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Modes: don't you just love 'em?

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Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby David Etheridge » Wed Nov 16, 2005 6:45 pm

Hi folks,
here a beginner's guide to modes.
Many people, get confused about them (including me! ) so I'll try to cover them as clearly as possible. Obviously any contributions and/or corrections are more than welcome!

Generalising wildly, Modes have a long history back to medieval days; the days when 'official' music was the province of the church and many melodies were sung by monks in unison in chuches and monasteries.
Hence they were given names from ancient Greece (I believe) in keeping with the academic nature of the music. Remember at the time, this was the only form of written music in existence; all the other types such as folk songs were passed down orally.

Modes are basically derived from the C major scale, but each one starts on a different degree of the scale: in other words, it's liek playing each scle but only using the white notes on a piano: no sharps or flats.
Here's the basic list:

Ionian mode: C D E F G A B C. (also known as mode 1)
Dorian mode: D E F G A B C. (mode 2).
Phrygian Mode: E F G A B C D E (mode 3).
Lydian Mode: F G A B C D E F (mode 4).
Mixolydian Mode: G A B C D E F G (mode 5).
Aeolian Mode: A B C D E F G A (mode 6).
Locrian Mode: B C D E F G A B (mode 7).

Now each of these could be in any key you like, so a Locrian (mode 7) in C would be:
C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C.

Let's look at some other (and slightly more obscure) modes: all in C to save getting confused.
Melodic minor (same as the scale): C D Eb F G A B C.
Dorian b2: C Db Eb F G A Bb C.
Lydian Augmented: C D E F# G# A B C.
Lydian Dominant: C D E F# G A Bb C.
Mixolydian b6: C D E F G Ab Bb C.
Aeolian b5: C D Eb F Gb Ab Bb C.
Super Locrian: C Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb C.


Yes, I know that all this is doing your head in, but the reason that they're useful is in regarding them as fingering mode when playing any string instrument. Whereever you are on the fretboard/fingerboard, a number of notes will lie immediately under the hand without you having to stretch your hand into agonising shapes or seeking surgery. They're particularly useful for multioctave scales, where you can split a four octave run into several modes (fingering scales or positions).

Here's a few more:
Harmonic minor scale: C D Eb F G Ab B C.
Pentatonic scale: C D E G A (like playing the black notes on the keyboard, but in a different key, natch: the black notes are in F#).
'Da Blooz' scale: C Eb F F# G Bb C.
Whole tone scale: C D E F# G# A # (Bb) C.
Diminished scle: C D Eb F Gb G# A B (C).
Augmented scale: C Db E F G# A C.

Okay, that's enough brain damage: what other ones do you know?
(I 've heard of a 'Hungarian' mode, but don't know anything about it)

Best wishes,
Dave.
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby phantomfield » Thu Nov 17, 2005 7:47 pm

Has this got anything to do with those sharp dressing types with a fondness for mopeds and all things Lambretta ? or am I holding the stick up the wrong way again.

..o that's mods is it. mhn.

Well presented stuff David, many thanks. Best wishes.

( sadly I've no modes of my own to suggest )
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby phantomfield » Thu Nov 17, 2005 8:05 pm

take that back...

G# A B# C# D# E# F# G#

I’ve found a mode to offer which I like. Apparently it would be in G# Mixolydian except that the A# has been dropped to A. Making it what is sometimes called a mixed mode, having characteristics of two diatonic modes. Best wishes.:)
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby David Etheridge » Thu Nov 17, 2005 9:51 pm

phantomfield wrote:

Well presented stuff David, many thanks. Best wishes.


Thanks for the appreciation. I'll be putting some stuff on Indian scales here over the weekend.

Best wishes,
Dave.
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby David Etheridge » Fri Nov 18, 2005 11:58 am

Here's some info on Indian scales and modes.
The reason that these are useful is that encompasses all sorts of extra subjects like alternate tuning scales (you may well have those lurking inside your synth but you've never seen the need for them) and microtones. So hopefully some of this info will be useful for soundtrack composers seeking that extra 'ethnic' quality to their sounds.

