Learning the modes

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Tucson Bass Player
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Modes are really just a state of mind. Accept the names, so learn the names by writing them down by hand a couple of times then just focus on the fact that all of the modes are the same scale! Just starting and ending on a different note. Stop thinking of shapes [even though that can be helpful sometimes] and just think of it being the same scale. Most people just make modes to complex.




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burnt out
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Take the C Major Scale,

C D E F G A B C

It's a type of C scale.

But you can use it's same notes as a type of D minor scale called Dorian mode, or as a type of E minor scale called Phrygian mode, or as a type of F Major scale called Lydian mode, or as a type of G Major or Dominant scale called Mixolydian, or as the A natural minor scale called Aeolian mode, or even as a weird mutant B demented scale called Locrian mode. Did I say demented? Yeah, that works,lol.

Anyways it's one set of notes used in 7 different ways. Or in 7 different modes.

Understanding the diatonic relationship of them is very important, as is understanding them all in parallel,all from the same C root note. If you understand their diatonic relationship to their parent Major Scale then you can always relate them back their parent Major Scale.Which enables you to extrapolate them along the whole length of the fretboard to get the full available diatonic range. That beats the crap out of just being stuck in one
stupid little box shape at the 5th fret or whatever. If you are stuck in only one box or pattern then you've made the classic mistake. Those notes exist all along the fingerboard, all along the whole length of the neck, not just in one position and one pattern.

If you've got a paper diagram of the guitar fretboard and you have it all filled in with the C Major Scale's notes across all 22 frets or however many frets (12 frets is actually enough because all notes from 1st fret to the 12th fret all repeat again after the 12th fret) , then you also have a full fertboard map for D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian, and B Locrian. Knowing that they all share the same exact notes is step one. After that you will need 7 actual full fretboard maps displaying the intervals/scale steps for each mode because they all have their own unique scale steps.
Pif
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Tucson Bass Player wrote:Modes are really just a state of mind. Accept the names, so learn the names by writing them down by hand a couple of times then just focus on the fact that all of the modes are the same scale! Just starting and ending on a different note. Stop thinking of shapes [even though that can be helpful sometimes] and just think of it being the same scale. Most people just make modes to complex.
I agree that fingering and shapes are not the most important thing to focus on, but I have two points about what you're saying and how you're saying it :

- Modes are not just the same scale that begins and end on different notes. They are the same notes in a different context, in a different light. Only practicing them as scales from the mode root to the mode root is tedious and not musical

- The single most useful exercise regarding modes for me has been practicing "neighbor" modes - modes with only one different note. Practicing on a 2 chords vamp and staying on the same scale is a good exercise but can be confusing : what exactly separates these modes? I say take a simple major (or power) chord, loop a rhythm and practice, say, Ionian and Lydian. Focus on the changing note. Once you get that, the world's your modal oyster. More or less.

Oh, and on learning any mode or scale, a very simple and useful tool - but I didn't come across it until after years of music - is the tone ring. My own name, if anyone knows another, preferably better name for that, let us know.

It's really simple : imagine a circle like a clock, with 12 points. Each point is a semitone. Now mark any note in the scale/mode you are studying, beginning with the root, notes going up clockwise. Want to see the structure of a specific mode of the scale? Just begin from the root and go clockwise.

It has been a tremendous help for me, especially when I could somehow play the whole set of notes I wanted to play in a certain context, but didn't quite know what to make of them.
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lydian7
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burnt out wrote:Just learn the MAJOR SCALE all across (and up and down) the entire fretboard in all Keys.

Then you will know all of the notes and all of the patterns for all of the modes.
Well, the seven modes of the major scale at least. Then there's the seven modes of the harmonic and melodic minor scales too, but they're mostly used in jazz applications (although such artists as Vai use them sparingly).

Good advice though. Most modes you will hear Vai play derive from just one scale, the major scale.

I don't think a teacher is really necessary - a lot of great players (some would argue the best) were self taught. I would learn the songs you want to learn, get a few books on the basics of scales and a book explaining how to build chords and chord extensions, then just practice what you've learnt by jamming over a backing track or in a jam situation. Your ears will soon be able to distinguish what's what, and your eyes will be able to see the road markings on the fret board.

It just takes time for your brain to comprehend putting music in to an order. You'll get there with practice, patience and a little inspiration.
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lydian7
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Pif wrote: - Modes are not just the same scale that begins and end on different notes. They are the same notes in a different context, in a different light. Only practicing them as scales from the mode root to the mode root is tedious and not musical
While I agree with you that it is important to understand that modes are simply beginning and ending on a certain note or degree of a scale, it is also important to learn the modes from their root and memorise the shape. This is almost essential in improvisation, as you will not be able to revert back to the major scale the mode you're looking for derives from in such a short space of time as a key change.

