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Modes...How to use them practically in music.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by kynoch, Nov 7, 2008.


  1. kynoch

    kynoch

    Jun 28, 2006
    Ok I am in the process of expanding my knowledge of theory on the bass....I have been learning modes and scale forms for a while now, but am struggling to find application into what I actually play on a gig or when jamming, and I see jamming as the place to try it all out but....how?....I need a light bulb moment can anyone flick the switch here???? :crying::confused::help::meh:
     
  2. DudeistMonk

    DudeistMonk

    Apr 13, 2008
    Newark, NJ
    I wondered about the same thing for awhile (ever since I saw some guy shred the crap out of a 12 bar and then say something to the effect of "its just modes man") and I think I finally get it, although I need a lot more practice to get to that effortless level, so here goes...

    You can use them for a few things:

    1)Each mode represents the fingering of all the notes in the songs key from the given note. So if you are playing in the key of C and your root is D anything in the Dorian mode will be in key.

    2)Each chord has a related scale/mode that will fit it into the song taking into account the key and the quality of the chord.

    3) you can use the modes to spice up your playing/come up with new melodic phrases, when you get tired of writing in minor try writing in Dorain the major 6th will give you lots of different sounds....ext.
     
  3. jeremyr

    jeremyr

    Sep 4, 2006
    Maywood, IL
    I did a video for some people on another message board and well here you are.

     
  4. EADG mx

    EADG mx

    Jul 4, 2005
    1) That's not practical, I'd argue just thinking of "notes in the key of C" is a lot easier.

    2) Again

    3) I'll back this because then you're actually playing modal music.


    I'd say unless you're playing modal music or jazz (or both), it's not necessary to think in terms of modes at all. Even in jazz it's not always necessary to use them (for ex. if you're only using the diatonic modes).

    When you get into more advanced harmony and start using the harmonic and melodic minor modes, then you might encounter situations where you have to change key centers more often but on a tune with one or two key centers it's not necessary.

    my 2 cents.
     
  5. jeremyr

    jeremyr

    Sep 4, 2006
    Maywood, IL
    Sure it might be easier, but when thinking of terms of licks Modes make WWAAAAAAYYYYY more sense than just "notes in the key of C"
     
  6. seventhson

    seventhson Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2005
    Seattle, WA
    from a theoretical perspective EADG mx makes sense. That is always how I saw it, and i always wondered what all the fuss was about (granted, i am not much more than a hack).

    i have only just recently begun to see jeremyr's perspective. if i were to try to summarize (my possibly incorrect) understanding, i would say that it's a more "pragmatic" approach: that since a song is always a sequence of chords, at minimum, your hand is positioned to play the chord tones. with the chord root underneath one of your fretting fingers. at that point, you know the "compatible" modes to that chord + harmony AT THAT POSITION and you can go off from there. if the compatible mode (to the chord) is in a different key center than the rest of the song, no big deal, you have temporarily modulated the song to a different key center, and it will sound more like modal harmony rather than diatonic harmony. whether this actually sounds ok is dependent on whether your band mates are also on the same page...or are leaving the sonic landscape harmonically ambiguous to allow you to go in either direction.

    jeremyr, am i getting there?
     
  7. mutedeity

    mutedeity

    Aug 27, 2007
    Sydney
    I agree.

    The point of learning modes, and I have said this a number of times, is not to learn the modes themselves. The point is to learn about modulation. All modes are, are the "refocusing" of the tonal centre when you have a group of notes. Once you understand that for every scale you have as many modulations as there are notes in the scale which reconfigure depending on the order of the intervals in sequence, you know all you need to know about modes, really.

    As for modal music, that is something quite different to the modes of a given chromatic based scale with even tempering.
     
  8. jeremyr

    jeremyr

    Sep 4, 2006
    Maywood, IL
    you got it bro. A very good description of what thinking in modal perspective is about.

    Finding the chord that matches a key becomse 500000x easier 95% of the time if you go with modes.
     
  9. I agree that is a cool explanation - learn your modes is the mantra - but understanding what they are and applying them conceptually in the context of a song or set of changes is key : )

    Nice description IMHO!
     
  10. EADG mx

    EADG mx

    Jul 4, 2005
    If you're playing a song with one key center there's no need to think in diatonic modes, in my opinion. It seems unnecessarily complicated and I prefer to think of notes within the key and focus on chord tones.

    Preference..
     
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    That's my preference, too. I like it better because there's nothing I hate worse than sounding like I'm running scales. Thinking in modes is useful sometimes, and it's good academic work to learn them and learn how to use them, but when it comes time for the real deal gig, I prefer to forget about them and just go by the chord changes. That way it sounds natural and not like scale running. Scale running should be punishable by incarceration ;)
     
  12. EADG mx

    EADG mx

    Jul 4, 2005
    Not only that but I find it easier to listen when I have less to think about. That said I usually only think in terms of modes when playing jazz, in which I find chord/scale relationships really useful for playing over changing key centres and complex changes
     
  13. kynoch

    kynoch

    Jun 28, 2006
    Thats a cool Video....turned a few light bulbs on right there.

