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Minor Modes?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by WillPlay4Food, Dec 31, 2004.

  1. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    OK, I believe I have a good understanding of Major scale modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, etc.,), but what of minor modes? From what little I've put together so far, minor modes are constructed from the natural, melodic & harmonic minor scales.

    I want to make sure I'm correct on minor scale construction before I go any farther so this is what I understand to be the minor scale constructors. Please correct me if I'm wrong:

    Natural minor (Aeolian)
    1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - b6 - b7 - Octave
    Melodic minor (Aeolian with #6 & #7)
    1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 -  6 -  7 - Octave
    Harmonic minor (Aeolian with #7)
    1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - b6 -  7 - Octave
    Now, how would I go about constructing the minor modes from these scales? I tried with the natural minor scale, but ended up with the same modes as Major scale modes. For example, here's what I come up with for modes of A Aeolian:

    Aeolian (minor Ionian?)
    A - B - C - D - E - F - G - A
    Locrian (minor Dorian?)
    A - Bb - C - D - Eb - F - G - A
    Ionian (minor Phrygian?)
    A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A
    Dorian (minor Lydian?)
    A - B - C - D - E - F# - G - A
    Phrygian (minor Mixolydian?)
    A - Bb - C - D - E - F - G - A
    Lydian (minor Aeolian?)
    A - B - C# - D# - E - F# - G# - A
    Mixolydian (minor Locrian?)
    A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A
    Somehow I don't think this is correct, otherwise, why would there be something called minor modes?
  2. ...the melodic minor scale has a #6,#7 acending...decending it is natural minor.
  3. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    modes of the minor scales often don't even have names, and you'll be doing yourself a favour if you try and think of them as things like 'Dorian #4', 'Lydian Dominant' or 'Mixolydian b13' - i.e. they're usually named as the standard mode with a suffix showing which notes are different

    it's worthwhile bearing in mind the 'artificiality' of the harmonic minor scale - it exists to provide a dominant chord on the 5th degree, so you can have a pleasant chromatic resolution leading to the root... but with the modes of harmonic minor this raising of a tone serves to 'break' the traditional harmony rather than 'fix' it... sometimes with fantastically pungent sounding results...

    the modes compare to 'normal' modes like this:

    Natural Minor........Harmonic Minor equivalent
    Ionian................. Ionian with an augmented 5th
    Dorian................. Dorian with a sharpened 4th
    Phrygian.............. Phrygian with a major 3rd
    Lydian................. Lydian with a sharpened 2nd
    Mixolydian............ Mixolydian with a SHARPENED ROOT (eek) making it enharmonically Locrian with a flattened 4th and a double-flattened 7th (!) actually a variation on 'Super Locrian' (see below)
    Aeolian................ Aeolian with a sharpened 7th (i.e. Harmonic minor)
    Locrian................ Locrian with a major 6th

    the melodic minor modes can sometimes be visualised as a major scale with a flattened 3rd shifted around the place... (forget about ascending/descending forms for the moment) - more of these have special names

    Natural Minor........ its Melodic Minor companion :)
    Ionian................. Phrygian with a flattened root (ouch again) - Lydian with an augmented 5th - usually called 'Lydian Augmented' - this has a beautiful collection of whole tone intervals you can play with
    Dorian................ Lydian with a flattened 7th (Lydian Dominant)
    Phrygian.............. Mixolydian with a flattened 6th
    Lydian................. Aeolian with a flat 5 (or Locrian with a natural 2nd)
    Mixolydian............ Locrian with a flattened 4th - also called 'Super Locrian' or 'Altered Mode'
    Aeolian................ Ionian with a flattened 3rd
    Locrian................ Dorian with a flattened 2nd

    again, like the harmonic minor, the melodic minor scale is a chromatic nudge except in the other direction... harmonic minor is a nudge towards the benefits of major... melodic minor is almost like a nudge of the major scale towards minor... major scale with a flat 3rd... again, the chromatically changed note serves to 'weird out' the harmony, which can produce some great sounding results - these scales really add a lot of garlic & chilli to your music :)

    apologies i've if missed something out or made an error (doing this from memory) - it's a huge topic & this is just a skim of the surface
  4. jeff schmidt

    jeff schmidt no longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

    Aug 27, 2004
    Novato, CA
    wow - talk about getting to missouri by way of paris! ;)

    I personally found melodic minor much easier to digest and apply when looked at from the vantage point of it's alterations to major scale harmony.

    From this view - the first mode of melodic minor is seen as the major scale with a minor 3rd.

    2nd mode of MM is dorian with a flat 2 (or 9)

    3rd mode of MM can be looked at as a major scale with a sharp 4 & 5

    4th mode of MM is the major dominant mode (mixolydian) with a sharp 4 - or flat 5.

    5th mode of MM is a major scale with a flat 6 & 7.

    6th mode of MM is the same as major locrian mode with a natural 2nd

    7th mode of MM is not as easily derived from major as it's really 2 scales in 1. The first 4 notes are diminished and the remaining 4 (to the octave) are whole tone.

