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Which mode with which chord?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by mb17180116, Jun 11, 2006.

  1. Im new to this mode stuff so i know some things but i wanted to clear some stuff up.

    1: From what i understand, using my chord progression chart, an E phrygian mode would sound good with an E minor chord(key of C) and an E dorian mode would would work (key of D) My question is how do you know which one or will they both work?

    Though maybe you would go with whatever key they guitar was in, but what if the chords being used are all over and not confined to a key...

    Also, when it comes to these modes, obviously they show you what notes can be used, but just say you just memorize all the notes that can be used in a certain key, forget abought the modes, and just remember for example, use a D often with a D minor chord, or use C often with a C major chord, would that work or is there a certain reason they are grouped into mode shapes?

    Sorry if its kind of hard to understand, im the kind of person who tries to get the whole picture of whats going on before i really start digging into the details...
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    You need to know the function of the chord in the sequence.
  3. Cerio


    Apr 7, 2006
    Each mode has its own sound or "colour" if you prefer. Try phrasing over a II-V-I progression using each of the seven major modes and let your ears guide you. In addition, depending on the function of the chord over they key center of the moment there are modes that works better that other ones. For example, it's easy playing a phrase using D Dorian scale over a Dm7 chord in the key of C Major because you tend to resolve in D. It'd be more difficult playing F Lydian over Cmaj7 (in the key of C Major) because it's not so easy resolving in the fourth.
    Using modes is also useful when playing walking bass lines to make your lines more solid. Over Am7 in the key of C Major you would play A Minor Natural instead of A dorian.
  4. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    You also need to know the overall key of a song.
    If a song is in E minor, the F of E Phrygian will more likely sound dissonant because F isn't a part of the E minor scale.

    If your song is in C minor or A minor, E Phrygian will work over Em.

    Modes work like this: imagine the seven notes of a scale and use them as roots for chords. Let's say a song is in C major, as you know, a C major scale consists of the notes C D E F G A B.

    Root note C = your chord will be C Major. The scale that belongs to C Major in the key of C Major is Ionian. Its notes are C D E F G A B.

    Root note D = your chord will be D Minor. The scale that belongs to D Minor in the key of C Major is Dorian. Its notes are D E F G A B C.

    Root note E = your chord will be E Minor. The scale that belongs to E Minor in the key of C Major is Phrygian. Its notes are E F G A B C D.

    Root note F = your chord will be F Major. The scale that belongs to F Major in the key of C Major is Lydian. Its notes are F G A B C D E.

    Root note G = your chord will be G Major. The scale that belongs to G Major the key of C Major is Mixolydian. Its notes are G A B C D E F.

    Root note A = your chord will be A Minor. The scale that belongs to A Minor in the key of C Major is Ionian. Its notes are A B C D E F G.

    Root note B = your chord will be B Diminished. The scale that belongs to B Diminished in the key of C Major is Locrian. Its notes are B C D E F G A.

    See how the seven notes of the C Major scale (C D E F G A B) don't change? They're only given different root notes in the different scales, the notes are the same. This will make sure that the notes you play will always sound right in a song in C Major. For example, if you encounter a E minor chord in a song in C Major and use a standard E minor scale, the F# might not sound good because it's not a part of the C major scale.

    I hope what I wrote makes sense. ;)
  5. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
  6. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    This should be in General Instruction. I'll move it there now.
  7. sinophysiker


    Feb 7, 2006
  8. I understand all this, but thats about as far as my knowledge goes. I understand that no matter what mode of the C major scale you play, its always the same notes in a different order. So basically the difference in the different modes is that they give it a different feel because each one starts and ends on a different note.

    I also understand that all of the notes in some modes shouldnt be played with the chord associated with it because that note might not be in the chord being played, so it wont sound right. I am working toward the point where ill be able to figure out all this stuff on my own.
  9. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    That's not altogether right.

