1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

modes and scales? WHY?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by crossingpoint, Mar 26, 2005.

  1. living in a small-ish town, there is not 1 bass teacher within 100kms from where i live. im aware that this is probably a very dumb question... but why do i need to know scales and modes etc? i've been playing bass by myself without any lessons now for a year, and i play in a band and i dont know any scales or modes.
    would it be a good idea to learn these or wouldn't it really make a difference whether i know them or not?

    thanks for any replies
  2. metalguy2


    Dec 26, 2004
    The biggest reason is so that that can consistantly sound good while working with other people. If you do not know your scales or modes how are you going to communicate to the guitar player what to play. Or vice versa.
  3. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    Learning scales are very important, it will allow you to learn songs easier and understand music construction. music theory is about leaning that there is a set of rules (in this case scales) to go by only to learn that rules can be broken, you have to learn the rules in order to no how to break them! The first few years I took up bass I thought I was the bee's knee's when it came to playin funk music, My older brother who is a musician also was going to college for theory and counter point and had writen out all he learned. Now my brother who at this time was an awesome sax player at the time tried to teach me (or get me to learn) what he had learned and I told him I was cool with what I new, He took me to an open jazz jam and I was never the same! I left the bldg like a newborn baby in search of a way to crawl. When I got home I opened up that book he had writen out and spent time with it. In a short time my skills had improved 1000%. Learning scales and progressions allowed me to sit in with anyone regardless of who they where, It allowed me to notice that alot of tunes were just variations of other tunes! I began to just listen to tunes and just basically knew were they were going (excluding jazz improv). I was able to walk in a room and have someone call off what ever they wanted to play and all I had to ask is '"what key". learning an instrument is one thing, the ability to play it properly with others is another! I have met people who said they were musicians and started playing and I could tell if they knew anything at all about music in the first couple of bars. Learn all you can and practice, practice, practice, maybe then you will really enjoy playing an instrument an allowing it to become your best friend! Music is a language of pitches with scales being the verbs and nouns, in order to communicate with others properly and professionally you must learn the language!
  4. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    You ought to email Jeff Berlin and ask him that question. While you're at it, ask him why tab isn't used more in the studio, since it's quicker and easier than standard notation. He's at the Player's School of Music in FL. :)
  5. riotboi911


    Dec 18, 2004
    its good to know for all of the above reasons.

    but sometimes its just good to go on feel.
    but some would say you need to know theory to be able to get the feel.

    i learnt a bunch of modes by heart.
    and its useful-ish.

    but for my degree of playing (just f'ing around with friends) its not really needed
  6. those who say "i don't need it" or even "learning theory will hurt my creativity" (trust me, played with a guitarist who said that) are just trying to justify their laziness and non-commitment to their craft. :mad:

    learning theory will help you understand the relationship between what you are doing and what everyone else is doing. Plus, look, it really isn't all that difficult.

    Once you get the hang of a few scales and modes and how they relate to the figner positioning on your bass, you will suddenly find that most of the theory is dead easy.

    Give it a go - don't ever think "it's not for me" unless you don't really want to ever be the best you can. :)
  7. Lorenzini


    Dec 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Sarcasm or seriousness? Can't tell.
    Honestly you should email him he would give you an honest answer
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Probably both. To be honest, I don't think it's too bad of an idea though!
  9. k, shot!!! now for another dumb question(im good at asking these=)....
    where should i start, because i dont know anything apart from how to tune my bass... start with scales or modes first? or both? and where can i find lessons on these?

    much appreciated!
  10. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Its a common misconception that there is a difference between scales and modes.

    Take a C major scale: CDEFGABC

    Play the same notes starting on the 2nd pitch (degree) of the scale: DEFGABC

    This is a Dorian mode.

    Start on E: EFGABCDE. This is a Phrygian mode.

    Proceed through all scale degrees and you will get (in order) Ionian (a normal major scale), Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian (also known as the natural minor scale), and Locrian.

