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Modes, i don't get it

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by josiah goldfish, Aug 6, 2012.

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  1. Hi guys,
    So I don't really know what a mode is, I understand what the different modes are but only what they are in each major key. What is the relevance? I get that a G maj mixolydian is a b7 of the G maj scale, but I don't see the point? And I don't get why? Someone please explain modes to me! I'm stuck!
  2. 905


    Jul 23, 2006
    "a G maj mixolydian is a b7 of the G maj scale"


    The mixolydian mode of G Major is D major with a b7 (D7).

    You want some free advice? Don't think too much about modes. I did, and then I realised I have absolutely no use for it.

    There are so incredibly many other, and incredibly more important things to understand. For example basic harmony and rhythm. And being able to make a melody (not improvising, but that too). And making a chord progression. Reading a chord progression. Reading sheet music. Reading tab for that matter!
  3. phillybass101


    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    +1 on that. Man just play and study the basics. Things will come to you. As a bassist, know your chord theory and arpeggios, other doors will open up to you. AND beleive it or not sometimes the root is the best choice for note to play and take no shame in it. No pun intended but don't fret it.
  4. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    The modes are extremely easy, just learn your major scale, the modes are just 7 different starting point of the major scale.

    Modes can allow to play with a little more flair, Dorian is great for the blues, Phrygian is great for latin music.

    G Ionian is kind of classical like, where as G Mixolydian can have some serious funk.

    Not to say any mode is restricted to a certain style, they do have their place, and should be learned if you ever intend to solo in my opinion. Pentatonics get old pretty quick.
  5. Yes to forget about modes unless you are getting lead breaks. If you insist. Check this out. http://scottsbasslessons.com/welcome-to-the-shed
    You may have to click the blank screen several times for the video to load. Scott's video does an excellent job of telling the mode story.

    Confusion comes because there are two ways of looking at modes. Relative modes where the key changes and the notes stay the same. This is the easiest way to teach modes and is probably the way you may have been introduced to modes. Then there is Parallel modes. Here the key stays the same and the notes change. A little harder to learn, but, I find it to be much easier to actually use in a song.

    OK, that's how to make them. What you really need to know is how to use them. Scott will start off describing Relative modes then move to Parallel to show you how to use modes.

    Getting your modal question answered on the Internet; problem comes in when you ask a question and the answer comes in using the method you are not familiar with, and the person giving the answer does not qualify his answer as being in relative or parallel. Probably not even knowing there are two ways of looking at this beast.

    Until the band is giving you lead breaks, or you need to fill your bass lines with melodic fills don't jump off into modes, they are addictive and lead you down roads that need not be traveled -- yet.

    Have fun.
  6. So if I took C maj and played from G (the 5th) would that be mixolydian? So if you take C (C D E F G A B C) and start from G (G A B C D E F) you get the mixolydian? If so is that C mixolydian?
    I'm asking mainly because I recently made a cigar box guitar, and I'm trying to learn some melodies on just one string so I want some scales and modes in the key of G (because it's tuned to open G) to write some blues lines using scales other than the blues and pentatonic scales. So Dorian would be the obvious choice?
  7. Haha, I wouldn't worry about that, I can't afford frets! Haha :D
  8. Basshoofd


    Jan 14, 2009
    Modes are a very simple concept. Let's take an example sequence: ABCD. This is just an abstract example, they are not musical notes. Now write the exact same sequence, but start on the second unit: BCDA. It's still the same sequence, just on a different starting point (B is always followed by C, C is always followed by D etc.) This is a mode. The sequence ABCD has 4 units, so there are 4 modes for it.

    ABCD (original sequence, 1st mode)
    BCDA (2nd mode)
    CDAB (3rd mode)
    DABC (4th mode)

    That's all there is to it. Modes are a sequence starting from a different point. Apply this to music by taking a C major scale:


    Write down the same sequence but with all the different starting points. (Major scales have 7 notes, so 7 different starting points are possible)

    CDEFGAB 1st mode
    DEFGABC 2nd mode
    EFGABCD 3rd mode
    FGABCDE 4th mode
    GABCDEF 5th mode
    ABCDEFG 6th mode
    . . . . . . . 7th mode

    Now you figure out the 7th mode of the C major scale...

    When doing this to a major scale, you are working out the "modes of the major scale". All these modes have their own name. Just remember them by heart.

    1st mode = Ionian
    2nd mode = Dorian
    3rd mode = Phrygian
    4th mode = Lydian
    5th mode = Mixolydian
    6th mode = Aeolian
    7th mode = Locrian

    In the above example of the major scale, you name the modes by the first letter of the sequence. So in C major, the first mode is "C Ionian". The second mode is "D Dorian". The 6th mode is "A Aeolian" etc.
  9. Portphilia


    Jun 8, 2012

    Yes, playing a G scale using only notes from the C major scale would be G mixolydian. :bassist:
  10. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Well, yes and no. If you play the notes of a C Major scale over a G7 chord that's functioning as the V chord in C Major, you're not playing G Mixolydian, you're playing in C Major. Of course, C Major is a mode: Ionian; we just don't normally think of that as "modal."

