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Jamming Question - Scales & Modes.....oh my!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by wannabe_bassist, Mar 21, 2003.

  1. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    OK. We are jamming and the guitarists say lets try something in the Key of G. So I am immediately harmonizing the Key of G as follows:

    G - I - major -Ionian
    A - ii - minor - Dorian
    B - iii - minor - Phyrgian
    C - IV - major - Lydian
    D - V - major - Mixolydian
    E - vi - minor - Aeolian (natural minor)
    F# - vii* - dim - Locrian

    Now where do I apply the scales and modes? In a rock/metal style?

    For example, while on the IV (C), I know I can play the root, root/fifth or the arpeggio/chord. But where do the scales and modes fit into this? I know that the chords are created from the major scale in this case.

    While on the IV (C), would I play notes from the C Lydian which would keep the notes all within the Key of G? Or would I draw my notes from the C major scale?

    If song called for me to wander into ii territory (Amin in the Key of G), would I draw my notes/inspiration from the A Dorian mode or the G major scale or simply the A minor scale?




    A minor contains an 'F' as opposed to an 'F#' as dictated by the Key of G (overall key of song). So it is throwing me off a bit in terms of understanding where to apply scales and modes.

    I realize that nothing is set in concrete, but just looking for some guidance.


    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    If you are just jamming in G, with no changes...then you don't NEED to leave G, the way I look at modes is , they are particularly useful when you are soloing over changes, because often times there will be one mode that will encompass key elements from all the changes, my slow moving brain cannot think of any examples right now, but generally that is the case:meh:

    A minor has a natural F
    but A dorian has an F# A dorian= A-B-C-D-E-F#-G-A....so it is all the same notes as the G major scale...juts starting on A....so if you were moved into the ii degree, A minor, and you played A dorian, you would retain the overall G major feel, but wouldn't miss out on the A tonality...cause dorian mode generally has a minor feel to it.

    As I mentioned before, the modes are great for soloing, because you can{usually}simplify what you are doing into one mode. They are also really useful when Walking basslines ,because you encompass all the key aspects of the changes, while remaining in the general key of the song.

    for a rock/metal situation, I don't personally see much need for extensive use of modes, except for when you are soloing...because if you are only going to be hitting I-V and the occasional arpeggio, it won't really make much of a difference as long as you follow the changes.
  3. I dont think the modes are as important as the chord tones. Just make sure you are playing the chord tones and it will be good. The modes come in when you are using passing scale tones and the like to make the line flow. I dont know much about metal but I think this works in all things.
  4. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    So if I am going to be sticking to mostly Rock/Pop/Metal, modes will not be of much use to me?

    Then if my chord progession was something like this (arguments sake):

    G - C - G - D - G
    I IV I V I

    I would use notes from Gmaj scale for G and then C maj for C, etc? Even though the overall Key of the song is G.

    If there were some ii or vi chords in there, I would play notes from the appropriate minor chord?

  5. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Well....most rock/metal music doesn't really have that interesting of changes, and the rhythms and leads involved are generally simplistic, and not to challenging theoretically...maybe what you are playing is different than most metal...but generally speaking extensive knowledge of modes and harmonization of a melody are not the most important things in metal music.
  6. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    I like the following groups:

    Red Hot Chili Peppers
    Linkin Park

    (and many more).

    But what could I focus my music theory studies on to make me better understand the bass parts in these songs?

    Modes seem to not be appropriate here according to some. And that's cool.

    But aside from just memorizing the songs, what should I focus on?

    I have lots of books on some of these groups but I guess I am having a problem "putting it all together" so to say.

  7. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Well...It is important to know the modes, and to know about music theory, if you want to be a serious musician with the skills to play with anyone, then it is a must.

    As for understanding other people's bass lines, that is tricky, because some times people just do what feels right to them, they have been playing so long that they don't need to think about it theoretically because they music they are palying doesn't call for it.