Think of it this way. Learn the shape starting from E in E major (this shape is Ionian), now learn the the second shape of E major starting from F sharp (this is dorian), then do this for every position of the major scale. Once you have done this you will be able to instantly now the pattern of a particular mode no matter where you are on the fretboard.
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burnt out
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lydian7 wrote:
Pif wrote: - Modes are not just the same scale that begins and end on different notes. They are the same notes in a different context, in a different light. Only practicing them as scales from the mode root to the mode root is tedious and not musical
While I agree with you that it is important to understand that modes are simply beginning and ending on a certain note or degree of a scale, it is also important to learn the modes from their root and memorise the shape. This is almost essential in improvisation, as you will not be able to revert back to the major scale the mode you're looking for derives from in such a short space of time as a key change.

Think of it this way. Learn the shape starting from E in E major (this shape is Ionian), now learn the the second shape of E major starting from F sharp (this is dorian), then do this for every position of the major scale. Once you have done this you will be able to instantly now the pattern of a particular mode no matter where you are on the fretboard.
That's good because each pattern is a point of reference within the full diatonic scale covering the whole entire fretboard. Using these patterns as points of reference is good. Just as long as you understand that the 2nd position of E major starting on F# is the first pattern for F# Dorian or whatever. It's only pattern one of Dorian. So if you are in F# Dorian then you have it's notes all along the full length of the fingerboard in the full diatonic range and not just at the 2nd or 14th fret only. If you want to start F# Dorian from it's minor seventh (b7th) note then you just start on E and wow, it's the same pattern as pattern one for the E Major Scale. In fact all of it's notes are the same as the E Major Scale. You've just arranged or re-arranged those E Major Scale notes around F# and are making it behave musically as some sort of F# scale. F# is a different tonic than E. So it's the same notes used in a different context.It just has a different tonic or aural point of reference. But it's all of the same notes diatonically all acrossed and, all along the length of, the whole entire fretboard. Same as the E Major Scale's notes, just used in a different musical context. In a F# context.
guitarmanK1982
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Tucson Bass Player wrote:Modes are really just a state of mind.
No.

They are theoretical constructs that have their own intervallic structure.

If you are saying they are 'just a state of mind', you would have to say the same about chords - actually, you would have to say the same about music. And this isn't really a viewpoint that helps someone to understand the modes better.




RE learning the modes - record one note (no harmony at all; let the note ring for about 10 minutes or so) and practise each mode over the note.

As you are staying in the same key, you will hear the sound of each mode better.

The worst thing to do is to play C Ionian, then D dorian etc etc. It is far better to play C ionian, C dorian, C phrygian etc etc
guitarmanK1982
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Here's how to use the #4 sound - something all us Vai fans love ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7oTyrJeV6o
Hypnus9
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bkeds wrote:Hi, i've been playing guitar self taught for 4 years now and I've decided to finally learn the all the modes, in every key, in every position. I'm wondering the best way to go about this and if anyone has any links or tips to help?


Well, first of all, you want to learn all of the modes that are based on the major scale, which are known as the ecclesiastical modes. Then learn all of the modes based on the harmonic minor scale, and then all of the modes based on the melodic minor scale. When played in ascending form only, it is known as the jazz minor scale.

Not to over simplify things, but fundamentally speaking, we have three different sources of most, if not all of the modes in use in modern western music: The Major Scale, The Harmonic Minor Scale and the Melodic, or Jazz, Minor Scale. For instance, D dorian is Cmajor, and so is E Phrygian. F Mixolydian is Bb Major, etc. We have Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian as the modal sequence from low to high, the Ionian, if we are in the key of C, being C Ionian, and the Locrian, B Locrian, if we are still primarily in the key of C.

I find that Wikipedia, though usually academically frowned upon, is a good source of information, although, in light of it being so maligned in academic circles, you might just use it as an unofficial source, and search out, via Google, other resources that may be more accurate.
Just go to http://en.wikipedia.org and use the search function, punching in modes, or ecclesiastical modes, minor scale, etc. as your search terms.

As a contemporary musician, you might use the ecclesiastical modes as a starting point only, and then, as soon as you have those under your fingers, get into the harmonic and melodic minor scales and modes for a greater tonal variety. For instance, unless you are doing a lot of modulating, the ecclesiastical modes aren't going to give a lot of tonal variety by themselves, but, say you want to add some tonal variety, and your chord progression is in 'A' minor. to dress your melodies up, while in 'A' minor, you can do any number of things. Begin your solo in A natural minor, but for flavor, you can play, since E7 is the V7 chord in that key, E mixolydian, and resolve to the 'A' note, or any chord tone in A minor, which is the relative minor to C Major.