    The important point about what makes music "modal" is that, in this case, the tonic would have to be G7. Take a song like Paperback Writer. It's in G, but it's not in G Major, it's in G Mixolydian. You play the notes of a G7 chord, which are the notes of a C Major scale as you indicated above, but the difference is that G is the tonic - as expressed by a G7. In this case, the G7 is functioning as the I chord (a I7), not as a V chord of C Major.
  11. bass_study


    Apr 17, 2012
    Yes this is the best explanation
  12. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    An equally important part of this is thinking about the chord tones each of these produces. Simply, take the 1-3-5-7 of each scale and that will give you the diatonic chord it matches.
    C Ionian
    CDEFGABC yields C-E-G-B or a C major 7th chord
    DEFGABCD yields D-F-A-C or a D minor 7th chord
    EFGABCDE yields E-G-B-D or an E minor 7th chord
    FGABCDEF yields F-A-C-E or an F major 7th chord
    GABCDEFG yields G-B-D-F or a G dominant 7th chord
    ABCDEFGA yields A-C-E-G or an A minor 7th chord
    BCDEFGAB yields B-D-F-A or a B minor 7th flat 5 (or B half-diminished chord)
    As Bassists, it's more important to think of the chord tones first as they are strong notes to create bass lines. The leftover scale tones (2-4-6) are the upper extensions of the chord/scale system (9-11-13, which is basically 2+7, 4+7 and 6+7 since they are 7 steps higher in an upper octave). You can then use any one of the chromatic scale tones you haven't played to spice things up further.
    Hope this helps out. Here's a sheet that outlines all of this.:bassist:
    Fingerings but no TAB. Try this, find each step of the C major scale on your A string, walk up the bass neck and plug in the fingerings in one position each (the only exception is the Dorian where you will start on the 5th fret aka 5th position on the A and D and drop back one fret to 4th position on the G string.)

    Attached Files:

  13. If you arrange the modes on the white keys in order of the circle of fifths, an interesting pattern emerges.

    F -T-T-T-s-T-T-s- lydian
    C -T-T-s-T-T-T-s- ionian
    G -T-T-s-T-T-s-T- mixolydian
    D -T-s-T-T-T-s-T- dorian
    A -T-s-T-T-s-T-T- aeolian
    E -s-T-T-T-s-T-T- phrygian
    B -s-T-T-s-T-T-T- locrian
    The major-ish modes are all above Dorian, and the minor-ish modes are all below. By that I mean that above Dorian, the majority of intervals (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc) are major intervals. Below Dorian, the majority of intervals are minor intervals. Dorian has an equal number of major and minor intervals. It's also an inversion of itself, whereas the other modes are inversions of their partner on the opposite side of Dorian.
  14. phmike


    Oct 25, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    Not singling anyone out in this or other threads but when I see modes discussed there
    are very often misunderstandings between how to "_construct_" a mode and how to
    "_use_" a mode.

    Other folks may find modes useful or musical but for me, strictly following a mode
    when I play bass will be the very last thing I consider. A guitar player "mode'n it up"
    sounds very unmusical to me.
  15. What modes mean to me is that the major/minor diatonic scales are all really one scale. If you're playing a song in A minor, and you do a 7 note run up starting on C, it will sound like a C major scale. So, if you want to keep the minor feel of the song, don't throw in scale runs that start on C. Don't play chords anchored on the b3.
  16. AFRO


    Aug 29, 2010
    I probably should keep my mouth shut as I am not well versed, however;

    What most folks seem to miss out on with modes is that the order of the intervals between the Diatonic Scale's notes change. A mode is a pattern of whole and semi tones..so just because you have the same note names, you DO NOT HAVE the same INTERVALS between the degrees of the scales. (so you have a new/different scale for each of the starting points of a diatonic scale.)

    (Root)-T-T-S-T-T-T-S-(octave) = Ionian C-D-EF-G-A-BC
    (R)-T-S-T-T-T-S-T-(octave) = Aeolian A-BC-D-EF-G-A
    These two scales contain the same notes, but they are not the same scale! they are different because the intervals between the starting/ending notes. (as well as which note is the starting note.) when you play C Major, and A minor they do not sound the same, yet they contain the same notes (relative, as Malcom mentioned)

    If you want C-Aeolian you take the "Aeolian pattern" and start with the note C as your root note.
    (R)-T-S-T-T-T-S-T = C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb-C (a.k.a. C minor)

    If you want the A-Ionian you take the "Ionian pattern" and start with A as your root note.
    (R)-T-T-S-T-T-T-S = A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#-A (a.k.a. A Major)
    etc. etc...

    so if you take C-Dorian, and D-Dorian
    R-T-S-T-T-T-S-T-(octave) C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C
    see the difference between C-Dorian and D-Dorian? observe the notes are different, but the intervals are the same...so they will sound the similar in structure when you play the scale one after another..

