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Thread: Modes. Why is it so hard?

  1. #331
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Seems you're a little mistaken there, judging by the above (325 posts, not including this one)...


    Even the idea that there should be no debate (with which I sympathise somewhat) is debatable...
    There shoulnd't be any debate, and there should be no debate about that either. ...(LOL)

    This isn't a VS. thing. This isn't about choosing a Keys vs. modes approach.
    One approach doesn't nullify the other. They are both equally useful and people should really know and use both of them as well as any other writing devices or improvisational devices they can. This whole notion of debating is what's stupid and causing so much confusion. It's like little kids arguing that only the blue crayon is worth using and the rest of the box is a waste of time.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  2. #332
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chim_Chim View Post
    This whole notion of debating is what's stupid and causing so much confusion. It's like little kids arguing that only the blue crayon is worth using and the rest of the box is a waste of time.
    What, pray tell, do you suggest we do on a forum?

    Please feel free to leave the debate any time if you find it so offensive.

    I don't know who is saying modes are a waste of time. I'm not. I'm just trying to put it into perspective. To take your crayon example, its like you are trying to use just the red/blue/yellow crayons and combine them all the time to make other colours like brown, orange & green. I'm saying, you don't need to combine red & yellow to make orange, just use the orange crayon thats sitting right there in the box!
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  3. #333
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    I'd like to thank JonR & Seventhson for clarifying my stance on this issue. I think you guys have understand what I am saying, regardless of whether you agree or not.
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  4. #334
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seventhson View Post
    For the most part, my mental outlook on improvising has always been in the spirit of jonr, bluesking, fingerpicken, et. al. just know what key you are in and what chords are playing, and that's it!
    I'm not saying you shouldn't understand more than key stuff. I think its great to understand modes. I just don't think its as important. Building a solid musical foundation is like building a house. I'm saying functional harmony is the foundation.

    Lets not forget there is more to functional harmony than diatonic keys. How do modes help us understand tritone substitutions and altered dominants? These are incredibly powerful & reasonably advanced tools. Combined with appropriate key changes the resulting music can be full of complexity & great emotion. You don't need to look at modes when you run out of steam diatonically. But they are a way to spice up your playing, no doubt. I just don't see why they get all this attention. I don't see why guys like Chim Chim insist they are crucial to playing music.
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  5. #335
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking View Post
    What, pray tell, do you suggest we do on a forum?

    Please feel free to leave the debate any time if you find it so offensive.

    I don't know who is saying modes are a waste of time. I'm not. I'm just trying to put it into perspective. To take your crayon example, its like you are trying to use just the red/blue/yellow crayons and combine them all the time to make other colours like brown, orange & green. I'm saying, you don't need to combine red & yellow to make orange, just use the orange crayon thats sitting right there in the box!
    And I'm just trying to help put it in perspective.

    That's why I also said this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Chim_Chim
    This isn't a VS. thing. This isn't about choosing a Keys vs. modes approach. One approach doesn't nullify the other. They are both equally useful...
    Some people keep saying they don't see a use for modes. Others (you I think) have said that other than modal jazz they don't seem useful. Others who should know better have said don't bother with them. ETC.

    I'm just the guy saying, do bother with them.

    And I said why. If you don't like the message, don't shoot the messenger.

    Debating Keys vs. Modes is STUPID. Why? Because it's just like saying that the Major Scale is better than Blues music. It's a subjective opinion and there's no point in debating it. Also it may be born of ignorance. Or maybe it isn't, and some people just genuinely hate modes. I don't know. I'm just trying to do my part to try and help clarify the topic in any way I can. And that is what this forum is for.


    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking
    I'm not saying you shouldn't understand more than key stuff. I think its great to understand modes. I just don't think its as important. Building a solid musical foundation is like building a house. I'm saying functional harmony is the foundation.
    So blues music or modal music isn't important IN YOUR OPINION. That's okay if that's what YOU think. But it's debatable.


    Lets not forget there is more to functional harmony than diatonic keys. How do modes help us understand tritone substitutions and altered dominants? These are incredibly powerful & reasonably advanced tools. Combined with appropriate key changes the resulting music can be full of complexity & great emotion. You don't need to look at modes when you run out of steam diatonically. But they are a way to spice up your playing, no doubt. I just don't see why they get all this attention. I don't see why guys like Chim Chim insist they are crucial to playing music.
    Because MUSIC is MUSIC, regardless of YOUR subjective OPINIONS.

    Modal MUSIC is MUSIC.

    Blues is MUSIC.

