View Full Version : Simplifying

12-09-2002, 04:25 AM
Hi all ,

I'm trying to simplify my thinking with my approach to theory and came up with this real crazy idea,if you would all be so kind as to indulge me ?

I'm trying to look at the most basic ideas by staying completely diatonic and using just power chords for easy analysis (for my own "easy" learning purposes here) god,please,humor me?

What can you guys come up with staying within the parameters of: staying diatonic to the key of "C", and using just power chords to imply changes (diatonic only) ,and using modes or pentatonics for riffs,leads or melodies (strictly diatonic).If you could either tell me/give me ideas within these confines, or post musical examples,if you're feeling particularly generous?-(that would be "ultra"- cool). If you feel like playing along that would be fantastic !

Of course all other input and advice is more than welcome.

I hope this isn't a stupid idea or question and isn't maybe better suited for the beginners forum ? Maybe I chose the right screen name "Chim_Chim",huh? (<|:) theory for dummies,lol!) thankyou and god bless you all in advance...Chim_Chim :D

12-09-2002, 04:28 AM

Bongo Boy
12-09-2002, 05:00 AM
You may want to also take a look at


The site seems to have a raftload of stuff--certainly enough to tell me that I don't know what the definition of a power chord is.

12-09-2002, 06:27 AM
Uhhh,yeah...I meant those root/5 thingies.I'm familiar with that site although I'm not sure what their take on power chords is.Looks like they're talking about regular Major and Minor and other chords to me.Maybe they're just trying to reference them to more standard albeit more "complex" chords?.What I was referring to was the regular old rock and roll power chords...

thanks for the reply

12-09-2002, 11:46 AM
so what are you asking here?
You have created a game where the rules are Play only natural notes and play over root and fifths? this is going to be easy except there will be no thirds to help give direction to the line. so is F B considered valid or does it need to be avoided?

12-09-2002, 07:33 PM
Hi ,

How long do you get to type a message before you're automatically logged out ?

The reason I ask is last night I typed out a large follow up to my question that attempted to nail down what I was asking and then when I went to send it it said I had to log in etc. And then the same thing just happened again.I logged in typed my message in a short period of time and when I tried to send it it said I need to log in ?


I guess what I'm asking is how to go about changing modes or changing to relative diatonic modes if my song uses just power chords and remains in a single key (no modulations) ??

Do songs that use only power chords do this much ?

Like change to a relative mode within the key like the verse is in one mode and the chorus is in another,then maybe a bridge in another and the solo in another etc. ? (but all diatonic)

I'm trying to come up with diatonic ideas.

The thirds aren't there but the tonality can be implied by the root movement and mode selection.(Guess I kind of answered my own question here ?)

Does anyone have any ideas on basic diatonic playing or any suggestions for maximizing diatonic ideas using power chords ?

12-09-2002, 07:54 PM
Originally posted by Chim_Chim
How long do you get to type a message before you're automatically logged out ?Hi Chim_Chim,

This should not happen. Try changing your preferences under 'My Settings' - 'Edit Options'. Set 'Browse forum with Cookies' to yes.

Hope that solves this issue.


12-09-2002, 08:40 PM
Why this aversion to using major and minor chords?

You can still do the same kind of thing here that you would do if you used actual triads but you will not have the luxury of triads to guide your improvisation. I think you would be better served to use major and minor chords. This would be better for your ear, and for forming good melody lines.

12-09-2002, 09:13 PM
Hi ,

I enabled the cookies Guni,thanks!

Szulc,I'm asking what can be done,specifically within the confines of using power chords and remaining diatonic?

This is "theory reduction" and simplification for my comprehension purposes only!

Please humor me here :(

Bongo Boy
12-09-2002, 09:14 PM
When you mentioned C maj above, then emphasized diatonic later, I wonder what's going on. By diatonic do you mean scale tones only (regardless of scale), or are you equating it to 'no sharps or flats'? Another way of asking this: do you care what key you're in or did you really mean to restrict this to C major?