Now while Western practice divides up the scale into 12 semitones, and also uses equal temperament, so that all keys sound the same in the relationship of one tone to another, the Indian scale is divided up into no fewer than 22 semtones. So you can have notes that are 'out of tune' to Western ears, but are still corect. When Christian missionaries introduced the harmonium to India in the usual misguided attempt to 'convert the natives' it was taken up with enthusiasm and is still used today; however, it's something of an anomaly compared to all other Indian instruments in that it can't get those microtones.
Here's the bit about tuning: all Indian Instruments use Just Intonation, which is derived from the natural harmonic series, so that (for example) thirds, sevenths and ninths actually sound (to our ears) slightly flat. String players can find that out for themselves with the natural harmonics of each string, and brass players can get natural notes by using just lip pressure instead of the valves and pistons on the instrument.
So it's the natural overtones that gives Indian Music it's character, particularly in drones.


Now let's look at scales (he says, finally getting to the point).
Despite the 22 notes in the octave in Indian music, scales are still seven notes, called 'Septak'. The basis of a scale corresponds exactly to the C major scale in Western Music, but the note names are different. Be aware, however, that there's no key changes or modulations, and harmony in the form of chords is virtually unknown. Also a raga can start on any note, dependent on the instrument's range, tuning, or the range of a vocalist. Ravi Shankar tunes his sitars to C#.
For simplicity, we'll use C as the tonic baseline.
Here are the notes of the scale:
C D E F G A B C.
or: Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa.

Although there are up to 72 different scales available in Indian Music,

We'll just list the most common ones.
They are:
Bilawal (Ionian) : C D E F G A B C.
Khammaj (Mixolydian): C D E F G A Bb C.
Kafi (Dorian): C D Eb F G A B C.
Asavari (Aeolian): C D Eb F G Ab Bb C.
Bhairavi (Phyrgian): C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C.
Bhairav: C Db E F G Ab B C.
Kalyan (Lydian): C D E F# G A B C.
Marwa: C Db E F# G A B C.
Purvi: C Db E F# G Ab B C.
Todi: C Db Eb F# G Ab B C.

In Carnatic music the scales can be much more developed, and here are some basic ground rules for the 12 note scale.
1st and 5th notes (C and G) are regarded as fixed.
The 2nd note can be Db, D or D#.
The 3td note can be Ebb, Eb or E.
The 4th note F or F#.
The 6th note Ab, A or A#.
The 7th note: Bbb, Bb or B.
Any combination of the above can supply the 72 variations of the scale.


Now a scale can be 5, 6 or 7 notes. Some ragas can use different numbers of notes in ascending or descending scales, while there are also strong, weak or neutral notes in each scale, and there are notes of geater or lesser importance in ragas. That's why you can have thousands of ragas for each scale, with new ones beinfg composed all the time! Then add embellishments and note bends (those microtones again) and the sky's the limit!
So hopefully this brief excursion into alternative tunings, scales, modes and ragas might inspire you to try out some of the more unusual ones on your synth.
Remember that the whole subject of unusual modes has been long in use in jazz (Ornette Coleman studied with Ravi Shankar, and Big Band leader Don Ellis had his own Hindustani jazz sextet in the 60s) so there's a whoile new world of stuff to explore.
Just one more word on alternate tunings: check out synth maestrette Wendy Carlos' recordings, particularly Switched on Bach 2000 and Sonic Seasonings to hear how alternate tunings work.
http://www.wendycarlos.com

Best wishes,
Dave.
(and now you can go and have a cuppa!)

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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby docformat » Fri Nov 18, 2005 5:30 pm

thanks for that dave - can you recommend any resources for those wanting to dig a little deeper into indian scales and modes
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby David Etheridge » Fri Nov 18, 2005 6:38 pm

Yes,
try
http://www.chandrakantha.com as a good starting point for investigating Indian Music.
http://www.silverbushmusic.com has all sorts of links as well as being a stockist of instruments.
http://www.sitarsetc is the resource for all things on the sitar.
A rather spiffing book is 'The Raga Guide' by Joep Bor published by Nimbus records which includes a 4 CD set of recordings, and each raga is notated in both Indian and Western notation. Really excellent.
This last one's available from my fave Indian Music shop in Southall, Jas Musicals, who are unfailingly pleasant and helpful.
http://www.jas-musicals.co.uk. 0208-574-2686.

