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Newbie learning modes!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by RhythmBassist01, Aug 31, 2005.

  1. RhythmBassist01


    Aug 31, 2005
    hi, I'm new at talkbass and was wanting to ask some questions about modes. I've done all the reading in the stickes and other threads, but what I want to know is, how are modes constructed, and what are they used for?

    Thank you for replys.
  2. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    Modes are scales.
    Think of the C major scale -- the white keys on the piano from C to C. That particular order of whole steps and half steps is the Ionian mode. Now go D to D (still all white keys); that's the Dorian mode. E to E is the Phrygian mode, F to F is the Lydian mode, G to G is the Mixolydian mode, A to A is the Aeolian mode, and B to B is the Lochrian mode.

    Important: Each of these whole step and half step orders can start on any note, so, for example, you can have C Dorian, the notes of which would be C D Eb F G A Bb C.

    The crucial thing is that each mode (in any key) has a particular color or mood.

    Examples of applications:
    If you were playing walking bass in a simple blues tune, you could play Mixolydian modes for each of the chords-- the I, IV and V chords. So, in this example, a blues in C would employ the C Mixolydian, F Mixolydian and G Mixolydian modes.
    C Mixolydian: C D E F G A Bb C
    F Mixolydian: F G A Bb C D Eb F
    G Mixolydian: G A B C D E F G
    In jazz, you have examples of tunes written around modes. A classic example is "So What" by Miles Davis. This consists of 16 bars of D Dorian, 8 of Eb Dorian, then another 8 of D Dorian. So it's just one scale being moved up and down.

    No time for me to elaborate any more... gotta go right now... anyone else?
    (And please, I don't want to hear anyone pontificating that it takes a lifetime of study to have any idea about modes. Let's just give this newbie some useful, basic information to start with, okay? No recommendations to transcribe Coltrane solos.) :ninja:
  3. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    My preferred method of learning modes. Rather, the way *I* learned them.

    It's called LIMDAPL, which stands for
    Lydian, Ionian, Mixolydian, Dorian, Aeolian, Phyrgian, Locrian

    That's the order to learn them, the method behind this. Moving from the brightest sounding mode to the darkest sounding mode.

    You start with the brightest This is Lydian. The reason lydian sounds this way is because it is identical to Ionian, except the 4th degree is raised a half step.

    An Ionian(major) scale with a raised 4th is a Lydian scale:

    C lydian = C-D-E-F#-G-A-B-C

    Lowering the 4th of a Lydian scale gives you an Ionian scale:

    *major scale* C Ionian = C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C

    By lowering the 7th of a major scale gives you the mixolydian scale:

    C Mixolydian = C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C

    Lowering the 3rd of a mixolydian scale gives you a dorian scale:

    C Dorian = C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb-C

    Lowering the 6th of a Dorian scale gives you an Aeolian(natural minor) scale:

    C Aeolian = C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C

    Lowering the 2nd of an aeolian scale gives you a Phrygian scale:

    C Phrygian = C-Db-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C

    Finally, Lowering the 5th of a Phrygian scale gives you a Locrian scale:

    C Locrian = C-Db-Eb-F-Gb-Ab-Bb-C

    It might be a little confusing, I hope I explained it decently. I've found this method of learning the modes a lot more beneficial towards actually LEARNING them and UNDERSTANDING them. That's just my experience though, I would personally prefer to know that a Dorian scale has a b2 and b7 rather than have to think "dorian.. okay... that's like ionian only a whole step up... meaning...etc."

    This method of learning is what solidified the whole concept of modes in my mind, and since applying it, I haven't even ever really needed to think about them, I just know them now.

  4. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    I'm in the same boat as you. But THIS is the best way i've ever read it. Taken from http://www.lucaspickford.com/

    Understanding the Modes

    By Lucas Pickford

    The Modes are fundamental to almost every type of music. Jazz, Rock, and pop use these parent scales all the time to make melodies and build harmonies on. A thorough understanding of them is absolutely essential to anyone interested in improvising in any of the aforementioned styles. Some people think that the Modes are complicated and mysterious. In fact, they are easy to learn and understand even for a beginner. In my opinion the Modes are best learned in two general categories, major modes and minor modes. The major modes all have a natural 3rd and 7th with the exception of Mixolydian, which has a flatted 7th.