I'm trying to understand what it is you have to work with. At this point, it SEEMS like you have:

Mode 1: C Ionian major
Mode 2: A Aeolian minor
Chords: I-IV-V progressions in all varieties (classic 'rock' I guess)
Solos: C maj and 1-b3-11-5-7 pentatonic (an option)
Solos: A min and 1-9-3-5-13 pentatonic (an option)

This restricts everything to both diatonic AND no accidentals, classic rock-type progressions, a major and minor key to ditz with, and some of that there modal action too.

Is it practical to pound some ideas first, THEN go back and see what ideas sound like with only power chords? Is this helping or am I just exposing my complete ignorance needlessly? :D

12-09-2002, 09:27 PM

Obviously "diatonic" could refer to any key and that'd be fine.I did specifically request C for my benefit and ease of analysis.

I'd like to hear what you all might suggest here.I feel that I might benefit from this somehow.I think this might help me on some basic level to hear your thoughts on what can be done using these parameters.

Does this make atleast some sense atleast,I hope ?

12-09-2002, 10:00 PM
Better yet would be if you could explain theory to me in this way.Like how to change to relative diatonic modes and using only R5 chords to accompany.I'd even like to hear your personal theories on how to go about this.What's your theory ?

12-09-2002, 10:09 PM
By the way bongo_boy is on the right track here I think.

Thankyou bongo_boy !

Bongo Boy
12-09-2002, 10:20 PM
I won't be able to help...I have no clue. In fact I've never heard the term 'relative diatonic mode' before--I don't know what that means. I could go on for pages about what I don't know!

I THINK what you're really asking is, "How do I approach a composition problem using the following tools, or subject to the following constraints." What I mean by this is, it seems that the problem you're trying to address is how to get started building something, given a certain set of tools to work with.

Now, this isn't an unusual problem. Often we have to iterate between tool selection and project selection--it happens all the time. The requirement is NOT for the final product so much as it is for the building of the final product. It's like high school shop class--no one NEEDS (or even wants) a hand-wound bipolar electric motor that has no power and sucks a battery dry in 10 minutes. The project is to understand the motor and tools used to build it.

This is how I see your question--and I think you're asking the same questions a shop class instructor has to ask, "What could we build that would use these particular tools?" Your tools have something missing--that m3 or M3, for one thing. You have to know what that does to limit (or enable) the character of a composition--from I would suppose, several aspects.

You may already know what those effects are. If so, then add in your knowledge of existing music that has limited harmonization (and what kind of music typically can do that), and finally, add in those aspects of a composition that ALL pleasing compositions have (the basic structure--AABA, AABC whatever).

I can't help you with any of this--I'm a beginner with no answers regarding any of the stuff above. It's just the approach that, in my ignorance, I'd have to take. I KNOW there are great I-IV-V progressions in rock, for example--and I know the chords can be ever so simple.

Having said that, when Pete plays the first few bars of Can't Explain, with sufficient intent and sufficient volume--well, I cry. So...it don't take much. Press on!!

Bongo Boy
12-09-2002, 10:25 PM
Originally posted by Chim_Chim
Better yet would be if you could explain theory to me in this way.

Uhhh...I'm not trying to be modest here, but I think you probably already know more about it than I do. Can you nail down a question or two that's just a bit more 'targeted'? You'd agree it's a pretty big topic, eh?

From time to time I'll ask one of those, "What color is best?" questions--I understand asking a good question can be tough. Don't take offense :D

12-09-2002, 10:50 PM
Don't take offense

Hey,none taken !

Thanks Bongo Boy ...BTW I meant a relative diatonic as in mode of a Major scale that shares the same key signature.In the key of C this would be a mode of C Major for example,it would be C Ionian only starting from or considering a note other than C as the root...C Ionian,D Dorian,E Phrygian,F Lydian,G Mixolydian,A Aeolian,B Locrian (but you knew this,right?)

okay,try this question out:

Using only R5 chords,how do you change the focus from the mode you are on let's say E Phrygian to another mode say G Mixolydian and maybe to another still maybe Dm Dorian etc. ?

