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Thread: Modes. Why is it so hard?

  1. #286
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post

    But you are using "modes" in a different sense to how Chim and bluesking are using it (and they probably use the term differently from each other too...)

    You're absolutely right that in the sense you understand them (or are talking about them here anyway), modes are nothing special. They are just the same notes in different patterns. They are of no benefit whatsoever in understanding music or in improvising. (I mean the names, that is, not the patterns - all patterns are useful.)

    Chim (if I understand him right!) is talking about modal sounds. These are quite common in modern music, in rock or jazz - although bluesking would also be right (if I understand him right!) that key-based language is generally sufficient to understand those sounds.
    IOW, most modal sounds can be understood as variations on the standard major and minor key sounds. (mixolydian = "major with b7"; dorian = "minor with raised 6th"; etc)
    Right - that's a more correct way to view them. As an alternative to working (writing) in keys.
    ABCDEFG = notes. 1234567 = degrees.

    in modes the intervals between notes is always the same. it is the intervals between degrees that is different.

    I could be wrong, but i think we're speaking about the same thing. modes are modes. they have sounds. you can make modal music using modes, but you can also make modal music without bothering about modes.

    any modes or anything at all you can possibly think of is within the key + chromatic scale, or the key + incidentals rather, since obviously everything is within chromatic scale.

    imagining the sound of a mode and then choosing to improvise certain notes within it, is imo, too many steps, too much thinking and not enough listening and playing. it's too complicated. you can play any one of those sounds by just playing the key scale plus incidentals.

    maybe there is more kind of modal music where a given song doesn't have so much of a constant key throughout and instead kind of changes key frequently and you could call that modal. but what i'm saying still works with that.

    basically there is always just one basic pattern, the key. the key does change sometimes though. but given the key you can mess around with it any way you want, and add any other notes in any order you want. but my point is that it doesn't really matter from an improvisational point of view to me what mode the key is. what mode the tune is. all i care about is where the key scale is. to me every song is major. it's not really, they sound different. and resolve on different notes. but still from a pattern point of view, to me they are all major. but it just so happens that sometimes when i feel like resolving, i don't choose the "root" as in the first degree were it major, but for example in the case of aeolian, i feel like resolving to the 6th degree. but so what. I don't need to know that before hand. it doesn't matter to me. i just play whichever of the notes of that pattern that i feel like. whether when i feel like playing the 6th degree it resolves or not, i don't care. I only care that i feel like playing the 6th degree and i do. it just so happens that sometimes i feel that way because what i feel like hearing is resolving, and sometimes it's because what i feel like is hearing the 6th degree.

    you know what i mean?

    it's like someone could ask "hey why did you play that Am just then?" and one response could be "well it's because the song is in Am and it was ending so i wanted to play the root, which is Am." this would be a logical approach to choosing what to play.

    another way to answer the question would be "because that's the chord i felt like hearing at the time."

    you see? it doesn't matter what mode you're in or what degree you are playing. what matters is that you play what you feel like hearing. the technical reasons are superfluous.

    peas go with carrots, the chemical reasons why carrots taste that way, and peas taste that way, and their flavours match, doesn't matter. what matters is you feel like tasting that combination of peas and carrots, and you know that, because you know the flavour of peas and you know the flavour of carrots and you imagine how they would taste together.

    so it doesn't matter to me all this stuff about modes. it's like superfluous information. what matters is that i know what key i'm in. have a good reference point. and know how the chords sound in the background. then i play whatever notes i want. and since i know the pentatonic (for me, basic level one, only 5 notes) and the major/modes pattern (level 2, 7 notes, 2 extra ones added) and then the incidentals (the remaining 5) I have no trouble finding the notes i want, they are either part of the pentatonic, i just like this one because it is so useful and great sounding, the simple version, and then i know the major scale pattern and it's sounds, kind of like incidentals of the pentatonic, but kind of as fool proof as the pentatonic, and then the isolated extra notes, that aren't really fool proof at all, but they are isolated so when i want the non fool proof ones they're easy to find because i know what the major scale sounds like and they're always a semi tone up from one note of the major scale and a semi tone down from another.

    so i don't see why i'd bother with modes.

    but that i don't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there. but in order for me to see it, you'd have to show me with an aural example. If you could show me some piece of music i really like, and sounds exotic to me, something i would not have chosen to play, not only from an aural point of view, but something that from a fretboard point of view seems like a choice i would never make, too far outside of the way i do things. if you could show me that, and then explain to me how modes helped you to play that, then i'd be really happy, and i would agree with you 100% and curse myself for not having worked harder at modes.

    but i find it really unlikely you'll be able to do that.

