Modes and their implementation

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by MrBKerth, Apr 12, 2014.

  1. MrBKerth

    MrBKerth The Gypsy Bravado

    Apr 20, 2013
    Hello all,
    I've been trying to make headway as a self taught musician by familiarizing myself with theory as I can find it online and books. I've become confused by modes. I understand that they are on an incredibly basic level just starting the same scale (Lets say the G Major) on a note other than G. Example being A Dorian being the same notes as G Major. I think that's right anyways.

    So here's my question. If my guitar player is doing a riff where I want to do a fill under his sustained G Chord in the key of G (as an example) would I (again for example) play from the B Phrygian (because it has the same notes as the key of G), or would derive from the G Phrygian since the key is G?

    I know, I've got a lot to learn and it's been a challenge. Pardon my ignorance :bag:
  2. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Seven Modes ROOTED on G:

    Major Modes
    G Lydian - G, A, B, C#, D, E, F#
    G Ionian - G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
    G Mixolydian - G, A, B, C, D, E, F

    Minor Modes
    G Dorian - G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F
    G Aeolian - G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F
    G Phrygian - G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb, F
    G Locrian - G, Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F

    What notes are in the guitarist's "G Chord"?

    If it's just a G Major (G, B, D), that will eliminate the "minor" Modes, and you could utilize one of the 3 Major Modes. If it's a G7 (G, B, D, F), you choices are further reduced to just the Mixolydian.

    Same selection process, if the guitar is playing some kind of Minor chord. If it's Gmin7 (G, Bb, D, F), you can choose Dorian, Aeolian, or Phrygian. If there is a Ninth being played in the guitar chord (i.e., Gm9 - G, Bb, D, F, A), you would not use a G Phrygian.

    If the guitarist's chord is just a "Power Chord" (G, D), you can try anyone of the first six Modes.

    My advice... do NOT get bogged down with the "This Mode goes with this Chord". Use your ear!
    JackG likes this.
  3. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    The use of Modes is objective, there use is more based on what you know and understand within music......the more you know the more you can use them, the less you know the less you can use them.

    With what you say about your own theory experience i would say use your ear and if it sounds good then it is good.
    Get some playing and listening experience, get some other basic chordal ideas and harmony....then maybe look at modes. :)
  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
  5. mandohack


    May 6, 2011
    MI, USA
    You could also get something like Chordbot or Chordpulse and have it loop a "G chord" of whatever type and try some different modes over it based on suggestions above, using your ear to suss out what sounds good and what sounds abysmal. Keeping in mind that dissonance, to a point, leads to resolution.
  6. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
  7. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Over simplification; modes are for when you play treble clef stuff. If you are not playing treble clef stuff let the solo instruments do the modes and you furnish the harmony for what mode is being played, i.e. no need for you both to be playing THE MODE.

    That begs the question what bass clef stuff do you play under a mode. Answer; a modal vamp.

    Do a Google on modal vamps. It is different and probably will involve a paradigm shift for you. It's a long story and may not be something you want to get into right now.

    IMO you can waste a lot of valuable time going off on a modal journey. Unless you are improvising melody or playing melodic bass lines your time can be spent else where.
  8. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    The bassline from So What called and it begs to differ. ;)

    I understand what you are trying to say - keep it simple on bass and let the more typical melody instruments handle the non-chord tones, but I've been playing non-chord tones on bass for 33+ years.

    Here's the most basic description I can give for modes:

    Premise: The I chord of a piece of music is Dmin7. The scale on which the melody is based is not a D natural minor scale, a D harmonic minor scale, or a D Jazz minor scale. It includes the notes d e f g a b c. This is a D Dorian scale which is derived from the C Major scale starting on its second degree. In common parlance, you're in D Dorian.

    D Dorian is a scale and not a key, but it is also commonly used in the vernacular to denote the tonal center of a piece of modal music such as So What.
  9. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    This is where the Chord / Scale bit confuses many, and begins to fall apart.

    That "Dmin7" (D, F, A, C) could be the "tonic" in the D Dorian, as well as D Aeolian or D Phrygian Modes.

    See Post #2.
  10. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Right - I was using Dorian only as an example. As you've indicated, the Dmin7 as tonic could be the basis of Aeolian or Phrygian as well (I erroneously included harmonic minor, but that would only work over a Dmin or a Dmin(Maj)7, not a Dmin7). The point I was really trying to get at is that, in this case, the min7 chord must be the tonic - the I. This seems to be where the disconnect is for many when trying to learn modes.
  11. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    I was expanding on what you had stated for those less (or badly) informed.

    I like what you say: "... the min7 chord must be the tonic - the I."

    I do NOT like it when someone says to play "D Dorian" over the iim7 and "G Mixolydian" over the V7, in C Major. These are absolutely not Modes! It's BAD information and greatly misleading.
  12. keebler


    Jan 19, 2006
    Charleston, IL
    Chambers plays an awful lot of B-flats to be "thinking" in Dorian. You're never "in" one single mode, even in a "modal" piece. They are flavors from which you choose your spice of the moment.

