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Thread: What am I REALLY playing?

  1. #1
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    What am I REALLY playing?

    So I'm not really well educated in theory... I'm self-taught in all aspects. I've run into something that I don't understand.

    I play metal. The most basic and most overused sound is the cookie-cutter metalcore progresssion of VI-VII-i in MINOR. I've pretty much mastered improvising in this sound. But then I memorized the MAJOR scale on the entire fretboard and noticed that it is pretty much the same as playing IV-V-vi, seeing as minor is the 6th mode, right? I can play the same riffs in the major scale within those chords and still go down to I and make it sound major. And I noticed it works vise-versa, I can play VI-VII-I in minor and then go down to III making that III chord what would have been the I chord in MAJOR.

    ...sorry if that was confusing. Anyway, after noticing that, I learned Lydian, and noticed I can play the same riffs as I-II-iii. And then go up to V to make the sweet sounding major sound.

    Is it really that simple? Or am I just not playing the modes correctly? If not, what chord progression of what mode am I really playing???

    Also, does this mean that if I was playing a progression in C major and then landed on the vi chord (Am) and played a melody there wouldn't that make that melody practically playing A Lydian? Seeing as I'm using that chord as the root note for the other notes? Does this mean that I'm actually using all modes by just playing through the major scale?

    Can somebody please explain this to me? Thanks...

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Seeing as I'm using that chord as the root note for the other notes? Does this mean that I'm actually using all modes by just playing through the major scale?

    Can somebody please explain this to me? Thanks...


    More or less yes. You are on the right track. Lets relate everything back to the major scale. Use that as a starting point and go from there.

    Major scale = the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 degrees of the scale.
    Ionian = the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or the same thing as the major scale.
    Lydian = the major scale with a sharped 4th. 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7.
    Mixolydian = the major scale with a flatted 7. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,b7.

    The natural minor scale is the major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted.
    The natural minor scale is 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7.
    Aeolian is the same as the natural minor scale. Or if you like, Aeolian is the major scale with a flatted 3, 6 and 7. I relate to major modes having the major scale as their home base and the minor modes having the natural minor scale as their home base. If that works for you - help yourself.
    Dorian is the natural minor scale with the b6 sharped back to a natural 6. 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7.
    Phrygian is the natural minor scale with a flatted 2. 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7.
    Locrian is the natural minor scale with the 2 and 5 flatted. 1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7.
    What I just gave you is Parallel modes.

    Now the following is relative modes where the notes stay the same and you just start on another note. For example:

    The C major scale C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
    Ionian = C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
    Dorian = ...D, E, F, G, A, B, C
    Phrygian = ....E, F, G, A, B, C, D...... Why is this the same as what I gave you first? Well.....

    D Dorian = D, E, F, G, A, B, C, however, understand those notes are just D Dorian, nothing else. It's not the D minor scale or the D major scale, it's D Dorian. OK, hang with me. The D major scale is D, E, F#, G, A, B, C# so.... to get D Dorian you flatted the 3 and 7, i.e. 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7. Drum roll.... if I want to play Dorian I say to self; "Self, grab the major scale and flat the 3 and 7". By now I realize Dorian is a minor mode so I now say to self; "Self, grab the natural minor scale and sharp the b6". Use which ever memory peg works for you.

    In Relative modes the notes stay the same and you just start them on the next note. Parallel modes the notes change and the key stays the same. Relative is easy to teach so that is the normal way to introduce modes. Parallel is easier to use, and you normally have to figure that out for yourself.

    You are on the right track. Keep plugging. This may help; http://www.zentao.com/guitar/modes/modes-3.html

    Here is a chart I use all the time: Helps show how everything relates back to the major scale.

    Major Scale Box Pattern. Place the 1 note on your fretboard and the scale awaits you.


    Basic Chords
    • Major Triad = R-3-5 The R = the root or the 1 note in the scale. The 3 is the 3rd degree of the root's scale.
    • Minor Triad = R-b3-5 Notice the only difference in a major chord and a minor chord is the b3.
    • Diminished Chord = R-b3-b5 And the diminished chord brings a b5 into the picture.

    7th Chords
    • Maj7 = R-3-5-7 Add a 7 and you get Cmaj7.
    • Minor 7 = R-b3-5-b7 Only difference is the b3.
    • Dominant 7 = R-3-5-b7 By adding the b7 you get C7.
    • diminished = R-b3-b5-b7 And this is Cm7b5.
    • Full diminished = R-b3-b5-bb7 You will not see this chord used in most of the things we do.


    Scales
    • Major Scale = R-2-3-4-5-6-7
    • Major Pentatonic = R-2-3-5-6 Major scale without the 4 & 7
    • Natural Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted
    • Minor Pentatonic = R-b3-4-5-b7 Natural minor scale without the 2 & 6
    • Blues = R-b3-4-b5-5-b7 Minor pentatonic with the b5 blue note added
    • Harmonic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 Natural minor scale with a natural 7
    • Melodic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-6-7 Major scale with a b3


    Major modes
    • Ionian same as the Major Scale.
    • Lydian use the major scale and sharp the 4 - yes, it’s that simple.
    • Mixolydian use the major scale and flat the 7.

