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Thread: How do you recommend to learn the Modes (on Guitar)

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    How do you recommend to learn the Modes (on Guitar)

    I've quite a few books learning Modes on Guitar. Some books present a few alternatives to learning 3 scales at a time (by substituting another mode for all three), Many books insist that you must learn each individual mode pattern (with some dispute as to when to learn it horizontally, or vertically).

    First, I should mention that I've played guitar using minor and major pentatonic scales for 45 years. I know how to combine each scale to provide a total of 10 notes in any key, regardless of whether the music is minor or major, or uses both major and minor. I am also aware of note in the natural minor scale, and use it, just as Santana would do. In short, my technique offers 10 notes, while scales and modes only offer 8. BUT...... I DO want to learn the Modes.

    Please feel free to express your agreement or disagreement with my preferred idea, advocated by some music books.
    For example, if I wanted to play E-Phrygian, I would play an Ionian scale/mode pattern in a different scale or mode, and simply emphasize the root notes and mode notes of E, and E-Phrygian

    I can't help but believe that there is absolutely no reason to burn all 7 of the modes, when playing a single mode (with a bit of shifting on the fret board),
    allows you to play every mode in any key. (To me, that sounds like THE "Sliver Bullet").


    Please offer you opinions and related experience(s). Many thanks in advance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    I've quite a few books learning Modes on Guitar. Some books present a few alternatives to learning 3 scales at a time (by substituting another mode for all three), Many books insist that you must learn each individual mode pattern (with some dispute as to when to learn it horizontally, or vertically).

    First, I should mention that I've played guitar using minor and major pentatonic scales for 45 years. I know how to combine each scale to provide a total of 10 notes in any key, regardless of whether the music is minor or major, or uses both major and minor. I am also aware of note in the natural minor scale, and use it, just as Santana would do. In short, my technique offers 10 notes, while scales and modes only offer 8. BUT...... I DO want to learn the Modes.
    OK, given your experience, my question is why? What do you think modes will offer that you can't do (or work out) already?
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    Please feel free to express your agreement or disagreement with my preferred idea, advocated by some music books.
    For example, if I wanted to play E-Phrygian, I would play an Ionian scale/mode pattern in a different scale or mode
    No.
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    , and simply emphasize the root notes and mode notes of E, and E-Phrygian
    Partly yes.
    It's not about just "emphasizing" the root or mode notes. E has to be heard as the tonal centre, the keynote.
    That means working with an E bass or Em chord. Ideally no other chords, but a passing F can be good to underline the essential bII>I phrygian cadence.
    Listen to Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", or Metallica's "Wherever I may Roam", to hear E phrygian riffs. Notice they are in the key of E, not C.
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    I can't help but believe that there is absolutely no reason to burn all 7 of the modes, when playing a single mode (with a bit of shifting on the fret board),
    Of course. Every scale runs all over the neck, which means every mode does too.
    Don't confuse fret patterns with modes. Fret patterns aren't modes in a real musical sense. Any pattern can be used for any mode.

    Here's how to think of modes:
    Mixolydian = major key with b7
    Lydian = major key with #4
    Dorian = minor key with major 6
    Phrygian = minor key with b2

    Forget about Locrian.
    I presume you know your major and minor key scales. To get modal effects you just need to alter one note, as above. But you do also need to take account of the chords, and to play convincing modal music you need to limit your chords, or play the root chord for much longer.
    Eg, G mixolydian is the same notes as C major, so any sequence in G mixolydian risks sounding like C major (C major is a stronger tonality). So you need to play the G chord more often, and don't follow it with C if you can avoid it. F-C-G makes a good mixolydian cadence. Or just vamp on a G7, nothing else.

  3. #3
    Here's an article and lesson I did on modes a while back: unlockthefretboard.weebly.com/blog/modes-how-to-avoid-years-of-confusion I hope you find it useful.
    http://unlocktheguitar.net

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    OK, given your experience, my question is why? What do you think modes will offer that you can't do (or work out) already?
    Good question. My answer after playing pentatonic scales for the past 40 years, I'm at the point where I want to learn how to transition into different keys, by using modes.
    there are some really nice transitions in some songs that are so smooth that it's hard to pin down how it is being accomplished, e.g. "Jessica" accomplish a very smooth transition using pentatonics. There are also some songs that require greater familiarity with scales, e.g. some of Santana's later work.

    I want to thank you for your time and feedback.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Fret patterns aren't modes in a real musical sense. Any pattern can be used for any mode.

