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Modes: don't you just love 'em?

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

PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:29 pm
by petev3.1
Can anyone recommend a good book on modes for gtr players? I've been looking for a while and seen nothing and nor have I found a good recommendation on my classical guitar forum.

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

PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 7:41 pm
by GilesAnt
Modes aren't really about the guitar or any other instrument. Modes, like scales or chords, are universal in music - so it doesn't matter what instrument you are playing.

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

PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 9:35 pm
by Sam Spoons
I'm a guitar player with 50+ years experience and have always struggled with modes. I can, more or less, play them and I know the theory but have yet to understand the point of them. I simply can't think quickly enough when improvising to associate a specific mode with a specific chord or sequence. Then I came across the best bit of advice about them I have ever heard which is that the music comes first, all the greats from the formative days of Jazz learned by listening, many of them didn't know the theory. The Gypsy Jazz players often didn't even know the names of the notes or chords but had learned them by listening and watching.

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

PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 9:46 pm
by zenguitar
A friend describes modes as being like spices. Used in moderation to spice up a solo, fine. But while a dash of chilli can bring a meal to life, you wouldn't want to eat nothing but chilli.

Andy :beamup:

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

PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 11:27 pm
by Sam Spoons
Had chilli con carne tonight, I'd eat it every day personally but I still don't get modes....

I really would love to understand modes better though so I may download Tessitura Pro (still not convinced I'll ever be clever enough to apply them while improvising but I do understand the usefulness in explaining what is going on sometimes).

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

PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:20 pm
by petev3.1
GilesAnt wrote:Modes aren't really about the guitar or any other instrument. Modes, like scales or chords, are universal in music - so it doesn't matter what instrument you are playing.

Very true, but it so happens I play guitar.

I share Sam's confusion. I'm up to speed with Bachian counterpoint and my theory isn't bad but I struggle to get a grip on the modes. I seem to have some sort of mental deficiency on this topic.

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

PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:45 pm
by GilesAnt
To ask what is the point of modes is a bit like asking what is the point of a chord or scale. They are just devices for understanding music really. If you are truly up to speed with Bachian counterpoint then modes are a breeze by comparison. I haven't quite mastered triple counterpoint myself!

If you are familiar with a major scale then you are familiar with the Ionian mode already. The minor scale is (almost) the Aeolian mode. So you are part way there already.

Each scale or mode is just a specific sequence of tones and semitones. The major and minor scales are simply the most common ones. So modes aren't really 'spices' either.

As with all music theory you can ignore it all and just use your ears, but the more you understand it the more shortcuts and tools you will have at your disposal.

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

PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:03 pm
by petev3.1
What I'd like to see is a set of pieces.studies for (solo) guitar that make use of the modes and allow players to accustom themselves to the ideas and the sounds. I cannot find anything like this. Any suggestions? .

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

PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:27 pm
by Sam Spoons
GilesAnt wrote:To ask what is the point of modes is a bit like asking what is the point of a chord or scale. They are just devices for understanding music really. If you are truly up to speed with Bachian counterpoint then modes are a breeze by comparison. I haven't quite mastered triple counterpoint myself!

If you are familiar with a major scale then you are familiar with the Ionian mode already. The minor scale is (almost) the Aeolian mode. So you are part way there already.

Each scale or mode is just a specific sequence of tones and semitones. The major and minor scales are simply the most common ones. So modes aren't really 'spices' either.

As with all music theory you can ignore it all and just use your ears, but the more you understand it the more shortcuts and tools you will have at your disposal.

O get all that, I totally understand modes and how to play them, I do struggle to remember the names TBF. I know, understand and can play major and minor scales, whole tone and diminished scales, and, with thought, arpeggiate any chord I know (which is a fair number as I can also understand and play most chords commonly used in western music). I see the point of scales (not to say I practice them much) but the concept of using modes to help with improvising eludes me............

