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Thread: Is it true how you can let other notes in your key become your root?

  1. #1
    dwest2419
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    Question Is it true how you can let other notes in your key become your root?

    Hey whatsup? So, is it true about how you can let other notes in your key become your root or as your 1? Like, if I wanted to play an G#/Ab Locrian scale, and if G#/Ab Locrian is in the key of A, and is labeled as 7th note in Ionian scale. Can I make that Locrian scale my home note, if so would it be now referred to as my 1 chord?

    Exp:If an A Ionian scale numbers is labeled as this:
    A (1) B (2) C# (3) D (4) E (5) F# (6) G# (7)

    G#/Ab Locrian
    G# (1) A (2) B (3) C# (4) D (5) E (6) F# (7)

    Link:
    http://chordmaps.com/part10.htm

    I think it talks about this I'm not sure, though. If this is true it show would open up alot of things! Only one can imagine!

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwest2419
    Hey whatsup? So, is it true about how you can let other notes in your key become your root or as your 1? Like, if I wanted to play an G#/Ab Locrian scale, and if G#/Ab Locrian is in the key of A, and is labeled as 7th note in Ionian scale. Can I make that Locrian scale my home note, if so would it be now referred to as my 1 chord?

    Exp:If an A Ionian scale numbers is labeled as this:
    A (1) B (2) C# (3) D (4) E (5) F# (6) G# (7)

    G#/Ab Locrian
    G# (1) A (2) B (3) C# (4) D (5) E (6) F# (7)
    In theory, yes you're right, but locrian mode is notoriously difficult to use as a tonality - a "key" to play in. It's tonally unstable.
    Any of the other modes are more usable.
    Eg, it's common in rock to take the E note and make that your home note. This makes E mixolydian mode. You need to play an E chord (or E7) and not diverge from it much, though. You can use A and D chords, but you need to keep coming back to E to make it sound like home (otherwise the usual tonic, A, will sound like home).
    Quote Originally Posted by dwest2419
    Link:
    http://chordmaps.com/part10.htm

    I think it talks about this I'm not sure, though. If this is true it show would open up alot of things! Only one can imagine!
    It is true, and it does open up a lot of things! But don't get too excited....

    (I've said a lot of the followling in previous threads, but in case you didn't see them...)

    Western music (from classical to jazz and rock) has been based on the major and minor keys for hundreds of years. Essentially that means Ionian and Aeolian modes (with occasional alterations). These two are enormously fertile for chord sequences and harmonic development. The explosion of baroque and classical music depended on them.

    But four of the other modes (Lydian, mixolydian, dorian, phrygian) were the basis of European music for 1000 years before keys were developed. (Locrian was never used.)
    These modes have some subtle qualities different from Ionian and Aeolian. But not that different. And it's much harder to get interesting chord sequences, because they're not as strong as Ionian. (The pre-key modal system didn't use chords as we know them.)
    They tend to be harmonically "static" - based on a single mood - rather than moving all over the place like key-based music does.
    And the range of moods available from these modes is much more limited than what's available from key-based music.
    IOW, while they are a different system, with their own sounds, you might be surprised how restricting they are.

    Indian classical music (ragas, etc) is a perfect, example of what modal music sounds like, and it's a lot more advanced than western modal music. (It's highly sophisticated, but you won't hear any chords in it...)
    Some rock, of course (and jazz) was heavily influenced by modal sounds in the 1950s and 60s, so those sounds are there in today's music, in part. You can even think of blues as a modal music - although we play it in keys, it retains a kind of modal feel.

  3. #3
    Registered User jimc8p's Avatar
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    Aeolian, Mixolydian, Dorian and Phrygian can be treated like keys, but Lydian and especially Locrian do not function so well.

    Just focus on the root and don't stray too far. For example, in Mixolydian you could have something like I v bVII IV as a progression. The plagal cadence is about maximum functionality in a 'Mixolydian key'.

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    Hi, the current 12 tone per octave scale was specifically created to simplify harmony in nearly all forms of popular music! God! it is difficult enough learning all about the theory of music using non-modal stuff without introducing 'modes' AS far as I can understand them, they are chiefly used by the pundits to introduce obscure-long-winded stuff to point out where the poor student is pemanently going' 'wrong'.....Bet most of the big names in popular music- jazz dance pop'etc never heard of modes, but if they did come across them, they would have dimissed them as being irrelevant to the practical side of playing as opposed to studying to pass exams or whatever!!

