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Thread: Modal Relativity? Please Help...Somebody

  1. #1
    itzfast
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    Modal Relativity? Please Help...Somebody

    Someone asked about this topic 7 years ago on here but his logic of figuring modal relativity made absolutely no sense to me. Please, somebody chime in here and tell me if this makes any sense? If not, please explain to me what is wrong with this.


    If Iím playing a chord progression in the key of G major and I start with the G chord and play the G major scale (Ionian) my relative minor will be E minor (Aeolian). This a very fundamental. That would be going from the 1st degree of the major scale to the 6th or lets 5 degrees up from where we're currently at on the G major scale.



    So with that in mind if the next chord in my progression was A minor and I was soloing in the 2nd degree of the G major scale which is (A Dorian) then playing in the 7th degree F# Locrian should be relative? Would it not? And then when playing 3rd degree B Phrygian the 1st degree of the scale should workÖ and so on and so on.



    So then if our relatives are 5 degrees up from where weíre currently at on the fretboard then they are also 2 degrees back from where youíre at on the fretboard. An easy way to reference that on the fretboard is to descend down 2 degrees or 2 modes from where youíre currently at. Iíve looked and I canít find this reference anywhere online. Why?



    Below is a video I posted. It has a bass line backing track that goes through all the modes in order from Ionian to Locrian. So when youíre playing along try playing the pairs of modes I listed below along with each chord change. Do these pairs sound ok to you?


    When playing G Ionian play E Aeolian (relative minor) thenÖ continue on



    When playing A Dorian try also playing F# Locrian
    when playing B Phrygian play G Ionian
    when playing C Lydian play A Dorian
    when playing D Mixolydian play B Phrygian
    When playing E Aeolian play C Lydian
    When playing F# Locrian play D Mixolydian


    Here's the video..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cpqs...ure=plpp_video

  2. #2
    itzfast
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    I should've mentioned..

    The jam track starts at around 1:55 into the video.

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itzfast View Post
    Someone asked about this topic 7 years ago on here but his logic of figuring modal relativity made absolutely no sense to me. Please, somebody chime in here and tell me if this makes any sense? If not, please explain to me what is wrong with this.

    If I’m playing a chord progression in the key of G major and I start with the G chord and play the G major scale (Ionian) my relative minor will be E minor (Aeolian). This a very fundamental. That would be going from the 1st degree of the major scale to the 6th or lets 5 degrees up from where we're currently at on the G major scale.

    So with that in mind if the next chord in my progression was A minor and I was soloing in the 2nd degree of the G major scale which is (A Dorian) then playing in the 7th degree F# Locrian should be relative? Would it not? And then when playing 3rd degree B Phrygian the 1st degree of the scale should work… and so on and so on.
    You have a couple of fundamental misunderstandings! (Quite common ones )

    When describing scales, the word "relative" means "shares the same notes". So G ionian, A dorian, B phrygian, etc - all 7 modes - are all "relative" to each other.

    However, the phrase "relative minor" has a very specific meaning. It refers to a KEY, not a scale. So the E minor key is the "relative minor" of the G major key. Likewise the G major key is the "relative major" of the E minor key.

    This is because these terms were developed to apply to the music of the day, which was only ever in a major or minor key. (This still applies to most music today.)
    It's based on the fact that the pitch collection is the same, although the E minor key will commonly raise the 7th degree when approaching a cadence. Ie, when the melody goes up to E, it's usually preceded by D#, not D.


    Secondly, you are using mode terms to refer to scale patterns on the guitar. This is an unnecessary and highly misleading thing to do. (The labels are OK as labels, but have no musical meaning or application.) This is not your fault of course, it's the fault of the idiots who first decided this was a good idea... (A mode is a sound, and the patterns don't relate to the sounds.)

    So, when playing over your G chord, you can use any pattern of the G major scale; any "mode" pattern. They will all come out sounding like "G ionian" because of the chord. IOW, you have total freedom of the fretboard, and should use it!

    Of course, when you use an "E aeolian" pattern on the G chord, you may notice a difference in sound. First of all it will be higher! (or lower, if you can take it 3 frets down) Secondly, it may encourage you to play different kinds of phrases, because of how the notes lie under your fingers. Thirdly, if you accent the E at all (starting or ending phrases on it), you will get a "G6" sound, ie stressing the 6th of the G chord. This is not an "aeolian" effect, it's a "G6" effect (part of G ionian, if you want a mode name).
    IOW, the modal names have no relevance at all.