    If you're playing, for example, on a D minor chord and everything suggests dorian, you can play all the notes in the D dorian mode (and then some). However it makes more sense to concentrate on the chord tones and use the other notes as passing notes.
  10. This has been said before, but I think the mode-per-chord approach is not necessarily the best way to go in *all* circumstances. Mainly because it can make things more complicated than they need to be.

    Think about what was said before: that when looked at a certain way, the modes are just all the same notes as the major scale, starting from different points. (Though this really isn't fundamentally what they are.) If that's so, when you're working within a single major or minor tonality, why kill tourself changing from mode to mode when you can think of it more elegantly as making different selections from a single tonality?

    Example: suppose you're playing the progression C Am Dm G7. Now, that progression is diatonic in C major. The mode-per-chord approach would have you think of this as C ionian (major), A aeolian, D dorian, G mixolydian. Four modes. But since all these chords are functional and diatonic in C, why not think of what you're doing as just staying in C, but making different selections from the options C offers, based on the chord you're playing? For instance, on the C chord, your chord tones are the 1 3 5 of the main C scale, and the other notes can be used as necessary as color notes or passing tones. On the Am chord, your chord tones are the 6 1 3 of the main C scale, and the other tones are used accordingly. And so forth. IOW, you're saying to yourself, I'm in C the whole way, but now I'm working off the 1, now I'm working off the 6, now I'm working off the 2, and now I'm working off the 5.

    I actually think that in many situations, this can give you a better understanding of the harmonic function of the chords. After all, in a progression like that, the chords are not little harmonic worlds of their own, unconnected to anything else. They have a well understood harmonic function within the key they establish.

    I'm not saying the mode-per-chord approach is bad; sometimes, depending on the music, it's indeed the best way to go IMHO. I'm just saying, it's not always the simplest or best way to go, nor does it always give the best understanding of what's going on.

    This is kinda related to a concept Chris Fitzgerald has spent a lot of time on TalkBass explaining: blanket or parent scales. I believe there's still a lot about this in the sticky threads in this forum.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    It's not a question of right or wrong - more a question of the "sound" you might want - i.e. more or less dissonant!

    PS - I agree with everything Richard has said! :)
  12. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    And I agree with what Bruce said. :)
  13. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    much as I think +1 posts are a bit silly, that's the gold from this thread...

    the tricky bit is to use the simplicity of this approach (for diatonic chord sequences) but have as much awareness of the chord changes and how your notes work over them as possible to avoid 'aimless modal wiggling'

    the other thing that springs to mind is that the 'match the mode to the chord' concept also falls down when the chords aren't nice and full... imagine a sequence of power chords that goes A-B-C-D-G... there's very little harmonic information in the chords themselves but it's the sequence that implies the harmonic environment (try A Dorian)... you could stick virtually any mode over a power chord in isolation, but not all of them would work in the context of the other stuff that's going on... very often the appropriate notes will be conditioned by the overall harmonic environment and how it changes over time, not just the appearance of a certain chord that flashes past for a couple of seconds
  14. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Chromatic Harmony - use of tones outside of the diatonic scale.

    Diatonic Harmony - use of diatonic scale tones only.

    Harmonic resolution - when discord progresses to concord e.g. VIIo7 -> I or II7b5 -> V

    There is no argument (for or against) of what type of harmony you want to use. It's all about your harmonic goal.
  15. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    New York, NY
    Just a little aside (since I get soooo bored explaining chord scales and soloing):

    Learn all your "in" stuff (basically everything this thread is about), then after you've been playing that way for a while and you know your dung, modes really have less and less meaning, and you start playing by feel.
  16. Exactly what i hope to get to. Somebody once said that first you have to learn music theory, then you have to forget it.