    Minor Modes
    • Aeolian same as the Natural Minor scale.
    • Dorian use the Natural Minor scale and sharp the b6 back to a natural 6.
    • Phrygian use the Natural Minor scale and flat the 2.
    • Locrian use the Natural Minor scale and flat the 2 and the 5.
    That's too much to take in just by reading it one time. Print it off and use it as reference material.

    Have fun.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-29-2011 at 12:47 AM.

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    So I'm not really well educated in theory... I'm self-taught in all aspects. I've run into something that I don't understand.

    I play metal. The most basic and most overused sound is the cookie-cutter metalcore progresssion of VI-VII-i in MINOR. I've pretty much mastered improvising in this sound. But then I memorized the MAJOR scale on the entire fretboard and noticed that it is pretty much the same as playing IV-V-vi, seeing as minor is the 6th mode, right? I can play the same riffs in the major scale within those chords and still go down to I and make it sound major. And I noticed it works vise-versa, I can play VI-VII-I in minor and then go down to III making that III chord what would have been the I chord in MAJOR.

    ...sorry if that was confusing. Anyway, after noticing that, I learned Lydian, and noticed I can play the same riffs as I-II-iii. And then go up to V to make the sweet sounding major sound.

    Is it really that simple? Or am I just not playing the modes correctly? If not, what chord progression of what mode am I really playing???

    Also, does this mean that if I was playing a progression in C major and then landed on the vi chord (Am) and played a melody there wouldn't that make that melody practically playing A Lydian? Seeing as I'm using that chord as the root note for the other notes? Does this mean that I'm actually using all modes by just playing through the major scale?

    Can somebody please explain this to me? Thanks...
    I'm slightly confused by parts of your question.
    Eg, if you are in C major, and land on Am, the scale there would be A aeolian (while the Am chord lasted). But then again, if you are really "in C major" (if that's key chord you go back to), then the Am chord is just "vi in C ionian", and its (passing) aeolian nature is not too important.

    What modes are about is really neither major nor minor (in terms of keys). They're about drawing the ear away from relative major or minor keys, and towards other possible keynotes (in the same scale).

    Eg, while you're correct that a "I-II-iii" is lydian by definition (eg C-D-Em is C lydian if you define C as "I") you will probably find that when you land on G (V), it sound like a major key (Ionian) tonic. In that case, your sequence is not I-II-iii-V in lydian at all - it's IV-V-vi-I in good ol' major .

    IOW, for a mode to be established, the root chord of the mode has sound like the key chord. Just starting on that chord is not enough. (Remember this is not about what you can and can't play, just about what you call what it is you're playing; which is your question of course!)
    Quite often (judging from various posts in these kind of forums), people think they are playing modes, when they are simply playing standard major or minor key progressions.

    So, you're right that VI-VII-i in minor is a very common progression (and not only in metal!). And you're also right that you could label that as IV-V-vi in the relative major key. The question is - which chord sounds like your key chord? Obviously in a IV-V-vi sequence there is no "I". If you're playing F-G-Am, why would you call that a sequence in C major? There is no C chord, so the next most likely candidate for key chord is Am - because the relative minor (aeolian mode) is a more common - and stronger - "key" sound than F lydian. So it's probably VI-VII-i (esp if, as usual the Am chord lasts twice the length of either of the others), and not IV-V-vi, or I-II-iii.
    If you were to spend a lot longer on the F chord, and make sure the G and Am were brief passing chords, then you could probably say you are "in F lydian mode", and label the sequence as I-II-iii.
    But equally it may just sound as if you're avoiding the natural key chord (C or Am).
    If you really want lydian mode, the only sure (or best) way is to use one chord only. Eg, for F lydian mode, choose an F chord and play the C major scale (in any pattern) over it. That will give you the flavour of lydian mode (caused by the B natural, #4 on the F), and help you decide if adding other chords is either necessary or helpful (or might make it sound like something else).

    IOW, go by ear. Decide which chord sounds like your key chord - or make sure that chord does sound like the key chord. Label it as "I", and then label the other chords (if any!) accordingly - but listen to see if any of them upset the sound of your chosen key chord and pull the sequence in any other direction. If they do - you either need to remove those chords, make them less significant; or relabel your progression according to which chord sounds like "I" overall, or in the end. The chord you end your song on (as long as it sounds finished) is the true key chord.
    Qiote often, in fact, modal terms of any kind are irrelevant and unhelpful.
    Last edited by JonR; 11-29-2011 at 12:58 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    More or less yes. You are on the right track. Lets relate everything back to the major scale. Use that as a starting point and go from there.

    Major scale = the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 degrees of the scale.
    Ionian = the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or the same thing as the major scale.
    Lydian = the major scale with a sharped 4th. 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7.
    Mixolydian = the major scale with a flatted 7. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,b7.

    The natural minor scale is the major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted.
    The natural minor scale is 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7.
    Aeolian is the same as the natural minor scale. Or if you like, Aeolian is the major scale with a flatted 3, 6 and 7. I relate to major modes having the major scale as their home base and the minor modes having the natural minor scale as their home base. If that works for you - help yourself.
    Dorian is the natural minor scale with the b6 sharped back to a natural 6. 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7.
    Phrygian is the natural minor scale with a flatted 2. 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7.
    Locrian is the natural minor scale with the 2 and 5 flatted. 1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7.
    What I just gave you is Parallel modes.

