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Thread: Modes. Why is it so hard?

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  1. #1
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Modes. Why is it so hard?

    Why are there so many questions and so many heated discussions regarding this topic if most of the information is well documented? There are great sites online as well as some well written articles write here on iBreathe. Yet time after time so much friction and so much misunderstanding. Here is what I think.
    • A good instructional book on modes from A to Z could be a very intense book with hundreds of pages, yet so many times you find it summarized in about 3-5 pages.
    • Many readers read the first section on diatonic modes in a basic major scale and learn the names of the modes, the arpegios and that it is all just one scale. They can get a grasp on that and say yeah I get it and move on. They keep doing this until they get to the advanced stuff. The truth is they are not ready for the advanced stuff yet.
    • People have gotten the Idea that modes start on their tonic.
    • Sometimes a thread is asking a basic question regarding the modes and people will Reply with advanced stuff that you wouldn't need to know untill you are at the more advanced stages. (I think this confuses people more than anything)
    • Sometimes a thread is asking an advanced question without thorough knowledge of the basics.
    • If you were taking lessons from a good teacher, He would introduce you to the modes and let you chew on excercises to enforce the basic knowledge. The progression would be slow but steady. Ultimately you would be learning the more advanced stuff but not until you are ready.
    • I sense a reall attitude sometimes that "Cause I learned it this way, it has to be the only way."


    There are many aspects to modes.
    • The basic knowledge of Modes, Their names, The associated Arpegios.
    • How each note of each mode relates to its associated arpegio.
    • Different fingerings for modes. How to use the same position for all seven modes.
    • How to play the same melody in each mode
    • Relationship to the relative minor.
    • The purpose of the locrian mode.
    • Harmonic minor and Melodic Minor.
    • Diminished scales and arpegios.
    • Using modes for chords of the moment verses over the entire progression.
    • The sound of modes over different chords.
    • Using modes other than Ionian or Aeolian over progressions.
    • Using modes in progressions with altered chords.
    • Modal progressions


    I wonder how much I am forgeting here. Help me out.

    It is my opinion that most of the people asking the questions have not really mastered the first four sections listed above and are getting bombarded with information from the last sections listed above. There is enough topic here for a real good book with lots of examples and excercises.

    what I would like to see here is your appoach to excercises the the topics listed above. Please specify the topic.
    example:
    Harmonic minor and melodic minor
    There was this kid named Yngwy............
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  2. #2
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    Heck, you should be writing an article. This is commonly the last theory jump for guitar players before they start exploring different styles and composition effectively. I'll be using this as a reference myself. Thanks!

  3. #3
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    You make some very good points and I also think you should be writing an article.

    I find a lot of people that are getting into modes want to know it all and since the first sections might be mentally easy to grasp it is very easy to jump ahead of yourself. How many beginers want to know the diminished scale or phrygian dominant when they can't even play a major scale around the circle of 5ths?

    Depending on the student, what I often do is start off with just Ionian. Learn it in 7 positions and then learn how to play it around the cirlce of 5ths in 7 positions. Then when you move on to other modes get them to play it through all 12 keys in a completely random order in 7 positions. Then move to aeolian, rinse and repeat. Each time a mode is introduced also introduce the corresponding argeggio and do all the circle of 5ths stuff with those. Then after aeolian add mixolydian and dorian. Start talking about ii-V-I progressions. Add the locrian and start talking about minor ii-V-i's. At this point they can start practicing these overtop of charts, popular songs or just random progressions. This way eventually I try and get it so all mode/scale/arpeggio practice is directly related to a song that is sitting infront of them.

    I find that if you teach people what modes are and how to play them all it isn't good enough. They have to have a piece of music sitting in front of them or else when they play over stuff they revert back to pentatonic, major and minor scales. I've always found that the closer you relate it to playing the more understandable it is, instead of just sitting and running up and down scales mindlessly.

