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The reason for Modes

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Marson, Jan 18, 2009.

  1. While I have been trying to study theory I've found that modes confuse me slightly. This might be rectified with a simple answer or not but here it goes: When your playing in the scale of E Ionian then you would shift up to F# dorian, why would you not just use F ionian instead? I understand the need for the different modes in the one major scale, Does that make sense?
  2. DRay521


    Aug 2, 2007
    Tuscaloosa, AL
    I may be misunderstanding your question, but F Dorian isn't a mode of the E major (or Ionian) scale. The Dorian in E major is F#. If I'm reading the OP correctly, you wouldn't want to play F Ionian or Dorian over an E major.

    Does that help? Or even answer the original question?
  3. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    The "idea" behind modes is basically this: imagine a normal major scale, for example C major, which is C D E F G A B C. The scale itself is called Ionian. Then move to the next note and form a scale that starts and ends with it and build it using the notes from the Ionian scale. What you get is D E F G A B C D (D Dorian). Then move the next note from the Ionian scale and do the same, which gets you E F G A B C D E (E Phrygian). Rinse and repeat until you get to B Locrian (B C D E F G A B).

    What's useful about this is that if you play in a song in C major which consists of, say, the chords C major, D minor, F major and G major and want to create an interesting bass line, using the modes that start with the same notes as the root root notes of the chords will always lead to good-sounding results. It'll help you avoid "wrong" notes and you'll always know where the root is. For example, when playing over the C major chord use C Ionian, when playing over the D minor chord use D Dorian, and so forth.

    This isn't the only way to use them, of course, they also sound cool in other contexts.

    So, yeah, DRay521 is right, the "correct" way to play Dorian in E major would be F# Dorian because E Ionian is E F# G# A B C# D# E.
  4. Ya sorry I meant F# but so what am I am asking is you would use the different modes throughout the progression of the song; like you said when playing over C major I would use C ionian but why couldnt I use C dorian for example, and same thing with D minor instead of using D dorian why not D Phrygian
  5. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    Of course you can, but in most cases the results will sound pretty strange.

    I'm not trying to patronize you but do you know the difference between minor and major chords/scales?

    Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian sound major-ish (they contain a major third) and Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian and Locrian sound minor-ish (they contain a minor third).

    If you played C Dorian over a C major chord, you'd play a minor scale over a major chord which will sound "wrong" in many cases.

    C Ionian has the following notes: C D E F G A B C
    C Dorian has the following notes: C D Eb (minor third) F G A Bb C

    See the difference?
  6. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    To put it simply, scales and modes are scaffording for melodies.
  7. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    You can see modes as been part of a tonality or key center because it is just a scale that start on a different root. Which will make the arrangement of intervals different each time you start on a new note in the scale. It is very important to understand the construction of tone and half-tone because this is what makes a mode unique compare to another one ,his construction of tone and half-tone. This is what makes a particuliar mode being what it is! The best way if you have ever played a piano is to make a reference to all the whites notes. In Pop music the chords are VERY often based on the same tonality so let say something like C-Amin-F-G. Those are all chords based on the white keys of the piano so if you play the whites keys and start on each root you just played modes in the key of C major which will make the music very consonnant. We mainly use modes as a way to speak for organising notes or sounds in a musical and logical way.

    I hope this will make some sense to you,

  8. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    The trouble with that approach is you are thinking a major scale when suppose to be playing a minor sound Dorian. That is why so many new to modes have trouble understanding them. Each mode has a related chord family and that means the note you emphasize should change.

    Also modes is a very overloaded word and people use them in many ways improv and composition the most common.
  9. HelloJerk


    Dec 28, 2008
    La Jolla, CA
    The reason for modes is clearly to confuse people.

    You can generate modes from the major scale (also called the Ionian mode). If you begin a major scale from any note other than the root, play the same notes (not the pattern) you would play in the original major scale, and end an octave higher from where you began, you would be playing one of the six modes that are not the Ionian mode. If you can play the major scale then you can figure out your modes.

    This being said, if you are playing a song written in E major, and a portion of the song is harmonized using F# minor, you could compose or improvise a bass melody using the notes from the F# Dorian mode. If you played F# Ionian over an F# minor harmony, it might sound awkward (this could be the effect you are trying to achieve, but probably not).

    This being said, not every song is written using modes. You could encounter a song whose tonal center is E and has a portion of the song harmonized using F# major; in this case you could compose or improvise a bass melody using the notes from the F# Ionian mode.

    I think that the best way to understand modes and how they are used in compositions is to study songs; look at how modes are used and pay close attention to how modes are ignored.
  10. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    Hey DocBop.........Chord family? I've you studied with Dick Grove?

  11. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I studied at Dick Grove's and worked there for about six years in various positions at the original school in Studio City. Dick was one of the greatest music educators I wish I still had by old Harmonic Relationship book. I also studied with other great teachers over the years.
  12. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    I was there in 84-85. It was the best musical ecducation I ever had. Dick was such a genius.

    I knew there was something there with the Chord Family thing ;-).
    Nobody but Grove's former students use that which is totally awesome.

    Sly (the french canadian left-hand bass player LOL)

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