    I personally find it easier to treat this mode as I do the locrian mode of major - you add a half step to the beginning of the first mode. Or - find your root - and move up a half step and play the first mode shape. Of course I always keep the real root in my mind and hands - but the key for me is making as few and as simple alterations as possible.

    It can be said that all these roads lead to the same place - but when you consider these are roads your mind has to travel while performing - I personally prefer the expressway rather than the long winding mountain routes. :D
  5. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    Thanks cowsgomoo & jeff schmidt. Now I have something else to stuff into my head! :D
  6. Don't forget the modes of harmonic minor. :)


    Oh no wait, you didn't, silly me.
  7. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    A couple of these are somewhat off - you're picking the wrong base mode. For instance, the 4th mode of the MM is "lydian dominant". It's a lydian scale but with a flat 7. Technically the same thing, but the sharp 4th is a much more "interesting" note than the flat 7, so it's defining character is Lydian.

    Next, the 5th mode isn't a major scale w/ flat 6 and flat 7, but just a mixolydian w/ flat 6. That's picking the closest match and making only one alteration.

    I'd call the 2nd mode phrygian w/ a major 6th -- the minor 2nd is such a defining interval in phrygian, it seems strange to me to call it dorian "w/ a flat 2nd".

    Incidentally, the lydian dominant scale is the one created by the first 13 overtones:

    1 - root
    2 - octave
    3 - fifith
    4 - octave
    5 - maj. third
    6 - fifth
    7 - flat 7th
    8 - octave
    9 - maj 2nd
    10 - third
    11 - aug. 4th
    12 - fifth
    13 - maj. 6th
  8. Very interesting! The first 13 overtones of what, though? Which instrument?
  9. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    The first 13 harmonic overtones - integer multiples of the fundamental. So, guitars / basses / etc. Also the human voice, so it's a big deal for harmonic singing.

    Chris: what??
  10. jeff schmidt

    jeff schmidt no longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

    Aug 27, 2004
    Novato, CA
    Think about what chord types you might play this scale over. _7#4, _7#11, _7b5.

    That's why I called it MIX #4.

    Well - it does produce the same scale - but your view does reduce alterations to 1 and that works for me.

    From a fingering point of view - looking at this as a Dorian with a flat 2 has the advantage of setting you up for the shift to grab the major 6th. Looking at it as phrygian with a major 6th is more awkward from a fingering view.

    I view all these modes and scales primarily from the view of their geometric shapes on the fingerboard. I should also note that I'm a lefty that plays a bass strung for a righty. So to view this mode as an altered phrygian for me is strange. Again - another example of different roads leading to the same place.
  11. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Jeff - roger, I see where you're coming from.
  12. Cool! That would be cool to compose a song with the overtones in mind. I've never really thought about that.
  13. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I hate to be a bother, but could you expand on this? I really don't know what you mean by harmonic overtones. It seems like your post

    is imparting some important information but I really don't understand what you are saying.

    I've refrained from posting this question (in my own thread, even) because this forum seems quite acidic with all the personal attacks in the last few days. I know my question is probably dumb and you folks all understand this like 2nd grade reading assignments but if you could retranslate this into layman's terms I'd be grateful.
  14. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    Aren't minor scales modes themselves?
  15. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    So the first mode of melodic minor is:
    1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - O
    Can I think of this as Dorian (b3, b7) with a sharped 7th?

    So this mode is constructed:

    1 - b2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - b7 - O
    Can I think of this as Phrygian with sharped 6th?

    1 - 2 - 3 - #4 - #5 - 6 - 7 - O
    So this is Lydian with sharped 5th?

    1 - 2 - 3 - #4 - 5 - 6 - b7 - O

    Would it be sharped 4th or flatted 5th? I know the note is the same but this would affect chords constructed with this scale though.

    1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - b6 - b7 - O

    Mixo with flatted 6th?

    1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - b5 - b6 - b7 - O

    Aeolian with flat 5th?

    1 - b2 - b3 - b4 - b5 - b6 - b7 - O???

    Is this the scale you meant?

  16. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    No problem, I was actually feeling a bit sheepish for taking the thread somewhat off-topic. :)

    When you pluck the string, there are vibrations of different frequencies going on. There is the lowest frequency, the "fundamental", and then higher frequencies which are all multiples of this one. So, the low E on a bass is around 40Hz, but when you pluck it, it also produces 80Hz, 120Hz, 160Hz, 200Hz, etc. Those are the overtones, and can also be called harmonics.

    When you find the pitch (note value) of those harmonics, they form a scale like I wrote out earlier. Your ear doesn't really pick this out when they all happen at once, it is used to hearing harmonic overtones (woodwinds, brass and stringed instruments, the voice, all have rich harmonic overtones) and just considers it one "tone" that has a certain color -- the relative proportion of all the overtones is what determines the timbre. EG, it's what makes a low E through the bridge pickup sound different than the same one through the neck pickup.

    When you use harmonics on the bass or guitar, by stopping the string at one of the nodes, you single that overtone out. Similarly, when singing you can alter the shape of your mouth and throat to accentuate one or more harmonic.

    There are probably a couple good threads about harmonics around here somewhere I can dig up if you'd like more info.
  17. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    It's a #4 -- the scale already has a 5th in it.