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leegordo
    Hi, the current 12 tone per octave scale was specifically created to simplify harmony in nearly all forms of popular music! God! it is difficult enough learning all about the theory of music using non-modal stuff without introducing 'modes' AS far as I can understand them, they are chiefly used by the pundits to introduce obscure-long-winded stuff to point out where the poor student is pemanently going' 'wrong'.....Bet most of the big names in popular music- jazz dance pop'etc never heard of modes, but if they did come across them, they would have dimissed them as being irrelevant to the practical side of playing as opposed to studying to pass exams or whatever!!
    You're absolutely right about modes as they are normally encountered in modern guitar teaching (at least on the internet, which I guess hardly counts as "teaching"... ).

    But there is a useful distinction between modal music and key-based music, which helps us understand a lot of jazz and rock from the last 40-50 years. (Even if we use terms that the musicians themselves wouldn't have heard of, at least in rock.)

    For example, let's say you have a rock groove in E, which uses A and D chords in passing, but no B (very common). How would you describe that?
    "E major key, but with bVII and no V"?
    "A major key, but based on the V chord"?
    "E mixolydian mode"
    All of these describe the same thing, and are "correct". The last one is simply shorter.
    And the 2nd one isn't really correct at all, in fact, because A isn't the tonic, E is.

    IOW, modal terms are very useful (occasionally) when it comes to analysing existing music.
    Even if it's largely key-based (which it generally is), that different perspective can be revealing, because modal flavours (unwittingly or not) are a big part of modern rock and jazz music.

    However - and here I absolutely agree with you - the terminology gets thrown around carelessly by too many people - eg, getting stupidly attached to guitar scale patterns - and many beginners end up with the wrong idea (or a bunch of confused ideas).
    (Funnily enough, it only seems to be guitarists who get in a twist about modes... I wonder why... )
    Sometimes it is indeed better to just ignore the whole topic.
    And sometimes it does look like a conspiracy by guitar tutors to baffle students, then charge more to explain it all...

    As I think you would agree, people who never heard of modes include the following:
    Louis Armstrong
    Duke Ellington
    Charlie Parker
    Thelonius Monk
    (add any jazz player before 1959)
    Jimi Hendrix
    Jimmy Page
    Eric Clapton
    The Beatles
    etc

    They all seemed to manage OK...

    I do know of ONE 1960s rock band who were conscious of modal concepts: the Doors, whose keyboard player Ray Manzarek has claimed that the solo on "Light My Fire" was intended as a dorian mode improvisation (which it is).
    Interestingly, you can hear Jimi Hendrix attempting something similar on "Purple Haze" - I think he must have been inspired by LMF - and it's by some distance the clumsiest solo he ever put on record. It sounds like he's wearing gloves. (Would it have been better if he'd understood the concept? Who knows...)
    In contrast, John Lennon used mixolydian mode all the time, as if he knew it intimately. His academic knowledge was, of course, zero. We don't really know how (or if) he defined the sounds he used. He probably didn't care.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    As I think you would agree, people who never heard of modes include the following:
    Louis Armstrong
    Duke Ellington
    Charlie Parker
    Thelonius Monk
    (add any jazz player before 1959)
    Jimi Hendrix
    Jimmy Page
    Eric Clapton
    The Beatles
    etc
    How can you be certain? I'm pretty sure most if not all of those artists "heard" of the modes at some point, and many of them implemented the modes in their songs. Especially the jazz folks... can you prove your statement that none of these artists understood modes?

  7. #7
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jessmanca
    How can you be certain? I'm pretty sure most if not all of those artists "heard" of the modes at some point, and many of them implemented the modes in their songs. Especially the jazz folks... can you prove your statement that none of these artists understood modes?
    Modes weren't part of jazz until Miles Davis and Bill Evans got into them on "Kind of Blue", 1959. (Miles had dabbled a little on his previous album, "Milestones".) Everything up to then was key-based, using functional harmony. Bill Evans brought his knowledge of Debussy (and his investigations into non-functional harmony) to Miles' restlessness and curiosity to go beyond bebop language into something more meditative.
    (The book "Kind of Blue" is revealing on how Miles had to explain what he wanted to his often baffled sidemen. It was a whole new way of playing.)

