Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Modes and scales

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by nathan, Jul 20, 2004.


  1. nathan

    nathan

    Jul 16, 2004
    At my lessons, ive started using all the modes to walk bass lines on some jazz and blues songs. I keep on asking my teacher if he could also teach me some scales to use, but he avoids it for some reason. The modes all seem to be derived from a plain major scale, just playing it in a dif. position. So do you think its important to learn the scales, or are the modes fine to use. I would like to learn both, so if anyone has a way of explaining any scale, that would be great.
    thanks
     
  2. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    First off, this should be in General Instruction, not technique.

    *shuffles thread to GI* Oh wait, I can't do that. :D

    Modes and scales go hand in hand. A mode is, as you know, a major scale but instead of being run from 1 - 1 an octave up, you go from 2 - 2, or 3 - 3, etc.

    So, if you know your modes, then you know your scales.

    Basically the major scale is the Ionian mode. This is made up of:

    tone - tone - semi - tone - tone - tone - semi

    For ease I'll write this using W for whole step and H for half steps (or semitones). So the major (Ionian mode) scale is:

    Code:
    [b]W-W-H-W-W-W-H[/b]
    Shift up a step (Dorian mode) and you get:

    Code:
    [b]W-H-W-W-W-H-W[/b]
    See, you just shifted the spaces between the notes. The rest of the modes are as follows:

    Code:
    [b]H-W-W-W-H-W-W - Phrygian
    W-W-W-H-W-W-H - Lydian
    W-W-H-W-W-H-W - Mixolydian
    W-H-W-W-H-W-W - Aeolian
    H-W-W-H-W-W-W - Locrian[/b]
    See the pattern?
     
  3. CJK84

    CJK84

    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    nathan,

    Your instructor is probably doing a good job teaching you the modes of the major scale (as WP4F nicely explained).

    However, there are other scales (e.g., pentatonic) that your instructor should eventually introduce to you.

    On the other hand, you don't have to wait for the instructor to reach that point in his curriculum.

    Here's the major pentatonic scale (using tones from the major scale):

    1-2-3-5-6-1 or W-W-WH-W-WH where WH represents a whole step plus a half step.

    This exact scale is used (on guitar) at the start of My Girl by one of the famous Motown groups - I think it's the Temptations.

    Good luck.
     
  4. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    the pentatonic blues scale is also very widely used:

    1, -3, P4, o5, P5, -7, 8
    T+ST, T, ST, ST, T+ST, T
     
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    But I can.


    Off you go now.
     
  6. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    :spit:
     
  7. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    If you keep that up, your face will freeze like that and you'll have to walk around like that forever.
     
  8. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks!

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH

    I could send it back if you like. :bag:


    Chris A. :rolleyes: :bassist:
     
  9. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Hi nathan - hopefully your teacher isn't all-together avoiding teaching you scales. But learning the modes is more suitable in this situation. In walking bass, you are focusing more on the chord scales (this is where the modes come in) than the key the tune is in.

    In addition to learning modes it's also important to learn your chords and their inversions.

    Good luck. :)
     
  10. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Everyone,

    Modes are scales.
     
  11. hibeam

    hibeam

    Oct 16, 2002
    USA
    Indeed. In fact, if you know your Ionian mode, that happens to be natural major, and Aeolian is natural minor.
     
  12. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    That's what I was getting at with this sentence in my first post;

     
  13. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I put this in another thread but...

    I caution thinking too hard about theory when playing live. I am a theory geek. I fell into a rut always thinking modes, chords, subs etc. This turned music into math. While on one level it is, it is also emotional. I have tried to make use of my ear as well as my mind when improvising.

    I teach alot and I try not to go straight into scales. While this is important knowledge to have, and I do teach it, too much to soon without the proper understanding of where it came from can be a dangerous and confusing thing.
     