    The minor modes all have a flatted 3rd and a flatted 7th. Each mode has a very characteristic sound that sets it apart from the others. If you take just the major modes and learn them say over a one-week period, and the tackle the minor modes the next week, you'll have them down. My advice is to see the similarities between the Modes. Most of them only differ by one note in the whole scale. When you have the Modes down your music vocabulary goes up exponentially. The key of course is knowing where to apply them and what types of chords that they fit over. I will explain all of that very soon. For now, just get familiar with them on your instrument.

    The Modes are like the ABC's. When you have them down, there's no limit to what you can say.

    Major Modes in Key of C

    * Ionian: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8)
    * Lydian: C-D-E-F#-G-A-B-C (1 2 3 +4 5 6 7 8)
    * Mixolydian: C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C (1 2 3 4 5 6 -7 8)

    Minor Modes in Key of C

    * Dorian: C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb-C (1 2 -3 4 5 6 -7 8)
    * Aeolian: C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C (1 2 -3 4 5 -6 -7 8)
    * Phrygian: C-Db-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C (1 -2 -3 4 5 -6 -7 8)
    * Locrian: C-Db-Eb-F-Gb-Ab-Bb-C (1 -2 -3 4 -5 -6 -7 8)
    keyofnight likes this.
  5. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I like the fact that there are multiple methods presented here, hopefully rhythmbassist01 will be able to sort through and figure out which works best for him.

    I would comment on Pick's method though. It certainly has its perks, but the thing I would point out is that by separating the major modes into minor and major sub categories, you risk running into some confusion when you start looking at the minor modes.

    ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, aeolian, locrian these are all 'major modes' in that they are derived from the major scale. Despite some of them clearly being minor tonalities(remember how a major scale is constructed maj-min-min-maj-maj-min-min(b5)-maj) And they are clearly 'minor scales' They should not be confused with the actual minor modes(melodic minor, harmonic minor and all those silly unnamed ones)

    So, that's my quibble there, but, I think that anyone learning the modes of the minor scale would be well versed in the modes of the major scale enough to not have any problems there.
  6. I would disagree. I think the whole "major modes" concept is one of the things that hinder understanding of modes, because it gives the idea that these modes are somehow inseparably tied to the major scale and major tonality, when that's clearly not the case. "So What" is an obvious example. To relate that tune to a major key, in any sense, would be nonsensical.

    Pickford's approach is better IMO because it addresses what the modes themselves *actually sound like* in and of themselves. It really makes little sense to think of, say, the aeolian mode as in any sense major when it's obviously a minor modality. The fact that these modes can be *derived* from the major scale is relatively trivial. IMO there's no meaningful sense in which the aeolian mode is fundamentally a major anything.
  7. RhythmBassist01


    Aug 31, 2005
    Thanks for the feedback.

    I'm pretty sure I have a good understanding on the subject now.

    I now know what direction I need to go to keep learning about modes.

    Thanks once again.

    See Ya
  8. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    Ironically. I blame berklee. In that, I was very knowledgeable of the modes of the major scale when I got to berklee. From there I was introduced to the Modes of the minor scale. As such, Thinking of the modes of the major scale as minor modes becomes somewhat backwards thinking for me. The irony is that Pick is the model of an ideal berklee student. Full ride, completed 4 years, I'm sure he got his handful of accolades..etc. And here he is teaching something that clashes with *my* berklee acquired habits. Shrug. It's all good, as I said, different methods will resonate differently with different people. I can't imagine I'm the only theory student to ever be put in between conflicting nomenclature.

    Considering most people *learn* the modes from how they can derive them from other scales. I think that it's a perfectly valid point. I fully support teaching from a more 'applicable' sense. But, more so, I support examining all the methods of approaching this material and seeing not only what works for you, but what works for others, and why, and why not. Just because there are more 'efficient' or 'logical' methods, does not mean they will necessarily teach someone more efficiently ya know?

    I do agree that pick's method *is* good, that it is good to understand the tonalities of all the modes independently of their labels and 'parent' scales. But I stand by what I said, that, for some students(specifically cases like myself) it might be a little bit confusing and/or backwards.

    THAT SAID. I would be totally in favor of a system that combined all those funny minor modes in with the major scale modes. I think that would ultimately be the most ideal. Putting them all in one big category. But, it might be too much to swallow for a beginner theory student... but maybe not.
  9. Kurisu


    Nov 19, 2003
    Saskatoon SK
    Now... Covering or chord scales? ;)