That's all I'm asking!!!
This should be simple just as szulc says.

Just me asking this question has made me think about this more clearly although I'd love to hear from you all and assimilate any ideas you come up with.

12-09-2002, 10:56 PM
In the key of C Major you have these possible R5 diads:
C G, D A, E B, F C, G D, A E (F B and B F don't count if you are strictly speaking of R5).

Ok so now you can use all of these diads.

That gives you everything except viio. So you can use every change that doesn't use viio. So you should be able to use every mode except Locrian.
Use the mode that corresponds to the root of your Diad.

12-09-2002, 11:04 PM
I think your question should have been:

What mode do I play over a C Major chord, or what mode do I play over a Dm Chord?

12-09-2002, 11:53 PM
Why ?

What Id' like to know is how to make a progression go from being in one mode to progress to another mode so that I could use different modes diatonically and using power chords only for my progression?

12-09-2002, 11:57 PM
Did you read the post that ended with
Use the mode that corresponds to the root of your Diad. ?
If you did and understood it then your question is already answered. If not play the CG diad now play C Ionian Play the EB diad now play E Phrygian. Do you get it now?
Power Chords are meaningless in the context of your question, except that it leaves out one chordal possibility viio.
The CG diad implies C Ionian the EB diad implies E Phrygian.

12-10-2002, 12:06 AM
Oops sorry,I didn't see it before...Yeah,I get it...thanks

12-10-2002, 12:23 AM
Wherever you read (learned) about modes didn't get the whole picture.
Modes come in two Main Flavors Major Modes and Minor Modes, this is dictated by the quality of the third (Major third - Major Mode) (Minor Third - Minor Mode). Third less common type is Diminshed which has a minor Third and b5 this is usually played over with the Locrian mode.
This is why I said that the term Powerchord is meaningless in this context, except that it limits you by not allowing the Lcrian mode.
By definition, each mode is used over its root's chord. The ambiguity of R5 diads make it possible to ANY MODE except Locrian, while strictly speaking this might not be done (diatonically) in one Key, it could be but, that restricts you to use the appropriate Mode over its corresponding root Diad. That is why I said your question should have been "What mode do I play over a C major chord?" or "What mode do I play over a Dm chord?" Maybe it could be rephrased as What chord do I play C Ionian over? or What chord do I play D Dorian over?

Bongo Boy
12-10-2002, 12:31 AM
Originally posted by Chim_Chim
What Id' like to know is how to make a progression go from being in one mode to progress to another mode so that I could use different modes diatonically

Help me colleagues! How is a chord progression 'in' a mode? If you restrict your modes to those having the same key signature, then isn't any chord of one mode by definition a chord of all other modes? I mean, it may be a 'weird' chord, it may be an inversion, but it's still a valid chord of all 7 modes. Am I wrong?

Are you talking about a progression, for example an I-IV-V, where the V of one mode is also a I or IV of another mode, and not, say, a VII? So that the same 'degrees' are used in the subsequent mode?

I knew you guys were going to lose me soon.

Bongo Boy
12-10-2002, 12:39 AM
Originally posted by szulc
but, that restricts you to use the appropriate Mode over its corresponding root Diad.

I'm sorry--this is a near-synchronous conversation with an asynchronous medium. :)

I believe I understand everything in your last post, James, except this one phrase. This comment, I assume, stems from your desire to have the diad root also be the root of the corresponding mode? What I'm saying is, this 'restriction' you mention is because of a desire to 'connect' the chord to whatever is playing over it, tonally?

12-10-2002, 12:39 AM
Don't let Chim_Chims confusion become contagious!

In a diatonic context you use a different mode over each chord, the mode that corresponds to the root of the chord.
Am (A Aeolian) Dm (D Dorian) Em (E Phrygian)
C (C Ionian) F (F Lydian) G (G Mixolydian)
Bdim (B Locrian). The whole point is, what note is the root at the time? (Duh! the root of the chord of the moment!).

The problem is the questions being asked by Chim_Chim were not properly stated, so don't let them make you think you don't get it anymore.

