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Thread: Which mode to use?

  1. #1
    Registered User julianj's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004

    Smile Which mode to use?

    Hi, I have a possibly naive question on the subject of modes. Lets suppose I am improvising and I'm in the key of A major and in the background the III chord is playing i.e. C#m7. I'm thinking that since I'm on the III chord I should be using phrygian scale as the basis for the improvisation since it's the third mode. The thing I'm not sure about it should it be A phrygian or C# phrygian? That is I'm playing 1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7, but is it starting from A or C#?

    I've just started trying to learn the modes and I think it would be a lot easier if I could start applying it to improvisation as early on as possible just so I can see where it's going.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    im definitely no expert

    however, im 100% certain that you would be right in using the c# phrygian mode.

    ill do my best to explain - c# is the third degree of the "a major scale"..

    so its goes
    A = ionian, B = dorian, c# = PHRYGIAN, D = lydian...etc

    A is the 'key' its just the tone centre... but the chord itself, because its the third chord in the scale, would hence 'desire' the third scale in the series of modes (ionian, dorian, phyrigian, lyd, mixolyd, aeolian, locrian.. that's the series).

    If you were in the Key of G and you played a B chord, you would play a B phrygian on it, because like in the above example for the third degree of the scale, you would use the mode that comes third.

    hope that helps - from my understand if you played a B dorian or A ionian over the C# it would still work... technically you can play the entire A major scale... i think? im still learning - but this is my understand and im 99% sure its correct.

    good luck, let me know how it goes,

  3. #3
    Registered User julianj's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Thanks. That's what I thought.

    My other thought now is that when playing the phrygian (for example) from start to finish I can clearly hear the phrygian-ness of it. When improvising, however, you would not necessarily be playing the notes in order. Given that they are the same notes as the major scale, how does one bring out the phrygian-ness while avoiding just playing the scale up and down?

    I get the feeling there's an epiphany round the corner.

  4. #4
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Norway - South West coast
    Hi julianj,
    If your playing the A ionian scale over a chord progression with the A major as the root (often includes the C#m7), I still think of it as playing the A ionian mode, and I also find it difficult / imposible to obtain a phrygian mode without introducing a phrygian modal vamp over the C#m7 chord. If the chords in the progression is suitable for a Lydian or mixolydian mode, I find it to be possible to create a new flavour (modes) to my soloing. However, I'm not an expert, and I look forward to other replies.

  5. #5
    Mode Rator Zatz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Hi, julianj!

    So we got C#m7 in the focus. Both Phrygian and Dorian are ok to play over this chord. Your aim is phrygian feeling. Then you should highlight the tones that characterize this particular mode. Here's what we have:

    C# Dorian:

    C# D# E F# G#(or no 5th) A# B C#

    C# Phrygian:

    C# D E F# G#(or no 5th) A B C#

    The chord tones are shown in bold, the tones that are different for these two modes go italics. See?
    [D & A in Phrygian] vs [D# & A# in Dorian]

    Still playing D and A leads to risk of obtaining undesirable dissonance (D clashes with C# and A - with G#). If there is no 5th in C#m7 (G#) then it will be absolutely fine to play A and claim you're in Phrygian.

    Anyways try all the possibilities and you'll easily tell if you're going the right path.

    Last edited by Zatz; 03-03-2004 at 04:36 PM.
    Zadd9 -> A6 -> T#9b5 -> Zmaj7

  6. #6
    Registered User julianj's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Thanks for the responses. I think I'll just focus on learning the things for a few days frst and then come back to what to do with them. I've a feeling I'm trying to run before I can walk.

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