Best wishes,
Dave.
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby docformat » Sat Nov 19, 2005 9:42 pm

sweeeeeeeeeet!!

i'll check those out
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby David Etheridge » Sun Nov 20, 2005 9:27 am

Clangeroony!
Sorry, that should be:
http://www.jas-musicals.com/
http://sitarsetc.com/

Sorry, I'm having a senior moment.
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby Gethin Webster » Sun Nov 20, 2005 1:33 pm

Another few to add, Messiaen's modes of limited transposition. These are scales based on repeating series of intervals:

Can only remember the second one at the moment, will add others soon. This has various other names i think, including the octatonic or half-diminished scale:

C Db Eb E F# G A Bb C

basically the intervals tone-semitone-tone-semitone...

edit: oops, just found this one in your original post... will leave it in anyway as a bit of extra background info on it
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby Gethin Webster » Mon Nov 21, 2005 8:49 pm

A bit of further info on Messiaen's modes:

Mode 1 - whole tone scale

Mode 2 - octatonic (posted above)

Mode 3 - based on augmented 5th:

C D Eb E F# G Ab Bb B C

The idea between these is that as they are based on a short series of intervals (1 for mode one - tone, 2 for mode two - semitone, tone, 3 for mode three - tone, semitone, semitone) they won't sound in any particular key, an idea fundamental to early C20th French music. Anyway, enough theory, it basically means that they are good for atonal, floating soundscapes, where you want to avoid typical harmony, especially when used to make chords.

There are a further 4 modes, although these get more complicated and there are different versions of some of them too... more info on Wikipedia for anyone who wants to learn more!
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby docformat » Wed Nov 23, 2005 9:48 pm

thats some interesting stuff - i'll have to check those out as well.

the octatonic scale is the same as the diminished scale - though i guess you spotted that anyway.
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby Pabs » Fri Nov 25, 2005 10:52 pm

If you are interested in indian music you may be interested in playing around with SwarShala software. http://www.swarsystems.com/

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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby phantomfield » Mon Nov 28, 2005 7:10 am

Thanks for posting the link pablo. Looks interesting "and" they've recently ported it to OSX which is fine news. I'll give the demo a try. Best wishes.
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby David Etheridge » Mon Dec 05, 2005 6:15 pm

Hi gang,
one more source for scales: 'the bible of improvisation' (according to Frank Zappa):
The Thesaurus of Scales and Patterns, by Nicolas Slonimsky.
I haven't got this one, but it was mentioned in Neil Slaven's biography of FZ. Has anyone here seen it? (the Slonimsky book, that is)

Best wishes,
Dave
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby docformat » Thu Dec 08, 2005 9:28 pm

Yup i've got a copy of it but i haven't managed to delve too deeply into it (even though i've had it for five years!)

its a massive work containing thousands of patterns based on different divisions of one or more 8ves - ie 1 octave into 3, or even 7 octaves into 12 (to create a scale based on a perfect 5th). its basically a mathematical formula applied to harmony to create a new harmonic language. this is why i haven't delved too far into it - i'm still learning the present one! interesting that zappa called it the bible - i think it was largely popularised by john coltrane.

saxophonists yusif lateef and oliver nelson have both published similar pattern books - lateef's is often called the 'jazz slonimsky' and has a lot of scales based one eastern modes. maybe i'll get it for christmas!
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby docformat » Fri Dec 09, 2005 12:58 pm

yusEf lateef.....sorry 'bout that!
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby Ivories » Thu Dec 22, 2005 6:24 pm

David thank you, especially for your posts about Indian modes, which were very illuminating
David Etheridge wrote:
Ionian mode: C D E F G A B C. (also known as mode 1)
Dorian mode: D E F G A B C. (mode 2).
Phrygian Mode: E F G A B C D E (mode 3).
Lydian Mode: F G A B C D E F (mode 4).
Mixolydian Mode: G A B C D E F G (mode 5).
Aeolian Mode: A B C D E F G A (mode 6).
Locrian Mode: B C D E F G A B (mode 7).
Where do you get this numbering from? The mediaeval plainsong modes were numbered from 1 to 8, but the numbering was completely different from yours.
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby Pabs » Thu Dec 22, 2005 9:28 pm

Ivories wrote:David thank you, especially for your posts about Indian modes, which were very illuminating
David Etheridge wrote:
Ionian mode: C D E F G A B C. (also known as mode 1)
Dorian mode: D E F G A B C. (mode 2).
Phrygian Mode: E F G A B C D E (mode 3).
Lydian Mode: F G A B C D E F (mode 4).
Mixolydian Mode: G A B C D E F G (mode 5).
Aeolian Mode: A B C D E F G A (mode 6).
Locrian Mode: B C D E F G A B (mode 7).
Where do you get this numbering from? The mediaeval plainsong modes were numbered from 1 to 8, but the numbering was completely different from yours.

