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I think I figured out the modes

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by vishalicious, Nov 9, 2011.

  1. vishalicious


    Mar 31, 2011
    Yonkers, NY
    Hi all. I'm a beginner still, but I think that I learned something that might help other beginners yesterday. I think that I figured out the key difference between the modes and the scales they're based on:

    1. The scales focus on a set of notes with specific relationships to each other (patterns or intervals).

    2. Modes focus on a set of notes in which having the correct notes is vital, not playing them in the same pattern or using the interval spacing that the scale specifies.

    I wrote an entry about this last night in my beginner's bass blog. If its helpful to anyone, here it is:

    I figured out the modes of the major scale

    Also, if I'm wrong about any of this, please let me know! ;)
  2. DBCrocky


    Oct 18, 2011
    Cary, NC
    You're getting it.

    I don't know if I would say the modes are defined by their notes.
    A Dorian Mode has the same intervals regardless of which root you use (D Dorian, Eb Dorian, etc). But the modes of a particular scale all will have the same notes as the scale they are based on. I think you understand this.

    Now that you know what the Modes are and how to derive them, the next step is to start to compare them. For instance how does a Mixolydian Mode differ from the Ionian (Major Scale)? How does this difference make the sound of the scale change? How do basslines written in the Mixolydian sound different from basslines written in the Major scale?

    Next, you can start to hear the sound of the different possible scale tones:
    How does flatting the major 7th to a dominant 7th sound?
    How does flatting the major 3rd to a minor 3rd sound?
    How does flatting the major 6th to a minor 6th sound?
    How does flatting the major 2nd to a minor 2nd sound?
    How does raising the 4th to the tritone sound?

    This will give you a bunch of new colors on your sonic palette.

    You can also look at equal spacing scales: Chromatic, Whole Tone, Diminished, etc. How do these sound?

    Once you have this, then you can start playing with bass lines that ~change scales during the lick~.

    That should keep ya busy for a while. Good luck! :)
  3. jsbachonbass


    May 16, 2006
    Denton, TX
    You have the right idea, but some of your terminology is off.

    First of all, a mode is a type of scale. A scale refers to any ascending or descending pattern of notes. I could just as well call it the D Dorian Scale.

    Next, did you know that the C major scale is also a mode? When you look at it in relation to the key of C major, the C major scale is actually first mode, the C Ionian mode.

    Last, every mode has a distinct pattern, just like the major scale does. You can easily tranpose the dorian pattern to start on E, and you would get the E dorian, which has the same notes as D major scale.

    Other than getting a few technical terms mixed up, you did an excellent job figuring this out.
  4. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    I think i sort of get where you're going but this is too confusing and incomplete to serve as help to beginners.....you should not blog this.

    There are many threads here on modes and I'm posting from my phone...do some searching.

    A mode is this simple....take a c major scale c to c. Now start it on the 2nd note which is D. Play the same c major scale but start and end on d.......if you can have a guitar player play a d minor chord while you do this you'll begin to hear the quality of the mode.

    Its all c major, but you've changed the home base to d minor. It no longer sounds like c major although it has all the c major notes....it sounds like d dorian. The 2nd mode of c major.

    The order of notes you play when trying out these ideas is not important although while getting the scales down just work on them straight through note by note.
  5. schmig


    Nov 30, 2008
    Your blog looks interesting..look forward to reading entries this evening - thank you!
  6. Rockman


    Mar 2, 2006
    As others have said this is fundamentally wrong. All scales are just a collection of notes, whether it be a simple major scale a minor scale an octatonic scale. The pattern or relationships of the notes are necessarily important unless you are talking about a specific standard scale (read up on some atonal theory and you'll see what I mean). For a scale to actually be a certain scale it IS vital that all the notes are correct, otherwise its not actually that scale. Simple example you play a Cdom scale but raise the 7th it is no longer a Cdom but a Cmaj. This is also to say that a Major scale and any other scale that start on the same note are not related other than the starting pitch.
  7. vishalicious


    Mar 31, 2011
    Yonkers, NY
    Thanks for the replies, everyone. The input is really helpful to me. Based on what’s been said so far, and thinking about this before bed last night, this is what I’m getting:

    1. The modes of the major scale are based on the natural notes of the major scale. This is where the pattern (system of intervals) for each mode comes from.
    2. Playing these modes in different keys can and does result in the use of sharpened or flatted notes in the mode.
    3. Playing a mode in its natural/native key (like playing C Ionian starting on C or D Dorian starting on D) does not result in the use of accidentals.

