View Full Version : modes in melody

08-20-2003, 08:12 AM
hi guys.
this is my understanding of the modes in aplication. PLEASE correct me if i am wrong
i want to clarify on how to use modes when composing or improvising.most people , including myself know what the modes are and know what they sound like (when playing from root to root)and know their intervalic structure,:we will use the key of C major for this thread. (R)
C ionian/major C 2,3,4,5,6,7
D dorian D 2b3,4,5,6,b7
E phrygian E b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7
F lydian F 2,3,#4,5,6,7
G mixolydian G 2,3,4,5,6, b7,
A aeolin/natural minor A 2,b3,4,5,b6,b7
B locrian B b2,b3,b5,b6,b7
these intervals give the modes their characteristic sound.we learn the modes by playing from root to root which exposes the charachteristic perfectly.but the confusion comes when we try to improvise with them.because we ask ourselves how do i get the modal sound without playing all the notes of the mode from root to root.lets go further now and take the notes of Cmajor:
i have specifically put them in random order not to imply any perticular mode.
now lets pretend we are going to play some of these notes.we are not playing against any chords,just melody.first we will play 1 note,the E. now after plucking the E ask yourself what mode did i just play?the answer is any one of the 7 modes.why? because you have not yet played an INTERVAL that exists in one of the modes. now lets play 2notes. the E and then the F.(the interval from E to F is a b2).what mode did we just play? before we answer this question lets go a little more in depth. this interval of a b2 exists in all the modes but the intervals of a mode are created and referenced back to a ROOT note.so if we choose the E as the root note then we would have to be playing in E phrygian.why? because E phrygian has a b2 interval from its ROOT note E to the F.the most important thing is you must choose a root note!lets now choose the F as our root note.from F to E we have an interval of a major 7th. because F is now the root we are playing in F lydian.now you might say that the interval of a major 7th exists in the F ionian mode so why cant we say we are playing in F ionian?simply because we have chosen the key of C for our composition and F ionian does not exist in the key of C.now if you REALLY want to EMPHASISE a mode you must play the interval that that is present in the mode you chose and not present in any of the other modes.so now lets play the note F and then B. F is the root note.the interval from F to B is a #4.this interval only exists in the lydian mode, and because we have chosen the F as our root and C major as our key then we must be playing in F lydian.again this is my undersanding of how modes work PLEASE fell free to corect me if i am wrong.
thanks and bye,
peter traj

08-20-2003, 08:26 AM
Well... one thing you should know about modes is that it doesnīt make sense to just play one of them from the root to the octave of the root.
Whatīs also important is what is going on in the background...
Take for example a simple triad progression:
G F / C /

Play that. This has a "major sound".

Now... play those chords ( triads ) again over a static bassnote, say D. This changes the "effect" of the chords a bit, and will result in a dorian sound.

You can try to play this on your guitar or on a keyboard, or i.e. program it into powertab.
If you now use the respective mode ( say, F Lydian over those chords, which are played over a static F bassnote ), it will get you some different results.

Also, you should try to use, say, lydian like you use the major scale. When using a major scale for an extended people of time, people figure out how to i.e. end a melody on certain notes, according to the underlying chord, or, as a simple example, when playing in C major, starting and ending on the note C. Thatīs a basic approach, but it works, cuz you play around the root, itīs something like your "center".
You should use the same approach with the modes.

BTW, I have been thinking about writing an article about modal pentatonics... those really can make the sound of each mode more obvious, and are a cool way to get into modal improvisation... will take some time though, I have three articles finished, waiting to be published

08-20-2003, 11:46 AM
thanks for the reply eric,
so lets take the modes and play them against chords.what some people dont realize is that chords are made from the modes.the chord C is built from the ionian mode,Dm from dorian,Em from phrygian, F from lydian,G from mixolydian,Am from aeolian and B half diminished from locrian. now lets take erics progression which i will rearange in order, C F G. if i wanted to play F lydian over the chord progresion C(C,E,G) F(F,A,C) G(G,B,D),I will not get the true sound of lydian until i pluck a B note over the Fmajor chord or a F note over the G major chord.why?because plucking a B note over the the F in Fmajor creates the #4 interval that characterises lydian. and plucking the F note over the G chord gives us another #4 interval but this time from the B in G major.
F to B =#4 interval
Bto F =#4 interval
so lets say i record this progression as a backing track and i am going to iprovise over it.i will use our trusty Am pentatonic scale for the lead.now i am just jambing away having fun, but i know when the Fchord is coming up and i know that the B note against the F chord with soung lydian.so when the F chord comes up i would emphasise the B note through that bar of music.now i know the B note is not in the Am pentatonis scale but we just add it in when we need to. my opinion is that you cant truly say you are playing in a perticular mode unless you emphasise that mode spesific interval.in this case the #4 interval. i hope this makes sense and most of all i hope i am CORRECT!!!
please reply,

08-20-2003, 03:57 PM
I actually meant this to be even easier... just taking three triads from C major ( or F Lydian cuz of course all modes feature the same triads as the major scale theyīre derived from ), and playing them over one static bass note.
I attached a ptb with 3 examples... one would be G-F-C over C, then itīs G-F-C over F ( lydian type sound ), and finally, G-F-C over G ( Mixolydian sound )
Donīt listen to this as if it was one continuous piece of music ( it sounds kinda cool, no rocket-science though ), listen to each progression by itself.
I think this makes the effect quite obvious, and using the respective modes over those progressions will make them more obvious IMO

08-20-2003, 04:04 PM
And of course I again forgot the attachement :)

08-20-2003, 09:46 PM
thanks eric, i can see exactly what you mean.

08-21-2003, 01:16 AM
hi Eric/Peter,

over the progression of FGC, you are talking about improvising modes with notes that are identical to C major (eg. D dorian, F lydian), is it because FGC progression are chords of a C major key?

I am asking this because recently I am learning a solo from Eric Johnson where he improvises a A dorian over a A blues progression. I like that sound and further try it myself on progression of the Crossroads(EC) and the "Breathe" progression (formerly posted for the virtual jam thread). Crossroads had A7D7E7 standard blues progression while "Breathe" is a Am progression but A dorian seems to blend well too.

So can I sort of like say, if the notes of the chords is the same as the notes of a particular mode, we can try using that mode to improvise?

If I am right, then since "Breathe" starts with Am,C but eventually goes into F and G, does it mean the A dorian sound doesn't fit in anymore during the F and G chords?

08-21-2003, 10:27 AM
Well, yes, F maj, G maj and Cmaj are chords from C major, and you can improvise over them using C major, A minor or any other modes of C major...
When we change the bass-note to, say F, those three chords in combination with the bass note result in a Lydian sound ( F Lydian )... btu you can still use C major, A min etc. over it.
"Breath Of Life" is based on min11 chords, and those sound quite a bit different than just basic triads. Although you could basically stay in A min throughout the whole song, I prefer to use D Dorian over the "verse" ( Amin11-Dmin11 ) and F Lydian over the F-G part. Although A Dorian... well, thatīs a mode of G major. It has the note F# in there, which might clash a bit with the F-chord... Im not saying you canīt do that, try it out...