What was their numbering system then?

I think the numbering system Dave outlined is self explanatory.

Ionian starts on the same note of the parent scale and is mode 1.
Dorian starts on the second note of the parent scale and is mode 2.
Phrygian starts on the 3rd mode of the parent scale and is mode 3.....etc..

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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby Ivories » Fri Dec 23, 2005 2:14 pm

Wikipedia article on modes

The table in this article shows the 8 modes which were used in plainsong. You'll see there is no mode starting on C, A or B (the Ionian, Aeolian and Locrian). The 8 modes are defined by the final notes (D to G), but also by the ambitus or range - the assumption was that the average church congregation would have a vocal range of about an octave, so a plainsong melody would stay roughly within that.

Those 8 modes were the ones recognized in the liturgical music of the western church from about 500 to 1500 AD. That isn't to say that you won't find melodies in other modes in the secular music of that period, or that every piece of church music fits the theoretical model particularly closely. However, when you hear a piece of mediaeval sacred music described as "in mode 1" (or "on the first tone"), it usually refers to the system of numbering given in the Wikipedia article.

Remember too that the concept of a "parent scale" is completely alien to mediaeval music - the major and minor key system didn't really develop until the 17th century, and replaced the modal system.
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby Pabs » Fri Dec 23, 2005 9:20 pm

Cheers for clearing that up Ivories. I found some more great info here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guido_of_Arezzo
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby David Etheridge » Sat Dec 24, 2005 9:58 am

Ivories wrote:David thank you, especially for your posts about Indian modes, which were very illuminating

Where do you get this numbering from? The mediaeval plainsong modes were numbered from 1 to 8, but the numbering was completely different from yours.

Hi Ivories,
I got the numbering from a book on jazz guitar theory, and it seemed quite logical to me, so I thought I'd include it here!
Thanks to others who've added the historical stuff to clear things up even more!

Dave
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby IvanSC » Sun Jan 15, 2006 9:06 am

Mel Brookes in The Producers: "In Myxolidia we throw to dogs!!!"

Never have seen the point in modes. It still appears to me that you are inventing a bunch of names to describe a particular way of getting from A to B in music.
Why not just call them different types of scale?
I have been back and forth over the possibility of teaching modes for years and generally find the the students who "get" it have no need to learn modal theory in order to play `em! I have always thought that restricting oneself to a mode in a piece tends to lock you into that style of proression, whereas "going with the flow" with a mental reference to the overal sound sought is more effective. Any comments? I would like to find a reasonable excuse to teach modes if someone can come up with a concrete reason as to why they are actually useful.
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby David Etheridge » Sun Jan 15, 2006 9:58 am

Hi Ivan,
actually, I agree with you! My own feelings on modes in jazz is this (and I may be wrong but chatting to other musos about this no-one has disagreed with me): when jazz players first used modes, they probably didn't know about the theory, they just liked the sound and thus used them instinctively. It was only later that a critic or music theorist came along and said 'Aha, he's using mode X'. In a similar way, analysts of Beatles songs in the 60s (most notable Wilfred Mellers) would talk about Lennon and MacCarntney's use of 'pan-diatonic triads'.
Okay, if you say so, squire. But John and Paul used them because they sounded good!
I know a jazz guitarist who quotes modes verbatim and uses a totally mathematical appraoch to soloing. While the theory is no doubt right, the results actually sound rather soulless, and dare I say it? -jazz by numbers. One book I have on jazz theory goes into the various modes you can use over various progressions, but appropriately warns that when you're flying through a chart you simply don't have time to think about whether you should use mixolydian over Db or altered dominant over Bb, or whatever at any one point.
Like I explained at the beginning, modes are useful for fingering 'windows' and I perefer to look at it that way. Personally for soloing and constructing bass parts (I'm a bassist myself) I'll always look at the chords for soloing context rather than scales as a jumping off point.
Of 'play what you hear/feel' which I believe is the true golden rule.