    I do have some questions from what was posted though:

    1. If I want to play something in “C major” does that mean that I can still start it on any note as long as I’m using an Ionian pattern? Is it specifically the pattern of intervals that make it C major, regardless of what the root note is? (Are C Ionian and D Ionian both C major?)
    2. When accidentals are used to play a mode that starts on a root other than its natural one, are the accidentals used specifically to adhere to the note/letter requirements of mode? (Does raising C to C# when playing B Ionian instead of C Ionian change its value in any way, or is it “C” for the scale in that root?)

    Also, the blog is meant to show my thought process as well as providing more concrete data for readers. I do revise posts (marked with a bold-print edit at the bottom) when corrections or other updates are needed.
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    no. the notes in C Ionian = D Dorian ( = E phrygian , F lydian, G mixolydian, A Aeolian, B Locrian)
    All modes of C major contain only the notes in C major, no accidentals.

    All modes of X major contain only the notes of X major.

    Notation on the staff makes this somewhat clearer.

    If you are In the key of B major, and are playing any mode of B major, then you will always play C# and never C.

    the drastically oversimplified way to think of it :
    a mode is the major scale played starting and ending from different note than the root.
    The note names never change from the original major scale, just the starting and ending point.
    but that's drastically oversimplified, and tells you nothing useful about when and how to use modes.
    Duke Damn likes this.
  9. jsbachonbass


    May 16, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Let's back up a bit,, because I think we confused you.

    The major scale pattern is 2 4 12 4 1 34 fret/finger pattern that we all know and love. In intervals it is the W W 1/2 W W W 1/2 (steps) pattern. Now if I just happen to take the root of this pattern and start it on C, we get the notes C/ /D/ /E/F/ /G/ /A/ /B/C, or the C major scale. I am using the slash marks like frets so you can see the whole step and 1/2 intervals. Now if I transpose this pattern over to G, we get G/ /A/ /B/C/ /D/ /E/ /F#/G, or the G major scale. If I move it to F, the notes are F/ /G/ /A/Bb/ /C/ /D/ /E/F, the F major scale. And so on and so on. The rule with scales is you always use the next note name, so I wouldn't say F/ /G/ /A/A#/...
  10. DBCrocky


    Oct 18, 2011
    Cary, NC
    Major = Ionian. Two words, same exact meaning (when referring to scales).
    C Major = C Ionian. D Major = D Ionian. Eb Major = Eb Ionian.

    So given a group of notes, how do you determine what scale it is? There are two factors, one is the relative intervals, and the second is the root. The root is determined by the musical context. Play all white keys over a C Major chord, and you are (likely) playing C Ionian. Play the same keys over a D Minor chord, and you are (likely) playing D Dorian. The same group of notes have a different sound depending on the chord or key that they are played in.

    When constructing melodies using a modal scale, you'll find that odd scale tones generally work better as beginning and especially ending notes in a riff. That is, the 1st (root), 3rd, 5th, and 7th tones work better as beginning and ending notes. So the riffs you'll create in C Major and D Dorian will be very different, even though they use the same notes.

    I am afraid I don't understand this question.

    Accidentals are simply sharps or flats. They are not related in any way to the modes, except they are needed to spell out any (7 note) scales except C major and it's modes (D Dorian, etc).

    So a G-Major scale is:

    G A B C D E F# G. I needed to use the # accidental on the F to spell out this scale.

    Now, here is another way to derive the modes:

    Start with the Ionian Mode, we'll use C as an example

    C Ionian: C D E F G A B C

    C Mixolydian: C D E F G A Bb C (flat the 7th note)

    C Dorian: C D Eb F G A Bb C (flat the 7th and 3rd)

    C Aeolian: C D Eb F G Ab Bb C (flat the 7th, 3rd, 6th)

    C Phrygian C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C (flat the 7th, 3rd, 6th, 2nd)

    C Locrian: C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C (flat the 7th, 3rd, 6th, 2nd, 5th)

    see the pattern?

