1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

What are modes and how do I use them?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Stuggi, Jun 7, 2007.


  1. Could someone explain the concept of modes to me since I have no clue what is meant with "modes" and what good they do...

    Thanks.
     
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    It just means starting a scale at a different point, rather than always going from root to root - although that is one 'mode'!

    They are useful as it means if you have only learnt say a major scale - you can use the same scale/pattern but start it on a different note and it will fit over a minor-sounding chord! :)
     
  3. Okay, that makes a lot of sence. I first thought it had something to do with modes on the violin, which means that you place your indexfinger on a specific note on the thickes string.
     
  4. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Actually, that's not it at all Bruce. That's one way to explain how they're constructed, but that's not what they are. Modes are each scales in their own right, and should be approached as such. F lydian is NOT the same as C ionian.
     
  5. Then what are they?`:D
     
  6. GeezerFleaWoote

    GeezerFleaWoote

    Dec 31, 2006
    a mode of c major (CDEFGABC) would be d dorian (DEFGABCD). same notes, just a different starting point. the scale also has a different sound, as does each mode.
     
  7. Rune Bivrin

    Rune Bivrin Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2006
    Huddinge, Sweden
    Modes...

    Primarily a way to make it sound like you apply advanced theory when playing, rather than just playing what sounds good.
    :bag:

    While I'm sure modes have a place and some players go advanced and do all manner of deep stuff with modes, most of the time it's just a fancy way of saying: "Follow the root of the chord, stick to the notes in the key, and you'll be OK".

    For more info:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_mode
     
  8. RiddimKing

    RiddimKing

    Dec 29, 2004
    "Modes...

    Primarily a way to make it sound like you apply advanced theory when playing, rather than just playing what sounds good."


    Umm...no. I'm no theory wonk whatsoever, and I find knowing certain modes has been one of the most practical and useful abilities. For example, knowing the fingering for the Mixolydian mode allows me to play over blues changes, as well as figuring out "what sounds right" for a lot of the rock 'n' roll songs I attempt. To the original poster: a mode is a scale, and like any scale it has a tonal center. A D Dorian is going to resolve to D (generally), so knowing it comes from C Ionian isn't going to help you identify what it sounds like. Forget about where the mode derives from (unless you want to know from a theoretical pov): just learn the fingerings (and the sound) of the modes that apply to the sort of music you want to play. A teacher is a great investment for this sort of learning...
     
  9. Fun thing is that I've been taking lessons for 5 years weekly (for the moderate cost of 100 € per year). and I've never played anything like it.

    So what you mean is that:
    cdefgabc is one mode
    defgabcd is another mode
    efgabcde is a third mode

    Am I getting this right, or am I just plain stupid? :D
     
  10. Rune Bivrin

    Rune Bivrin Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2006
    Huddinge, Sweden
    Well, I was being slightly facetious. Theory is quite useful in practice ;). What I really meant is that it sometimes seems like people talk of modes as if to appear advanced, and when you analyze what they say it amounts to "Follow the root of the chord, stick to the notes in the key, and you'll be OK".

    Knowing the modes and how they're fingered is really useful as it makes doing the above with minimum effort simple. And of course, while a lot of regular popular music are either straight Major or Minor, there are certainly variations. Blues is one.

    I strongly feel that you should approach playing music from both a modal aspect and a functional aspect (as well as a "Shut up and listen" aspect). Personally, I tend to see the fretboard with imaginary markers where the notes in the key are, but it's just as valid to see different modes. I just feel I need to do less view switching in most songs.

    So if you're playing a bog standard I-vi-IV-V (Diana, Teenager in love etc.) tune in C major you can either say you play
    C ionian
    A aeolian
    F lydian
    G mixolydian

    or you can say you play in C major, following the root.

    Either way, you're not really conveying much information. You're pointing out a set of notes that you might choose from, and what you're going to play on the "1". You can also view that as a hint as where to move your left hand.

    Most musical styles has a set of fixed patterns that you'll apply by default, using a characteristic subset of the available notes in a characteristic rythm. When you're playing along to a song on the radio that you don't really know the bass line to (or even the chords), that's most likely what you'll use.

    Going outside of those patterns is what makes music exceptional. Sometimes it happens by chance, and seeing the value of that is a talent. That's characteristic of a lot of Beatles songs. They didn't really know what they were doing theoretically, but they could definitely spot a good mistake when they made one.

    Other times it's done with full knowledge of the "rules" being broken. That's equally valid and definitely makes composing easier in a way.
     