    Now the following is relative modes where the notes stay the same and you just start on another note. For example:

    The C major scale C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
    Ionian = C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
    Dorian = ...D, E, F, G, A, B, C
    Phrygian = ....E, F, G, A, B, C, D...... Why is this the same as what I gave you first? Well.....

    D Dorian = D, E, F, G, A, B, C, however, understand those notes are just D Dorian, nothing else. It's not the D minor scale or the D major scale, it's D Dorian. OK, hang with me. The D major scale is D, E, F#, G, A, B, C# so.... to get D Dorian you flatted the 3 and 7, i.e. 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7. Drum roll.... if I want to play Dorian I say to self; "Self, grab the major scale and flat the 3 and 7". By now I realize Dorian is a minor mode so I now say to self; "Self, grab the natural minor scale and sharp the b6". Use which ever memory peg works for you.

    In Relative modes the notes stay the same and you just start them on the next note. Parallel modes the notes change and the key stays the same. Relative is easy to teach so that is the normal way to introduce modes. Parallel is easier to use, and you normally have to figure that out for yourself.
    I understand this concept pretty well. In fact, I first started off learning C Phrygian Dominant, then C Aeolian, then C Harmonic Minor, then C Major and then C Lydian, all as separate entities with different sounds and flavors.

    Awhile back, learning the fretboard of C Harmonic Minor, I noticed that the I chord was my tonal center and that when I played Phrygian Dominant, I was using my iv chord (Fm) as the tonal center. So I was actually playing F Harmonic Minor, not C Phrygian Dominant.

    In the same sense, after becoming very comfortable with C Aeolian, I found that in learning C Lydian I was playing the same thing practically. Although I could make their unique sounds shine (Aeolian = Greensleeves, Lydian = The Simpsons Theme), in application with chord progressions, I felt like I was repeating my same mistake with Harmonic Minor/Phrygian Dominant.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Eg, while you're correct that a "I-II-iii" is lydian by definition (eg C-D-Em is C lydian if you define C as "I") you will probably find that when you land on G (V), it sound like a major key (Ionian) tonic. In that case, your sequence is not I-II-iii-V in lydian at all - it's IV-V-vi-I in good ol' major .
    VI-VII-i
    I-II-iii

    These are relatively the same chord progressions but they both contain their own root chords, and to my ear I can make them both sound like the tonal center. But as you were saying, me throwing a V chord in Lydian makes that major... Does that mean if I throw a III chord in Aeolian it would make that major as well? Because I can play in Aeolian, throw that "ionian" chord in there and still play my bottom open C power chord and make it sound Aeolian. Or is it simply just choosing which chord to emphasize on?

    Another question would be... if I land on a certain chord would I then be technically playing the corresponding mode? For example, if I was in C Major could I pretty much play like this?: Chords strumming in the back---I: C Ionian melody, IV: Lydian melody, I: Ionian melody, vi: Aeolian Melody.. and so forth. It's almost like I can play the same exact melody for all chords that pass and it would be the chords itself acting as the root note changing the flavor of the melody.

    If I'm completely missing the point please tell me! Lol.

  5. #5
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    "Another question would be... if I land on a certain chord would I then be technically playing the corresponding mode? For example, if I was in C Major could I pretty much play like this?: Chords strumming in the back---I: C Ionian melody, IV: Lydian melody, I: Ionian melody, vi: Aeolian Melody.. and so forth. It's almost like I can play the same exact melody for all chords that pass and it would be the chords itself acting as the root note changing the flavor of the melody."


    Ionian is up-beat attractive.
    Lydian is day-dreamy very much like Ionian and they would go together.
    Aeolian is sad.

    You changed the mode three times in that example - did the song change moods three times? Probably not. Pick a mood. Find the mode that gives that mood. Make sure the chords used under that mode sustain the mood.

    I gave you how to make the modes and pointed out that modes are single notes that go back to the major scale, i.e. 1, 2,3, 4,5, 6, 7 or one of it's modes, i.e. 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7.

    Making modes is one thing using modes is another thing. Don't have time for more now - got an afternoon gig at the local nursing home. Back later with more.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    [I]

    Making modes is one thing using modes is another thing. Don't have time for more now - got an afternoon gig at the local nursing home. Back later with more.
    Yep ! The practical value while soloing over a I vi ii IV V7 ect... is that your left hand works in the familiar habit patterns of one major scale. Playing modal is another thing
    Last edited by Michel; 11-29-2011 at 09:37 PM.

  7. #7
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    OK I'm back.

    What I gave you is how to make modes. How to use modes is another story.

    Why are we even thinking about modes. The major scale will give you all the notes you need for your solo. O'h, you want the mode to give you the melody. How is the mode to do that? If you run the modal notes and hope they will sound like the melody - good luck. If you run the mode in mode order that is not going to sound like a melody it's going to sound like a mode exercise. So why are we even talking about using modes?

    Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NehOx...feature=relmfu

    Let the melody be your guide. Melody first, then improvise all you want around the melody. Notice what he says about chord tones. Pentatonics give you three chord tones, for harmony, and two safe passing notes, for color. Will pentatonics accomplish what you want?

    Next we need to get into chords and modes. Scales and chord progressions work well together. Why? Well, that's tonal music and tonal music works well with scale notes and chords to move the melody through the verse. Modes work best if you have a modal vamp in place. Why? A modal vamp will sustain the modes mood. A chord progression sustains the tonal center of the scale. Back to that modal vamp sustaining the modal mood. They do that by using the mode's characteristic note (Dorian's characteristic note is the 6th, Mixolydian's is the b7, etc.) so..... you drone a chord that has that characteristic note under your modal notes. Drum roll.