  2. #287
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Interesting comparison, but not very revealing IMO. Blues uses the #4/b5 alongside a P4 and P5, to say nothing of the b3 and b7. A very different sound.
    I was simply talking etymology here. Nothing to do with being useful or productive!

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    But a valid observation would be that other examples of lydian mode are pretty thin on the ground.... (I don't know of any others).
    As I mentioned: "The Simpsons theme tune"

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Not quite fair. Mixolydian modal sounds are widespread in rock going back to the 1960s. Rock has a real affinity for mixolydian, beyond the blues influence of the b7, and whether or not the players have ever heard the term "mixolydian". (As I've said before, John Lennon never heard the word, but used mixolydian mode extensively.)
    Now I'm not sure you are being useful or productive either!

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Of course, you can argue that both are accidental, as a result of rock players' intuitive mixing of parallel major and minor tonalities.
    Yes please, I'd like to argue just that (again!)

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Bit of a generalisation! (and an exaggeration of the knowledge of non-guitarist musicians...)
    Yes, it is a generalistion. But, I don't know if you have ever tried to audition a guitarist for a band, to find he knows all the modes & can play at lightening speed, yet cannot play a blues or a vi-ii-V-I. I have. Many many many times.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    And while "functional progressions and key changes" may be "good stuff", there are other "good" ways of making music. You (or I) don't have to like them.
    Quite. Its actually the audience (whoever they may be) who has to like them. I don't think a typical audience of random people particularly cares for modal compositions. Yes, I know they don't care for Jazz or Classical either. This pushes all three catagories of music into the "esoteric" group. Most people, when they are ensconsed in an esoteric field have no idea why. They don't understand why they don't get the recognition they feel they deserve. In my experience, for musicians, "thinking outside the box" is in fact attempting to play popular music. Trying to be an inovator or musical pioneer is the mentality of %90 of guitarists (beyond the open-chord level) I have ever met. Why is this the case for the guitar, but not for other instruments? Guitarists especially like to feel unique and clever. Half the time this leads them to miss the most basic muscial facts.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    And that is relevant to this argument how, exactly?
    Not at all relevant. Just like this very post I'm writting now. But really Jon, how could a thread titled "Modes" produce anything more or less than what has been said ad nauseam?

    If you want an answer for the OP, to get back on topic, it is "Modes: they are not hard at all. They are just badly taught, misunderstood and overused when discussing music theory for guitarists. No other instrument is so afflicted. If you can't understand modes, its pretty likely you can't understand functional harmony & the notion of key. Learn these first then come back to modes to fill in the remaining 10% of modern, western music theory."
    Last edited by bluesking; 10-05-2009 at 01:37 AM.
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  3. #288
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    "Modes: they are not hard at all.
    Agreed.


    They are just badly taught
    Not sure if they are so much badly taught as much as students aren't really trying hard enough to understand them.

    misunderstood
    misunderstood? yes...

    and overused when discussing music theory for guitarists.
    I totally disagree. They are just as valid as the blues is. And I doubt many guitarists out there would underestimate the importance of the blues.

    No other instrument is so afflicted.
    That's debatable.

    If you can't understand modes, its pretty likely you can't understand functional harmony & the notion of key. Learn these first then come back to modes to fill in the remaining 10% of modern, western music theory."
    Modes were in usage first, and have since been reintroduced and are now widely in use. Have been for quite a long time now.

    Sorry I don't have a list of songs in various modes. I know you keep asking, but I never really kept track of them all when I would come across them.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  4. #289
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chim_Chim View Post
    I totally disagree. They are just as valid as the blues is. And I doubt many guitarists out there would underestimate the importance of the blues.
    Well, the blues isn't particularly important when discussing music theory.

    Obviousy modes are inevitable as by-products of functional harmony. My point is that in this context they are only by-products. Not the means of generating ideas or lines.

    Modes can only ever be used to generate ideas or lines when individual chords last a long time (like that Satriani tune, which seemed to just be over a single chord), or are not diatonically related (like in modal jazz). There just isn't as much of this kind of stuff generally in music, although it deffinitely is there!
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking View Post
    Well, the blues isn't particularly important when discussing music theory.
    Well, discussing music theory isn't particularly as important as making music.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  6. #291
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking View Post
    As I mentioned: "The Simpsons theme tune"
    Actually, that's lydian dominant (as implied by underlying harmony anyway)....
    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking View Post
    Yes, it is a generalistion. But, I don't know if you have ever tried to audition a guitarist for a band, to find he knows all the modes & can play at lightening speed, yet cannot play a blues or a vi-ii-V-I. I have. Many many many times.
    Nope. But I take your word for it. (It's believable)

  7. #292
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Actually, that's lydian dominant (as implied by underlying harmony anyway)....
    Whoooops.

    To detract attention from my obvious foyble: I must say these new "emoticons" are much much better than the old yellow guys. The one above does a pretty good job of conveying the myriad subtle gestures and nuances of my embarrassment.... or something like that anyway
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    There is no debate here.

    If you have any desire to be a well rounded Musician capable of playing in many situations, learning tunes with very short notice or composing stylistically you will make the required efforts.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_mode#Chords

    Otherwise your just another guitar player I don't mean that in a condescending way either. It's a simple fact.

    If you cant see why this stuff is important. Its not the concepts fault, you just don't get it. Get a good teacher and stay the path, or just listen more.
    Last edited by JazzMick; 10-05-2009 at 02:20 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post


    There is no debate here.

    If you have any desire to be a well rounded Musician capable of playing in many situations, learning tunes with very short notice or composing stylistically you will make the required efforts.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_mode#Chords

    Otherwise your just another guitar player I don't mean that in a condescending way either. It's a simple fact.

    If you cant see why this stuff is important. Its not the concepts fault, you just don't get it. Get a good teacher and stay the path, or just listen more.
    you are assuming i can't already do those things.

    i am saying i don't need modes. i'm not saying i just don't want to learn them. i don't need them.

    you are deciding what kind of guitar player i am without ever having heard me play guitar before.

    maybe you are assuming the knight in armour is the better fighter because he is so well armed, but me, i would fear the guy in the black outfit much more, because apparently he survives just fine without being armed to the teeth.

    you can carry your cumbersome armour and heavy broad sword if you want to.


    there are so many other things i find more important than modes.


    but like i said, maybe you could surprise me pleasantly and show me truly how wonderfully useful they are in practice. but i've yet to see how they could be helpful to me for improvising at all.

    and besides, everything about modes i've practiced and known. i've played the major scale in every position. I just don't know what the names are for which modes, and i can't necessarily remember all of their sounds.

    but i could sing you the major scale. first starting from the first degree, and then sing it again starting from the second and so on.

    because i know that one.

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    you are deciding what kind of guitar player i am without ever having heard me play guitar before.
    Well you give me no choice
    Last edited by JazzMick; 10-05-2009 at 04:14 AM.

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    Lets try an exercise.

    You get hired to record some guitars for a group in the studio. You arrive. They hand you a chart. You have never seen it before.

    The first few chords are

    F - G7b5 - Gm7 C7 Am7b5 D7b9 Gm7 A7b9 D7 D7b9 G7b9 - Gbmaj7 ||

    What do you play? Major scales? Minor scales? Dorian mode? Remember you only have a few minutes to look over the chart, time is money. The red light is on " Recording "..... They look up to you " take a solo "....


  12. #297
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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post


    There is no debate here.

    If you have any desire to be a well rounded Musician capable of playing in many situations, learning tunes with very short notice or composing stylistically you will make the required efforts.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_mode#Chords

    Otherwise your just another guitar player I don't mean that in a condescending way either. It's a simple fact.

    If you cant see why this stuff is important. Its not the concepts fault, you just don't get it. Get a good teacher and stay the path, or just listen more.
    OK, no need to get condescending (and simply saing "I don't mean that in a condescending way" doesn't actually affect how condescending you are, you realise). I understand how to use modes. I have used modes harmonically and melodically since my first guitar teacher taught me thoroughly, over 10 years ago.

    I thought that modes were the most important thing in guitar playing, for well over 5 years.

    I was wrong, just as I believe you now are. I have attempted to explain why I think you are wrong, and modes, although a part of what we do, is a very small part (providing we don't exclusively play modal jazz).

    Despite all of that I don't assume, because you promote the modal outlook, you have no understanding of functional harmony.

    I won't entertain this discussion if your argument degenerates into cries of "amateur!". I am not even sure why I got engaged in it in the first place.

    Oh and as for soloing over your inscrutable chord progression: I would look at the melody present in the song already and use that to create ideas (well, unless each chord lasted 8 measures or longer , where I would have to use modes to add static flavour). If there was no melody already on the track, I would use my ear to identify functional moves & static chords as appropriate, then use major & minor scales with altered/added tones.

    Lets not play the fool here. Even if you know exactly which mode goes over every chord in your progression (or subsection thereof) that doesn't mean you can actually solo over it well. What about voice motion? What about the altered chords? Rhythm? But yet still, we talk about scale choice as if it is the only thing that matters: as soon as you know the right scale you are automatically going to play amazingly. Moreover, we feel the need to use the word "Dorian" if we need to use a natural 6th over a minor chord.

    I can see that you think my opinions are somehow an affront on you. Well, I guess I'm "just" another guitarist and therefore there is no need to take them to heart.
    Last edited by bluesking; 10-05-2009 at 10:02 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking View Post
    OK, no need to get condescending (and simply saing "I don't mean that in a condescending way" doesn't actually affect how condescending you are, you realise). I understand how to use modes. I have used modes harmonically and melodically since my first guitar teacher taught me thoroughly, over 10 years ago.

    I thought that modes were the most important thing in guitar playing, for well over 5 years.

    I was wrong, just as I believe you now are. I have attempted to explain why I think you are wrong, and modes, although a part of what we do, is a very small part (providing we don't exclusively play modal jazz).

    Despite all of that I don't assume, because you promote the modal outlook, you have no understanding of functional harmony.

    I won't entertain this discussion if your argument degenerates into cries of "amateur!". I am not even sure why I got engaged in it in the first place.

    Oh and as for soloing over your inscrutable chord progression: I would look at the melody present in the song already and use that to create ideas (well, unless each chord lasted 8 measures or longer , where I would have to use modes to add static flavour). If there was no melody already on the track, I would use my ear to identify functional moves & static chords as appropriate, then use major & minor scales with altered/added tones.

    Lets not play the fool here. Even if you know exactly which mode goes over every chord in your progression (or subsection thereof) that doesn't mean you can actually solo over it well. What about voice motion? What about the altered chords? Rhythm? But yet still, we talk about scale choice as if it is the only thing that matters: as soon as you know the right scale you are automatically going to play amazingly. Moreover, we feel the need to use the word "Dorian" if we need to use a natural 6th over a minor chord.

    I can see that you think my opinions are somehow an affront on you. Well, I guess I'm "just" another guitarist and therefore there is no need to take them to heart.
    1) I honestly was not trying to be condescending. It is simply my honest opinion that a 'musician' takes a professional approach to his craft. This includes the willingness and discipline to study the things that history has shown to be valuable to a musician. Solid understanding of chord scale relationships being a big one. aka modes.

    That post wasn't actually directed at you by the way. I haven't really taken issue with anything you said on this thread.

    2) I never said modes are the most important thing, they are one of many. As an improviser though, I stand fast that they are fundamental in shaping your ability to attain a thorough understanding of how to apply your 12 notes in a coherent musical way.

    3)Once again. When did I say this stuff would make you a good player? There is such a thing as consonance and dissonance though. So unless you have incredibly good ears, your probably going to take twice as long to find the most appropriate ordering of intervals, scales/modes, than If you had taken the time to learn what has already been figured out for us.

    From there its up to you to play what you want. This is getting old.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post
    Well you give me no choice
    you haven't heard me play, you needn't judge me. you have a choice.

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post
    Lets try an exercise.

    You get hired to record some guitars for a group in the studio. You arrive. They hand you a chart. You have never seen it before.

    The first few chords are

    F - G7b5 - Gm7 C7 Am7b5 D7b9 Gm7 A7b9 D7 D7b9 G7b9 - Gbmaj7 ||

    What do you play? Major scales? Minor scales? Dorian mode? Remember you only have a few minutes to look over the chart, time is money. The red light is on " Recording "..... They look up to you " take a solo "....

    I don't play guitar on paper.

    Major scale and minor scale and dorian are all scales i've just been telling you i don't need to distinguish from.

    so for me the decision is simple. i just need to find which note to start my major scale from. except i probably won't even do that.

    what would happen is they would start playing, and then i'd hit any note on the guitar in a neighbourhood i think would be good, kind of random but sort of educated guess. and then whatever that sounds like I'll know what interval i want to hear next, and then after doing that a few times "the pattern" emerges, and whether you want to call it dorian or major or aeolian doesn't matter to me.

    it might happen that the first note i hit will be off, i have a 7/12 chance it won't be though and those off notes are all sandwiched between two right ones, so my odds are good, and if it's off then we'll need to do one more take. not incredibly expensive, we'd have wasted about a minute of time, if that.

    for most songs that have chord structures that aren't so complex i never need anyone to tell me the chords or the key or anything. they can just start playing and i'll keep up. even for songs i've never heard before.