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam


    Well I was trying to make it easy for somebody who clearly has zero knowledge on this subject - I can remember what this was like and how this approach helped me - if you just want to be picky and score points about who is technically right and wrong - then go ahead - I was actually trying to help! :meh:
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    No - you have just been confused by people who are more concerned with proving their own credentials than actually helping...:meh:
     
  13. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Scotland
    You could say that, but you'd be wrong, even without the typo.

    You are only playing modally when the root note of that mode is the tonic.
     
  14. Rune Bivrin

    Rune Bivrin Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2006
    Huddinge, Sweden
    Aah, gotcha. I'll edit out the typo. Stupid not to proofread the most significant part of my typing.

    I'm definitely no theory geek, but this has me even more confused. Which somehow seems unavoidable when you discuss modes. There are so many definitions. Heck, even the mode names we use today would be wrong to an ancient Greek.
    However, is "playing modally" necessarily the same as "using modes when playing"? Not sure about that. Bass players and guitar players seem to be more inclined to use mode as a way to describe fingering, and thus changing as the chord changes. This doesn't make much sense to piano players or saxophone players, though. They don't have the luxury of transposition we have.

    From a compositional point of view it's true that a modal piece in D dorian stays on that mode, and so key and mode are pretty much interchangeable in that case. And that's certainly how I see most music when I play it.

    But try analyzing a blues that way and you're hosed. It's got too many blue notes, but that doesn't mean you can't use modes to describe the parts.
     
  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification

    So was I - and I take offense at the insinuation that I wasn't. I wasted more than a few years thinking modes were just the Major scale played from different roots. I didn't get it until much later - and I still think its one of the biggest pieces of misinformation foisted on students.

    To the OP - if you're really interested in modes, talk to your teacher. But learn them one at a time, learn the sound and function of each mode, and don't think of it as a major scale played from a different starting pitch. If you must, think of how they relate to the parallel major scale - dorian is a Major scale with a lowered 7th and lowered 3rd.
     
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well mostly from Jamey Abersold - I don't know what Chris F has to say about that - but it's part of most Jazz education courses....:eyebrow:
     
  17. Rune Bivrin

    Rune Bivrin Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2006
    Huddinge, Sweden
    Just for the record, I think Jon is absolutly correct. If you want to use the term "mode" and have it mean anything useful, you have think of major and minor as a subset of the available modes. It defines a key signature. C ionian = C major. Same root, same intervals.
    Part of the problem is that as far as I'm aware there's no generally accepted way of notating for example a D dorian tune and have it be clear that it isn't C major or A minor. You'll more or less have to infer that from opening or closing chords.
     
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well I have no doubt he is correct - but how does that help the OP ? It's just adding to the confusion...?

    My point is that when you are a beginner thinking - I have all these scales to learn :eek: - it helps to think : well these modes are really based on a single major scale and so there isn't actually quite so much to learn as it seems and if I learn this simple concept, I have a lot of options open to me, without having to learn hundreds of new fingerings! Phew! :)

    Of course eventually you get to a deeper understanding - but you have to start somewhere!
     
  19. Rune Bivrin

    Rune Bivrin Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2006
    Huddinge, Sweden
    Agreed in theory, but the problem is that the simple understanding might very well get in the way of the more advanced one. If you think you understand something fully, you're less likely to explore it further.

    In that sense I think the best advice is to just ignore modes until you've internalized major and minor. Then - and only then - it's time to get into the other modes, realizing you already know ionian and aeolian.

    Once you do that, it might be more helpful - and I'm not sure about this - to say that you can use the major scale as a map of the other modes. If you've forgotten what the intervals of mixolydian is, you can figure that out starting from the fifth note in a major scale, but that doesn't mean mixolydian is based off of the major scale.
     
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    In practice I have seen the exact opposite happen - I go to a lot of workshops, classes and a regular Jazz Summerschool.

    So - I have seen complete beginners be really happy at grasping these simple concepts and realising that they have a lot of potential material under their fingers - realising they can actually play a solo and gain huge confidence from this - really enjoy their experience and keep at it - learning more and getting to be good players!

    But also I have seen new players be totally depressed when somebody only said to them - 'just play what you hear' - fumble around and look confused and embarassed - get dispirited and never come back again! :(

    So - I know the latter approach is probably more intellectually honest and that to say modes are just a major scale starting on a different step is not entirely "correct" - but I can certainly see what helps people get interested in this and what doesn't ...:meh:
     
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Feb 28, 2021

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.