    The way you should treat the different patterns is as variations of the G major scale. You can play any one on any chord in the key.
    You should also look for the chord shape or arpeggio within each pattern (every scale pattern contains arpeggios of all 7 chords in the key, most of them in quite familiar chord shapes). This is very important. Forget modes and look for chord shapes.
    When you solo over a particular chord, it's the notes in the chord that will be your main focus. The other notes in the scale are used as passing notes.
    You can solo perfectly well from only 1 or 2 scale patterns, or just one neck position, if you can find all the chords within the pattern(s) (they're all there). You don't need to know the whole neck to start with, but of course if you want to have full freedom of the neck, you'll need to know every chord arpeggio all the way up - and how the scale fits around it.

    Remember the scale (and its modes) forms ONE pattern, all over the neck - or rather between 0-12 frets, it repeats after 12. The only reason we break it down into patterns is to enable us to play in one position without moving our hand up and down - we can just get the scale across the neck, string to string, 3 notes per string (2 on one string). There's nothing special about the 7 "modal" patterns; you can also have 5 "CAGED" patterns, they still cover all the notes.
    This is why the guitar is tuned the way it is, one string tuned 4 notes higher than the lower one. (with the irritating exception of 3rd and 2nd strings of course.)


    The other thing it's important to be aware of is the difference between a chord progression in a key, and one in a mode.

    With a key-based chord progression (major or minor key), you usually have quite a few chords, and they usually change fairly fast. You get a sense of moving around, starting on the tonic (usually) then moving away from it, building up to points of tension, then resolving back to I. The chords kind of take you on a walk through the key, and support the melody in its movements. With all the chords (except the tonic), you have a sense they're about to lead somewhere else.
    In a modal chord sequence - "progression" is not quite the right word - there will be fewer chords, usually only two, sometimes just one. That chord (or alternating pair of chords) will last for some time, as if - compared with the "key" sequence - you are just standing in one place (contemplating the scenery ) rather than being led around. This is why modal music is sometimes described as "mood" music. It can be slow and meditative, or it can be cool dance grooves. But it's "harmonically static" - the chords don't "go" or "lead" anywhere.

    In a lot of modern music, both kinds of approach can occur (I mean in the composition, not in the improvisation), sometimes in the same song. But the common misunderstanding with the modal approach is that it can be "applied" within a key-based chord sequence. The key sequence is actually one mode itself: a major key progression is really ionian mode the whole way through.
    Some people imagine you can somehow impose some other modal "mood" by using whatever mode to play in a major key. Eg, they think that on a tune in G major, you can somehow impose (say) a phrygian mood by playing "in B phrygian mode". Wrong; that just accents the 3rd of the chord (or key). It might be a nice effect, but it's not a phrygian effect; it's still within the overall G ionian context.
    The way to get a phrygian effect in key of G is to play G phrygian mode. But of course, over G major, that will give you a whole load of wrong notes! Because major and phrygian don't mix. If you want phrygian mode, start with a phrygian modal sequence in the first place .

    Remember this is not about what you "can" and "can't" do. It's about using the right terminology for what you're doing, to avoid misunderstanding; not just when talking about it, but when listening to what you're playing.

    [continued below...]

  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itzfast View Post
    Below is a video I posted. It has a bass line backing track that goes through all the modes in order from Ionian to Locrian. So when you’re playing along try playing the pairs of modes I listed below along with each chord change. Do these pairs sound ok to you?

    When playing G Ionian play E Aeolian (relative minor) then… continue on

    When playing A Dorian try also playing F# Locrian
    when playing B Phrygian play G Ionian
    when playing C Lydian play A Dorian
    when playing D Mixolydian play B Phrygian
    When playing E Aeolian play C Lydian
    When playing F# Locrian play D Mixolydian

    Here's the video..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cpqs...ure=plpp_video
    OK, if that's you, you sound like you know what you're talking about more than I was assuming from the above. Apologies if the above is not news to you!

    (And the following is aimed more at users of your jam track, not yourself.)