    Try writing out the bassline to a song, then put it next to the chord changes, then analyze it in the traditional classical style...with figured bass, and stuff.....www.musictheory.net should provide you with information about that style of analysis.

    that should help to give an idea, theoretically, of where they are coming from.
  8. With the bands you are talking about you almost should forget theory. Most of those bands dont pay attention to theory and just use power chords and sometimes a major or minor chord. So modes just dont affect that stuff at all cause if you have the tonic and the next chord is where the dorian should be but is major than you have to switch keys.
  9. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002

    I have done extensive reading (self-study) on music theory and I believe that I have an understanding of the overall principles.

    Their application in a playing environment is where I stumble.

    If I could play good enough to fulfill my role as the bass player in our little coworker garage band, that would be more than sufficient for me right now. I would not stop there (once I get there!) but that is my immediate goal.

    I can certainly download TAB and attempt to play along with my favorite groups as listed above so that we can play these during our jam sessions.

    However, while that would make me "appear" to have musical talent, I would only be playing back memorized lines. No improvisation, no originality, no real understanding of the music I am playing. I imagine that there are many novice bass players who fall into this category and frankly that would be fine for me as "The First Step".

    Finding any bass players or teachers (must less decent ones) in South Florida is not easy. Especially anyone who like rock/metal. I like Jazz, but 7th chords against ii-V-I would be what I consider "The Second Step" in my evolution.

    I dissect Blink182 and Greenday bass lines. While they are mostly very simple (even for me!), but they do fit the songs and the style of music. Listen to the bass line of Longview or Warning. As soon as you here someone playing that on a bass, you immediately know the song! Very cool. Simple lines, but catchy and memorable. Come As You Are and In Bloom from Nirvana, the same thing.

    I recently played Heading Out To The Highway (Judas Priest) with my coworkers. The bass part is very simple, but it was damn FUN!!!!!

    I would imagine that the majority of you (who are no doubt more accomplished in every way than I) would say that this is just the tip of the iceberg. That the fun and excitement of playing gets much better as I travel the road to bass mastery (does anyone ever really get there?) :D

    Should I spend more time on music theory? Or would my efforts now be better focused on learning (memorizing) the songs that I like?

    Thanks for any advice!
  10. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Tunes with changes (like jazz standards) are generally not built around a mode. They are usually bound within a TONALITY (like x major), and they might veer of into other tonalities temporarily. What I think you're saying is you can basically stick with a major scale for instance as long as the changes are within the given tonality.
  11. Don't forget to use your ears- especially a the rock/pop situation. It's important to keep working on your theory- but if you cook up a bass line to a pop song on paper (as opposed to your instrument), it's going to sound contrived.
    That said, a method book specific to bass might help you apply your general understanding of music theory to writing bass lines. I'm working through Building Walking Bass Lines , by Ed Friedland. (Hal Leonard, pub.). It's kind of more oriented to the jazz/blues player, but I'm sure there are other titles more your style. If you're teaching yourself, like I am, look for method's that come with a play along CD- it helps a lot if you have trouble reading the rhythm.
  12. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    I appreciate you taking the time to post the info.

    As far as Bass Teachers in Palm Beach County area.............nada........as far as I can find.

    I have checked all the local music stores (Samash, GuitarCenter, MarsMusic and others).

    I have tried the local newspapers and local websearch engines (gopbi.com and sofla.com) to no avail.

    And, of course, general internet searches in this area. Nothing.

    Lots of guitar teachers and drum instructors, nothing for the bass.

    Miami is too far to drive (especially after hours!).
  13. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    I actually found a bass instructor at MarsMusic once. But the guy was a stock. He spent more time showing me what he could do on his guitar (not bass) than any actual instruction or critique.

    Additionally, I have ZERO, absolutely f'ing ZERO interest in learning to play beginner songs such as:

    1. Go Tell Aunt Rhody.
    2. Round About The Cherry Tree.
    3. Springtime in Appalachia.
    4. Jumpin' Jack Blues.
    5. Rays of the Sun.

    ....and other top hits of today! :spit:

    Considering the average age is like 60 in this county, though, not surprising there are so few bass players. All they want to hear is Frank Sinatra! :D
  14. You forgot Little Brown Jug . That tune rocks. I still warm up with it before every gig.:bassist: