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Thread: Modes. Why is it so hard?

  1. #466
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Old string and this may have been talked about earlier.

    Modes are confusing IMO when we try to put them into a V-I (tonal) concept. Modes are modal and have modal "rules" for both the melody and the harmony. Once we understand the harmony necessary to sustain the modal sound it seems to clear up our misunderstands and begins to make since. Of course, IMO.

  2. #467
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    Old string and this may have been talked about earlier.

    Modes are confusing IMO when we try to put them into a V-I (tonal) concept. Modes are modal and have modal "rules" for both the melody and the harmony. Once we understand the harmony necessary to sustain the modal sound it seems to clear up our misunderstands and begins to make since. Of course, IMO.
    My opinion too .

  3. #468
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Got to love this old thread.

    In my world V-i is all that exists. Harmonic minor and Dorian are king.
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  4. #469
    Just avoid the whole parent scale way of applying modes. I think where most slip up is the application of the theory on guitar vs. how it actually works.
    http://unlocktheguitar.net

  5. #470
    Just did a quick overview article and lesson on this: http://unlockthefretboard.weebly.com...confusion.html
    http://unlocktheguitar.net

  6. #471
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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

  7. #472
    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.

  8. #473
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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".

  9. #474
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    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.
    Can you give some examples of what you mean (specific tracks, or moments in those tracks)?

    I don't know a lot of his music, but in what I do know he's working solidly off chord tones. If he's in a minor key (eg Sultans of Swing) then the chord arpeggios will sometimes imply harmonic minor, but I doubt he's thinking specifically of that scale (even though he probably knows what it is). The point is to outline the chords, and maybe add passing notes now and then (from the other chords, or the diatonic key scale) - plus, of course, the usual rock practices of bending notes, for bluesy expression.

  10. #475
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    Mark Knopfler - Re: Use of Modes vs. Pentatonics and Ionian & minor "scales"

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Can you give some examples of what you mean (specific tracks, or moments in those tracks)?
    http://www.guitarmasterclass.net/rhy...style-lesson2/

    Find "Mode" on that web page.

    (I was rushed. Sorry. Check out my post below.)
    Last edited by dhwflash; 06-19-2014 at 05:40 AM.

  11. #476
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Can you give some examples of what you mean (specific tracks, or moments in those tracks)?

    I don't know a lot of his music, but in what I do know he's working solidly off chord tones. If he's in a minor key (eg Sultans of Swing) then the chord arpeggios will sometimes imply harmonic minor, but I doubt he's thinking specifically of that scale (even though he probably knows what it is). The point is to outline the chords, and maybe add passing notes now and then (from the other chords, or the diatonic key scale) - plus, of course, the usual rock practices of bending notes, for bluesy expression.
    For the time being, let's forget Mark.

    Here is a comprehensive list providing reasons to learn the modes: modal music, musicians and groups who play modal music follow.

    Larry Coryell: “Lady Coryell”
    Brecker Brothers: “Sneakin’ Up Behind You”
    Blood, Sweat, and Tears: “You Made Me So Very Happy”
    Chicago: “Beginnings”
    The Grateful Dead: “Dark Star”
    Charles Lloyd: “Forest Flower”
    Steely Dan: “Aja”
    ---------------------------
    http://www.cengage.com/resource_uplo...usion_bio.html
    "Numerous late-60s rockers, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and many San Francisco bands, also began to extend their solos based on the modal improvisations of John Coltrane and other free jazz innovators. "
    -------------
    "Traditional folk music provides countless examples of modal melodies. For example, Irish traditional music makes extensive usage not only of the major mode, but also the Mixolydian, Dorian, and Aeolian modes (Cooper 1995, 9–20). Much Flamenco music is in the Phrygian mode" - Wiki
    ---------------
    Steely Dan
    ---------------
    Jeff Beck, Jennifer Batten, Joe Satriani
    ----------------------------
    Return to Forever
    ---------------
    Larry Coryell
    ------------------
    The Crusaders
    -----------------
    Weather Report
    --------------------
    Al DiMeola
    ------------------
    John McLaughlin Jon Hammer and the Mahavishnu Orchestra
    ---------------------
    Herbie Hancock
    --------------------
    Soft Machine
    ----------------------------------
    Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash) really illustrates mixolydian
    ----------------------------------------------------
    Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit
    ---------------------------------------------
    Beatles and others: "Elenor Rigby"
    -----------------

  12. #477
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    7 Modes based on 7 rearranged scales. No. That's not even skimming the surface of the modes you can play using a base scale, e.g.: harmonic minor, melodic minor, diatonic scales, harmonic major, major, and possibly more than that.