    Read this; http://www.riddleworks.com/modalharm3.html

    Now let's talk more.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-30-2011 at 12:58 AM.

  8. #8
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    VI-VII-i
    I-II-iii

    These are relatively the same chord progressions but they both contain their own root chords, and to my ear I can make them both sound like the tonal center.
    You mean both "I"s? In that case, you have aeolian mode and lydian mode.
    Personally I find it hard to make the first chord in those sound like the tonal centre. To my ears, the first two chords sound like a IV-V, and then the 3rd chord is a slight surprise (deceptive cadence) but on repetition it becomes a good enough tonal centre - ie, aeolian mode.
    So I can hear those chords as an aeolian sequence, but not as a lydian one. Even if I play the first chord a lot longer than the other two, the other two still draw the ear away (for me). I can get a lydian sound with just a I-II, as long as the I lasts longer.

    But if you can get it to sound like the first chord is tonal centre, then that's a good enough reason to call it lydian mode.
    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    But as you were saying, me throwing a V chord in Lydian makes that major...
    It does to me, yes. I.e the V chord takes over and becomes the I.
    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Does that mean if I throw a III chord in Aeolian it would make that major as well?
    It could do. Normally the relative major is a stronger sound than any of the other modes, including Aeolian.
    F-G-Am-C will probably sound ambiguous. Because the first 3 chords don't form a traditional cadence to C, and the first two are a common cadence to Am, Am can retain its sense of tonal centre, and may outweigh the stronger C.
    Change the order of the chords - say to F-G-C-Am - than C is much stronger as a key chord, and Am becomes secondary.
    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Because I can play in Aeolian, throw that "ionian" chord in there and still play my bottom open C power chord and make it sound Aeolian. Or is it simply just choosing which chord to emphasize on?
    Hold on, which chord is the C power chord? If that's the last one, are the othes Ab and Bb? Or are you still thinking A aeolian? I can't see how A aeolian will sound as such with a bottom open C power chord. (If you play an Am chord over that bottom C, it will just be a C6 chord
    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Another question would be... if I land on a certain chord would I then be technically playing the corresponding mode? For example, if I was in C Major could I pretty much play like this?: Chords strumming in the back---I: C Ionian melody, IV: Lydian melody, I: Ionian melody, vi: Aeolian Melody.. and so forth. It's almost like I can play the same exact melody for all chords that pass and it would be the chords itself acting as the root note changing the flavor of the melody.
    That's exactly right! The chords establish the mode, not you.
    However, if the chords all share the same scale (as here), the individual modal sounds have little impact, unless each chords lasts for a significant time - say 2 bars or more. Otherwise, you just have a sequence in C major. IOW, those 4 chords (C-F-C-Am) together establish an overall "C ionian" sound. (Even if each chord does last more than 2 bars, it still might make most sense to say it's all C major.)

    Remember, for a mode to operate - for modal terms to be valid - the chord in question must sound like "I": the tonal centre. Think of a mode as being equivalent to a key. C-F-Am is not a sequence in 3 different keys! Whether the tonal centre is C or Am, that governs all 3. (It would be different if you were playing a different scale on each chord: say G major on the C, Bb major on the F, and C major on the Am. Then you would have C lydian, F mixolydian, and A aeolian.)
    The ear always tries to link chords in a sequence, expecting them to share the same scale, be part of the same key. So if we hear C F Am and G all together (whatever order), we can tell they all share the same scale, they're the same "family", especially if a melody also uses the C major scale throughout. They're not four unrelated chords. You might make any one of them sound like the key (mode) centre (though you would have most difficulty with F) - but then the others would all fall into line behind that. So they could all be C major (ionian), all A minor (aeolian) or all G mixolydian; less likely to make it as all F lydian.
    So to hear different modes in succession, you have to change the scale.

    If you're thinking of the F chord as "IV in C", then it isn't lydian. And Am isn't aeolian if it's the vi. They both just belong to C ionian.
    Of course, the chords do change the sound of the scale - but those different sounds are not really modal ones. Not fully anyway, not if they sound secondary to C.
    If you get a sense that one chord out of the set is primary, then that is the key chord, labelled "I" - and whatever mode the scale creates on that chord is the mode of the whole sequence.

    Modes are not exactly like keys, of course. They differ in many ways. But they do have the same sense of tonal centre as a key - albeit weaker.
    IOW, you should forget about F lydian having any link with C major. Think of it as the F major key, but with the Bb raised to B.
    With A aeolian it's trickier, because it's the basis of the conventional minor key, and is often associated with its relative major. That's why harmonic and melodic minor get used in traditional minor keys, because aeolian is not strong enough to stand on its own (against its relative major). If you want aeolian without raising 7th or 6th, it's safest to avoid using the III chord altogether.
    Last edited by JonR; 11-30-2011 at 04:29 AM.

  9. #9
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Jon said;
    "...Of course, the chords do change the sound of the scale - but those different sounds are not really modal ones. Not fully anyway, not if they sound secondary to C.
    If you get a sense that one chord out of the set is primary, then that is the key chord, labelled "I" - and whatever mode the scale creates on that chord is the mode of the whole sequence."
    So... what you are faced with is you need to make some melody to play over those chords. Everything we have been talking about up to this point is - you need some melody for the chords you decided upon. One other point - so often we play over what others have written, they have already decided the chord progression and the melody and rhythm we are to use we take that and improvise over it. Here you are deciding what to write you are composing. So there are some fundamental steps to take into account.

    Whether you go modal or tonal is the first decision you need to make. I think you had already made that decision and were asking about modes. Let's explore both tonal and modal. Tonal will use a chord progression. Modal will probably use only one, perhaps two, chords (you are on the right track) the one that has the modal characteristic note - which is droning in the background to set the characteristic harmony for your melody - and then the tonic chord. http://www.cyberfretbass.com/theory/modes/101/page7.php

    Melody, harmony and rhythm those three things plus lyrics make songs. Those things must work together. You have to take the "whole" into account.

    You have the chords already decided upon. And need a melody to go with them. How do you write melody is the question. If you are relying upon notes of the mode or notes of the scale and hoping a melody will come from then - good luck. Hal said to improvise you let the melody be your guide. Problem here you first have to write the melody. How? He pointed you to chord tones 1-3-5-7. He also said to make them Melodic Chord tones. Good point, how to do that is another story. He also pointed you to four note phrases. I pointed you to pentatonic scales, i.e. 5 note tones three of which are chord tones and 2 are safe passing notes. You can make a lot of melody with the chord's pentatonic ---- notes. Don't just run the pentatonic in pentatonic order, but, that is a starting place.

    Now - If you want modal, then your chord sequences needs to be modal, which takes you away from tonal progressions. And then we are back where we started - we need a melody over the chord you decided to use.

    If you go tonal, chord tones and or the chord's pentatonic notes (major = 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and minor = 1, b3, 4, 5, b7) and if you go modal use the mode's notes and emphasize the modal characteristic note in your melody so it will sustain the modal sound that your chord is droning. Your 4 note phrases need to include some of the chord tones plus that characteristic note.

    Google melody writing and then chords needed to harmonize the melody. Then re-read the site I gave you on modal vamps.

    What you are asking for is a melody to use over the chords you decided to use. So to answer your OP you first have to understand how to write a melody. http://books.google.com/books?id=HV4...page&q&f=false Whether you go modal or tonal is secondary.

    IMO if you have lyrics let the vocalist set the mood and you do not need modes. If you do not have lyrics then modes are a choice.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-30-2011 at 11:26 AM.

  10. #10
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    If I can pile a few more bricks on your head while you're climbing out from under the rest....

    Your main question was "what am I really playing?" That seems to me a question about labelling the sounds you're getting. Not how to get particular sounds. You don't sound to me like someone who wants to play in a particular mode; you just want to know how (or even if) the jargon relates to what you've already decided you want to play, yes?

    Or is there perhaps an underlying confusion between sound and label, or the way a sound can shift depending on how you listen, or how you actually play?

    In one sense, the concepts are very simple - if we separate KEYS from MODES and consider the two things separately. But in a lot of rock music the two get jammed together - either actually in reality, or falsely in people's heads. That's where it gets really complicated to try and disentangle it all. (And from our perspective here, of course, we can't tell what you're hearing, or how much you understand the concepts to start with.)

    One good answer is just "who cares"? If you can find the chord sounds you want, what does it matter what they're called? (That's only if you want to talk about it intelligently with other musicians.)
    Jimi Hendrix never heard of modes. Neither did the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington (actually Duke might have - but he didn't use them)... Almost none of the great rock bands knew anything about modes at all - even while a lot of what they played could be described in modal terms. Eg, John Lennon and George Harrison both loved the sound of mixolydian mode. We don't know how they conceptualized what they were doing, but "mixolydian mode" was not it; they'd have thought that a very mysterious and comical sounding phrase. (John Lennon famously said that "aeolian cadences" - which Wilfrid Mellers spotted in their music - sounded like exotic birds. And he meant the words, not the cadences themselves!)
    The Doors' Ray Manzarek may be the only 60s rock musician who knew what modes were - and you can hear their dorian jamming on Light My Fire and Riders on the Storm, at least.

    So it's worth thinking about why you want to know about modal terminology. Do you think there are sounds out there you can't currently access, and would like to? Do you want to know what scales will go with the chords you're using? Or vice versa, what chords will go with the scale you're using? (The last two rarely need modal answers, at least if you have a lot of chords from the same scale.)
    Do you wonder what exactly IS the difference between a key and a mode? (quite easily answered, in the abstract at least.)
    Are you just curious about what all these sounds are called (and don't expect it to change how you play)?
    Last edited by JonR; 11-30-2011 at 11:28 AM.

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    Okay, I feel like I just had a revelation but I'm not sure if I'm correct in understanding. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    I was really hoping that when in the key of C Major, I could jam some C Major licks, then go up to Am and play the relative A minor melody if I wanted it to be sad, then go to F and play the relative F lydian melody to make it feel dreamy, and so forth. But since relative keys contain the same notes... what I'm getting is that doing so would make no difference - as if I was just playing C Major the whole time, am I right?

    And what I'm getting now is that when landing on a chord, if I want to "play modal" and make different feelings, I have to play a mode PARALLEL to the key as opposed to playing RELATIVE within the same scale. As in I need to play notes outside of C Major, correct? e.g. Playing with a b7 to get a Mixolydian sound? (With a chord that works with it, of course).