    If you love functional harmony so much why don't your marry it?
    Last edited by Chim_Chim; 10-06-2009 at 09:56 PM.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  6. #336
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chim_Chim View Post
    Some people keep saying they don't see a use for modes. Others (you I think) have said that other than modal jazz they don't seem useful. Others who should know better have said don't bother with them. ETC.

    I'm just the guy saying, do bother with them.

    And I said why. If you don't like the message, don't shoot the messenger.

    Debating Keys vs. Modes is STUPID. Why? Because it's just like saying that the Major Scale is better than Blues music. It's a subjective opinion and there's no point in debating it. Also it may be born of ignorance. Or maybe it isn't, and some people just genuninely hate modes. I don't know. I'm just trying to do my part to try and help clarify the topic in any way I can. And that is what this forum is for.
    OK, I don't disagree with any of that (well, I don't think debating is stupid, but thats a tangential issue). I am very happy to agree that its a matter of preference (some people love modal jazz some hate it, for example). For certain types of music outside of modal jazz it is perfectly plausible to analyse them from both modal & key perspectives. Only being able to analyse from one perspective is always a disadvantage, regardless of which one. Ideally we need to understand both. I feel I can & do, yet I get more mileage from one perspective than the other, but I wouldn't like to be limited to just one.
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  7. #337
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking
    OK, I don't disagree with any of that (well, I don't think debating is stupid, but thats a tangential issue). I am very happy to agree that its a matter of preference (some people love modal jazz some hate it, for example).
    But then, that's not the topic, is it?

    No!

    I'm not really interested in what people's personal opinions of this or that genre of music are. It has no bearing on the validity of modal music or why people should learn their modes.

    Modes are valid because modal music exists. Not just modal jazz, but modal music(folk,rock,instrumental,blues,metal,etc).

    I can keep saying it, but it falls on deaf ears if people won't hear it or explore it on their own. Whether they do or not really doesn't matter to me at all.
    They can go Disco down for all I care. I can't stop them.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  8. #338
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    you might be able to say that i guess which notes to play. but i'm damn good at guessing in that case. I can without trouble play any notes i can imagine.

    not in a chord way yet, but in a single note way, yes.

    i've yet to study that tune more, but if modes can indeed help me, then what they will do is change what i imagine, not change my ability to translate that into sound on my guitar.

    also just to clarify my position wasn't or isn't modes VS major scale.

    it's just that for me, for the purpose of improvising i don't find it important to make the distinction between the modes.

    i know they have different sounds. but they are all the same pattern. the sound part is automatic.

    it's like if you're saying that counting in music is important.

    well, yes music is timed, and yes bars are in counts of usually 4, but i don't find counting in my mind of any use at all and i never did.
    Last edited by fingerpikingood; 10-07-2009 at 01:21 AM.

  9. #339
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post
    I have to disagree on that. Classical Pop and Rock I won't bother to go into because these aren't styles I really think about. To play Bebop though, modes are more or less a necessity.
    So how did Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles, etc, manage to do it with no knowledge of modes whatsoever?
    Do you think modes are perhaps a quicker way of learning than they had access to?
    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post
    How else are we to understand what the appropriate note choices are for Tritone substitutes or Altered chords or ii-V9 progressions ect... Unless you want to think about each extension individually, the only other option is to learn the modes that relate to each chord.
    What's wrong with thinking about extensions individually?
    And IMO the easiest way to think of a ii-V-I is with the one major scale over the lot: thinking 3 different modes is crazy. (Never mind that it confuses beginner guitarists who think that means choosing a different pattern...)
    Of course the chords make a difference - but that only means understanding the arpeggios and voice-leading. That's real musical stuff, because it recognises the chord functions, how they actually work. "Dorian-mixolydian-ionian" may be useful descriptive terms for the individual chord/scale sounds, but they have no relevance to what's actually going on. The chords are not isolated entities, and shouldn't be treated as such.

    As for jazz chords which typically need non-diatonic scales (according to controversial CST theory anyway...) - personally I find it a lot easier to work out note choices for a tritone sub (say) from the chord tones and its context.
    I may know that a tritone sub takes (say) lydian dominant, but that's just what I've learned from books. It doesn't help me play - it simply gives me a name for the notes I've worked out (easily) for myself: using chord tones and the most obvious passing notes.

    Same with altered chords. I spent some time struggling with the concept of "7th mode of melodic minor" (I mean applying it, not understanding it, which was easy enough) - until I looked at it from the perspective of the chord tones/alterations. Then it was obvious and easy. And still easier when I understood how it worked with the following chord.
    I would find it very odd and distracting to be thinking of a melodic minor scale when approaching an altered dominant (that concept was what prevented me from being able to apply it). The idea is to use chord tones and alterations to make a phrase across to the next chord. What has F melodic minor got to do with E7 or A minor? Nothing.