    The Lydian is the Ionian with the 4th tone sharped

    C Lydian: C D E F# G A B C


    So you get a D-Dorian scale by using the same notes as a C Ionian scale but using the D as the root instead.
    C Ionian: C D E F G A B C
    D Dorian: D E F G A B C D


    You get a D-Dorian scale by taking the D Ionian scale and flatting the 3rd and 7th tones.
    D Ionian: D E F# G A B C# D
    D Dorian: D E F G A B C D
    Duke Damn likes this.
  11. Ok, now that we have this down... how can each mode be connected to each other musically? Say, you want to go from a C Ionian to a G Myxolidian in the same song/ phrase. Is that good? I guess it would be since there would be the same notes used only in different patterns.

    How about going from a C Ionian to a C Myxolidian in the same song/ phrase. Would that work, since that changes some notes? How about going from a C Ionian to a C Dorian? And a C Ionian to a D Dorian?

    I'm interested in knowing how different modes sound in a same context and whether some of them sound consonant or dissonant.
  12. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006

    Nobody really writes music by deliberately stringing modes together according to some rules. The only "rules" usually applied to modes are those simplistic "over Chord X, you should play mode Y or Z" formulas you find in Abersold books etc.

    But many feel that those formulas are not very useful. The truth is that understanding chord building, harmonizing scales, and chord progressions and harmony is waaaaaaay more important and useful than hammering away at modes.
  13. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member


    Modes are melodic. How many melodic lead breaks are you getting? I thought so. Chord tones for harmony and walking bass lines for movement will be more beneficial. Leave modes to the lead guitar, your time can be put to better use.

    Of course IMO. :bag:
  14. Well, of course. I already know at least the basics of all you mentioned, but it wouldn't hurt anyone to know the modes for a little variety, right? ;)
  15. Asher S

    Asher S

    Jan 31, 2008
    I used to be a proponent of the modes of the Ionian scale, believing that that knowledge helped me play better.

    It didn't. What did was playing a lot of jazz with different people, thinking less and listening more.

    Theory aside, the series of notes we refer to as the Ionian scale is the same darn scale regardless of which note you start on. What you call it is irrelevant A rose by any other name would smell as sweet...
  16. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Of course not, more knowledge is rarely a bad thing, and modes can be fun to mess around with.

    My comments stem form my personal experience of how much time I invested in understanding modes versus how much time I actually apply what I learned. I've played swing, salsa, rock and pop in the last decade + and the truth is I have never needed to apply modal ideas to my playing. [edit: I'm sure I've ended up playing modes, but never by consciously striving to do so.]

    Given that, and the amount of confusion modes generate and the debates that constantly come up on around them, I feel compelled to suggest that to beginners modes just aren't that important and time is better spent elsewhere.
  17. N.F.A.


    Jun 25, 2009
    In a blue funk
    I am familiar with the modes of the major scale. Do other scales like melodic minor, whole tone, etc. have their own modes?
  18. Rockman


    Mar 2, 2006
    Yup, you get such tasty treat as locrian #2, Mix#11, altered dominants, etc.
  19. N.F.A.


    Jun 25, 2009
    In a blue funk
    Is there a book or something you would recommend for those more arcane modes?
  20. gre107


    Dec 25, 2005
    Modes provide a "flavor" or "color" over a harmony. All they are really are just the diatonic scales to a key or chord. You can play a diatonic mode over a harmony or superimpose one over the harmony. I think people make modes into a lot bigger deal than they have to.

    Think of modes as the letters of the alphabet. Each mode creates a specific sound over a harmony. Mixing and matching them over different chords allows you to make different types of statements with them.

    A good practice is: take the I chord in a key and play the different modes over it one at a time. You will hear the color of the specific mode over that chord. Then take the ii chord and do the same. Repeat these steps through all of the chords of the key. This will help you hear the colors of the specific mode over different types of chords.