    That's a good example of a modal jam track. Each section consists of the I and IV chords in that mode, a common alternating pattern. Enough time is spent on each one to get the feel/mood of it.
    And it's a good idea, for someone at beginner level, to begin to improvise as shown, with one pattern. (I'm not sure I'd use quite the same patterns in some cases - eg the "Ionian" one is unnecesarily awkward - but those are OK.) That helps you to hear the sound of each mode, and how the various scale notes relate.
    (Try to forget the sound of the previous mode as you go, focus on each one in its own right.)

    It's important to realise, however, that you're not limited to that scale pattern. You can use any G major pattern; it's the chords that establish the sound of the mode.
    So, as to the question about playing a pattern 6 notes above the given one - sure, that's fine. But any pattern is fine. There's nothing special about 6 notes up.

    What's probably more relevant is to move up the chord tones. So you would begin by playing phrases based on the chord root. Then phrases based on the 3rd. You might want a "B phrygian" pattern for this, but it's not necessary if you know where the B notes are in each pattern . Then you could progress to phrases based on the 5th of the chord, ie starting from D. Again, you can do this from any pattern, but a "D mixolydian" one might make it easier if you don't know the neck well enough yet.

    The other important thing (whatever pattern you choose to play) is to listen to the effect of every single note. Don't just run scales. Play one note and hold it; how does that sound - against each of the two chords played?
    eg, the B note against the first G chord, that's the "major 3rd", which has its own distinctive sound. Keep playing the B note as the chord changes to C - now it sounds different, right? More dissonant. That's because it's the "major 7th" of the C chord. Play it fairly high, it will have a very sweet sound, almost melancholic. Low in the chord it might sound quite wrong.

    This is the most valuable exercise you can do (if you are a beginning improviser!) with this jam track. It about the fundamental issue of "note against chord". Each note has its own expressive character relative to the chord, and that's a big part (perhaps the main part) of the language of music; whether it's modal or key-based.

    IOW, this track IS useful as a way of understanding modal sounds *, but modal sounds are not relevant in key-based progressions. Note-chord relationships are.
    Ie, how notes work against chords applies in keys as well as in modes. Don't think of it as modal effects. Modal terms can sometimes be usefully applied, but they are more likely to mislead, until you really get the difference between a key and mode.
    Eg, when you know the sound of that B note against the C chord (the sweet maj7), you can apply that to other major chords, in other keys. The F# against the G is the exact same effect.
    In key of G, you don't get it on the D chord, because it has a b7 (C). Play a C# against the D chord (once the G key sound has been established), and it will likely sound "wrong", not "sweet" (a bad dissonance, not a good one). Or, if you play it right, it might sound like a blue note, because C#/Db is part of G blues scale .

    * - a jam track featuring parallel modes would be better. Ie, G ionian, followed by G dorian, G phrygian, etc.
    In fact, best to group the modes according to major and minor ones, so the comparisons are more evident:
    Major modes: ionian, lydian (major #4), mixolydian (major b7)
    Minor modes: aeolian, dorian (minor maj6), phrygian (minor b2)
    Locrian is a "half-diminished" mode with its own unstable sound, not a lot of use in composition (but still maybe worth getting to know).
    Last edited by JonR; 05-26-2012 at 10:54 AM.

  5. #5
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    ...........
    * - a jam track featuring parallel modes would be better. Ie, G ionian, followed by G dorian, G phrygian, etc.
    In fact, best to group the modes according to major and minor ones, so the comparisons are more evident:
    Major modes: ionian, lydian (major #4), mixolydian (major b7)
    Minor modes: aeolian, dorian (minor maj6), phrygian (minor b2)
    Locrian is a "half-diminished" mode with its own unstable sound, not a lot of use in composition (but still maybe worth getting to know).
    This made modes to where I could use them:

    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. Change one note.....

    Minor Modes
    • Aeolian same as the Natural Minor scale.
    • Dorian use the Natural Minor scale and sharp the b6 back to a natural 6. Change one note.
    • Phrygian use the Natural Minor scale and flat the 2. Again change one note.
    • Locrian use the Natural Minor scale and flat the 2 and the 5. OK here you have to change two notes.

    Modal Harmony - the rest of the story.
    • If you play your modes over a chord progression you will probably only hear the tonal center of your progression.
    • However, if you play your modes over a modal vamp the vamp will sustain the modal mood long enough for the modal mood to be heard. The modal vamp droning effect will sustain the modal mood. Where with a chord progression the chords change so quickly that the modal mood does not have time to develop. Modal vamps of one to two chords let the modal mood be heard. http://www.riddleworks.com/modalharm3.html

    Worth a look. http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f22/ho...devine-834440/ You may have to click the blank screen several times for the lesson to start. Worth trying.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 05-26-2012 at 12:07 PM.