  4. #4
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Here is a quote that I copied and pasted from another forum.
    Quote Originally Posted by Auggie Doggie
    What I have noticed over many years is that 'modes' have become some bizarre rite of passage for guitarists. They feel that by having some knowledge of the modes, they have passed some kind of milestone. Oddly, this 'milestone' is often reached before the player has any concept of tonality or functional harmony.

    Adding fuel to the fire is that 'modes' are taught (and I condemn every text and teacher who repeatedly enforces this myth) as a series of fingering patterns on the fretboard. Fingering patterns are easy to memorize (often mistaken for knowledge), and they have names. People LOVE to name things; if we have a name to call it, we own it, or we know it. Legions of guitarists memorized a bunch of scale patterns, called them 'modes', and feel they have reached some major evolutionary step. Even worse, the modes have Greek names...and when someone starts speaking of things that have foreign names, they feel especially important, even if they're blowing smoke out their posterior.

    Guitar books, magazines, teachers, and especially message board users always seem to give the advice "learn your scales and modes and you will become a better soloist". Then they perpetuate that myth by feeding a bunch of dot diagrams to the player, teaching them the fingerboard by completely misusing a theory concept...and even worse, they also perpetuate the idea of 'use this pattern over this chord and you will be a soloing genius', with no mention of things like melody, harmony, or rhythm. Is it any wonder so many players think of a solo as a time to run their scales?

    I've heard a lot of players stake a claim to 'modes' as a basis for bragging rights. I've seen entire books about modes for guitarists, written by authors who honestly have NO F'ING CLUE what modes really are (or ever were). I've read analyses of music that mention a change of 'mode' every time a chord change occurs, while the same analyses never actually mention harmony! I've actually heard people speak of modes as if they are the pinnacle of music theory, and if you know the modes, you know all there is to know. All of these things are a damn shame.

    In reality, modes are a small (and in MANY cases, a completely nonexistent) issue. In modern practice, modes are merely a subset of the tonal system; in their original form (I even wrote a thread about it) they were MUCH different from how we view them now (as was music in general). Guitarists are obsessed with modes (as is clear by the number of threads about them), but somehow it doesn't occur to them that a working knowledge of the tonal system pretty much explains all there is to know about them. Modes are touted as some sort of musical holy grail, usually by the people who know the least about them.

    So, to summarize, modes are given WAY too much importance and emphasis...they are generally taught in a completely incorrect and horribly incomplete manner...and they are damned by virtue of their having names. One cannot just say 'I know harmony' or 'I know voice leading' or 'I know counterpoint' or 'I know melody'...those are broad yet abstract topics. However, one can say "I know the modes" (even when they usually don't know them), and back it up with a modicum of tangible evidence ("Lookie...I can play the Phrygian mode on my guitar if I play on these dots!"). That ties modes into ego, and there is your smoking gun.
    and to that I add...."Exactly! The modes are not a set of finger patterns. You can use any finger pattern and find all seven modes within it. Look at the piano. There is only one finger pattern for any given key yet they have access to all the modes."
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    Hey I like that bit...explains why half decent guitarists are a dime a dozen. Ask most of them to play an Ab dorian. Hey, no problem. How about a ii-V-I in Gb up and down only on the 3rd string?

  6. #6
    I am not very nice DemonSorcerer's Avatar
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    You know what's the problem with guitarists, nowadays??? THEY LOVE TO LOOK AT DOTS ON A FRETBOARD CHART!!!! Even, worse, they love to just follow the dots on the chart without asking what's happening on that chart...they love to memorize what they don't know...and the worst thing is that they LOVE blabbing about the modes & other suposedly called "complicated things" at other ppl just to feel superior...*sighs*

    What they don't like is to investigate...to search for clues...to look for a solid understanding of what they're doing...they don't give a damn about it, and even worse...they don't even know that they're screwing themselves up to their thoats...*sighs* I mean, how can an artist create a piece of art if he even doesn't know his colors?? and what those colors express?? and UNDERSTAND the whole context of Image Theory, Stetic and blah, blah...*sighs* i find it frustrating, you know?? Not for me, but i feel frustrated for them...If only they wanted to look far beyond the dots...