    Here's how to think of modes:
    Mixolydian = major key with b7
    Lydian = major key with #4
    Dorian = minor key with major 6
    Phrygian = minor key with b2
    Forget about Locrian.
    I simply can not imagine randomly placing my finger down on the feat board, not knowing a pattern, nor the key in which to play, then counting in my head, if in the particular mode I would like to use... instantaneously having my brain compute how far from the root, that random note actually is, and continue to compute this from all modes, rather than memorize a pattern of a mode or substitute an Ionian scale for that mode. The approach you mentioned above and discarding a fret bored pattern, is above my ability to transfer from music theory, to the application of music onto an instrument. I've yet to find a music theory book that discards patterns. However, I have seen a different of opinion with regard to whether to play each mode as a shifted Ionian while remembering the root key placement for all modes. Again, I welcome your feedback, in particular as to how you figure out in real-time how to apply any modes.

    I'm just glad I don't play a wind instrument. lol
    Last edited by dhwflash; 06-15-2014 at 05:18 AM. Reason: Additional Info

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    Opting out of gman's spam
    Last edited by dhwflash; 06-15-2014 at 05:42 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    Good question. My answer after playing pentatonic scales for the past 40 years, I'm at the point where I want to learn how to transition into different keys, by using modes.
    there are some really nice transitions in some songs that are so smooth that it's hard to pin down how it is being accomplished, e.g. "Jessica" accomplish a very smooth transition using pentatonics.
    Jessica is largely built on a 6-note scale, 1-2-3-4-5-6 - and around the A and D chord arps.
    I'm not sure what you mean about "a very smooth transition using pentatonics", but you may be right (you might be talking about something I'd describe differently).
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    There are also some songs that require greater familiarity with scales, e.g. some of Santana's later work.
    Sure. I'd say that you can still determine everything you need from looking at the melody and chord tones. What terms you use to identify that material (as scales or modes) is less important.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    I simply can not imagine randomly placing my finger down on the feat board, not knowing a pattern, nor the key in which to play, then counting in my head, if in the particular mode I would like to use...
    instantaneously having my brain compute how far from the root, that random note actually is, and continue to compute this from all modes, rather than memorize a pattern of a mode or substitute an Ionian scale for that mode. The approach you mentioned above and discarding a fret bored pattern, is above my ability to transfer from music theory, to the application of music onto an instrument. I've yet to find a music theory book that discards patterns. However, I have seen a different of opinion with regard to whether to play each mode as a shifted Ionian while remembering the root key placement for all modes. Again, I welcome your feedback, in particular as to how you figure out in real-time how to apply any modes.
    It's not about discarding patterns, but about not getting too attached to particular names for them.
    As guitarists, we can't avoid patterns, we use them all the time. The trick is to see beyond them.
    I see chords on the fretboard same as you do, and I'm sure I see the same scale patterns too.
    But because I know the notes (and yes, some theory ) I see all the connections - which makes it all pretty simple in the end.

    As someone said, "there's only 12 notes, how hard it can be?"
    In fact, it's a little more complicated than that (but not much):
    At any one time, there's 7 inside notes and 5 outside ones. And within those 7 are usually 3 or 4 chord tones which are the harmonic foundation (at that moment). That's "vertical".
    Alongside that are the "horizontal" (melodic/rhythmic) relationships, note-to-note in time.
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    I'm just glad I don't play a wind instrument. lol
    Yep! The patterns there are a lot stranger, less visual, more tactile/abstract/mental.
    Last edited by JonR; 06-15-2014 at 02:14 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Jessica is largely built on a 6-note scale, 1-2-3-4-5-6 - and around the A and D chord arps.
    I'm not sure what you mean about "a very smooth transition using pentatonics", but you may be right (you might be talking about something I'd describe differently).
    Re: "Jessica" you're right. Jessica is all about transitioning from the major pentatonic or some major mode in A, to the major pentatonic or some major mode in D.

    It is the transition from A to D by the lead guitar "break" which occurs during a major pentatonic or major mode in A, to a major pentatonic or major mode in D, that is accomplished so seamlessly that it is the beauty of playing lead guitar to that song, IMO. Also, IMO, I have yet to find the transition point in the lead guitar "break" that transitions the song from A to D, and I suspect the cause may be my ignorance of playing in modes that contributes to my inability to finely tune myself to knowing when to transition.

    On the other hand, the transition may well occur at the nod of the lead guitarists head, to the rest of the members of the band. (I suspect this is the more probable cause of my inability to know exactly when to transition to a D pentatonic or mode.)