    As guitarists, we are actually a lot better placed to think from chord extensions than horn players. We can see how the shapes relate to one another, and how if we raise or lower a tone it brings it nearer to one in the next chord.

    I do understand that a lot of this depends on how one learned music in the first place. A guitarist that has learned "modal patterns" and terminology to begin with will be stuck with the task of learning how to apply them - it's difficult, but it can be done. There's not a lot we can do for someone like that, unless they can forget what they've learned and start again. IOW, going back and learning the "easy way" for them may be harder than simply continuing down the rocky path they're on.
    Last edited by JonR; 10-07-2009 at 09:14 AM.

  10. #340
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chim_Chim View Post
    There shoulnd't be any debate, and there should be no debate about that either. ...(LOL)

    This isn't a VS. thing. This isn't about choosing a Keys vs. modes approach.
    One approach doesn't nullify the other. They are both equally useful and people should really know and use both of them as well as any other writing devices or improvisational devices they can. This whole notion of debating is what's stupid and causing so much confusion. It's like little kids arguing that only the blue crayon is worth using and the rest of the box is a waste of time.
    Agreed.
    A lot of this is a cross-purposes argument, because we might each be using "modes" in a slightly different sense. (Arguing about a "blue" crayon vs a "turqoise" crayon, which might actually be the same crayon... or about a "red" crayon which might be either an orange or pink one... )

    And - as I said above - it also depends on how we learned and what works for us. For some people, modes might have been an epiphany, when it all suddenly clicked for them. For others, they're an irrelevance, a modern "emperor's new clothes" replacement for older and simpler methods. For yet others (on the fence maybe) they are an alternative system of analysis or description that has its uses at times.
    Also, it may not depend on any objective efficacy of the methods or concepts themselves, but on a subjective way of learning. (People get to the same goals via instinctively different, personal routes.)

    Outside all that, tho, I have to say it has to come down to consistent definitions in the first place. We at least have to use conventionally recognised definitions of the terms we are throwing around.
    "Mode", of course, has a few different definitions - each of them correct in its own context - so we need to be clear about context too.
    Modes are very useful terms in various ways. What's debatable (ad nauseam!) is how and when the various meanings of "mode" are useful in various real musical contexts. Playing, that is, as opposed to theoretical analysis.
    Or maybe (I guess) how theoretical analysis of any kind helps us play. And which kinds work best?

  11. #341
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    So how did Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles, etc, manage to do it with no knowledge of modes whatsoever?
    Do you think modes are perhaps a quicker way of learning than they had access to?
    What's wrong with thinking about extensions individually?
    And IMO the easiest way to think of a ii-V-I is with the one major scale over the lot: thinking 3 different modes is crazy. (Never mind that it confuses beginner guitarists who think that means choosing a different pattern...)
    Of course the chords make a difference - but that only means understanding the arpeggios and voice-leading. That's real musical stuff, because it recognises the chord functions, how they actually work. "Dorian-mixolydian-ionian" may be useful descriptive terms for the individual chord/scale sounds, but they have no relevance to what's actually going on. The chords are not isolated entities, and shouldn't be treated as such.
    Dizzy, Charlie, Miles ect.. All knew exactly what they were doing. They invented Bebop and the exotic harmonies that go with it. Sure, most of these guys were likely not thinking of their note choices as being a part of Lydian Augmented or Harmonic minor. I am absolutely certain though that they were practising these scales and modes and knew the implications of each option. Even if there was no specific name attached to it.

    No one said that when your composing or improvising that you should be thinking of each mode for each scale as each individual chord passes, that's just counter productive.

    What I am saying, and I feel like I must be speaking Japanese to have to explain this again, is that you can either guess your way to a particular sound, rely on licks, Or, you can take advantage of the vast body of knowledge which already exists. Making your life a whole lot easier when you encounter new harmonies. The time you spend studying triads, extended chords, scales and their modes (while you are at home practising) will inevitably spill over into your improvisations while your in a rehearsal room or on the bandstand.

    Someone suggested that this approach is restrictive. I couldn't disagree more. All we are talking about here are tools. If you have them and understand them, you are in a much better position to express yourself freely. Less energy can be spent finding a sound and more can be spent using it.