    Best way to learn modes: listen, listen, listen.
    squidtastic likes this.
  13. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    You are correct. He plays more than just a few C#'s, as well (in the D Minor sections).

    One could write a Doctoral Thesis on the note choices, made by Chambers, in the Eb Minor sections.


    Very accurate transcription.
  14. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    Being a technical fellow I need a technical answer to this question - My question is - Is this ^ correct for a starting point and then use my ear?
    With that said - this answer infers no real connection between the key and the mode vs the chord and the mode, is that right??
  15. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Yes, it is correct.

    The last sentence is my opinion.

    Know that there are other associated scale possibilities with a given chord.

    Staying with the "So What" example - over the Dmin change, in one of his solo sections, Miles works off an A Minor Pentatonic (A, C, D, E, G) - not a D Minor scale, not the D Dorian Mode.
  16. Learn to hear the difference between the modes.....

    Major chord: does a #4th or a b7th give the sound you're wanting.
    eg. Gmaj = C#, or F.

    Minor chord: does a natural 6th or b2nd give you the sound you're wanting.
    eg. Emin = C# or or F

    Remember, Em (Aeolian) is relative minor to Gmajor (Ionian) and both have one sharp F#. Both share the same two altered notes C# and F.

    Keep playing it until you HEAR it. Then when it occurs in a song you'll immediately recognise it.
  17. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    Phrygian start from B to answer your question.
    But I'd like to recommend you - Carol Kaye tips - to learn more about "Chordal Note" (Notes that construct a Chord) than Modal or Scale like that. I really like that what Carol Kaye taught,I'm sure that it will make you better.

    Here is what she said about it, I quote it:
    and Here is Carol Kaye website, lot of great tips there.

    Good Luck.
  18. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    Thank You - You can take the rest of the day off for the clearest "almost" answer thus far.
    Quick unrelated question = The use in the "So What" example A Minor Pentatonic, is because the A- is the minor 5th of the D Minor/D Dorian scales?
  19. Hi MrBKerth, I have a music degree and know all the modes backwards and forwards, but these days, I use them in one specific way only:

    If I am jamming with other musicians, then I sometimes use the modes as a short-cut to describe which notes are sharp or flat, in relation to the major scale, so that the other musicians can improvise parts that don't clash with my bass line.

    For example I am teaching a riff I wrote in the key of G to my friend the guitarist. Normally the key of G would have an F# (7) but in this case my bluesy bass line emphasizes F (b7). Any half-decent guitarist would immediately hear this and play the right thing, but let's say our friend has a bad cold today and his ears are clogged up, so he's playing F#, which clashes badly with my F. So I might yell at him, "Hey, try playing G Mixolydian mode!"

    Likewise if my riff has a Bb (b3) in addition to the F (b7) then I could describe that as "G Dorian mode" (if the guitarist doesn't have a good enough ear to simply hear the difference). And so on through all the modes.

    I would describe your bass line as "key of G" and would not complicate the situation by describing it as "B Phrygian." This is not an example of modal-style playing.

    If the guitarist is playing a G chord, and the bassist is emphasizing the note B, then the conservatory-correct term is "first-inversion G chord" which is notated G/B (meaning "G over B"). An "inversion" is just a chord with a chord-tone other than the root in the bass. The second-inversion of G is G/D or "G over D. Inverted chords are very common in many styles of music; they are familiar to our ear and do not require modal analysis.

    Modal thinking might come into play when you start thinking about "slash chords," which are chords with a non-chord tone in the bass, such as G/A. This is what Stick_Player was hinting at above in the discussion of So What: there is a section of Miles' solo that equally well might described as Amin7/D (slash chord), or A minor pentatonic, or D Dorian.

    Hope that helps cut through some of the confusion and misinformation! As you start to get into these advanced topics, the most important thing is to hear the sound before you apply intellectual theory. :)

    A really good method for learning the degrees of the major scale is "Do Re Mi" from the Sound of Music. Learn this song by heart and sing it at the top of your lungs when you are in the shower or driving in the car! ;)
  20. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Never a day off on TB. :D

    The section I am referring to is the first eight measures, the 2nd time through the tune. Chambers has a nice D minor (D, F, A) ostinato and Miles is using the notes from an A Minor Pentatonic scale. If you think about it, most of these notes are found in the extensions: D, F, A, C, E, G, B.

    Yes, almost Amin7/D - as was suggested.

    There are other Pentatonic Scales one could use in this tune: E Minor Pentatonic (E, G, A, B, D) or D Minor Pentatonic (D, F, G, A, C). Listen to what chords Bill Evans is supporting with (the so-called So What Chords).

    You might see the pattern of these Minor Pentatonic Scales' roots: D > A > E -- Perfect Fifths. The E Minor Pentatonic being the furthest away from the base harmony (i.e., utilizing the higher extensions).

    All sorts of options available. Even the chromatic scale. :eek: