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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Sippy, Sep 26, 2005.

  1. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    I was just practicing with the dorian and phrygian modes when I realized I know nothing about them. Why are they called "modes" why do they have the greek names, and what are they actually? What purpose do they solve?
  2. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    more than you could possibly ever want to know about modes is contained here:


    one of the most practical bass applications of modes is in helping you make useful note choices over a diatonic chord sequence...

    e.g. Cmaj7 - Am7 - Fmaj7 - G7

    all the notes in the above chord sequence can be found in the key of C major (modally, C Ionian), so a simple way of finding the 'right' (i.e. diatonic) notes to play over each chord would be to find the relevant mode for the key:

    Cmaj7 - C Ionian
    Am7 - A Aeolian
    Fmaj7 - F Lydian
    G7 - G Mixolydian

    obviously the fun and spice comes from throwing 'outside' notes into the mix but if your main concern is to play within the key, modes can really help understand this...

    i.e. if we're in G major, and the chord goes to Am, unless something else happens in the music to modify the harmony, i'm always thinking 'Dorian' for that Am chord... it's just a useful framework for negotiating standard chord sequences
  3. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    My teacher explained it in an interesting way, modes are 'mini-scales' within a scale. They are simply scales that start on a note OTHER than the root note of the scale.

    Modes have the same notes as the scale that they are played in, but they start on different points in that scale.

    For example, look at C Major
    The notes are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

    The general chord structure to major scales is Major, Minor, Minor, Major, Dominant, Minor, Half Diminished.

    So for a C major scale the corresponding chords would be Cmaj, Dmin, Emin, Fmaj, Gdom, Amin, C half-diminished

    1st Mode = Ionian which starts on the FIRST/ROOT note = C major
    2nd Mode = Dorian which starts on the SECOND note = D minor
    3rd Mode = Phrygian which starts on the THIRD note = E minor

    The idea of modes is to give a different sounds than just the basic mode, and hence you get all the fancy soloing and jamming that so many of us enjoy so much. it also gives you options to add some flavour to a dull song by playing the arpeggios to the modes.

    As far as the name, i was told by my teacher that Pythagoras discovered modes mathematically and named them after his seven mathematical schools.
  4. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    That is very interesting about Pythagoras! My next question is, how do you turn a mode into the "fancy soloing and jamming" ? I know my scales, and I know the modes, I just cannot pull off the impromptu solos that I see a lot of people doing. My Instructor just has me do little improvs from like a 1 4 5 4 type pattern, but how does one take the modes and turn them into a solo? Thanks :)
  5. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Here's a couple of ideas on how to uses scales.


  6. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    I believe that no-one can really teach you that. everyone has different personalities, so everyone will create different solos. Its a creative process, you just have to practice it and learn how to express YOURSELF. I'm finding it very difficult to make the modes and pentatonics sound anything like music, but it just takes practice i guess.
  7. Marzer


    Apr 26, 2005
    So if I play in...F, and the chord progression is F G A# C do i

    stay in F ionian

    or what do i do when it changes from F to G?

    or like

    F ionian
    G dorian

    or is G dorian only if im playing Gm on the Fmaj scale?
  8. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Yes and Yes

    Either way would work, but they will sound different. Neither is right or wrong, just better for certain situations.
  9. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Just wanted to clear up that Pythagoras, who was the first to write about harmonic intervals, did not discover the 7 modes. Aristoxenus (generations after Pythagoras) wrote about ideas similar to our modes, but the major modes were really made up in the middle ages and attributed falsely to the early Greeks, with incorrect Greek names.

    Anyway, sorry for the spiel, but I just sat through a lecture on the subject on Monday.