    We're talking about memorizing 35 different patterns. However, don't forget to add major and minor pentatonics, plus several forms of major and minor scales, diminished scale, etc. Thus, increasing the number of scale patterns.

    I have no doubt that memorizing all of that stuff would take a lifetime, and leave you with no time to do anything else.

    I'm not a modal player, but it's clear to me that if anyone undertakes to memorize the scale positions, they probably will learn 7 patterns.
    I have serious doubts that guitarists memorize 14 or more scales/modal patterns. Although it could be done with an enormous amount of time and effort.

  13. #478
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    For the time being, let's forget Mark.
    OK, but now you're taking it in a whole new direction...
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    Here is a comprehensive list providing reasons to learn the modes: modal music, musicians and groups who play modal music follow.
    Yes - "reasons to learn the modes", if this is the kind of music you want to play.
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    Larry Coryell: “Lady Coryell”
    Brecker Brothers: “Sneakin’ Up Behind You”
    Blood, Sweat, and Tears: “You Made Me So Very Happy”
    Chicago: “Beginnings”
    The Grateful Dead: “Dark Star”
    Charles Lloyd: “Forest Flower”
    Steely Dan: “Aja”
    I don't know all those tracks, and I'll need to check them out for type of modal content. But it's certainly true that they all post-date the modal jazz revolution.
    Dark Star would be the simplest: pure mixolydian (like many Dead tracks).
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    http://www.cengage.com/resource_uplo...usion_bio.html
    "Numerous late-60s rockers, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and many San Francisco bands, also began to extend their solos based on the modal improvisations of John Coltrane and other free jazz innovators. "
    Debatable. They might have been inspired by modal jazz, but what that meant in practice might have been something a lot more straightforward (as in those mixolydian jams the Dead specialised in).
    I certainly don't know of any modal music played by Clapton.
    "Extended solos" might well be describable in modal terms - if it's jamming on one or two chords - but how useful those terms are for playing is dubious.
    Hendrix and the rest certainly knew their instruments, and they knew their chords. But modes? I very much doubt it. (Beyond mixolydian and dorian, that is, which would have been familiar to them - as sounds, not concepts - from blues, country and rock'n'roll, not necessarily from jazz.)

    I do know of one attempt by Hendrix to play modally, which was a clumsy failure IMO: the solo on Purple Haze, apparently inspired by the (consciously dorian) solo on Light My Fire, but sounds like Jimi is playing with gloves on; not his finest moment by any means. Of course, he got more sophisticated later, but was still a bluesman at heart.
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post

    -------------
    "Traditional folk music provides countless examples of modal melodies. For example, Irish traditional music makes extensive usage not only of the major mode, but also the Mixolydian, Dorian, and Aeolian modes (Cooper 1995, 9–20). Much Flamenco music is in the Phrygian mode" - Wiki
    Flamenco is more likely phrygian dominant, but yes all that is basically true.
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    Steely Dan
    ---------------
    Jeff Beck, Jennifer Batten, Joe Satriani
    ----------------------------
    Return to Forever
    ---------------
    Larry Coryell
    ------------------
    The Crusaders
    -----------------
    Weather Report
    --------------------
    Al DiMeola
    ------------------
    John McLaughlin Jon Hammer and the Mahavishnu Orchestra
    ---------------------
    Herbie Hancock
    --------------------
    Soft Machine
    ----------------------------------
    Uh-huh...
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash) really illustrates mixolydian
    Hardly. It's simply a 12-bar blues.
    As such, it inevitably has mixolydian content, as does pretty much all of rock'n'roll, but deviates too much to be a good example of mixolydian mode.
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit
    Interesting example, but difficult to categorize. It's basically (finally at least) in the key of A major, but I guess that opening verse riff (alternating F#-G major chords) suggests phrygian dominant.
    Most of it can be described as "key of A", with C and G borrowed from A minor (in classic rock fashion), with the F# major chord the critical exception. (Calling it the major VI chord doesn't quite sum up its role, IMO.)
    Quote Originally Posted by dhwflash View Post
    Beatles and others: "Elenor Rigby"
    That's a mix of dorian and aeolian. Instinctive on the part of Paul McCartney, of course (finding melodies and harmonies by ear).