    Im getting a better understanding now after reading all of the info is this thread...good job everybody, youve done the impossible!
  17. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    If you've been studing theory, aural awareness and musicianship, it does become more instinct. but having said that, I'm a person who likes to think ahead. Everyone is different though. All depends on your harmonic goal and what you're trying to acheive musically.
  18. Poop-Loops

    Poop-Loops Banned

    Mar 3, 2006
    Auburn, Washington
    I always see this example in C major. I can't make the leap to any other scales, though. I do understand it from C major, though. In fact that's how I made the link between C major and the modes. Instructor gave me a sheet with the modes and it just clicked. But I don't understand how it applies anywhere else.
  19. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    You guys are missing alot of the picture. Some of you had good comments, but some others are totally off. I don't have time to give a full detailed lesson or explanation right this minute but I'll state some things that may or may not help you, kind of like everone else: :p

    Sometimes modes help you improvise over functional harmony. Functional harmony is when one chord "wants to" go to the next, for example, Dmin7 G7 Cmaj, or ii V I. But in many cases the way to approach creating the sound of this functional harmony comes from creating lines that use the guide tones, or 3rds and 7ths. These are the notes you'll target for at the end of a measure going to the next chord. For example, the "C" (or 7th) of the Dmin7 becomes the "B" (or 3rd) of the G7 chord in the following measure, and the "F" resolves to the "E" (or the 3rd) of the Cmaj chord. Likewise, the "B" (or 3rd) of the G7 resolves up to the root of Cmaj chord. This is kind of how ii-V-I progressions work. Notice that each note moves by half-step, either up or down. This creates a stronger resolution than another interval. The root notes also move down by Perfect 5th, which is a very strong resolution that has been used since the great composers like Bach and Beethoven.

    But how do the modes help you improvise over those changes? Without the modes, you'd only have these couple of notes to choose from, the guide tones I just mentioned. But now if you think of the accompanying modes, D dorian, G mixolydian, and C ionian, you have some note choices to create melodic improvisations with within each measure. Starting out, you might be best to continue shooting for the guide tones at the end of each measure into the beginning of the next. But, that's still not the whole picture....

    D dorian for example is the mode that works diatonically in the key of C if you're playing on a ii chord... It also works for the G7 or V chord cause the notes are the same, like you stated in your initial question. But is that our only option? No. We can use any mode that implies a minor sound, such as Aeolian or Phrygian. Using these other modes gives a different "color". But be careful, because you can foul it up really easily. If you play these other modes that are outside of our parent key, it's important to remember to get away from the notes that are different quickly. Utilize them on weaker beats, or as passing tones.

    There is more. We can borrow chord shapes, such as triads or seventh chords to imply upper structures of the chord we're improvising on. For example, on the D minor chord, we can play an A minor 7 arpeggio. The A is then the 5th of the chord, the C is the 7th, the E is the 9th, and the G is the 11th, all of which work nicely on a D Minor 7. Food for thought...

    My last comment before I close will be that on the dominant chord, or G7, we have a ton of leeway. If it's dominant, and you're playing with great musicians, we can use several types of scales and modes. These include G Mixolydian as previously stated, G auxillary diminished (the half-step, whole-step, half-step, whole-step etc. scale starting on G), or the G altered scale (Ab melodic minor mode). Another thing is that jazz players tend to leave out the ii chord in ii-V progressions, and they focus on improvising on the Vs. I'm too tired to tell you all the reasons why, but the main reason is that we have many more choices of harmonic ideas that can be used on the dominant chord.

    The best way to leard how to use modes is through transcriptions and analyzations. Go transcribe some horn players and play their lines on the bass. I mean, do you want to solo like a bass player, or a sax player? Sax players have much hipper solos, usually. The only exception would be cats like Jaco or Scott LaFaro who played solos like horn players... Good luck!;) :D
  20. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I thought Functional Harmony was about having a home-base tone called the Tonic (ever heard of Tonal Music?).

    I also thought one unit of harmony is a chord, and movement from one chord to another is called a harmonic progression.

    But you say....

    Either Schenker's theory of tonal music is completely wrong, or you should ask for your money back.