    Now I admit I have taken a more defensive stance on this than originally intended. I suppose the reason for this is that some people seem resistant to learning new approaches because its 'hard' or they 'cant see the use for it'. Most kids don't see a use for algebra when they are in high school, but those who go on to study mathematics or engineering at university would look back on those days and laugh at how stupid they were.(not suggesting anyone here is stupid)

    Also I'm just a bit shocked that instrumentalists would be resistant to anything which could improve them. I have never met anyone who learn't this stuff properly and claimed that it was of no help. So anyway. If your playing metal or rock or a style that is not completely focused on spontaneity you might never see the advantage.

    Anywhooo. I think I have exhausted my position.

    (most of that was not directed at you by the way JonR)

    That will be my final word on this subject.

  12. #342
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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post

    Now I admit I have taken a more defensive stance on this than originally intended. I suppose the reason for this is that some people seem resistant to learning new approaches because its 'hard' or they 'cant see the use for it'. Most kids don't see a use for algebra when they are in high school, but those who go on to study mathematics or engineering at university would look back on those days and laugh at how stupid they were.(not suggesting anyone here is stupid)

    Also I'm just a bit shocked that instrumentalists would be resistant to anything which could improve them. I have never met anyone who learn't this stuff properly and claimed that it was of no help. So anyway. If your playing metal or rock or a style that is not completely focused on spontaneity you might never see the advantage.
    ya, but high school students aren't out in the real world building bridges already either.


    I remember learning about modes and thinking this was such a great thing. and then i started learning them, and then i found they were actually quite useless. that is where my position comes from.

    i don't find myself guessing or having trouble hitting the notes i want either, so i don't feel as though something is missing.

    i am not dogmatic though. I am careful of saying when i am certain of things. and you will notice that i was never saying i was certain i would never find modes useful. but i had not been shown how they could be useful.

    that beatles tune might be a key for me.

    i'm going to check it out today and see what comes of it.

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    High school students go on to build bridges because they took their teachers word for it that algebra was a valuable tool. If they didn't they never could have become engineers.

    Then again, some kids simply never listened and went on to become toilet cleaners.

    xD sorry, I Wasn't directing that to you. I just found it amusing.

    I guess what I meant to say was. Some people simply have their own way of doing things and I will concede to that. Maybe in 20 years we will meet and both be of equal ability as musicians. The only difference will be that I understand why we both sound the way we do and you will simply know that it sounds good.... Does that matter? To some people yes, to some no, and that seems to be the underlying theme of this debate.

    To me it matters. Obviously some people couldn't care less so long as it sounds good to them. Who cares I guess... Lets make music!

  14. #344
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post
    Dizzy, Charlie, Miles ect.. All knew exactly what they were doing. They invented Bebop and the exotic harmonies that go with it. Sure, most of these guys were likely not thinking of their note choices as being a part of Lydian Augmented or Harmonic minor. I am absolutely certain though that they were practising these scales and modes and knew the implications of each option. Even if there was no specific name attached to it.
    Right. But they were thinking (I'd bet) from a basis of diatonic key scales, chords and chord alterations and substitutions.
    They would have known harmonic and melodic minor, but as variations of natural minor. (Maybe they did go on to realise the link between altered dominants and modes of the latter?)
    They certainly learned all their scales, and practised them. And their concept of "scales" would probably have included running them off the various scale degrees, at least as arpeggios of each chord in the key.
    In that sense, yes they used "modes", and I'd agree it makes little difference that they didn't know the Greek names.
    But the link with chords - and above all with key - is what matters. And it's that link that one risks losing once one gets into mode names. (The mode names actually encourage you to forget about the key link.)
    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post
    No one said that when your composing or improvising that you should be thinking of each mode for each scale as each individual chord passes, that's just counter productive.
    Well exactly - maybe that's all I'm saying. But in that case, what use ARE modes?
    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post
    What I am saying, and I feel like I must be speaking Japanese to have to explain this again, is that you can either guess your way to a particular sound, rely on licks, Or, you can take advantage of the vast body of knowledge which already exists. Making your life a whole lot easier when you encounter new harmonies. The time you spend studying triads, extended chords, scales and their modes (while you are at home practising) will inevitably spill over into your improvisations while your in a rehearsal room or on the bandstand.
    Of course. Absolutely no disagreement there.
    My only dispute is whether modes have anything to do with any of that. They are just extra labels for some aspects of the above. They don't reveal anything new.
    Eg, if you understand "mixolydian mode" as simply a label for "major scale off the V degree or chord", that's fine. At least it's a shorter label!

    What "mixolydian mode" is in this context is 1-3-5-b7-9-11-13: dom7 chord plus major 9th, perfect 11th, major 13th. But that's still a subset (an offshoot) of the major scale of I.
    IOW, the 9 and 13 (at least) may help enhance the V7 function (while the 11 confuses it). Its role is dominant - a tension designed to return to I.