There are also chord substitutions that you can superimpose. A popular one is the bV7 substitution, where, again, if we are in A minor, E7 is the diatonic V7 chord. But if we were to use a bV7 substitution to that V7 chord, it would be Bb7 ( or any extension, whether diatonic or altered) So instead of E mixolydian in A minor, we would use Bb mixolydian for flavor. And the E7 chord doesn't even necessarily have to come up. Just pretend it is there, and superimpose the 'idea' that it is there. Imply it and give the illusion that it is there. You'll add depth to an otherwise 'plain' 'A' minor chord progression.

This is not to mention that you can take, for example, and I'm just plucking one out of the air, instead of Bb mixolydian, play Eb melodic minor, but starting on the 5th degree, which is a Bb mode in itself, but has an exotic tonality.

I know this sounds kind of complex at first, but , just to simplify things for you, if you have sufficiently stated your melody in the originating key, you can throw any scale in for variety, as long as you resolve it back to your original key, at least when you are a novice. This way, it will sound more pleasing to your ears, as they aren't yet seasoned to advanced harmonic functions, but as you progress, you'll really learn to use it at advanced levels and for extended times within your soloing. Not to mention that you'll become a more tasteful musician and you'll have a broader palette of colors from which to draw.

The same goes for Pentatonic scales. If you, in the course of your solo, use predominantly, if you are in the key of A minor, the A minor Pentatonic scale, and then, out of nowhere, throw in a Bb Mixolydian run, you'll really have some complex tonal variety thrown in, especially if you use it sparingly. In a nutshell, the possibilities are endless. And we haven't even begun to throw in melodic patterns and rhythmic variety. But always remember to go from the general to the abstract, and have a strong beginning and end. In the words of late Who drummer, Keith Moon, "It's how you enter and exit, mate. What you play in between doesn't mean a thing." 8)
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Ricardo
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guitarmanK1982 wrote:
Tucson Bass Player wrote:Modes are really just a state of mind.

RE learning the modes - record one note (no harmony at all; let the note ring for about 10 minutes or so) and practise each mode over the note.

As you are staying in the same key, you will hear the sound of each mode better.

The worst thing to do is to play C Ionian, then D dorian etc etc. It is far better to play C ionian, C dorian, C phrygian etc etc
Good advice, although I think it is important to understand modes BOTH ways, meaning, hearing the "color" or mood relation based on a static bass or tonic drone or chord, AND how they relate to each other in a chord scale or with the same number of sharps and flats.

I would take it one step further, and use the concept of sharps and flats to help hear the relationships better. In effect, you are using the circle of 5ths to relate modes/scales/chords/keys etc. Here is what I mean.

Take E as the tonic, rather than C, because you have that nice low E string. Just keep hitting it every now and then while you work on fingering the scales. But play the modes specifically in this order:
E lydian
E ionian
E mixolydian
E dorian
E aeolian
E phrygian
E locrian

What you are hearing each time you change modes, is simply losing a Sharp in your scale, or rather, flattening a scale degree, and making the mood darker and darker. And at the same time it is like "changing keys" by 4ths. It is an important relationship to grasp as the patterns on the neck start revealing themselves.

A reverse exercise is to play the chord scale, using at least 7th chords if not fuller chords, and hear how the ONE scale affects each chord.
Cmaj7
Dm7
Em7
Fmaj7
G7
Am7
Bm7b5

You quickly learn how colorizing a IV chord in the major key, has the same "vibe" as your Lydian modal stuff. I think that is an important connection.

Ricardo
Vaiagra
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Reply to the original post..

I was so frustrated with modes for years that I had completely given up on learning them until I realized what was holding me back:

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Problem #1: Many online 'lessons' are so poorly written, they make learning modes seem like a chore and can literally give you migraines.

Solution: Realize that learning modes is supposed to be interesting, exciting, fun and relatively easy. Some musicians who give online lessons love to sound complex, and although they have good intentions and genuinely want you to learn from them, many of the lessons online are either overwritten or wayyyy too confusing for a beginner to grasp.

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Problem #2: (This is what used to frustrate me the most..) A million different takes on a rather simple concept. You're literally swamped with thousands of online lessons to choose from regarding modes. Most of them will give you a headache. It is extremely frustrating because you're always in search of the ultimate lesson.. the one that will be the easiest to follow and quickest to sink in.. which is kind of silly because again, the concept of modes isn't complicated. People love to make it seem complicated for some reason.

Solution: Settle on ONE website/lesson/instructor. Two at the max.

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Problem #3: Learning modes on the guitar. A ton of lessons out there tend to give examples of scales or excersizes in tab format that seem relatively easy to follow. The problem is, instead of learning what modes are, why you need to learn them in the first place, and how they can advance your playing -- these lessons jump a step forward and show you how how to execute them across the fretboard. This is very important in the long run -- BUT YOU'RE NOT READY FOR THAT JUST YET.