    but some songs are tricky and don't go where you'd expect and for those i'd make mistakes but i'm decent at disguising them, so if the rhythm at least still goes where i expect or something that works out, then i'm ok.

    but if not, then that's something we'll have to practice a few times boys.

    but for a complex chord progression that isn't predictable, i'd still need to know it off by heart, because i don't know all my chords perfectly well enough. and that's one of those things i find actually important. but modes not.

    and anyways i don't see how knowing modes would help achieve this task. you'd have to know which modes work with all these chords, and then what happens if some of the chords aren't in the key, or if there's a key change? then you've got to pull out your pencil and start writing down formulas and breaking out your slide ruler to figure it out, wasting a bunch of time, and then you have to remember which chords are in and which chords are out, and where the key changes are.

    that seems like a little complicated way to go for me. it just seems easier to be playing along and looking at which chord comes next and then playing along.

    I mean forget your hsowing the whole progression, if my comfort with all chords were where it really should be, you could just start playing any tune of any complexity, and just show me which chord will be next and in how much time it will come up, and i'll follow along, never even thinking once about modes at all. and i won't only be playing arpeggios either.

    but i will realize that i am playing within a pattern, but i just don't care if you will name that pattern the dorian one or phrygian or whatever. it doesn't matter to me. it's the pattern. one pattern. more simple.

    you prefer to take one pattern and look at it 7 different ways to make the illusion that there are 7 different patterns. and yes, there is a reason for that. yes they do have different sounds. yes songs are written in those types of sounds.

    but that doesn't mean it is necessary for me to learn.

    Standard notation is great. and it could help in the studio when time is money to be able to play anything right away, not just improvise but also melodies and stuff.

    but still, Paul mccartney couldn't read standard notation, and he was a professional musician.

    in order to be professional it doesn't mean i have to do things the way you do them, or that i need the same things you do, or that i know every single thing there is to know about music.

    we are all different.

    modes isn't for me.

    i told you. the only way you could convince me, is if you either played a solo that required modes, or if you find some passage in say monte montgomery's little wing, or some other great piece of music where the music is pleasant, not simply exotic, and show me, here, this is a part where he uses this mode and that helped him play this part, and then i saw that the way i looked at it, i would never have been able to come up with that cool thing.

    then i'll be convinced.

    and i'll be real happy too and i'll practice the crap out of my modes.

    but i don't think you'll be able to do that.

    please show me this if you can. if modes are important you should be able to, no?

    if they are necessary, you should be able to, no?

    I would love for them to be necessary, but i don't think they are.

    seriously i'm not just saying this. If you could convert me to a modes guy, then i'll be real happy because i will have found a new way to make better music.

    but this is the only way that can happen. this is the only thing modes would be good for for me. If modes can't do this, then i don't need them.

    if you use them, you must know good spots to use them, or recognize them in other guys' solos.

    show me. please show me. we are talking about music it must be heard. you won't be able to explain this to me. this can't be written down. you're going to need to record something or find a recording somewhere.

    I am not stubborn. i am not just resisting being convinced. but i just know what modes are and i know my style and myself, and i know what i need to see in order to find modes useful. that's all. I would in fact love to be convinced and am searching for it, and that's why i am asking you to help me. but i don't think you'll be able to, because i don't think modes have this power at all.

    but if they do, please please show me. enlighten me. but in order to do that, it will need to be in this way. it is the only way modes have a chance with me.

    all that other stuff i couldn't care less about. whatever call the key dorian or aeolian or mixolydian or whatever, i don't care. what matters to me is only which frets are included in the pattern i am using. so which notes i can use. the degree that these notes happen to be in a given song doesn't matter to me.

    but if you could show me how in some chord progressions over certain chords i could use a mode that would allow me to have more ideas, more options, better creativity than the method i use, the pentatonic - major - chromatic method, then i'll be first of all surprised and then impressed and then the happiest guy in the universe.

    but i don't think modes can do this, I am so far convinced of it, but I am not 100% completely certain. and if they can't do this, then i don't need them.
    Last edited by fingerpikingood; 10-05-2009 at 04:47 PM.

  15. #300
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    no the intervals between notes in any given mode is the same. the interval between degrees is different


    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    in modes the intervals between notes is always the same. it is the intervals between degrees that is different.
    Where do you come up with this bullsh*t?

    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    I could be wrong,
    You are.

    Quote Originally Posted by fingerpikingood
    but i think we're speaking about the same thing. modes are modes. they have sounds. you can make modal music using modes, but you can also make modal music without bothering about modes.
    No you can't make modal music without bothering about modes. Modal music means you use modes. That's the whole point.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

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