    My point really is that this is NOT what mixolydian mode (proper) is. Mixolydian mode is not the V of anything; it's its own I. The V chord/scale in a major key is really no more than that: the V chord/scale in Ionian mode. How does it help us - other than creating an alternative label - to call that "mixolydian"?

    (I sense we may be arguing at cross purposes here. )
    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post
    Now I admit I have taken a more defensive stance on this than originally intended. I suppose the reason for this is that some people seem resistant to learning new approaches because its 'hard' or they 'cant see the use for it'. Most kids don't see a use for algebra when they are in high school, but those who go on to study mathematics or engineering at university would look back on those days and laugh at how stupid they were.(not suggesting anyone here is stupid)

    Also I'm just a bit shocked that instrumentalists would be resistant to anything which could improve them. I have never met anyone who learn't this stuff properly and claimed that it was of no help. So anyway. If your playing metal or rock or a style that is not completely focused on spontaneity you might never see the advantage.

    Anywhooo. I think I have exhausted my position.

    (most of that was not directed at you by the way JonR)
    Appreciated. I'm sure we agree on the fundamentals (I certainly agree with the above).
    The issue is only which terms and concepts ARE useful - really DO improve one's understanding of music (including generic/stylistic factors) - and which ones just get in the way and confuse or overcomplicate.
    Modes are misunderstood (and mistaught) frequently enough to fall into the latter category - esp when dealing wth "pre-modal" music such as bebop jazz.
    To use modal terms helpfully in that kind of music, you have to forget what modal terms really mean - and then encounter confusion when you come to deal with actual modal music. Which doesn't seem ideal to me.
    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick View Post
    That will be my final word on this subject.
    I hope not. Your views are always highly valued around here.

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    I would like to give a practical example of what I am talking about.



    Ok, this tune is a fair example of where I'm coming from. Desafinado, key of F, not that it matters.

    Lets start with bar 2. G7b5 or G7#11 as I would call it. Immediately when I see this chord I think of Lydian Dominant, the 4th mode of the melodic minor scale.

    Now for a person who doesn't care for modes. They might just see that and play what??? Mixolydian with a b5 ? hmm.. no they cant they don't use modes.. I don't know.. Maybe they will just have memorized the G7 arpeggio and encircle those notes or something. Maybe someone can clarify how they would approach it.

    Or lets think of it this way. Assume the chord simply said G7 and the C# was in the melody. Would a non modal thinker know that it actually means you need to play a G7#11, or at the very least completely avoid the 11 all together?

    Maybe. It still seems much easier to know before hand that G7 with a C# melody means G7#11 and the available intervals that I can use to harmonize/improvise over will come from the Lydian Dominant mode. Beyond that I'm free to play chromaticism's and this and that but ultimately both myself and any other chord players will know that for those 2 bars we are eating lydian dominant cake... how I ice it is up to me. At least the other chord player knows not to play any suspended voicing's.. That would be a disaster.

    Or bar 15. Gbmaj7b5 or GbMaj7#11... Damn I hate these b5 people!!

    Same situation. Immediately.. Lydian! I dare you to play Ionian. Actually my chart simply states Gbmaj7 so there you go. Something else I know here.. Jobim being the crafty bugger he is. Gbmaj7#11 is actually a cheeky Gb7#11 a Tritone substitute for C7... How do I know that? The next chord is F... *bows* If the bass player were comping in 2 I could just as easy play Lydian dominant over this chord and no one would be the wiser.

    Bar 26, Bbm6. This is very clearly Chord IV gone minor, in the key of F. Either the 4th mode of F harmonic minor OR B melodic minor will be excellent places to start building lines.

    2 bars later.. E7#5. Chord 7 as an altered dominant. Got super locrian? aka altered scale.

    Even the minor ii-Vb9. Harmonic minor modes all the way. Diminished scales! yea baby!

    So there are some situations where I and many people I know would apply modes in well.. it ain't exactly a bebop tune but what ever. its all bebop to me xD

    Once again. No one is suggesting that we simply play scales for 64 bars or how ever long this tune is. no no no... These are simply logical guides that will save your *** when the power goes out half way through your solo and your left with nothing but the noise from the sound hole of your guitar and some drums.

    Or maybe you want to take a chorus with no backing what so ever. Or maybe the rhythm section decide to play a joke on you and they stop playing for 16 bars just to watch you squirm.

    Get this stuff down and you will never break a sweat again
    Or you can just play pentatonic's and passing tones... what ever works i guess.
    Last edited by JazzMick; 10-07-2009 at 04:19 PM.

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