mrthingy wrote:I've been trying to "get" modes for a while and I think I have now.
Don't know if the terminology is all correct but my understanding is that it (baicly) playing in a key, but 'basing' the music around a note other than the first degree of that key?
For example D Dorian uses C D E F G A B from C major scale, but to get the 'dorian' sound you have to make D the over-riding, inflencial note rather than C.
Is that right?
Technically that's correct, for the diatonic mdoes anyway - Dorian, Lydian etc.
For example if you play entirely on the white notes of the piano, normally you would think you're playing "in" C Major, and C does indeed tend to naturally exert the greatest amount of "gravity".
But if you insistently base your phrasing and thinking around D instead, you can make D sound like the centre of gravity, and the music will be dorian.
This is a good start for being able to work out any mode and get going. For example if we're rehearsing a song you don't know and I shout over to you "it's just E dorian!", then if you know that the dorian mode is the one based on the second degree of the major scale, you can quickly work out that E dorian will be based on the second degree of the D major scale, and will be E F# G A B C# D E, and jam along.
OTOH, it's a little bit arse over tit in some ways, because the original modes weren't derived from the major scale, the major scale emerged out of the modal system.
To really get into modes and get a feel for how they work, it's important to be able to think of them instantly in relation to their own tonic (sorry Rousseau - "final" ;)). You do that by learning the distinctive tone and semitone pattern of each mode. So for example dorian is T-S-T-T-T-S-T above the tonic. Follow that pattern and you'll come up with the same notes above upon E, but without having to go via the "key" of D.
In practice, I think what I tend to do is think in terms of the two primary modes that I know best through training - the ionian (major scale) and aeolian (natural minor scale), with alterations. So the dorian is the natural minor scale but with a raised 6th degree; the mixolydian is a major scale but with a lowered 7th degree etc.
In doing this, I'm still thinking in terms of the tonicity of the mode itself, not relating it back to some hypothetical major "key" on a different root. This way you start to feel more and more the real character of each mode, because you're hearing and feeling how each scale degree of the mode sounds in relation to it's OWN tonic.
There is a whole other school of thought about modes, to do with their use in improvising upon different chords within a key, as elaborated by people like Jamie Abersold. So when you see "Em7 - A7 - Dmaj7", you think "Dorian mode on E - Mixolydian mode on A - Ionian mode on D". Here the identity of each mode IS much more to do with its relationship to the overall "parent" key.
But personally I think that school of thought is a load of bollox, and only manages to add an unnecessary layer of intellectualisation to improvising that doesn't serve any useful purpose.