    Now tell me...imagine this...let's say i blindfold you...very tight...and i put a piece of music...maybe a 15 secs, well-based, long melody in C Lydian, for example...play it over and over and over...you have it stuck in your head...you're still blindfold and i give you a guitar...i whistle the long melody to you just to make sure you got it...now, can you play what you heard?? Can you play what's in your mind without looking at your l.h. fingers or fretboard?? think about it for a few secs...

    Modes, as any other (and every) scale, are just HARMONIC SITUATIONS...HARMONIC ENVIRONMENTS...HARMONIC PICTURES...and each one has its own qualities...think about this...let's say that you're staring at this picture of a snowy mountain lake, with tons of different blue tonalities...close your eyes and think of the pic...you can feel the wind, as you stare looking at the lake...you feel that you're in a fantasy place, as in a dream...everything is tranquil and calmed, and you just see the clouds as they roll in the sky...NOW!!!! stop thinking. what mode do you have on your head?? think of a melody that fits the situation...*sighs* It's LYDIAN...lydian has the specific intervals to fit THAT context, that situation...*sighs again*

    A few more words...Guitarists will learn and understand everythign they want to learn ONLY when they learn to listen with their ears and not with their fingers on the fretboard...

    David

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    Quote Originally Posted by Los Boleros View Post
    Here is a quote that I copied and pasted from another forum.
    and to that I add...."Exactly! The modes are not a set of finger patterns. You can use any finger pattern and find all seven modes within it. Look at the piano. There is only one finger pattern for any given key yet they have access to all the modes."
    Hey I like that bit...explains why half decent guitarists are a dime a dozen. Ask most of them to play an Ab dorian. Hey, no problem. How about a ii-V-I in Gb up and down only on the 3rd string?
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    Quote Originally Posted by lencoo12 View Post
    Hey I like that bit...explains why half decent guitarists are a dime a dozen. Ask most of them to play an Ab dorian. Hey, no problem. How about a ii-V-I in Gb up and down only on the 3rd string?
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    Quote Originally Posted by silent-storm View Post
    ... I find that if you teach people what modes are and how to play them all it isn't good enough. They have to have a piece of music sitting in front of them or else when they play over stuff they revert back to pentatonic, major and minor scales. I've always found that the closer you relate it to playing the more understandable it is, instead of just sitting and running up and down scales mindlessly.
    Storm, you've pretty much hit the nail on the head as to why I could never learn Jazz guitar... that is to say the 7th of the Ionian is not flatted.

    I simply couldn't connect any dots together to explain how to get around the non-flatted Ionian 7th. I reverted to penatonics, just as you posted, and the guitar teacher sent me packing within 3 months. Additionally, I knew nothing about Modes that would allow me to play major and minor "scales" to something like Sunshine of Your Love, way back in the '60's.

    Modes seem to be a well kept secret that is used (by some teachers) to respond to the student who asks "How did you play all of that?", where the Teacher responds with a white lie: "Oh, everything I played was in D major (for example)".
    Last edited by dhwflash; 06-17-2014 at 05:31 AM. Reason: grammer

  10. #10
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    Modes seem to be a well kept secret that is used (by some teachers) to respond to the student who asks "How did you play all of that?", where the Teacher responds with a white lie: "Oh, everything I played was in D major (for example)".
    My view (not entirely tongue-in-cheek) is that modes are a conspiracy by guitar teachers to make more money.
    It's a little like drugs companies, who make drugs then invent a disease they're supposed to cure. Give the drug a sciencey name, or sciencey-sounding ingredients, and it seems a lot more convincing.

    First, modes are promoted as cool things you need to learn - ways that will "open up" your playing, or let you "apply" various cool-sounding "moods" in your improvisation. It's all bull****, but of course it sounds attractive. Sounds like just what you've been looking for!
    A whole load of confusing material is posted online in various places - most of it correct (or at least based on facts), but most of it so incomplete and mixed up that it confuses more than clarifies.
    So then all these beginners need (or think they need) to pay for tutors to explain what modes are all about.

