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Mode naming

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by kragen, Jul 17, 2005.

  1. kragen


    Jul 4, 2005
    Justa quickie...

    I've been reading up on modes, I understand them well enough (although Ihavnt taken the effort to learn them yet), there is just one thing...

    I know that in the key of C, the Aeolian mode for example is in fact the C Natural Minor scale, but its called the A Aeolian Mode, rather than the C Aeolian mode.

    I gather its just converntion, seeing as modes originate from before the diatonic scales (or so I hear), so it makes more sense to name each mode after the starting note... all the same I just wanted to check.

    Ok here is a better question then:

    When learning the modes, is it better to pick a key (for example C) and work out all the modes for that key, that is C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian etc...

    Or is it best to take a starting note and work out the modes starting from that note... or does it not really matter?
  2. Brian S

    Brian S

    Nov 11, 2003
    Atlanta, Georgia
    I don't know if it matters, but I started with the key of C and worked through all the modes (C Ionian, D Dorian, etc.) for a week. Then I added a new key every week, going through the cycle of fifths or fourths. So the second week I went the the modes in the key of C and F. The third week I added the key of Bb. After 12 weeks I now go through all 12 keys, all modes. I do this at every practice. This really drills the modes and makes them second nature.

    I also use a metronome and, if I execute this exercise a couple of practices in a row with mistakes, I increase the metronome speed by 5 bpm. This has been helping my speed.

    Hope this helps! :)
  3. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    a C natural minor scale is not an A Aeolian mode, it's the C Aeolian mode. However, A Aeolian is related to C Ionian.

    C Aeolian is in the key of Cm or Ebmaj since there are 3 flats.
    A Aeolian is in the key of Am or Cmaj since there are no flats and no sharps.
  4. No, this is wrong, it's not the C natural minor scale, unless you mean C D Eb F G Ab Bb.

    At a basic level, all a mode is, all a scale is, is a set of notes at certain specified instances from a specified starting reference point. If W=whole step and H=half step, then an X major scale is the set of notes at intervals WWHWWWH from note X. An X dorian mode is the set of notes at intervals WHWWWHW from note X. And so on.

    The aeolian mode that occurs "naturally" in the key of C major is A aeolian, because it is the interval pattern WHWWHWW from the note A i.e., A B C D E F G A). It isn't, and can't be, C aeolian/natural minor, which would be that same interval pattern from C (C D Eb F G Ab Bb C).

    It's not an either or thing. You might as well learn them the first way. Personally, I think it's *relatively* trivial--by which I mean noncomplex, not meaningless--since it's just a "frame shift" on the major scale. There isn't really much "working out" involved, since it's always the same sequence of notes, just different starting places. But it certainly can't hurt.

    I think, however, that working them out the second way, from the same starting point, is more useful for really hearing how the modes differ from each other.
  5. kragen


    Jul 4, 2005
    Thanks for the input guys... :)

    A couple of weeks ago I read a great set of artices on technique (here is the site - http://www.adamnitti.com/lessons.shtml), In there I read the importance of using a metronome regularily while I practice, I DID struggle a lot with it at first, but I've been forcing myself to try and keep in time with it and I think its been paying off - its definitely getting easier and easier over the last week or so.

    I've also been working hard at my technique - that has definitely been paying off (string alternate picking, left hand technique etc...) Initially it was enough effort just to keep everything together with the major scale which I was relatively well practiced with anyway, now I've improved a little I want to take the advice off that site and use the time I'm putting into technical exercises to farmiliarise myself with different patterns and their sounds.

    The modes thing is a lot clearer now - the A Aeolian Mode (that has the same notes as the C Major scale but starting at a different point) is the A Natural Minor scale.
  6. I recommend learning all the modes which share the same tonal center together. C Ionian, C Dorian, C Phrygian, etc. You can learn them either way, but that way will emphasize the difference in sound. Knowing them as major scales starting on different notes isn't especially useful, although it doesn't hurt to know them that way too.
  7. just learn one mode at a time, dont worry about if its in C or A. just pick anything, A works pretty well. you can find very subtle differences between them, like a mixolydian scale is the same as a major scale, only the 7th is dropped a half step. a phrygian scale is exactly like a minor scale, but with the 2nd dropped a half step. locrian is the same as phrygian, but with a dropped 5th. lydian is the same as major but with an augmented 4th. if you take it like that, it seems much easier, like if your playing something your like oh crap, its in A dorian, what do i do? just think you need to play it in minor, but raise the 6th scale degree a half step. so your playing an F# rather than an F natural. dont think its as hard as the world makes it out to be. whenever you learn one, another is just a half step away ;)