Question about modes and key signatures

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by CollinR, Sep 4, 2010.

  1. CollinR


    Aug 23, 2010
    So I have been experimenting with modes alot lately and have a rudimentary grasp on how there constructed but need some help on how to apply them.

    My first question is if you start with a C major scale, then turn that into the phrygian, which would make the root of the scale E, does that make it a C phrygian or an E phrygian? I would guess it would be an E phrygian because it becomes the root despite being composed of the C major scale.

    My next question is assuming I'm correct what would be the optimum thing to play in tandem with a melody derived from an E phrygian scale? So for example the guitar is playing a melody in that mode and I want to not just play the root of E on the bass what chords would work well? Should I simply bump aroud the mode as well or are there specific intervals that will sound well in various modes?

    My last question regards minor key signatures. The key of G major contains the same notes as the E minor scale. Does that mean that the G major scale is synonymous to the E minor scale? If so would the same notes in the key be relative major and minor? Would G,C, and D all be major in te key of E minor or is it calculated differently based off the true E minor key?

    Thanks for the help in advance.
  2. edot3021


    Jan 29, 2010
    Austin, TX
    I am really excited to see if I get this right because I've been trying to learn this stuff all week.

    So everything is can trace back to the C major scale -

    C D E F G A B C
    w-w-h-w-w-w-h <---that is the pattern of whole and half steps = your mode, in this case Ionian.

    If you start at E you will get

    E F G A B C D E - Still in the Cmaj
    h-w-w-w-h-w-w - phrygian mode, basically the same thing but starting at the E and going from there. So in a sense you are right.

    The second question I don't know how to answer.

    The third is that you are right again. In G major, E is the 6th/vi and thus the relative minor. In a C major scale the 6th/vi is A and thus the relative minor containing the same notes, and so on and so on. The minor scale is basically Aeolian mode, so nice they named it twice.

    I hope someone can tell me where I am right and wrong so I have a better understanding, but that is my understanding of it. I hope it helps.
  3. jmac


    May 23, 2007
    Lancaster, Pa
    The roman numeral for six is "vi" not "iv"; which is four.
  4. edot3021


    Jan 29, 2010
    Austin, TX
    Thanks jmac. I really need to proof read before I hit the button.
  5. Yes. The actual notes are still the C Major scale notes - The E major scale is E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#. Now if you apply the Phrygian WWH you get 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7 and if you flat the F#, G#, C# and D# you end up with the notes of the C major scale - and we do call that E Phrygian. Question why not just play the natural minor scale and flat the 2? More on that later.

    I would hope you are playing over a modal vamp. The E Phrygian scale is the E natural minor scale with a lowered second, so let's find chords with the b2 or F note in them. How about; Fmaj7, Dm7, Bm7(b5), G7

    Here's some vamps to use under that guitar solo - Notice these vamps are two chords that loop, over and over. It's the sustain of the Phrygian mood you need:

    |: Em7 | Fmaj7 :|
    |: Em7 | Dm7 :|
    |: Em7 | Bm7(b5) :|
    |: Em7 | G7 :| ​
    So If you are playing over one of those modal vamps base your bass line on those chords. That probably did not answer your question, however, I wanted you to see what should happen. If you are playing Phrygian, 1) it's a minor mode, so you want some minor chords to play over. To get the Phrygian mood you need to have the b2 note in the mix. Again why a vamp? Only reason to play a mode is for it's mood. A vamp lets the mood develop. A chord progression calls attention to the tonal center of the scale - that probably has nothing to do with the mood you are looking for - the minor flatted 2nd of Phrygian. Now how the song was written and what the rest of the guys are doing is another story.

    I'll try and answer it this way. The notes and the chords are the same in both - you have to look at how the chords are used. If the song revolves around the three major chords your Major. If the song revolves around the three minor chords your minor. Now a G-C-D7 progression will a lot of times have the Em and Am chords in the progression -- in this case the Em and the Am are the ii and vi chords aka color chords -- not the i tonic and iv sub-dominant. What you look for is the I or i, IV or iv and the V or v chords then make your decision is it major or minor.

    Now you asked how to use modes. I do not do as you have outlined, instead I use the major scale as home base for my major modes....
    Major scale = 1, 2, 3,.. 4, 5, 6,.. 7
    Ionian ...... = 1, 2, 3,.. 4, 5, 6,.. 7 Same
    Lydian...... = 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6,. 7 one note different
    Mixolydian. = 1, 2, 3,.. 4, 5, 6, b7 one note different

    If I want Lydian's dreamy mood I just use the major scale and sharp the 4th. If I want Mixolydian's Mexican or Blues mood I use the major scale and flat the 7th. And if I want a happy, up beat mood, the major scale will give me that.

    If you think that has merit - figure out the minor and diminished mode yourself - that fish thing. Hint Dorian will have a natural 6, we found that Phrygian will have the flatted 2 and Locrian will have a flat 2 and 5. The natural minor scale is home base for the minor modes.

    This will come in handy.
  6. CollinR


    Aug 23, 2010
    Thanks for the helpful info! Could you expand on this a little more? I'm not very familiar with modal vamps. If there is a good resoure that describes this then a link would work as well.
  7. Technically you're flatting the 5th... or are you diminishing it? or am I being a smart ass?
    I was still editing my post - I added this just a moment ago.
    There are related articles in blue print. Check them out.

    BTW I changed my mind on that Cmaj7 - go back and read what I now say.

    Good luck.
  9. Here is what I was talking about.
    C Lydian
    intervals: 1,2,3,#4,5,6,7
    half-steps: 2-2-2-1-2-2-1
    notes: C,D,E,F#,G,A,B
  10. Oh wow I was trying to be a smart ass too hard; I read Lydian as Locrian! :rollno:

    Yeah Lydian is totally a sharp 4... Or is it AUGMENTED?!:D
  11. Depends where you are from. We say sharped in my neck of the woods. ;)
  12. Rudreax


    Jun 14, 2008
    New York, NY
    This all becomes much easier to understand when you realize that you're better off identifying all scales by the intervals that form them.
  13. the greatest book i ever read as far as scale/mode connections is concerned is mark levines "jazz theory book" it gives a very goods explanation as to how modes are in some ways different "chords" in the key signature that the scale relates to

    comes highly recommended by any music theory buff

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