  6. #6
    itzfast
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    Not me

    Pardon me, I should have made clear that this jam track is not me. I used it to demonstrate my question because it was the only one that I could find that went through all the modes. Sorry for not making that clear.

  7. #7
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itzfast View Post
    Pardon me, I should have made clear that this jam track is not me. I used it to demonstrate my question because it was the only one that I could find that went through all the modes. Sorry for not making that clear.
    No problem. Sorry for length of rant. Did you manage to make sense of any of it?

  8. #8
    itzfast
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    Thanks to Jon and Malcolm for the input. And so based on your answers I'm to conclude there isn't anything significant about the pairs I listed while be playing over the chords being played. Ok, well that clears that up. I'm also to conclude that playing any two modes together while playing over one of the chords being played would sound just as good as another. Damn it man. And here I thought I was on to something.

  9. #9
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itzfast View Post
    Thanks to Jon and Malcolm for the input. And so based on your answers I'm to conclude there isn't anything significant about the pairs I listed while be playing over the chords being played. Ok, well that clears that up. I'm also to conclude that playing any two modes together while playing over one of the chords being played would sound just as good as another. Damn it man. And here I thought I was on to something.
    There is a school of thought that says play the mode that fits the chord over that chord, i.e. Major mode over a major chord and a minor chord over a minor chord. That has value until you take into account.......

    Modes have moods. So playing two or three modes in one song begs the answer, what is the mood of the song, I bet it does not change moods three times. Put another way there are three major modes, three minor modes and one diminished mode. Mixing Phrygian and Lydian may not work, but Phrygian with Aeolian could. Aeolian is said to be sad and Phrygian is said to be exotic, if you are exotically sad ........

    I do not rely upon playing a mode over each chord. Why? Each mode has a mood. How many times in a song does the song change moods?

    If I want an up beat happy mood the Major scale gives that. So my solo over all the chord changes come from the major scale.
    If I want a major sounding day dreamy mood - Lydian's the mode that will give me that, IF, the chords used in the song form a modal vamp. Most of the time the major and minor scales work with V-I cadences, i.e. a progression closure. Modes work best with a vamp (which does not have a V-I closure) as you want the modal mood to be sustained. Key word sustained.
    If I want a major sounding Latin or Blues sound - Mixolydian is the mode.
    If I want a minor sounding sad sound - Aeolian. Aeolian is the natural minor scale and does work well with a v-i minor progression.
    If I want a minor attractive sound - Dorian. Now here you are back to a modal vamp.
    If I want an exotic minor sound - Phrygian. With the vamp.
    If I want a dark and tense sound - Locrian. Locrian's vamp is best served with just one chord droning in the background - the m7b5. That is MO.

    One mood per song usually works. So the modal vamp instead of a chord progression is called for. You do not need the V-I cadence for a mode you want the mode's mood to sustain and a vamp does this.

    Have fun.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 05-27-2012 at 03:11 PM.

  10. #10
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itzfast View Post
    Thanks to Jon and Malcolm for the input. And so based on your answers I'm to conclude there isn't anything significant about the pairs I listed while be playing over the chords being played. Ok, well that clears that up. I'm also to conclude that playing any two modes together while playing over one of the chords being played would sound just as good as another.
    Yes. Any of seven modes, to be exact.
    That's because those kind of "modes" are just different arrangements of the same 7 notes (in different neck positions).
    It's the chord that determines the modal sound, and any pattern (of the same 7 notes) will deliver the same modal sound. You have the whole neck at your disposal, at any time.
    There's nothing musically significant about any scale pattern. The scale runs all over the neck, and - as I said - the reason for breaking it into 3- or 4-fret chunks is to be able to play in one position without moving your hand.
    There's nothing significant about the lowest note in the pattern - it's just that the mode names suggest there is, which is why they're misleading.

    Quote Originally Posted by itzfast View Post
    Damn it man. And here I thought I was on to something.
    Think chord tones (arpeggios)! That's the significant route to go.
    Which notes (in any pattern you choose) are notes in the chord you're playing over? That's the question you need to answer. (Every pattern has all the notes you need.)

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