    Seriously, I don't really believe most teachers conspire deliberately in this. But it's definitely a solution in search of a problem, not vice versa.

    Improvisation is really very simple. It doesn't take months of lessons to teach anyone how to do it. But of course teachers need to make a living somehow. And some fancy-sounding theory, with its own baffling mystique, comes in very handy for prolonging the process.

    The other problem often encountered, when experienced musicians set themselves up as teachers, is the kind of thing you're referring to. "Oh, it's simple, you just play this..." They're not deliberately lying or trying to fool you, but because they're not experienced teachers, they underestimate the complexity of what they do. They take a lot of stuff for granted; it's second nature for them.
    As a teacher myself - who came to it after decades of playing - I took a long time trying to disentangle the stuff I took for granted; trying to trace it all back to the beginning, and lay it out in a systematic manner. It wasn't easy, and I'm not sure I've fully solved it even now. I still sometimes find myself assuming students know stuff they don't. But there are some "teachers" out there who barely seem to think it's a problem at all; they'll demonstrate a phrase or technique without any explanation or breakdown.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    ...The other problem often encountered, when experienced musicians set themselves up as teachers, is the kind of thing you're referring to. "Oh, it's simple, you just play this..." They're not deliberately lying or trying to fool you, but because they're not experienced teachers, they underestimate the complexity of what they do. They take a lot of stuff for granted; it's second nature for them.
    I agree. However, I would like to note that guitarists such as Mark Knoffler appear to make good use of modes beyond Ionian, and beyond penatonitcs. This is another motivation for me to learn the modes, as using a 5 note scale to keep up with what Mark Knoffler is doing is definitely not "in he cards".

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    I dont know if its any use but theres a 5 part dvd that goes over how it all connects together and its pretty helpful im only on the 3rd and im startng to see the guitarneck as like a map or something full of these options i can take
    oh yeah its called monster guitar method

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    Thnx for the tip. Well is it same for the other modes? I just didn't get it right there.

    For example: if we were to use F Lydian : F G A B C D E F.
    the intervals: 1-M2-M3-#4-P5-M6-M7
    and let's say we used a kind of chord progression like this: II-IV (I'm not sure if it works I'm just trying to figure it out how it goes). It means that we well use a Gmaj7 and Baug .

    ...

  14. #14
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    No, you are missing it. You are right in regards to the intervals of the mode but off on the chord changes.

    You have to understand how to harmonize the major scale first. Make sure you understand the key of C major before going on to any other keys:

    C-D-E-F-G-A-B

    If we stack a chord from the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th note (C-E-G-B) we get a Cmaj7 chord. The first chord in the key is C maj7 and we'll call it the "I" chord. The first mode of the major scale in the Ionian Mode (C to C). Therefore:

    Cmaj7=Ionian.

    If we stack notes to make a chord starting on the second note in the scale, D we get this chord: D-F-A-C. We get a Dmin7 chord. The second chord in C is Dmin7 (the "ii" chord) and the second mode is D dorian. Therefore:

    Dmin7=D dorian.

    If we go on from here, we get this:

    "I" Cmaj' = C Ionian
    "ii" Dmin7 = D dorian
    "iii" Emin7 = E Phrygian
    "IV" Fmaj7 = F lydian
    "V" G7 = G mixolydian
    "vi" Amin7 = A aolian
    "viio" Bmin7b5 = B locrian

    The progression you use for the mode needs to be centered on the proper modal chord.

    So for dorian: ii-V or ii-iii
    Phrygian: iii-IV
    Lydian: IV-V
    Mixolydian: V-IV
    Aolian: vi-IV-V

    These are just possibilities but always starting on the proper chord. Are you getting my point?

    -CJ
    Last edited by ChrisJ; 05-23-2007 at 06:36 AM.

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    Thnx CJ, I think I'm missing a lot of points there! My head stoped processing for now I think.
    I guess I will try to figure out in detail the Major Scale.

    Later.

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