    If I'm actually getting this right...

    Then are there even chord progressions for modes? It seems to me that modes only work against playing melodically over a chord or two. Any more than that and the chord progression that is created will gravitate towards either ionian or aeolian?

    This makes sense to me also because when I had problems with Harmonic Minor/Phrygian Dominant, the only way I could get out of the harmonic minor sound is playing over only two chords - C phrygian dominant over the chords C and D. Any more than that and it just kept gravitating towards Fm giving it a minor tonality.

    But if there are chord progressions that are purely modal, like say a chord progression that is of the genuinely lydian sound, then what are they?

    I really appreciate your guys' help.
    Last edited by threadsoffate; 12-01-2011 at 07:47 AM.

  12. #12
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Okay, I feel like I just had a revelation but I'm not sure if I'm correct in understanding. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    I was really hoping that when in the key of C Major, I could jam some C Major licks, then go up to Am and play the relative A minor melody if I wanted it to be sad, then go to F and play the relative F lydian melody to make it feel dreamy, and so forth. But since relative keys contain the same notes... what I'm getting is that doing so would make no difference - as if I was just playing C Major the whole time, am I right?
    Exactly.
    You will get different sounds of course - but not as a result of anything you do. It's the chords that make the difference. As you said, you could play the exact same phrase, it would sound different on the different chords.

    You CAN describe those differences as modal (eg the effect of the B natural on the F chord is "lydian") if you like. But in the usual context of a typical chord progression, you have one ruling tonic chord. The modal effects of individual chords are neither here nor there. In the key of C major, Am is "vi in Ionian", not "i in Aeolian".
    It makes no difference what scale pattern you play or what scale note you start on (as long as you have the right set of notes of course ). The chords rule the sounds, and the tonic (key chord) rules the chords!

    There's no such thing as modal patterns - eg, no need to pick a specific scale pattern to get a modal sound. Which means, all in all, there's no point thinking about modes at all. You have the chords, and you have the diatonic scale. That's all you need to know. (But the more shape options for each chord the better, just as it's good to have as many patterns for the scale as possible.)
    IOW, any modal "moods" are already written into the song. You can't impose them, nor can you accent them (much). I mean, you can go for that B natural on the F chord, if you want to highlight the "lydian" effect. But the main effect of any note depends on three things: (1) chord tone (#4 in this case); (2) scale degree (maj7 or leading tone in C); (3) melody notes before and after. That's how notes work - how we hear them - so those are the sounds you need to think about.
    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    And what I'm getting now is that when landing on a chord, if I want to "play modal" and make different feelings, I have to play a mode PARALLEL to the key as opposed to playing RELATIVE within the same scale. As in I need to play notes outside of C Major, correct? e.g. Playing with a b7 to get a Mixolydian sound? (With a chord that works with it, of course).
    Yes. But it usually requires that the whole song or sequence is in that mode.

    If the rest of the sequence is in the major key it may sound odd, but the tonic chord (maybe strangely), is where you do have most freedom to impose modal variety. So, in key of C major, you could make the C chord mixolydian by lowering the 7th, or lydian by raising the 4th.
    Or if you're in key of A minor, you could try dorian or even phrygian on the tonic chord (as well as harmonic or melodic minor) instead of aeolian.

    But try playing different modes on the other chords, it's likely to sound odd, like wrong notes.
    And even on the tonic chord, those changes won't suit every piece of music.

    The point about a chord progression - the kind of sequence where you could number the chords as IV, V, vi, whatever - is that it always refers back, and points forward, to the tonic chord. And it does that because the chords all share the same scale (relative modes if you like). All together, they spell out the key scale, so the ear knows what tonic chord to expect. Mess with other modes on the non-tonic chords (eg D phrygian on Dm7 in C major), that's going to upset the process - it's throwing a spanner in the works. The machine falls apart.
    But when you get to the tonic, then you might be able to mess around. You're "home", and some flexibility of scale might be interesting. (Still only "might", however. This is really all about the tune in question, and understanding how to express and enhance what the original melody is doing. Is it best to go with it, or does it offer you the freedom to experiment?)

    [Check out the examples below for how modes typically work in jazz and rock]
    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    If I'm actually getting this right...

    Then are there even chord progressions for modes? It seems to me that modes only work against playing melodically over a chord or two. Any more than that and the chord progression that is created will gravitate towards either ionian or aeolian?
    Precisely. [Again, see examples below.]
    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    This makes sense to me also because when I had problems with Harmonic Minor/Phrygian Dominant, the only way I could get out of the harmonic minor sound is playing over only two chords - C phrygian dominant over the chords C and D.
    You mean C and Db .
    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Any more than that and it just kept gravitating towards Fm giving it a minor tonality.
    Your ears are working well! Or perhaps, to be fairer, you're acclimatized - as we all are - to the western (European) cultural tradition of keys and functional harmony. Maybe if you were from North Africa, you'd be more comfortable with phrygian dominant. Maybe...
    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    But if there are chord progressions that are purely modal, like say a chord progression that is of the genuinely lydian sound, then what are they?
    Here's the best - even the only - one I know:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SINl5JY7LhI
    It's in C lydian. A C major groove, with a passing D major chord to add the #4 element.
    When he changes chord (1:00), he goes to Ab - and that's Ab lydian. Later in the sequence (it's a 24-bar blues, kind of), he goes to G and F, but makes them lydian chords too, by using #4s in the scale.

