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Thread: Confused about modes?

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  1. #1
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    Confused about modes?

    Hello,

    I am trying to write my own compositions.

    Basically, my question has to do with modes. What notes can a guitar player play over a certain chord. If we are in the key of C major and I play a C major chord, notes from C to B can be played over this chord (In any order but always innitiating the solo by its tonic "C"). Therefore this would sound as I am playing in Iolian mode.

    If we are in the key of C major and I play a D minor chord, notes from D to C can be played over this chord (In any order but always innitiating the solo by its tonic "D"). Therefore this would sound as I am playing in Dorian mode.

    and so on for the other modes.....

    So here's what all the modes look like:

    C (Ionian) Major. (C, D, E, F, G, A, B)
    D (Dorian) Minor (D, E, F, G, A, B, C)
    E (Phrygian) Minor (E, F, G, A, B, C, D)
    F (Lydian) Major (F, G, A, B, C, D, E)
    G (Mixolydian) Major (G, A, B, C, D, E, G)
    A (Aolian) Minor (A, B, C, D, E, F, G)
    B (Locrian) Dim (B, C, D, E, F, G, A)

    So if a chord progression does A minor G and D minor.... One can solo over these chords by referencing the table above. For example, On the A minor chord one can solo with the notes defined by the Aolian mode. On the G major chord one should solo with the notes defined by the Mixolydian mode. And on the D minor chord one should solo with the notes defined by the Dorian mode.

    The question I have is, if I am in A minor key can I still use the table above since A minor is the relative of C major?

    So with the same chord progressions (A minor G and D minor) , I could use the same modes as laid out above? right?

    Thanks all for your help
    Last edited by JackOnTheRocks; 08-28-2015 at 05:13 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User ragasaraswati's Avatar
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    In this context it's best to think in terms of key. So, in the progression Am, G, Dm and back the pull of that Am is so strong that the ear doesn't really hear "A aeolian, G mixolydian, D dorian". It sounds as A minor throughout. However the true power of modes comes with parallel modulation (aka pitch axis). So, when you arrive at Am you can use A Dorian instead to brighten up the mood, or to give it a more cool character, in place of the gloomy Aeolian/natural minor.

  3. #3
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    Hi ragasaraswati,

    "So, when you arrive at Am you can use A Dorian instead to brighten up the mood, or to give it a more cool character, in place of the gloomy Aeolian/natural minor."

    Then I would be playing notes in G major scale right?
    Last edited by JackOnTheRocks; 08-28-2015 at 05:04 PM.

  4. #4
    Registered User ragasaraswati's Avatar
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    True, but in practice you are playing in A Dorian since A is your tonic. Also, to comment on your initial post, the best way to practice modes is by having the same bass note. The ear gravitates towards the tonic more than the scale. Since the Ionian/major tonic is the strongest if you play C-C and then D-D, E-E etc it still sounds like C major doesn't it? Instead, try improvising different modes while keeping the same tonic. Hold a bass C and play, from brightest to darkest:

    C Lydian
    C Ionian/major
    C Mixolydian
    C Dorian
    C Aeolian/natural minor
    C Phrygian
    C Locrian

  5. #5
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    Hi ragasaraswati

    I have to go slowly with this because I got burned badly trying to learn this stuff::

    "So, when you arrive at Am you can use A Dorian instead to brighten up the mood, or to give it a more cool character, in place of the gloomy Aeolian/natural minor."

    Then I would be playing notes in G major scale right?

    True, but in practice you are playing in A Dorian since A is your tonic.

    Okay, but for arguments sake instead of A Dorian I could of
    gone to A Phrygian instead and play the F major scale over the A minor chord... right?
    (Always going by the order of the major modes....1) Ionian, 2) Dorian, 3) Phrygian etc....)

    This would still make sense because the Bb note in the F major scale doesn't clash with any of the notes in the A minor chord ... yes?
    And therefore we would be in the key of A Phrygian ... yes?

    thanks
    Last edited by JackOnTheRocks; 08-28-2015 at 07:31 PM.

  6. #6
    Registered User ragasaraswati's Avatar
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    Yes, A Phrygian has the same notes as F major. But playing in A phrygian is a whole another story than playing in F major.

    No, the Bb note clashes badly with A, comprising the dreaded b9 interval. You'd never stay long playing Bb during an Am chord, it's a quick passing tone. Much middle eastern music comes to mind.

    I like to use phrases such as "key of A phrygian" but not all agree. Classically trained musicians use the term "key" only for major/minor. It's constraining but the classical canon doesn't use modes much so that's that.
    Last edited by ragasaraswati; 08-28-2015 at 07:54 PM.

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