    Ok...to clarify.

    1)

    If we are playing in C....the chord of the moment is "D"...then I can play in and use the Dorian mode....am I on the right wave???.....the chord changes to "G"....then I have the Mixolydian to play in and around....am I getting it???

    2)

    Another thing in terms of Harmony....if we are playing in the key of "C" and we are grooving in the chord of "C" if I then focus on "G"...and play with the Mixolydian Mode would that be some kind of harmonization???

    I am not sure I am right here especially on point 2.

    Plus Jeremyr love that video....how could I best practice that stuff???

    Thanks everybody I feel I am learning:hyper:
     
  14. mutedeity

    mutedeity

    Aug 27, 2007
    Sydney
    Well, you see that is where it all comes down to function. Not everything is about chord tones when you are playing a counterpoint either. Which is precisely why you might think in terms of modes. Not all music is about melody following the chord changes either.

    Diatonically, tonality is determined by where your tonal centre is as determined by where you resolve to. It's not necessarily about which major or minor you are in. Therefore any "mode" can be its own "parent scale" if you can resolve to the tonic of that "mode".

    Also I would never dismiss the value of understanding modality and modal function. Voice leading and harmony are important factors in music, but don't substitute for what learning about modes will teach you.

    I think preference is one thing, but it only addresses one approach to something and not the overall picture.
     
  15. Deacon_Blues

    Deacon_Blues

    Feb 11, 2007
    Finland
    I think of the modes as different "soundscapes", each having its own characteristic sound like major (ionian) and natural minor (aeolian). I.e., I see them as different selections of notes to reach a particular sound.
     
  16. ryco

    ryco

    Apr 24, 2005
    97465
    I understand what Jimmy and EADG are sayin' as far as playing the chord tones. You will get far more milage out of just playing these tones as far as being a backing foundation player, which is a large part of the traditional function of the bass player in a group. (I know I know, Mute)

    But why limit yourselves to this one aspect? I don't think playing/listening to a guy running just chord tones and arpeggios is gonna be much more interesting than listening to a guy "just running scales". They both have their place.

    Modes are more for playing linear lines, as a walking bassist might do. Thinking in tetrachords to connect chords in a progression. If you just play the chord tones of Dorian, Phrygian and Aeolian there isn't going to be any distinguishing signature. What makes modes sound different is the non-chord tones.

    One thing about learning and knowing modes is not to use them in a diatonic manner (D Dorian in "C" Maj), but to use them against a key (D Dorian in "F"M or "G"M for example). It's the chromatic factor that makes lines interesting. Maybe play a M6 on an ascending line, and a m6 on a descending line. Same with a M2 vs m2, or raising or lowering a 4th or a 7th, for example. Using them in only a diatonic manner is kinda bland because you are just reinforcing the key, the chromatics are the ear spice.

    There is a little more thought into thinking like this, but with practice you get beyond thinking about it - like everything else - and use that particular sound, or sequence of notes, to express yourself.
     
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Who says we're running chord tones and arpeggios? You use them as a basis for what to play, not the ONLY things to play.
     
  18. HaVIC5

    HaVIC5

    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    True, true. However, the majority of the western music system is based upon a major/minor system, and so when performing a piece of music thats based in this manner, it only makes sense to think in terms of that particular mode of the "pitch set" (parent major scale). Modal counterpoint is a very valid (and way cool) form of thinking about music, but it shouldn't be emphasized as much as it it can be when learning about "chord/scales", which a lot of people assume to be the same as modes. Thinking in terms of the "parent mode" of the composition is essential, and most of the time (plenty of exceptions of course), this will be major/minor.
     
  19. ryco

    ryco

    Apr 24, 2005
    97465
    Hold on thar, big boy!
    It was in response to this statement.
    My obvious response: who said anything about running scales?

    I was merely exaggerating what you were implying.
    You said "nothing sounds worse than the sound of running scales"
    I'm saying running arpeggios isn't gonna sound a helluva lot more interesting either after a while.
    The very first sentence of my post agreed with what you had stated about preferring chord tones.

    My post was to point out both chord tones and modal linear lines have their place. Not that one is better than the the other.
    A lot of it depends on the style of music for one thing. Old R&R and Do-Wop are gonna want chord tones emphasised and, yes, arpeggios.
    All I'm sayin' is after a while, you may grow beyond using just one device or the other and go for the sounds each has to offer.

    jeez James, this wasn't a dig at you or your style. Srry if I offended you, bro :)
     
  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    OK, now I feel bad ;)

    You're absolutely right, ryco. And yes, unfortunately, playing bass in doo wop shows does mean you'll be running arpeggios. But it's nothing I do on my own volition ;)
     

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