    This is generally how modal jazz works: one chord, one mode. Change chord, change mode. In the above track, it's solely a lydian workout. But you could change to a different mode. You could go from C lydian to - say - Eb dorian (on Ebm7 of course), or F# phrygian (F#m7). Etc.
    Naturally, if you're going to do that, you don't want to be changing chord every bar! You want plenty of time on each chord to explore its melodic potential - its modal "mood".
    Here's a classic (maybe THE classic, the prototype) modal jazz experiment:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3W_alUuFkA
    That's five different (unrelated) modes in turn. They change on a nod and a wink from the soloist. Background here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamenco_Sketches

    The other kind of modal sequence - more familiar in rock music - is the one or two-chord vamp. eg, these classic dorian workouts:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NsJ84YV1oA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iSXrZYhJt4 (not the main part of the song, the solo section from 1:14.)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKbPUzhWeeI (again, the solo and vamp sections where they hang on one chord, not the song sequence)

    The first one is Am7-D7 alternating, the second is Am7-Bm7. A dorian in both cases. F dorian in the 3rd case.

    Here's how John Lennon and George Harrison exploited mixolydian mode (without knowing it )
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHaM0K_d5_Y
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljnv3KGtcyI
    (They'd spent a few years playing with the mode in the verse sections of songs, usually going for major key in choruses; these tracks show them focussing entirely on mixolydian. In fact there's a small deviation to dorian in the 2nd - ie an occasional flattening of the 3rd, in the upper octave.)

    Here's a couple of other classic mixolydian rock tracks, more mainstream applications, the last one showing how you can actually use chord progressions in this mode:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkaMVLHxzWE
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR2V60yLIaw
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgcc5V9Hu3g&ob=av2n
    (It sounds major to start with - typical I-IV ionian vamp - but there is no major V chord; instead he uses bVII and minor v chords.)
    All three of these show how much a mixolydian groove is a core element of classic rock.

    The following are not entirely mixolydian, but use mixolydian riffs or grooves as their driving force:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdvITn5cAVc
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3a7cHPy04s8
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EwHnCDJljo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ckuXx64abc
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w7OgIMMRc4&ob=av2e
    All go to major key progressions for choruses. But generally rock musicians don't like Ionian mode! Flatten that damn 7th! (except when you want everyone to join in, bringing the mood up a little, then major key is fine.)

    If you want examples of phrygian and aeolian, try these:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5_0iZQ-TuA (E phrygian, with some A phrygian)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=if-UzXIQ5vw&ob=av2e (A aeolian)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTWKbfoikeg&ob=av2e (F aeolian, vocal melody at least)
    Last edited by JonR; 12-01-2011 at 01:50 PM.

  13. #13
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Okay, I feel like I just had a revelation but I'm not sure if I'm correct in understanding. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    I was really hoping that when in the key of C Major, I could jam some C Major licks, then go up to Am and play the relative A minor melody if I wanted it to be sad, then go to F and play the relative F lydian melody to make it feel dreamy, and so forth. But since relative keys contain the same notes... what I'm getting is that doing so would make no difference - as if I was just playing C Major the whole time, am I right?
    Yes. The notes are still just C major scale notes - and sound like it. You have to have chords under the mode to sustain the mode. Problem here is a chord progression (I-IV-V7-I) will sound like the tonal center of the progression. So you have to get some chords that sustain the mode not call attention to the tonal center of the progression. IMO tonal = a progression and the major or natural minor scale will do what you want. Modal brings up another set of - dare I say "rules", perhaps fundamentals is a better word.

    And what I'm getting now is that when landing on a chord, if I want to "play modal" and make different feelings, I have to play a mode PARALLEL to the key as opposed to playing RELATIVE within the same scale. As in I need to play notes outside of C Major, correct? e.g. Playing with a b7 to get a Mixolydian sound? (With a chord that works with it, of course).
    If I'm actually getting this right...
    Little play on words here. You can play relative or parallel - you end up with the same notes - true some are outside, however, either way you go Mixolydian is going to have that b7. Relative Mixolydian G, A, B, C, D, E, F or parallel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7. Notice the F is a b7 in both - as the G scale has the F# which is flatted for Mixolydian. Relative or parallel same notes. Now let's talk about "Landing on a chord" -- are you trying to play modal over a chord progression that was written for tonal music? If so your modal efforts will be waisted as the chord will probably not 1.) stick around long enough to sustain the modal sound you are trying to do and 2.) not have the characteristic mode note. Playing Ionian over Cmaj7, then Dorian over Dm7, then jumping back to Ionian or Lydian over Fmaj7 and Mix for the G7 - you in effect have changed moods from major upbeat to minor attractive jazz, to major day dreamy then to a blues or Latin sound (I hear Mexican) in the span of 4 chords. Really! I bet the songwriter did not have than in mind when he wrote the song. Pick one mood, find the chord that will sustain it and go with that. Jon will be able to explain this better than I.

    Then are there even chord progressions for modes? It seems to me that modes only work against playing melodically over a chord or two. Any more than that and the chord progression that is created will gravitate towards either ionian or aeolian?
    Correct, you need the chord to stick around long enough to sustain the characteristic note of the mode you are playing, i.e. you need a droning of the characteristic note to sustain the mood.