    Again, I welcome your comments and invite your feedback on my ineptitude.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    Re: "Jessica" you're right. Jessica is all about transitioning from the major pentatonic or some major mode in A, to the major pentatonic or some major mode in D.
    Well, I haven't analysed the solo, I only know the melody.
    The main melody is A major (harmonised in 3rds and 4ths) but never uses the 7th of the scale. In the intro, however, there are passing G naturals in the bass, so we can assume A mixolydian mode.

    In the bridge, when it goes to the G chord, the tune uses a C natural, before going back to a C# over the A chord.
    I.e., the G major chord is diatonic to A mixolydian, but for some reason they chose to use a C in the melody in place of the diatonic C#. (The reason would have been that they thought C sounded better.)
    This doesn't suggest any modal idea to me, more a simple blues variant. (The blues key of A major would use both C and C# freely.) And they might not even have thought that far. It sounds right, and that's enough.
    After the return to the main tune, they end that section with a climbing series of half-notes which run up A dorian mode (ie passing through C and G natural); then there's an A-D vamp where a C is played on the D chord. Again, this is standard blues fare (flattening both the 3rd and 7th of a major key), and I'm not sure a modal analysis helps very much. I doubt they had any modal awareness.
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    It is the transition from A to D by the lead guitar "break" which occurs during a major pentatonic or major mode in A, to a major pentatonic or major mode in D, that is accomplished so seamlessly that it is the beauty of playing lead guitar to that song, IMO. Also, IMO, I have yet to find the transition point in the lead guitar "break" that transitions the song from A to D, and I suspect the cause may be my ignorance of playing in modes that contributes to my inability to finely tune myself to knowing when to transition.

    On the other hand, the transition may well occur at the nod of the lead guitarists head, to the rest of the members of the band. (I suspect this is the more probable cause of my inability to know exactly when to transition to a D pentatonic or mode.)

    Again, I welcome your comments and invite your feedback on my ineptitude.
    Don't say ineptitude! I think you're just trying to read too much into it. Curiosity about concepts is all very well, but you don't need to ask such questions to be able to play like that.
    The Allmans certainly wouldn't have thought about it in such depth. They knew their blues material well enough, and also their country idioms. Like all classic rock acts, they just copied the records they liked. As in: "OK they're playing a C natural in key of A major, sounds cool, we can do that." No theory required.
    If it sounds good, it is good. Very few rock musicians are going to wonder why.

    They would certainly know that an A major chord has a C#, but they's also know that that doesnt mean that when the D chord comes along you have to keep the C# in the scale. C sounds fine (if not better) because it sounds bluesy. Even on the A chord, you can play C any time you want a bluesier effect. (The melody is not bluesy, so they stick to C#, so that all those harmonised 3rds sound sweet.)

    I'll check out the solo and get back to you if other useful tips occur to me.

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    J,

    Just a brief note of thanks for your response. I'll check it out. One thing I do know is that Dicky Betts often plays in mixolydian mode.
    I suspect that if I learn modes, e.g. mixolydian, that it would open up new avenues beyond the major and minor penatonics that I almost always (99.9% of the time) tend to play in. This is just an example of one of many songs that I recognize as using a key/scale shift that I suspect goes beyond simple pentotonics in order to more fully appreciate what is being done. Thanks again for you feedback.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    J,

    Just a brief note of thanks for your response. I'll check it out. One thing I do know is that Dicky Betts often plays in mixolydian mode.
    I suspect that if I learn modes, e.g. mixolydian, that it would open up new avenues beyond the major and minor penatonics that I almost always (99.9% of the time) tend to play in. This is just an example of one of many songs that I recognize as using a key/scale shift that I suspect goes beyond simple pentotonics in order to more fully appreciate what is being done. Thanks again for you feedback.
    Mixolydian can probably be regarded as THE basic rock scale.
    IOW, while the major key is standard for classical music, jazz, and vintage pop (with the minor key as an important alternative), mixolydian is the standard rock modality.
    In simple terms, it's just flattening the 7th of the major key, which also means adding bVII chords to the basic major key set. (Rock still uses major/ionian, but slightly prefers mixolydian.)
    Eg, the average rock song in the key of E major will typically (almost always) contain a D major chord. It might still have the usual B or B7 chord, but the addition of D is standard - ie, not some odd bending of a rule, but actually following a rule.
    So the idea is to see that D chord - the bVII and b7 - as normal, not a deviation.

    Music theory, remember, derives from so-called "common practice". But the "common practice" that gave us the major key as our standard tonality dates from the baroque and classical eras (the CPP, or "common practice period"). Naturally, major and minor keys still survive in popular music of all kinds - even after classical music abandoned them - but in rock, the "common practices" are mixolydian, major key, blues, minor key, and dorian mode - probably in that order.