    Another thing is, it is hard to explain via the web..you need a vamp of a few chords to play over..one that is long enough for you to HEAR the mode against the chords. a looper or willing buddy will be of great help here. but its the listening part that seems to get overlooked with the explaination of modes..

    there is more to it than this. I think this may help you some.
    AGAIN,...I am not the expert but these threads come up a lot. this is my $0.02

  17. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    Good point. To me, the modes are notes that connect chord tones. I think about it like constructing a house. The chord tones are the framing (they hold the roof up), the modes are the drywall (they keep the wind out, but can't hold the roof up by itself) and the chromatic notes in between are the paint (they make it pretty and add color).
  18. MrCincinnati


    Mar 6, 2011
    I don't solo and I use modes all the time. It's an easy way to start anywhere in the chord progression of a given song and stay in key while riffing/running without having to think about actual notes (I memorize the shapes of the modes on fretboard etc). So I try to picture say a 4th degree (lydian) from where I'm at and I know where I can go quickly without much "theory" involved just because I know the "shape" of the 4th degree etc.

    That said I suck so maybe don't listen to me
  19. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Chords before modes!

    IMHO, for a novice, modes can tend to be a rabbit hole of endless circular chasing that yields very little of practical value.
    For constructing good bass lines, understanding chords is far and away more practical than understanding modes.

    If you don't yet know how to harmonize a major scale, and understand chords as those ii-V7-I type roman numeral progressions, stop worrying about modes and learn that first.
  20. mbeall


    Jun 25, 2003
    Welcome to Talk Bass's favorite semantic argument.

    The term modes was originally used exclusively for "modal" music in which an entire song or at least large sections are comprised of a single "mode" i.e. Miles Davis's So What which moves from D dorian(16 bars) to Eb Dorian(8bars) and back to D Dorian(8bars). The extended vamp allows the composer or improviser to explore the sound of the mode as each one has it's own unique sound. This is a "purist" view of the modes and modal music. Given that modal music and composition has fallen our of favor to music based around chord progressions many modern musicians have applied the modal concepts around chordal applications and as a result the modes used in this context are sometimes referred to a "chord scales." As a chord scale each mode has a corresponding chord. i.e. A Dm7 can be built from the D dorian mode in "So What". Here's the basic list lifted from the Gary Keller book:


    Diatonic “Major Scale” Modes
    The first on the list.

    1) Ionian - C D E F G A B - Cmaj7
    2) Dorian - D E F G A B C - Dm7
    3) Phrygian - E F G A B C D - Em7(b9)
    4) Lydian - F G A B C D E - Fmaj7(#11)
    5) Mixolydian - G A B C D E F - G7
    6) Aeolian - A B C D E F G – Am7(b6)
    7) Locrian - B C D E F G A - Bm7b5

    Harmonic Minor Modes
    Here are the "technical" names for the Harmonic Minor modes according to Gary Keller's book which is kind of becoming the standard in teaching these days.

    1) Aeolian #7 - A B C D E F G# - AmMaj7(b6)
    2) Locrian #6 - B C D E F G# A - Bm7b5/Bdim7
    3) Ionian #5 - C D E F G# A B - Cmaj7#5
    4) Dorian #4 - D E F G# A B C - Dm7(#11)
    5) Phrygian #3 - E F G# A B C D - E7(b9,b13)
    6) Lydian #2 - F G# A B C D E - Fmaj7(#9)
    7) Mixolydian #1 - G# A B C D E F - G#dim7

    These names may seem odd at first, I know I found them strange, but once you look at the notes it makes sense. The system is designed to relate these modes to the modes of the major scale, so instead of learning a whole bunch of new scales/modes, you just change one note from the major modes you already know and you've got your harmonic minor modes.

    Melodic Minor Modes
    Sure, here's the names for the Melodic Minor modes according to Keller:

    1) Dorian #7 - C D Eb F G A B - CmMaj7
    2) Phrygian #6 - D Eb F G A B C - D7sus(b9)
    3) Lydian #5 - Eb F G A B C D - Ebmaj7(#5)
    4) Mixolydian #4 - F G A B C D Eb - F7(#11)
    5) Aeolian #3 - G A B C D Eb F - G7(b13)
    6) Locrian #2 - A B C D Eb F G - Am7b5(#9)
    7) Ionian #1 - B C D Eb F G A - B7alt



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