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Thread: Confused about modes?

  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.

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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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    Ah yes the Bb and the A..... you are right!!


    okay... so always staying in the key of C major. And we do the following chord progressions:

    CMaj - Dmin - Amin

    Don't really know if this will sound that nice but this is just for exercise purposes:

    I could do:
    CMaj = C Ionian (using notes in scale of C: C to C)
    Dmin = D Dorian (using notes in scale of C: D to D)
    Amin = A Dorian (using notes in scale of G: A to A)

    My question is what other mode alternative could of I used for the D minor chord instead of D Dorian?

    Could another mode alternative for the the D min chord have been C Aolian:

    Dmin = C Aolian (using notes in scale of F: F to F)

    And suppose For the D minor chord I would want to use a Locrian mode can one do use a D diminished instead of the D minor and do this:

    Ddim = D Locrian (Using notes in scale of Eb: Eb to Eb)

    Yes?
    Last edited by JackOnTheRocks; 08-28-2015 at 08:20 PM.

  8. #8
    Registered User ragasaraswati's Avatar
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    I have to ask first which one do you want as your tonic?

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    Let me pick D as my tonic so bass note is D

  10. #10
    Registered User ragasaraswati's Avatar
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    Which D mode(s) perfectly cover the notes of Dm - Am - C?

  11. #11
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    D Dorian

    and

    D Aolian
    Last edited by JackOnTheRocks; 08-28-2015 at 08:43 PM.

  12. #12
    Registered User ragasaraswati's Avatar
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    Right. Any other choice would sound less optimal.

  13. #13
    Registered User ragasaraswati's Avatar
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    You can use the jazz approach to attach a mode to each chord not taking into account of the chord that's gone or the one coming. For example playing in D Dorian and when arriving at Dm playing D Locrian, as you said, but it would sound jarring, while D Aeolian not so much. It's about the true aural distance of modes, which goes Lydian-Ionian-Mixolydian-Dorian-Aeolian-Phrygian-Locrian, from the circle of 5ths. You can predict that a switch from D Dorian to D Aeolian would be much smoother than the distant D Locrian.

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    Just hold on to that post #13 I will get back to it.... Thanks

    Thanks,

    If you can please allow me to get back to the 2nd part of your reply:


    "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"

    The C note .... is this the tonal center everyone keeps talking about?

    Next I would like to ask a very simple question. I noticed that the C note
    in the above example exists in every scale relative to the mode. For example
    C Dorian mode has the C note in the scale of Bd
    C Phrygian mode has the C note in the scale of Ab
    C Lydian mode has the C note in the scale of G
    etc...

    It's no wonder every exercise about modes use this as an
    example to demonstrate the sounds of all the major modes.

    But lest say the bass player would be holding that C note
    and the guitar would strum a C major chord, we would
    have to be careful which mode we select to play a melody
    over this.... right?

    So now it becomes a selection process of which mode
    covers the notes in the C major chord
    right?

    So given this, the following modes cover all the notes in the
    C major chord:

    C Ionian mode, (Major)
    C Dorian mode, (Minor)
    C Lydian, (Major)
    C Mixolydian, (Major)

    However given the fact we are playing a Major chord (C major)
    out of the above list only the following can be selected:

    C Ionian mode, (Major)
    C Lydian, (Major)
    C Mixolydian, (Major)

    am I seeing this right ?
    Last edited by JackOnTheRocks; 08-28-2015 at 10:25 PM.

  15. #15
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    "Dm playing D Locrian, as you said, but it would sound jarring...."
    yes.... but D Locrian puts us in the scale of Eb and this is where
    I get confused .... what are we supposed to do in this case....

    either we play a D diminished chord instead of the D minor and play all the notes in the Eb scale
    Or
    we play the D minor chord and we can play all the notes in the Eb scale but avoid the Ab note?

    which would be better?

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