Best wishes,
Dave
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby IvanSC » Sat Jan 21, 2006 12:20 pm

Way back when I went to the legendary Musicians Union Workshops in London, most notable two given by the sublime Joe Pass. He spent the time stunning us with his virtuosity, but also made the same point you have, Dave - it all comes from within, then someone else has fun figuring out how todescribe what you did and how you did it.

I despise all those transcriptions by hack piano players that you get in "songs of the stars" books. I have to put up with explaining to pupils that,no, Lennon & McCartney/ Oasis etc didn`t really sit down and play a K blunt demented with added sixteenth in the third chorus of "let it supernova", they just hit a bum note.

God I`m grumpy today....
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Wed Jan 25, 2006 10:41 pm

When teaching Guitar..... I've always found the simplest way of explaining the basic modes to the utterly bemused, to be thus.

Describe the pattern on the fingerboard made by the C major scale.

then the A minor. (without confusing them with Melodic and Harmonic variants )

point out that they are playing exactly the same notes just using a different start and end point.

then show them a couple of grids with the appropriate intervals filled in for the scales around the open, 5th and 10th fret regions.

have them play the scales starting and ending on each note.

ABCDEFGA
BCDEFGAB
CDEFGABC

and so on

now having got them familiar with the scalar forms around the fret board and what they sound like on their own... introduce them to the chord progressions that each of these most commonly work best with.


stand back and watch.

then introduce the concept of mode switching in mid solo.


Bingo, another shred head is born.

Favourites tend to be Lydian Aeolian and Phrygian i find....

although Mixolydian goes down well with the Blues fraternity/.
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby Pabs » Wed Feb 01, 2006 11:06 pm

There is a lot of great Jazz specific info on the website of British Saxophonist Pete Thomas http://www.petethomas.co.uk/jazz-theory.html

As For trying to find reasons to teach modes......I guess you can present major modes (Lydian, Mixolydian) as an alternative to the Ionian mode/major scale and you can present minor modes (Dorian, Phrygian) as an alternative to Aeolian mode/minor scale. To be honest I've never really found any use for the Locrian mode!!

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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby IvanSC » Sun Feb 12, 2006 5:50 pm

pablo fanques wrote:To be honest I've never really found any use for the Locrian mode!!
Pabs

Isn`t that something to do with a place in Scotland?
OOTP: I am replacing a guitarist in a trio, who I went to see last night. Fur Kmee!! I think he eats modes for breakfast. Very tasteful and masterfully executed, but... in a Country band??
I felt both intimidated AND amused at the same time. Classic example of the bookworm`s approach to musicianship.
IF I were good enough to do what he did, I would I hope I had enough sensitivity and taste not to.
Pity they don`t teach taste and discernment at GIT and all the other Universities of Widdle

Ivan "I`m just a jealous guyyy...."
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby feline1 » Sun Feb 19, 2006 7:20 pm

I'd have to cast my vote too as one of these people who just doesn't see what all the fuss is about modes.
If you're stuck on an instrument with 12 equal-tempered semitones per octave, then you can play whatever scales/modes you want...which basically reduces to saying you can play any notes you want.
I mean, so what?
We all know that if we're playing a C major chord and we stick an Ab in a melody or bass riff, it'll sound a bit strange etc etc...
Given that there only are 12 semitones to fiddle about with, I just don't tend to think that's enough permuatations to necessitate having to use all these bloody mode-names for the various possibilities.
Is it really any harder to say "this one is in C, but with some Db passing notes in there" to your other band-members, than to say "this is a lorcian one" ?
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Re: Modes: don't you just love 'em?

Postby hadey » Wed Feb 22, 2006 3:12 pm

The need to name modes etc comes from the neccesity for music/harmonic theory and it's usefulness for communication between musicians.
Take my experiences -
went to music college to do music tech degree (well popular music with music tech as core) with no formal music qualifications at all, a totally self taught guitarist. I had learned all the chords from Mel Bay's 501 chords book and made my own assumptions as to why the chords were called what they were. I had also as part of my self teaching, bought a guitar modes book.
Now at music college I was put into the top set for music theory as I found all of my assumptions to be correct and "could do" music theory (although sight reading is still beyond me!). So there were students who were at the top of the musical grades and they were literally weeping as they couldn't comprehend modes. And there was me trying to explain it to them.
But, jamming with these guys, they would be playing modal and not even know it!
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