    This makes sense to me also because when I had problems with Harmonic Minor/Phrygian Dominant, the only way I could get out of the harmonic minor sound is playing over only two chords - C phrygian dominant over the chords C and D. Any more than that and it just kept gravitating towards Fm giving it a minor tonality.

    But if there are chord progressions that are purely modal, like say a chord progression that is of the genuinely lydian sound, then what are they?
    Tonic plus a chord with the #4 in it's makeup. Again, once you decide to go modal your chords need to go modal, i.e. a modal vamp.

    Jon I'm sure will come back and go into more depth, but, IMO you've got your head around modes. Gotta do that before you can use modes. You are on your way.


    Good luck and have fun. [edit] Just found this - three chords, but, each is active for four measures. http://www.pego.be/index.php?option=...d=86&Itemid=81
    Last edited by Malcolm; 12-02-2011 at 03:10 PM.

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    Wow, thanks for all the examples. I feel I have a clear picture of what I'm doing now, I just need to practice.

    One more thing though, I found this video on "Modal Interchange" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2ppdgYApUI) and I found it to be really interesting. But what determines what chord you can borrow and where can you stick it? Or is it just whatever you feel fits?

  15. #15
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Wow, thanks for all the examples. I feel I have a clear picture of what I'm doing now, I just need to practice.

    One more thing though, I found this video on "Modal Interchange" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2ppdgYApUI) and I found it to be really interesting. But what determines what chord you can borrow and where can you stick it? Or is it just whatever you feel fits?
    Whatever you think sounds good.
    The principle is sticking with the common keynote. IOW, if you're in the key of G, you can use chords harmonized from any of these scales:

    G ionian (major)
    G lydian (major #4) = D major scale
    G mixolydian (major b7) = C major scale
    G aeolian (minor) = Bb major scale
    G dorian (minor maj6) = F major scale
    G phrygian (minor b2) = Eb major scale
    G locrian (minor b2 b5) = Ab major scale
    G harmonic minor (minor maj7)
    G melodic minor (minor maj6 maj7, or major b3)

    Of course that's not 7 different potential chords from each scale, because most chords are shared between 3 scales.
    (It's debatable whether harmonic and melodic minor should be included in a "modal interchange" concept, but what the hell...)

    Generally you would stick with your G major key chord, because that's the strongest tonal centre sound, that will hold everything together.

    The key of G minor already - by convention - borrows chords from the parallel major: a major V chord, and sometimes a major IV too. But minor tonic chords are generally weaker than major tonics, so borrowing from other parallel scales may disturb that tonal centre a bit more.
    You can go in the phrygian or even locrian direction occasionally - in key of A minor, try Bb (from A phrygian) or F7 (from A locrian). But if these turn out to be familiar sounds (as they might), there are other theoretical ways of analysing those - eg Bb as tritone sub for E, or F7 as tritone sub for B7 (secondary dominant, V of E), or simply an A blues chord (the chromatic Eb coming from A blues scale).
    As a test of that, try other chords from the same parallel mode and see if they work as well - they may not!

    This is relevant to your question about where such chords fit. Most of the time when composing chord progressions, you'll be concerned (or should be ) about how one chord leads to the next. As such, theoretical justification from modal interchange is not appropriate. When you're thinking about slotting chords together in a logical sounding sequence (leading forward from one to the next), you can mostly forget modal interchange. Things like secondary dominants (and their substitutes) are more relevant.
    Occasionally, if you follow the logic of voice-leading - accepting chromatic moves - you will happen on modal interchange chords. (Eg, the use of Cm between C and G in key of G.) Up to you whether you explain that as modal interchange or not.

    But in a sense, it doesn't matter how you analyse something if you like the sound of it. Quite often there is more than one theoretical explanation for good sounds in music (there is always at least one ). You don't need to know what they are.

    Here's the full list of potential chords from the above scales, with a G major as key chord. Repeats omitted, and showing 7ths to distinguish chord types (triads are also possible of course)

    I = Gmaj7, G7
    bII = Abmaj7, Abm(maj7)
    II = Am7, A7, Am7b5
    #II = A#dim7
    bIII = Bbmaj7, Bb7, Bbm7, Bbm(maj7)
    III = Bm7, Bm(maj7), B7
    IV = Cmaj7, C7, Cm7, Cm(maj7)
    #IV = C#dim7, C#m7b5
    bV = Dbmaj7(#11), Db7(#11)
    V = D7, Dmaj7, Dm7, Dm(maj7)
    #V = D#dim7, D#m7b5
    bVI = Ebmaj7, Eb7
    VI = Em7, Em(maj7), Em7b5, Edim7
    bVII = Fmaj7, F7, Fm7, Fm(maj7)
    VII = F#m7b5, F#dim7, F#m7, F#7(b9)

    (Those in bold are diatonic to G major.)

    NB: Many of these would be very rare. And these are not the only chords you can use in G major! They are just the ones available from modal interchange. (Secondary dominants and their subs provide the rest. In fact, one or two of the above are also secondary dominants.)
    I'll let you work out which scales those chords all come from. Maybe I've missed out one or two? or made a mistake? quite possible, but not deliberate...
    Last edited by JonR; 12-04-2011 at 05:19 PM.

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