Modes= HELP!!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by BassWizard45, Aug 15, 2001.

  1. BassWizard45

    BassWizard45 Guest

    Apr 1, 2001
    Rome, Georgia

    I know you guys get this alot, but I need help with modes. My bass instructor has just started me on modes, and I think he's having a hard time explaining it (because he's kind of young). And I just want to know if any of you can explain it in the simplest lay-man's terms possible. I understand scales and chords fully, so you can start from there.
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
  3. Okay...if you know your scales:
    The major scale is the ionian mode.
    The minor scale is the aelion mode.
    If you flatten (if that's a word?) the 7th note of the major scale, you have the Mixolydian mode. the key of C you would have:
    C, D, E, F, G, A, A#, C
    If you make the 6th in the minor scale sharp, you have the Dorian mode:
    C, D, D#, F, G, A, A#, C
    If you make the 2nd in the minor scale flat, you have the Phrygian mode:
    C, C#, D#, F, G, G#, A#, C
    If you make the 4th in the major scale sharp, you have the lydian:
    C, D, E, F#, G, B, C

    There's 4 of 'em, I'll post the rest later. Theory guys, tell me if I flubbed, I'm not good at this stuff.
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Well, sort of..... ;)

    In the first place, when you are writing scales, you should strive whenever possible to use concurrent letters of the alphabet when doing so.

    Ex. - instead of writing Mixolydian as CDEFGAA#C, you should spell it CDEFGABbC, which helps it look more "stepwise".

    Since a major scale contains 2 half steps and 5 whole steps, and since the modes of the scale are made out of the same material, one easy way to think of each mode is in relation to the "parent" major scale.

    If the "parent " scale is C major, then:

    Ionian = CDEFGABC
    Dorian = DEFGABCD
    Phrygian = EFGABCDE
    Lydian = FGABCDEF
    Mixolydian = GABCDEFG
    Aeolian = ABCDEFGA
    Locrian = BCDEFGAB

    If you remember that the half steps in the major scale occur between scale degrees 3 and 4 (E and F) and also between degrees 7 and 8 (B and C), the intervallic construction of each mode will be easy to extrapolate from this information, since the half steps remain between those same notes for each mode.

    Also, technically, any mode that has a flatted third can be called "minor". This includes DORIAN, PHRYGIAN, AEOLIAN, and LOCRIAN from the list above.

    Still, all in all, your reply was not bad for "someone who doesn't know much theory".


  5. Kissed Mr.Harold,

    Yeah, in lessons I learned very basic theory which included the modes, but I don't know A LOT about them. I'm considering taking music theory class my junior year, so hopefully I can speak more eloquently about this stuff.

  6. With respect, that's an easier way to *derive* the modes, but I think the way Bassline originally presented them (except for the sharps, as you pointed out, where he shoulda used flats) was a better way of *understanding* them, because it allows to to directly compare the modes and see more easily where they differ.

    And I think the idea of a "parent" scale can be misleading, though I know where you're coming from with it. The problem with that view IMO is that it suggests that, say, D dorian is somehow inherently "in" C major, which it isn't exactly. I mean you can certainly use D dorian within a piece in C, but it can also function as its own tonality, so that you can have a piece that is in D dorian and that can't really be properly described as being in C (its supposed parent scale).

    A good example, which I know you must have played a million times, is "So What." The only meaningful way to describe the key center movement there IMO is to say it goes from D dorian to Eb dorian to D dorian. It would be harmonic nonsense to say it goes from C to Db to C simply because you can derive the D dorian from the notes of C and the Eb dorian from the notes of Db.

    So here's my take, with the sharps corrected (except for the lydian F#, which belongs there) and with W = whole step and H = half step:

    Ionian (major) = WWHWWWH = C D E F G A B C
    Dorian = WHWWWHW = C D Eb F G A Bb C
    Phrygian = HWWWHWW = C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C
    Lydian = WWWHWWH = C D E F# G A B C
    Mixolydian = WWHWWHW = C D E F G A Bb C
    Aeolian ("pure" minor) = WHWWHWW = C D Eb F G Ab Bb C
    Locrian = HWWHWWW = C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    I agree that this is a useful way to think of how to construct modes if you're not thinking about them in relation to anything, and I use it often when teaching theory classes. No offense intended, but I was just trying to give AN answer to the question rather than THE COMPLETE AND FINAL answer to the question, which would take more time than either of us would wish to spend online.


    Kissed Mr Harold? I haven't, but that's a GOOD ONE...
  8. Yeah, as I said, I know where you're coming from with the parent scale. That works as long as you stay fairly diatonic, and you're right, most of us, in practice, probably don't think of a ii V I in C as being in 3 separate modes but in one. However, once chromaticism and chordal subs come in, the picture gets much more complicated ....

    As for So What, that was just an example, silly, and clearly stated as such. I mention it because I have heard many people ask what key D dorian was "in," and that tune is perhaps the most obvious piece of modal harmony I can think of. And yes, I have had someone ask me, "So 'So What' is in C, right?"
  9. Do I sense some sarcasm? :p
  10. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    Hey, I had someone ask me that only 1 month ago!

  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Always...but that WAS a good (and quite original, I might add) one nevertheless.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've never heard anybody ask that, so I was a bit surprised and wondered where that one came from. I intially took the remark as an signal that you were somehow trying to interpret what I said as thinking of SO WHAT in C, which is not the case. If I misread you, my apologies.


  13. Yep, just one of those things, weird but true.

    And no, I never thought you would have thought of So What in C. My only concern was that someone less familiar with modes--like our original poster--might interpret what you said that way. As I said, I've seen it before.

    Peace back atcha.
  14. Zoot H Rollo

    Zoot H Rollo

    May 10, 2000
    Redmond, WA
    all the theoretical modal explanations are great, but, until you apply the uninitiated, its all noise floor.

    as i've said before, the MODES are great for navigating the neck.

    here's a little exercize i use to practice modes.

    in the key of C (you know, the key SO WHAT is in..:D ):

    play a one octave ascending C major scale starting on the 3rd fret of the A string.

    when you get to the octave C with your pinky, shift your pinky to the 5th fret of the G string, which is D.

    now, play a descending D minor DORIAN scale (one octave)...remember NO SHARPS NO FLATS.

    you will land on D, the 5th fret on the A string with your index finger.

    shift your hand so that your index finger is on E, the 7th fret of the A string.

    now, play an ascending E minor PHRYGIAN scale.

    the next descending mode requires NO shift...after playing the ocatave E on the G string, use your pinky to grab the F on the G string and play a descending F LYDIAN scale.

    continue this throughout all the MAJOR MODES...

    i think you'll see how this opens up the neck visually.

    hope this helps.