Internalizing the Modes (a.k.a. is this possible?)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by beaglegod, Jan 22, 2009.

  1. beaglegod


    Jan 6, 2009
    Rescentley I received an email from my bass teacher explaining how its best not to memorize patterns when learning the modes but rather to try and memorize notes. Basically to look at the fretboard as a pool of notes to choose from. Now I understand that this will help in unlocking the full potential of the fretboard alowing freedom to play anything anywhere.

    My question is...... is it really possible to do?
    It seems like it would take me a life time to memorize the notes to each mode in all 12 keys, thats like 84 combinations of notes!

    Any tips on how to start being able to do this? Id like to play music before Im like 90. :p
  2. DudeistMonk


    Apr 13, 2008
    Newark, NJ
    Well do you understand the way modes relate to each other?

    Ionian = C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C
    Dorian = D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D
    Phrygian(sp?) = E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E

    If you understand that then you really only have the order of sharps/flats to memorize. Just like all the notes are natural in C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian, F will always be sharp in G Ionian, A Dorain, B Phyrgian ext....

    Also a light bulb moment for me was playing from C each of the modes so like C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D (with a shift to Dorian position for the second note) and then C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E (with a shift into Phrygian position on the third note). Which allows you to see not only the mode but its relation to to Ionian, and also allows you to practice 2 octave scales at the same time as modes.
  3. beaglegod


    Jan 6, 2009


    I think you may be on to something here Mr Monk!

    Ive got a little bit of re-reading to do but, if I think Im thinking what I think your thinking, the mountain albeit high, has a path!
  4. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    How do you think horn players know this stuff. They think in notes not patterns.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    It's really not all that high. It's basically a matter of knowing the way the modes are formed, knowing the order of sharps/flats, and knowing your ABC's up to G ;)
  6. beaglegod


    Jan 6, 2009
    Yeah. Never thought of that, no patterns to look at playing trumpet I would guess.

    I see now what you guys are saying I think. Really the only big thing to remember would be the notes to the 12 major scales, once thats done than for instance by simply playing a major scale with a sharp 4th, viola you have the Lydian mode in that key, flat the 7th of a major scale and you have the Myxolidian mode in that key etc.

    I feel much better now. :smug:
  7. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    Yes, learn the formulas for the modes based off of the major scale (suc as dorian has a b3 and b7). Once you internalize all 7 modes in 12 keys then you can do it again for the harmonic minor modes. Those are more useful anyway. You can't play over a Altered chord without superlocrian. ;)
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I don't think you have to memorize it all in a big chunk before you can go play real music.

    Memorize the notes on the neck.
    memorize the shapes of intervals.
    memorize how to construct the modes (from major scale)
    memorize how to construct chords(from major scale)

    After that, play music. As you do, you will notice there are things you "have memorized" and things you still "have to figure out". With more and more experience, the amount of things in the "have memorized" category will grow steadily and the the things you "have to figure out" will be less common. also, the speed of "figuring it out" will increase, to the point where you can do it on the fly, in mid-song.

    I've been playing for 20 years or so, and there are still things I "have to figure out" - but I'm a lot faster at it than i used to be.

    so no, you don't have to completely memorize the modes. But understanding there construction is key.
  9. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    The very sentence in the OP was
    I contend that he should learn all of the formulas for the modes and then practice them on one string so that he can see the intervallic relationships in a linear manner. It doesn't hurt to practice shifting either.

    Memorizing 84 different scales is daunting but it can be done. Or he can memorize 12 major scales (and he's just taken care of his Ionian modes) and then the formula for creating each mode from it's parent scale

    From Ionian:
    Dorian = b3 b7
    Phrygian = b2 b3 b6 b7
    Lydian = #4
    Mixolydian = b7
    Aeolian (natural minor) = b3 b6 b7
    Locrian = b2 b3 b5 b6 b7

    If you practice one mode a day in all twelve keys you've taken care of ALL of the major modes in a week. A week seems quite reasonable to learn all of the modes, doesn't it?

    The problem with memorizing neck patterns is that you systematically eliminate all other possible possibilities of playing something because they have an unfamiliar pattern.

    Honestly the OP should practice and memorize all of those modes on a piano.

    edit: Upon reading your post again you're saying exactly the same thing I am.
  10. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    SF Bay Area
    Another approach would be to do only one key a day, but play all the modes from the same root. This helps one internalize how the modes fall from a given starting point and hear how they differ from each other in terms of the kind of harmonic space they define.

    It also helps to try different fingerings for each set of modes so as not to get too hooked into one specific finger pattern. All this of course to be linked to learning the actual notes being played, not just regurgitating fingering.
  11. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Inactive

    Nov 5, 2004
    Another way would be write down the notes for each one. Do all the Dorian as an exemple.
    It will help you to visialize your fingerboard and the music staff or tab or simply the name and the intervals,key signatures.

  12. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    The difference there is you don't get the sound of a particular mode in your ear, just the tonal center of all the modes. If he works out lydian dominant in 12 keys over 2 octaves he will really be able to hear that mode, compensating for tonal center is easy for the brain to do.
  13. JTE

    JTE Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    THe critical factor is to know what it SOUNDS like. There's very little "memorization" that needs to be done. What you need is to learn, not memorize.

    For example- Instead of memorizing 12 diatonic major scales, you need to memorize W W H W W W H, and that the key of C has no sharps or flats. From that you can figure out all the other diatonic major scales. Do I need to memorize the key of Ab? Not when I was playing in guitar-centered rock'n'roll bar bands- those guitarists NEVER play between the dots. But I learned the key of A and the key of E backwards and forwards. Now I'm just starting to play in church, and I don't think the B-3 players in the black Baptist tradition ever play in anything except flat keys like Ab and Db. I'll soon have those things down, but I can figure it out on the fly.

    Same with modes (although I still find most modal instruction to be stultifyingly pointless and useless). If you want to really learn Dorian mode, don't think of it as C started on the second. It's a minor sounding mode with its own construction of W H W W W H W. Learn THAT, and how it sounds. Then when you need D dorian you can find it, or if you need Eb Dorian, you can find it readily too.

    Part of the problem and at the same time the appeal of stringed instruments is the patterns. They make it easy to get to some things, but they also tend to make it too easy to remove the music from learning and make it all about the phsyical aspects. So in that respect your teacher is IMO dead on. Look at the neck as a huge pool of candidates, not rules. The thing is to learn how to quickly find the candidates that do what you want them to do right now.

  14. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    SF Bay Area
    I respectfully disagree. I think you absolutely do get the sound of the modes in your head that way, because you can hear how they differ from each other in relation to the same pitch. If you play a C ionian and then a C lydian, you can easily hear how they're different and what the character of each is. To me that's really the crucial thing to hear, because moving the same mode to a different starting tone is really a trivial exercise. That is, once you have the lydian sound, for example, in your head, moving it to different keys doesn't add much to your hearing, only to your fingering and your knowledge of the notes on the neck. (Which is not trivial, I hasten to say, but it doesn't really help you hear the modes any better IMO.)

    Even a nonmusician who can only sing do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do can do it from different starting points and thus in different keys, so that really doesn't give you much. But teaching someone to sing C ionian, C lydian, C mixolydian, etc, would really drive home the differences in the modes.

    This is the flipside of the same reason why I think you don't get the sounds of the modes in your head nearly so well if you do it as C ionian, D dorian, E phrygian, etc.
  15. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    SF Bay Area
  16. How many of you play another instrument besides bass?

    I don't (yet) and as I've tried to "learn the sound" of Lydian or Dorian etc, it is hard when playing one note at a time. I didn't say it was impossible, I've done it, more or less, but a bass is not an effecient way to get the "sound of a mode" in your head.

    Because you don't really hear the sound of the mode. You hear two pitches in relation with one another and you hear a series of pitches and you get to know those relationshops one aftet the other. You learn a series of sounds in relation to one another. So you get the minor third sound and the flat 7th sound and you get a sense of these sounds in a certain group. And if you're smart you play them backward and forward because you are not always going to hear the series of notes in Dorian played in the convenience sequence you learned them. That is the pool of notes.

    But you never really hear Dorian, Lydian, etc until you get someone to play it on a piano or a guitar. When you hear those pitches sing in concert, you've got the sound.

    So I tend to favor the "learn the pool of notes" approach if you are _learing_ bass. So you'll have it under your fingers when you hear it in the music.
  17. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    SF Bay Area
    I do (a lot of guitar, a smattering of ukulele and mandolin, a basic understanding of piano). But I confess I don't see why playing the notes of the mode on bass should be any less conducive to hearing how the mode sounds than playing the notes on guitar would be. Or than playing the notes on saxophone would be. It's all the same stuff IMO.
  18. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I do it on bass all the time I play a chord on mind bass to get the sound in my ear, then play the scale real simple. Then you can always put on a CD with the chords for the scale/mode and try out the scale/mode. Then software like Band in a Box or other similar things. You can buy a cheap KB for about $100 to play the chords on and hold the sustain pedal.

    There is no excuse for not doing things right if you are serious about being a musician. If you just want to tinkle in a pool of dots and not play what you hear in your head/heart will that's your choice.

  19. I think that is unnecessarily harsh there Doc.

    We're talking about learning and if you've been in the business for a while, maybe you don't remember how new it all is when you first start out.

    I have no doubt you've taken time to learn some piano and I've picked up enough (yes, I got the $100kbd) to find it instructive to hear the notes in unison. That was my point in asking about another instrument. It is helpful to have that comparisson and harder just play the notes in a series and "hear" the chords, modes, harmonies that can be built on some combination of them. My instructor provided examples early on but it took some time to "internalize" the souds.

    Since the original post asked about internalizing the modes. As I said, I favor the concept that sees them as a pool of notes. You get to play them one at a time but it's easier to hear and internalize them as a whole. Then you have the fun of choosing your notes.
  20. beaglegod


    Jan 6, 2009
    There are some really good points made throughout this thread and Ive already read through it several times.

    As a new student however I still find the thought of internalizing the modes hard to come to grips with as far as a step by step approach to actually absorbing them. What I mean by this is that it seems almost instinctive while learning them for the first time to memorize the finger patterns despite trying NOT to remember patterns but rather the notes. It seems like my fingers are far better at digesting information than my brain. I think the one string approach will be a help, but as far as instinctively knowing what type of mode is being played just by hearing it and knowing which notes are in any given mode in a particular key.... well Im hoping that perseverance in practicing them and in trying to hear the quality of each will pay off over time.

    Right now the exercises Ive been given are to 1. learn all the modes as they relate to C Ionian. than 2. to try and play one mode a day in as many keys as I have time for. 3. I have some exercises Ive not gotten to yet where I play C-Ionian ascending, D-Dorian Descending,E-Phrygian ascending, F-Lydian descending etc. Than reverse all that, and eventually try it all in different keys.

    All I can really do right now is keep at it and try to have faith that one day Ill look back and say "wow I remember when i thought id never come to grips with this". In this regard what mambo4 posted was very encouraging:


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