And since I've learned the concept that any note not in the appropriate scale is simply a leading note one semitone away from a 'correct' note my soloing has improved :bouncy:

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

PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:18 pm
by GilesAnt
Being a semitone away from a 'right' note is a handy trick in its own right. I reckon that should help me to improve too.

if you want an exercise in modes (to pete), try taking the old song What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor. Simple to play, so noodle around with the melody and chords, and you will notice by a miracle that you are playing in the Dorian mode. If you already know the major scale (Ionian) and minor scale (sort of Aeolian) then that is 3 modes under your belt already - and you didn't feel a thing!

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

PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:00 am
by ReedySteadyGo
GilesAnt wrote:
If you are familiar with a major scale then you are familiar with the Ionian mode already. The minor scale is (almost) the Aeolian mode. So you are part way there already.


I thought Aeolian was the same as the natural minor scale. What do you mean by 'almost'?

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

PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:55 am
by GilesAnt
In the Aeolian mode the chord on the dominant is a minor triad - this means the standard dominant seventh chord isn't available unless you sharpen the seventh note. The V7-I progression is a cornerstone of functional harmony.

Look at a piece of music in A minor (almost Aeolian) and you will notice a lot of G sharps for this reason.

You are right in that the natural minor is the same as the Aeolian. But the melodic and harmonic minors are more normally used, and these contain the subtle differences to enable the V7-I progression to work.

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

PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 3:38 pm
by petev3.1
GilesAnt wrote:Being a semitone away from a 'right' note is a handy trick in its own right. I reckon that should help me to improve too.

if you want an exercise in modes (to pete), try taking the old song What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor. Simple to play, so noodle around with the melody and chords, and you will notice by a miracle that you are playing in the Dorian mode. If you already know the major scale (Ionian) and minor scale (sort of Aeolian) then that is 3 modes under your belt already - and you didn't feel a thing!

Thanks. I do get this. But I have a conceptual point. I know (for instance) that I can play in Mixolydian mode over the dominant seventh. But I could play these notes by just choosing this set of notes from the main scale. I noticed (but didn't watch) one youtube video claiming that a knowledge of modes can be replaced with a knowledge of chord extensions and this makes sense to me.

From a practical perspective it seems to me that if one can play scales starting from anywhere then one only needs to know where to start. Learning the modes seems a great way of learning to play scales starting from anywhere, but I just can't seem to get a handle on why the two tasks are different. I was playing mixolydian patterns over dominant sevenths long before I knew anything about modes since it's just a set of notes from the scale.

BUT - I know I missing something.

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

PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 3:57 pm
by Sam Spoons
When did modes start to be called mode (with the associated Greek names)?

Given that they have existed since the western scale was first sung or played I suspect they are just a way of giving a name to something pre-existing.

I think Pete makes a good point when he says that all the notes from a D Dorian or a G mixolidyan or a B Locrian exist in a C major scale.

I also find it hard to believe that even the best players can think "Ah, the next chord is an Em7 so I'll play some notes from an E Phrigyan scale over it" every time the chord changes. It would be much simpler to say "I'm playing in C so I can play any note from a C Maj scale will fit over any of the chords". But, clearly I'm missing something too :)

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

PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 4:10 pm
by Sam Inglis
petev3.1 wrote:Thanks. I do get this. But I have a conceptual point. I know (for instance) that I can play in Mixolydian mode over the dominant seventh. ... I was playing mixolydian patterns over dominant sevenths long before I knew anything about modes since it's just a set of notes from the scale.
.

I guess the key point is that the chord is only the dominant seventh if it stands in a particular relationship to the tonic and thus to the tonal centre of the piece. As GilesAnt points out, a piece that is in one of the natural minor modes, or the Mixolydian mode, doesn't have a conventional dominant seventh chord. If the piece is in, say, G Mixolydian, when you play something over the G you are not soloing over a dominant seventh chord, you're soloing over a tonic chord that has a flat instead of a raised seventh.