  14. spc

    spc

    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    If you are jammimg by yourself, and you play a c scale from c to c, you're playing c major, right? If you, still jamming by yourself, play a c scale starting on d and ending on d, that is what you are playing, A C SCALE. You aren't playing a mode, unless there is something else going on chordally. The modes are tough to explain, and I'm still working at it myself, but explaining them as this note to that note seems a bit confusing. When you play any scale, do you always start on the root? Wouldn't we all sound exactly the same? It's the chords beneath the scale that make the scale a mode...
     
  15. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    You're right...kinda. A c scale from d to d is the d dorian mode. While it is the same pitch collection, it has to do with where to half steps and whole steps fall in the scale. You are definitely right that it is the chord beneath to scale that make things sound a certain way. That's why my last post was cautioning thinking too hard about scales when improvising.
     
  16. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    While I agree with this to an extent, I'd say, that the goal is to make the theory into somewhat of a second nature so that you don't really have to think about it.

    But then, the problem is , that it becomes so complex and that's a daunting task!

    I have a friend, he's a great player, but he thinks too much. He's constantly trying new things and figuring out new things in the music theory world, and while that's all great, and we have great conversations about some very abstract theory. When it comes to his playing, and his performing, it often languishes a bit because he gets dissatisfied with what he's playing pretty quickly if it isn't super interesting and complicated.
     
  17. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    With all due respect to willplay4food I would like to present another way of remembering modes, some people find it easier, some people don't get it, so I'll just throw it out there. This method works in conjunction with what Billspay4food because it requires a basic knowledge of what the modes are.

    So you know the names Ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, aeolian, locrian But you're having problems remembering which one is which. Check this out.

    we start with the brightest sounding mode, which is Lydian.
    This is because lydian is exactly the same as ionian except, the 4th degree is raised a halfstep. We will be lowering one note from each scale to make the scale progressively darker sounding.

    so Lydian looks like this
    1-2-3-#4-5-6-7
    e.g. C lydian: C-D-E-F#-G-A-B-c

    Now, we can lower one note to get to ionian

    1-2-3-4-5-6-7
    e.g. C ionian: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-c

    Now, there is only one note we need to change to get to mixolydian, that's the 7th.

    1-2-3-4-5-6-b7
    e.g C mixolydian: C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-c

    From here, again, only one note needs to change to get to Dorian, the third.

    1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7
    e.g. C Dorian: C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb-c

    Now, we lower one note to get to Aeolian, the 6th.

    1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7
    e.g. C aeolian: C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-c

    Now, lower one note to get to Phrygian, the 2nd.

    1-b2-b3-4-5-b6-b7
    e.g. C phrygian: C-Db-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-c

    Finally, the last note we lower to get to Locrian is the 5th

    1-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7

    e.g. C locrian: C-Db-Eb-F-Gb-Ab-Bb-c

    I know this might be confusing, but give it some thinking, and it should really help, if not, sorry for wasting your time :p
     
  18. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    If you look at this, starting from Lydian, the order of flatting notes goes 4, 7, 3, 6, 2, 5. If you look closely, this follows the cycle of 4ths. If you list the modes in ascending order you get:

    Ionian - 1st flatted note, the 4th
    Dorian - 5th flatted note, the 2nd
    Phrygian - 3rd flatted note, the 3rd
    Lydian - think of as base, since all notes as sharp as possible
    Mixolydian - 2nd flatted note, the 7th
    Aeolian - 4th flatted note, the 6th
    Locrian - 6th flatted note, the 5th

    So, starting with Lydian, every 4th you go up in scale tones flats another note, getting you to the order Mr. Wrong Roboto shows in his post.

    I don't know if this helps either, it's just something I noticed when trying to figure out how to recall these scales on the fly (which I still can't do).
     
  19. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I try to avoid thinking about the modes like this. While it is a quick way to recall them it tells you nothing about where they come from. I think its important to think of how the chord relates to the overall song rather than just the scale that matches with each chord.
     
  20. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I use the modes to figure out the diatonic scale for whatever song I'm examining. Once I do that, I use the chords to figure out the progression (I, IV, V; iii, vi, ii, V, I; etc.). I'm working on putting these together so I can do more than root, 3rd, 5th, and expand my walking lines to scale tones along with chord tones.

    Someday I'll get there.