    Modes are not seperate scales, they are variations on the major scale used in certain situations to highlight a specific sound (example the Mixolydian mode is often played over the V7 chord because it contains all 4 notes of a dominant 7th: Root, Major 3rd, Perfect 5th, and Minor 7th). You never will find a song in "D Mixolydian". You will find songs in G that make use of the Mixolydian mode to emphasize the V7 chord.
  11. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Serious or sarcasm? Why, both, of course! He was a teacher of mine.
  12. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Click on my username, as it appears in this post, and then go to my homepage. That's a good place to start.
  13. I'm sorry, but just about everything you say in this quoted section is *absolutely* wrong. I'm not trying to pick on you, and I don't mean this as a flame, but it doesn't help to give incorrect info, even with the best of intentions.

    Modes *are* separate scales. They are *not* essentially "variations of the major scale", though they can often be derived from degrees of the major scale. That's the big problem I have with explaining the modes in the way you've just done. The modes, essentially, are tonalities of their own.

    And yes, you *certainly* can find tunes that are in, say, D dorian or A Aeolian. World music is full of them, and even American folk, jazz, and rock have all kinds of examples. Listen to "Kind Of Blue," for example.

    Our key signature system was built for straight major-minor tonality, so it doesn't account for modal music well. Accordingly, you may find a tune with a key signature of C that, if you analyze the harmony, is clearly functioning in, say, C mixolydian. The fact that the key signature doesn't adequately reflect this doesn't change the musical fact that what's happening is modal.
  14. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    Scales are easy to learn. My teacher just showed me a position, and as soon as I figure out how to video tape it and host it on the internet, i'll show you.
  15. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    If you want to hear a cool song in the phygrian mode, check out "Creeping Death" by Metallica. My bass teacher wrote out all the modes, but I can't find the sheet. Also, A LOT of System of a Down songs are in the Phygrian mode (Nuguns for example.) I really like the Phygrian mode.
  16. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    This the reason I prefer to explain modes as I did. If you choose to view each mode as a seperate centricity then all the other rules of tonal harmony have to be tossed or reinterpreted accordingly. Trying to keep 7 different sets of tonal relationships in your head is pretty cumbersome.

    The only system I know that does work well for explaining modes as centricities is set theory, which is also a little cumbersome for answering a quick question like "What is a mode".

    I was taught modes in much the way you are describing them way: Dorian = Minor #6, Mixolydian = major b7, etc. I viewed them as seperate and distinct scales and had no clue of how the related to each other, or how they connected with anything else in my musical knowledge.

    It wasn't until I read an interview with Alan Holdsworth on how he first taught himself modes (supposedly by playing the major scale in several different variations) that I even knew the modes were related, let along that they fit neatly on top tonal theory.

    In my view, since most of us start from a largely tonal background, modes should be explained in a way that relates them to this.

    As for various peices and songs being in certain modes, given a score you can make a compelling argument for either. Is a song in Phrygian because it uses a b2, or is in Minor and using a Neopolitan chord?

    Unless its in 12 tone or a non-western tonal system, you can distill almost everything into common practice tonal harmony. That's probably why it stuck around as long as it did.
  17. Not sure what you mean by "centricity," but you don't need set theory to understand modes. They're not hard at all to understand. If you know major, natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor, you already know 4 scales. How hard is it to understand a few more?;) All a scale, or a mode, is is a series of specific intervals from a starting point.

    And you still seem to be suggesting that modes *necessarily* relate to major-minor harmony, and that's just flat-out wrong. Yes, they do occur naturally within major-minor harmony, and they can be derived from a major scale, but that's not fundamentally what they are. They don't need to "live" within major or minor; they can be found as the fundamental harmonic organizing principle all over music. The classic example I give is "So What," by Miles Davis. It's D dorian, Eb dorian, D dorian. That's just the best and truest way to describe it. Trying to stuff it into the conventional major-minor box doesn't help, and may in fact mislead. When you're telling someone, as you did in your earlier post, that they can't find a musical piece that's modal, that's just factually wrong, and telling someone something that's factually wrong can't help them, even if done with good intentions.
  18. No, you *can't* always make a compelling argument for either, because sometimes the truth is that a piece is either obviously major-minor (in the classic sense) or obviously modal. You can't analyze "So What," for example, as conventionally minor. There is no compelling argument to be made there.