    From them on, everyone in jazz understood modes and how to use them. People like Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, all exploited the concept in their own ways, often mixing it in with key (functional harmony) concepts.
    But before 1959? Nope. That includes the people I mentioned.
    People used scales, of course! Charlie Parker in particular had a highly sophisticated sense of harmony, and how to add altered notes. But it was all within functional principles, not modal at all.
    I'm sure those guys would have understood modes, if they encountered them. But they didn't. It wasn't part of the music. The music was all chord progressions, in keys. They had plenty to work on - until Miles decided he'd had enough of the frantic harmonic density of bop.
    (My knowledge of jazz is far from encyclopedic! If you know of any modal jazz before 1959, I'd like to hear it. Seriously. And I'm aware I'm exaggerating the nature of the change in jazz. It took a while for modal ideas to spread, and it was always quite loosely implemented. The old ideas weren't thrown out, by any means. Some even think "modal" is a misnomer for what Miles was doing - but it is a useful handle.)

    In rock music, the modal element came from blues, folk and (after 1966) ethnic music such as Indian ragas. Nobody (AFAIK, apart from the Doors) knew anything about the theory. They just liked the sounds - primarily the flattening of the 7th of the major scale, which is a fundamental part of rock vocabulary. You can hear it all through the Beatles songs, esp those of Lennon and Harrison, and the Stones too. The rest of rock followed them, of course, because it was the language they heard and liked. They didn't need to know what some academic theorist would have called it.
    (Its an interesting sociological-philosophical question as to WHY rock musicians liked the open-ended groove sounds of modes, why they rejected the harmonic language of pop before them. Excepting Paul McCartney and others, who loved the old functional harmonic language.)
    Last edited by JonR; 12-09-2007 at 09:51 AM.

  8. #8
    Registered User jimc8p's Avatar
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    I think there is a lot of what could be classed 'modal' or at least of a modal nature about. It just tends to be not thought of in that way, by the musicians and the listners. A lot of pop and rock unwittingly use modal sounds (from The Beatles to Justin Timberlake), but I don't expect it was at all a conscious decision - just the effect of a line of unconscious influences. My point is, modes are not difficult or unnecessary. Great songs are written with an accidental modal influence all the time.

  9. #9
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimc8p
    I think there is a lot of what could be classed 'modal' or at least of a modal nature about. It just tends to be not thought of in that way, by the musicians and the listners. A lot of pop and rock unwittingly use modal sounds (from The Beatles to Justin Timberlake), but I don't expect it was at all a conscious decision - just the effect of a line of unconscious influences. My point is, modes are not difficult or unnecessary. Great songs are written with an accidental modal influence all the time.
    Precisely.

  10. #10
    SubterraneanHomesickAlien DuB's Avatar
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    Just on a little side note...

    In Led Zep's tune "No Quarter," Page's guitar solo (which he extends to 5 or 6 minutes during the live shows - yikes!) is overtly dorian throughout. While I've never read about Page mentioning modes himself, it seems unlikely to me that he would improvise strictly in dorian for 5+ minutes without having some knowledge of what he was doing. Although I suppose it's possible. So anyway, just thought I would throw that out there... . I agree with what's been said about modes being largely overrated.

  11. #11
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    A lot of modal rock guitar solos, I suspect, came about by the guitarists using a favorite fingering pattern that sounded good over a chord progression. That is, many guitar players even today think of modes as fingering patterns. Back when I played clubs, that is how we all learned the "styles" of various artists. The Page fingering, the Frampton fingering, the Santana fingering, etc. Now I just use the major scale, and deviate from it as needed.

    That doesn't mean, of course, that they didn't know what they were doing. Perhaps they did. It is simply an assumption on my part. But my assumption is that most guitar players' understanding of the modes extends to memorized fingering patterns as alternatives to the pentatonic scale.

    I have little interest in modal playing, so I haven't even gotten that far. So most guitarists are up on me, eh? But some of the posters on this board seem to have a rock-solid grasp of the systems and theory. I read, I learn... My interest is growing.
    "If a child learns which is jay and which is sparrow, he'll no longer see birds nor hear them sing."