    The Beatles canon contains countless examples of modes - many of them better than "Eleanor Rigby". Such as the pure mixolydian of "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "She Said She Said", the near-pure mixolydian of "Within You Without You", the mixolydian-dorian-major mix of Norwegian Wood... not to mention all their tunes with mixolydian verses and major or minor key bridges or choruses (Hard Days Night, If I Needed Someone, etc). It's quite clear that mixolydian mode had a special appeal for both Lennon and Harrison (less so for McCartney), although of course they didn't know it had a name.

    So yes, it's quite true that modal terminology has as much use any other theoretical terminology in describing a lot of modern (and some not-so-modern) popular music, in jazz or rock. But that wasn't the topic I was addressing above.
    The problem is the misuse of modal terms in guitar teaching. Specifically the association of modes with fretboard scale patterns. This is where all the confusion arises over the use of modes.

    As I think I said before, modes are not methods of improvisation. They are - as all the tracks you quoted above prove - methods of composition. You write a tune in a mode (or series of modes). So then when you improvise on it, you're also playing in that mode (or modes), naturally. You don't have to know that. (The Beatles could have improvised perfectly well on their modal tunes without knowing they were using modes.)

    The issue is still not that one has to learn modes. It's more that one shouldn't believe that music theory about major and minor keys is prescriptive. That leads to people believing that certain chords in certain rock songs "don't belong". "This song is in the key of E major, but it's got a D chord in it. WTF?"
    It's got a D chord in it because it sounds right. We - with some theory jargon under our belts - can describe that as "mixolydian" if we want. But knowing that doesn't help us play it, or improvise on it.
    And it doesn't really help us compose tunes like that either. You don't need to consult theory books to know what chords you can use in your tune; you only need to consult your ears (listening to records, or experimenting yourself).

    IOW, there's some unhelpful confusion here (in this thread) between modes as sounds - systems of composition - and modes as patterns on a guitar fretboard. There is no real connection between the two.

    If it helps, we can certainly discuss the modal content of specific tunes (any of those you mention), and how that might impact on improvisation (how you'd approach them with guitar specifically).

  14. #479
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    The issue is still not that one has to learn modes. It's more that one shouldn't believe that music theory about major and minor keys is prescriptive. That leads to people believing that certain chords in certain rock songs "don't belong". "This song is in the key of E major, but it's got a D chord in it. WTF?"
    It's got a D chord in it because it sounds right. We - with some theory jargon under our belts - can describe that as "mixolydian" if we want. But knowing that doesn't help us play it, or improvise on it. And it doesn't really help us compose tunes like that either.

    IOW, there's some unhelpful confusion here (in this thread) between modes as sounds - systems of composition - and modes as patterns on a guitar fretboard. There is no real connection between the two.

    If it helps, we can certainly discuss the modal content of specific tunes (any of those you mention), and how that might impact on improvisation (how you'd approach them with guitar specifically).
    You've kinda lost me. I can't envision playing pentatonics, or just Ionian to Return to Forever. At some point, if you want to play to the vast majority of music played by those persons and groups I listed above, you're going to have to drop pentatonics, forget about the Ionian pattern on the fret board, and work out what the modal pattern sounds correct to your ear, when played to a specific song at a specific time as written by Return to Forever, as an example.

    I am simply making a case for going beyond a 5 note scale, and going beyond a simple major or minor scale, excluding modes derived from those 2 scales. I am attempting to make an argument for my going beyond 5 note scales, and beyond Ionian and Aeolian patterns on the fret board.

    Is this a valid situation? Your feedback has been great. I really appreciate it, and look forward to your comments and corrections to my posts.
    Last edited by dhwflash; 06-19-2014 at 06:15 PM.

  15. #480
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    Comme on man they are pretty easy

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