    If you're coming from the pentatonics, remember that parallel major and minor pent combined gives you a fairly universal rock/country/R&B scale, that could also be described as mixolydian and dorian combined:
    1 2 b3 3 4 5 6 b7.
    (In jazz they call that scale "bebop dorian", but in rock usage it's more like mixolydian with passing b3, because it's used in a major key context, not minor.)

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    I'm missing out on playing specific notes not in the 5 note scales, by not realizing what can be gained by playing 7 note scales and modes.
    That's what it comes down to, rather than missing a key change. That I do recognize after 40 years of playing 5 note scales alone or combined to make approximately 10 notes scales.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    I'm missing out on playing specific notes not in the 5 note scales, by not realizing what can be gained by playing 7 note scales and modes.
    That's what it comes down to, rather than missing a key change. That I do recognize after 40 years of playing 5 note scales alone or combined to make approximately 10 notes scales.
    The simple truth - as I might have said elsewhere - is that all 12 notes are available at all times. It's just a question of hierarchy: which notes are more basic or important - "inside" - and which are more "outside" (contrasting or chromatic).
    1. Chord tones. (Triads, or 7ths in jazz)
    2. Additional pentatonic notes (one or two)
    3. Additional diatonic notes - two from the scale of the key
    4. Five chromatics.

    Level 2 means major pents on major chords, and minor pents on minors. It means adding the 2nd and 6th to major triads (and to maj7s and dom7s); and adding 4th and 7th to minor triads (or just the 4th to min7s).

    There's often not a lot of distinction between levels 2 and 3. Eg, it's common to add a 2nd (9th) to a minor chord (without or without its 7th).
    And one can also superimpose pentatonics; ie. building them off chord tones other than the root. Eg, a common jazz practice is the "b3 pent" (1-2-b3-5-6) from the 5th of a dom7; that gives you the 3rd-5th-7th of the chord, plus the 6th(13th) and 9th, IOW, all the good tones and extensions, excluding the root.

    The last level - the 5 chromatics making up the full 12 at any point - is always available, at least as passing notes between the "inside" notes. Chromatic approaches to chord tones (usually upwards) are very common in jazz, and also in blues (where the approach tends to be a bend).

    In my playing experience (only a few years longer than yours!) I've found this is what it all comes down to in the end: "inside" v "outside". Chord tones v everything else, essentially.
    At least, that's the case in music with a "mobile" harmony: chords with specific functions moving through a progression.

    As I mentioned in the other thread, it's when you have static harmony (usually defined as "modal") that the issue of specific scales - and the moods they provide - becomes an issue. Eg, if a tune is in dorian mode, it usually sounds best to restrict your material to those 7 notes, with minimal - if any - chromaticism. At the same time, the chord tones (if it's only one chord!) assume less importance. Modal jazz was really about breaking down, dissolving, the rigid structures of the older functional harmony; liberating melody, if you like.

    Even so, a diatonic set of 7 notes is usually still given by the tune (in its chords and melody). Modal choices are rarely available.
    That doesn't mean you need no interest in the effects of specific "modal" character notes.
    Eg, on an F chord in the key of C major, that B note (the diatonic #4) still has a specific sound and quality against the chord. You need to be familiar with that, and not just regard it as either a "good" or "bad" sound.
    If you really like that #4 sound, you might want to employ it on the C as well - and you can if you want. Although awareness of key matters, it doesn't mean chromatics are "wrong", or even that they always need resolution. An F# on top of a tonic Cmaj9 chord can sound sweet - although I suspect you'll always have a niggling sense that it needs to resolve up to G (I know I do).
    Last edited by JonR; 06-19-2014 at 09:12 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    The simple truth - as I might have said elsewhere - is that all 12 notes are available at all times. It's just a question of hierarchy: which notes are more basic or important - "inside" - and which are more "outside" (contrasting or chromatic).
    1. Chord tones. (Triads, or 7ths in jazz)
    2. Additional pentatonic notes (one or two)
    3. Additional diatonic notes - two from the scale of the key
    4. Five chromatics.
    You've lost me with #4 "Five chromatics", as 1 chromatic represents all notes on the fret board, what do you mean by 5 chromatics?

    BTW. There's a lot if information in your post above. I will need time to attempt to absorb and learn it, as I'm essentially a pentatonic player who occasionally learns when to go beyond 5 notes, e.g. when playing to "Black Magic Woman" (even though you could avoid playing more than 5 notes to that song and others).

    Could you please explain what you mean by #4 above???

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