  12. #12
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf
    A lot of modal rock guitar solos, I suspect, came about by the guitarists using a favorite fingering pattern that sounded good over a chord progression. That is, many guitar players even today think of modes as fingering patterns. Back when I played clubs, that is how we all learned the "styles" of various artists. The Page fingering, the Frampton fingering, the Santana fingering, etc. Now I just use the major scale, and deviate from it as needed.

    That doesn't mean, of course, that they didn't know what they were doing. Perhaps they did. It is simply an assumption on my part. But my assumption is that most guitar players' understanding of the modes extends to memorized fingering patterns as alternatives to the pentatonic scale.

    I have little interest in modal playing, so I haven't even gotten that far. So most guitarists are up on me, eh? But some of the posters on this board seem to have a rock-solid grasp of the systems and theory. I read, I learn... My interest is growing.
    Blutty,

    I think we keep going 'round on this stuff, in part, because we assume the definition of knowing modes / theory etc means being able to talk about it using all the conventions that are used / taught as part of theory. On one level this is "knowing theory".

    But let's take the case of the guitarist that has no problem playing in a modal setting but couldn't discuss his way out of a paper bag, in terms of theory. It is fair to say that this person doesn't know theory. Or do we mean that they don't speak traditional theory-ese?

    Using your example above, the pattern player that's knows how to get the sound he wants but may not know the note names or their scale degree designations or their modal name or their parent key signature. I don't care if he knows the (somewhat arbitrary) names according to theory, as long as he can find the sounds when needed and can repeat them when needed.

    People often remind us the the jazz greats didn't even think in terms of modes. But give them a chord progression and then tell them to vamp on some 2-chord vamp and they were good to go for days. Do we really believe they didn't understand the concept of modes or is i that they just described the same thing in a different way (as in A dorian = Amin with an F# or Amin in the key of G major)

    IMO, whether people know music because they have memorized a million songs, or they know music theory and can do a harmonic analysis, or even if they don't know a lot of songs or any theory but have some magical gift that let's them play whatever they want by ear alone - it's all the same thing.

    We can know something in terms of practical examples or
    We can know something in terms of theoretical jardon or
    We can know something in terms of aural expression.

    But in each case, it's the same thing we are talking about, we just approach it from a different frame of reference so we call it something different. But it's all just the one thing - music. And finally, none of the theoretical knowledge means anything - if you cannot put it to use in your playing. All the theory in the world won't make a non-musician musical.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm big on theory - it is how I approach the guitar and it's how I learn and understand various songs, lines, variations. But the day I can audition for a gig with nothing more than a discussion about theory is the day we had all better hang up our axes, because surely it means the end of the world.

    cheers,

  13. #13
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    Er... we agree, Jed...

    I wasn't minimizing their skill or effectiveness. I was just pointing out that one can play "modally" without understanding the theory behind it.

    You think when I am in the middle of a solo I am thinking in terms of scale degree? I am just hearing intervals and hopping/sliding/bending to them. Memorized dots help a lot... After I get finished, I'll let some theory whiz tell me what I just did.
    "If a child learns which is jay and which is sparrow, he'll no longer see birds nor hear them sing."

  14. #14
    Registered User dmsstudios's Avatar
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    JonR,

    Im surprised by your list of players that you say are oblivious to modes (prior to 1959.) Does modal playing have to beat you over the head with the root? Isnt an amazing melody played over a complex chord progression...modal genius? Thelonious was a Juilliard graduate, Miles was a Juilliard dropout.
    Dan

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  15. #15
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf
    Er... we agree, Jed...

    I wasn't minimizing their skill or effectiveness. I was just pointing out that one can play "modally" without understanding the theory behind it.
    Sorry, I was trying to say (from a theory guy's pov) that I agreed with you. I trying to phrase an explaination of why we (the royal we, not you and I specifically) keep going 'round and 'round this issue.

    To the extent that we (not you and I but the "them" actually) define knowledge of somthing in terms of our personal frame of reference then we let ourselves believe that someone else doesn't understand the same thing, rather than allowing that they understand the thing in a different way.

    Obviously I am somewhat challenge with writing. I better stick to music.

    cheers,

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