12-10-2002, 01:32 AM
SO you're saying that you can't have a Dm dorian progression using R5 chords where D is your tonal center and then progress to a new tonal center (once you tire of Dm) such as Em and establish E as the tonal center and play E phrygian ? Then maybe you get tired of E phrygian and you decide to progress to a tonal center of C or F or G etc. ? Are you saying that's impossible ?

Say you play the C Major scale over the whole thing and use only R5 chords.If the R5 chords used imply the proper Major or minor tonality the modes will be implied by those changes and C Major Ionian can be played over the entire thing not matter which central pitch (tonal center) the power chords progress to or what the tonal center is,no???

12-10-2002, 02:45 AM
The Dorian Mode has all the same triads as C major and the other 5 modes. You could have A5(Aeolian) D5(Dorian) where D was the target note, I suppose you could have C5(Ionian) D5(Dorian) where D was the target note, you could even get away with G5(Mixolydian) D5 where D(Dorian) is the target note. These are the only ones I can think of that "Progress to D" actually the last one is "Retrogression", but as you can see they are not all technically "IN D Dorian" each one is exchanging tambre with another mode (the mode of the root of the other chord).

THE only progression that fits the constraint you just described would be Dm Em C (or F or G) or in your POWERCHORD CENTRIC VIEW D5 E5 C5 (or F5 or G5).

If you are listening and hearing what you are playing;
Whether or not you are aware of it when playing you are always playing in the mode of the chords's root when playing diatonically. You might be playing a fingering that you recognize as 'Dorian' but you treatment of notes changes when you are playing from a different chord root. So when you are playing the 'Dorian' fingering but your chord is G (still in the key of C Major) you are really playing in G Mixolydian and your note treatment will reflect that.

12-10-2002, 04:03 AM
No I'm not asking about fingerings or patterns and yes I understand that the "fixed pitch" or "tonality" of the underlying chord will dictate the tonality regardless of the scale pattern.To demonstrate this I could play a root position B Locrian or root position E Phrygian and as long as my chord is a C Maj. I'm in "C" Major (Ionian mode) I get that,that's NOT what I'm asking.

This is about mode based progressions not key based, so just forget about Major (Ionian) and Minor (Aeolian) for a minute.

Okay now let's use Dm as our i chord and make a neat little Dorian compatable vamp that resolves to Dm and Dm is the fixed pitch or tonality.We can play our Dm Dorian (C Major scale)over that until we are so sick of it we want to puke!And so we decide it's time for a change.(Does this sound reasonable ?)

Now,staying diatonic,where can we go to abuse another mode of C Major (Ionian) C Dm Em F G Am B* ??? What's our next "I" or "i" chord ?

Do I simply choose ?

I mean I'm not Santana here.I can't pull off hangin' out in Dorian all day...I haven't got that much to say in Dorian ,ya know ?

12-10-2002, 10:32 AM
Pick one! You have six other choices, five with power chords.
Try to use you ear to decide.

12-10-2002, 08:13 PM
Ok, lemme jump in here. I understand Chim's question and I (much better) understand szulc's answers. But lemme maybe try to add a different angle - i hope that's what Chim is asking for ....

Ok, think about modes and the one actual note that defines a specific mode, ie Dorian and its major 6th. Now, to create a dorian sound just with power chords we will
1) have to clearly state the root
2) tell that it's minor
3) tell that it's Dorian with introducing the M6

to satisfy point 1 we play D5 - sounds rooty enough:-)

for 2 we need a powerchord with the note f, which is the minor 3rd of D. The only choice we've got is F5.

for our 3rd rule we need a powerchord which includes the note B, the M6 of D. Only choice we have is E5.