Solution: Learn the modes with the mindset of a musician.. not just as a guitarist. Realize that modes are not just scales you need to memorize on the fretboard but an important (and interesting) part of music theory as a whole.

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I hope that wasn't too confusing. Good luck mate!

-Vaiagra
DaveEastwell
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I had a quick look but didn't directly see this.

Mode tutoring is one of the things I specialise in, and one of the things I hate seeing taught in a certain way. The 'C Ionian, D Dorian' etc is great for kids, but it sets you up for trouble. The only way to really use and appreciate the modes is to truly understand how they work.

Firstly, to break it into simple concept. There are 3 major and 4 minor modes. For those with a little understanding of theory, it's no surprise that they mirror normal chord theory- I, IV and V being major, II, III, VI and VII being minor (ok, VII is normally diminished- sue me).

If we now look a little closer, we can see how closely they actually mirror it. The V chord has the distinction of being a dominant 7th- it has a flat 7 at the end. The 5th mode, the mixolydian, has the characteristic of a flat 7.

All the chords follow these basic rules. So, to understand the modes, look in terms of the intervals they flatten- I always read them in this order;

Lydian- #4 C D E F# G A B
Ionian- (natural major) C D E F G A B
Mixolydian- b7 C D E F G A Bb
Dorian- b7, b3 C D Eb F G A Bb
Aeolian- b7, b3, b6 C D Eb F G Ab Bb
Phrygian- b7, b3, b6, b2 C Db Eb F G Ab Bb
Locrian- b7, b3, b6, b2, b5 C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb

The 'real' order is as follows;

Ionian- (natural major) C D E F G A B
Dorian- b7, b3 C D Eb F G A Bb
Phrygian- b7, b3, b6, b2 C Db Eb F G Ab Bb
Lydian- #4 C D E F# G A B
Mixolydian- b7 C D E F G A Bb
Aeolian- b7, b3, b6 C D Eb F G Ab Bb
Locrian- b7, b3, b6, b5 C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb

Once you see the altered notes, you can really start to see uses for the scales in terms of soloing. Take the lydian for example- the #4 adds a certain characteristic not normally found in a major scale, but it doesn't clash with anything in a normal major, or major 7 chord. So you can use that to spice up a normal solo. Also, it works over maj7#11 chords, and is the only mode that will really work- so there's another utility.

To fully explain everything about modes would take too long. The best advice I can give is to take it one step at a time, and fully comprehend every part as you go. It's a massive undertaking that seems to get more and more complex as you go, to the point you think you'll never finish- then suddenly it'll all become clear, and all the groundwork will suddenly seem worthwhile.
cosmic ape
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I agree with Ricardo and Dave. You will never hear and understand modality until you start treating each mode as a separate entity.

Play every major lick you know with a #4 degree. Then, play it with a b7 degree. Change the major pentatonic pattern and add a #4 and/or a b7. Then, things will start to sound "lydian" or "mixolydian" or "lydian dominant" or whatever.

If you just play an F scale over a C7 chord, chances are, you won't really use the mode to its full potential, you won't emphasize the "right" notes and you probably won't really understand what's going on "under the hood". And that's what modes are to soloing.

Cheers, and Happy New Year
TongueNGroove
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The best way to learn this is, realise that there are only 12 modes.

They are called, A, A#(Bflat), B, C, C#(Dflat), D, D#(Eflat), E, F, F#(Gflat), G and G#(Aflat)- Ionian (The Major Scales).


This means that no matter which "mode" you are playing in you are really just playing in the Major key that that mode is in.

For instance....If I am in the key of C (C Ionian mode) and I decide to play the D Dorian mode, I am still playing C Ionian. Why? Because they have the same notes. They both have C D E F G A B.

So it doesn't matter if you are playing C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aoelian or B Locrian. They all have the SAME notes, C D E F G A B.


When someone says they are playing in F Lydian (Lydian being Steve's favorite mode) what they really mean is, he was playing in the key of C. "C D E F G A B."

Now, I am sure you are wondering, "why does it sound different then?". The reason is the choice of chords in the background. Typicaly rockers use the I IV V configuration. In the key of C this would mean Cmaj, Fmaj and Gmaj.

If you change modes though you are changing the backing chords. If you used the same I IV V chord configuration in starting with F ( F Lydian) you would have Fmaj, Bdminished, Cmaj.

The point being, the root is now F, not C. But when it comes to lead, you are still using the notes C D E F G A B. You are still using the Cmaj scale or C Ionian.

It all depends on the backing chords, not the lead. And really it depends on the first chord or the chord that everything resolves to.

No need to learn all the modes and all the patterns. Just learn which notes are in which keys and where they are on the neck. You will be good to go.
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