionian when you see a ii-V-I. You'll end up vertically running scales every chord change. No great soloist/improvisor thinks this way. One needs to think horizontally over the changes. Over a ii-V-I, primarily use the scale tones of the Key Center (one scale), emphasize the chord tones and incorporate some chromaticism (to taste) - there are NO avoid notes (where did that come from?) if they are approached and left musically. By the time you've thought through this-mode-to-this-chord the tune is over and your solo sounded like an excerpt from an etude book.

    What notes or scale tones to use over a given chord is primarily dictated by the style being played, not a cheat-sheet.

    I have, in the past, posted actual tunes in actual modes.
  15. phmike


    Oct 25, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    +1, Amen, Yeah! etc . . . . :bassist:
  16. phmike


    Oct 25, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    Hi-lited my fave bits and glad to see mentioned early in the thread what I have long thought (and sometimes post) about modes - there is a difference between how to construct a mode vs. how to use a mode. There are tricks to learn how to construct a mode but they do nothing to show you how to use a mode.
  17. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    I don't feel the typical "use Dorian for the ii chord, Mixolydian for the V chord, etc. is a useful way to think of this. Given our job is to define the harmony, that means not only telling everyone what the current chord is, but how it relates to the previous and next chord. In a ii V I switching frame of reference with each change is not only an unnecessary additional step, but obliterates the connection between those chords.

    For those thee chords you have one scale, and different target notes for all the chords.

  18. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Somebody else +1'd this , now me too.
  19. Sloop John D

    Sloop John D

    Jun 29, 2012
    I said you can draw notes from the Lydian mode, I didn't say it places the song in the Lydian mode. The mode of the song will be largely dictated by the organization of the song itself, with no regard for what the musicians put on top of it. That being said, each diatonic chord from a key will contain the color of the mode if you add the appropriate extensions, and I found this method to be a good way to learn each modal scale and the tonal differences between them.

    And I never said you couldn't add chromatic tones, but why would something like this even come up in a discussion about modes?

    When you look too hard to find material to contradict, you'll start finding things that aren't really there.
  20. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    As I stated, there are other scales to draw a collection of notes from. Boxing a young improviser into thinking IV=Lydian is not good.

    Be careful of adding extensions that are most likely not there. This kind of thinking results in NO non-chord tones or a misunderstanding of the function of passing tones.

    I used "one", not "you". And you are right, you never said that I couldn't add chromatic tones, nor did you say I could. I simply mentioned their usage, to keep the note selection wide open.

    When you look too hard to find material to contradict, you'll start finding things that aren't really there. ;)

Share This Page