Now we can go about creating a progression or riff.

simple example:

||: D5 | F5 E5 F5 E5 :||

To move on to another diatonic mode follow the same procedure, say F Lydian. If you look closely it will come down to the same powerchords, ie F5 (root), E5 (maj7 and #11) and D5 or A5 (including the M3).

then switch between these two modes:
||: D5 | F5 E5 F5 E5 :||
||: F5 | E5 D5 E5 A5 :||

Notice that above I play each line 8 times. This is to establish the mode. Say, ya switch from the first line to the second one you (at least I do) hear the F progression in relation to the D and not as a new mode. F establishes itself as the new root by repeating the second line.


12-10-2002, 09:21 PM

That gives me many good ideas to work with now.

12-10-2002, 09:34 PM
cool :D


12-11-2002, 01:39 AM
i would like to back-up Chim_Chim's "THANKYOU" to Guni! :D i just saw this thread for the first time, and i was pulling out what hair i've got left. lucky for Chim_Chim, Guni got here before me...i interpreted Chim_Chim's question the same way Guni did, but Guni answered it much better. i.e., correctly. ;)

12-11-2002, 02:14 AM
What can you guys come up with staying within the parameters of: staying diatonic to the key of "C", and using just power chords to imply changes (diatonic only) ,and using modes or pentatonics for riffs,leads or melodies (strictly diatonic).
This is the question I was trying to answer my interpretation was:
What are my choices for playing modes over C major using powerchords?

Each diad implies a single mode.

You said R5 so I eliminated BF.

So the possibilities are everything except locrian and BF.

I did not interpret this as "write me a diatonic modal chord change"

12-11-2002, 02:32 AM
true, but as the discussion went on his follow-up posts indicated that he was interested in understanding how you might create chord progressions for different parts of a single song in a single key, whereby the different progressions would imply different modes of that key.

12-11-2002, 04:17 AM

I'm impressed with your explanation. This led me down some different ways to conceptualize modal work. ;) I have some song ideas that I want to work on now, but I gotta change my strings for the next gig...

I must confess I didn't quite understand the question(s) at first and the thread seemed to be wandering. Good work!

iBreatheMusic rulz! :D

12-11-2002, 09:22 PM
You're all too kind.

I must admit I was starting to feel pretty stupid there,I probably wasn't posing my questions correctly.It's just like what Bongo Boy was saying:"it's not always easy to come up with a good question,or a good answer either for that matter".I'm paraphrasing here but that's essentially what he said I think?

Thanks to everyone for the help.

And Szulc,I understand where you were coming from.You were trying to read me as far as what I may or may not have actually understood from a theory standpoint which I understand completely from your vantage point. Thanks for the input (It's all good). : )

Thanks to all !

12-12-2002, 01:41 AM
Minor Modes

Aeolian 12b345b6b7
Dorian 12b3456b7
Phrygian 1b2b345b6b7

All have b3 and b7
Phrygian and Aeolian have b6
Dorian has 6th (Unique id requires b3 and 6)
Phrygian has b2 (Unique id requires b2 and 4 or b2 and 5)
Aeolian has (Unique id requires 2 and b6)

Major Modes

Ionian 1234567
Lydian 123#4567
Mixoludian 123456b7

Lydian (unique id requires #4 and 3)
Mixolydian has b7 (unique id requires 3 and b7)
Ionian (unique id requires 4 and 7)

Locrian has 1b2b34b5b6b7

12-12-2002, 09:43 AM
Hey szulc,

I'm sure this was a typo,right?

Dorian has 6th (Unique id requires b2 and 6)

I'm sure you meant this :

Dorian has 6th (Unique id requires b3 and 6) :D

12-12-2002, 09:46 AM
:D...and Locrian has a natural 4th not a b4

But you knew that,right ?

You were just testing me weren't you ? ;)

12-12-2002, 10:48 AM
Actually it was just late... it is fixed.

The other thing is unique id is only in the context of Modes in a Major scale if you start throwing in other 7 note scales (Harmonic, melodic, etc..) you will need eventually up to 6 notes to uniquely identify it.

12-12-2002, 05:41 PM
I understand I've been having the same problem. :o

12-21-2002, 01:44 AM
So What ideas has this caused you to come up with?
I mean what power chord ideas have you used to come up with modal platforms for soloing? Show us the fruits of your labor.