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What's a mode

What's a mode



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Published by api-3775245

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Published by: api-3775245 on Oct 16, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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from: livengood.mike@a1gw.gene.com (mike livengood)

what's a mode? no it's not that green fuzzy stuff that grows on old cheese in
the refrigerator. a mode is...well, it's kind of tough to explain i suppose.
but let's try to work through it together and see if we can discover for
ourselves what modes are.

let's start with a c major scale
2 octaves in tab form:

e------------------------------------------- b----------------------------------10-12-13- d--------------------------9-10-12---------- g------------------9-10-12------------------ a----------8-10-12-------------------------- e--8-10-12----------------------------------

this is a c major scale in its natural mode, starting on c. this natural mode
is called the ionian mode. no big deal, see, you knew one mode already.
what about the other modes?

well, what if we are playing and our progression has a c7 chord in it, (which
has a flat 7) and we want to stress that in a melody line or solo? so instead
of playing our normal 7 in the scale (b) we play the same scale but flat the
seventh each time (bb). no big deal, just the one note. so now our scale
looks like this:

2 octaves in tab form:

e------------------------------------------- b----------------------------------10-11-13- d--------------------------9-10-12---------- g------------------8-10-12------------------ a----------8-10-12-------------------------- e--8-10-12----------------------------------

but wait a minute! i think i recognize those notes. yeah, a single bb is the key signature for f-major/d minor. amazing! who would have thought that? but i'm not playing in f major or d minor.

hmm. my progression is still in c. yes, i'm in c but i'm no longer in the
ionian mode. with the flat seventh i am now in the mixolydian mode. i know it
sounds like we've been transported to some alien parallel universe, but don't
worry, it's just a way of playing.

hey guys wait up! apparently the band has switched to c minor on me. well, i

know my c minor scale:


g------------------8-10-12------------------ a----------8-10-11-------------------------- e--8-10-11----------------------------------

well, once again i have changed modes. what we familiarly call the minor scale is also the c aeolian mode. while the mixolydian has a flat 7, the aeolian has a flat 3, a flat 6, and a flat 7. notice also that these notes are the same as an eb major scale.

ok, now the guys are really getting on my nerves. we just changed to a
progression that demands a cm6 flavor. hmmm. first, what's a cm6? well, it's a
cm (c-eb-g) with a major 6th added on (a).

shoot, i can't play the scales i've been playing if i want to stress the cm6 sound. i either have to flat the 3 of the mixolydian, or sharp the 6 in the c aeolian. ok let's try it. the new scale is:


e------------------------------------------- b----------------------------------10-11-13- d--------------------------8-10-12---------- g------------------8-10-12------------------ a----------8-10-12-------------------------- e--8-10-11----------------------------------

there. hey that works. this new mode is the c dorian mode and consists of a
flat 3 and a flat 7. these are also the notes to the bb major scale. cool. i'm
getting the hang of this. don't worry, we'll review at the end if you're
getting lost.

you know, i've always liked the sound of passing tones in scales. these tones
are usually notes that are added in for color or tension. you know how we
convert the minor pentatonic into a minor blues by adding the sharp 4 (blue
note)? let's do something like that with our major scale. let's replace the 4
with a sharp 4, like this:


e------------------------------------------- b----------------------------------10-12-13- d--------------------------9-11-12---------- g------------------9-10-12------------------ a----------9-10-12-------------------------- e--8-10-12----------------------------------

this new mode is the lydian mode, and contains a c major scale with a sharp 4.
these are also the notes in the g major scale.
notice the three whole steps in the beginning of the scale? and how the sharp
4 leads into the 5 of the scale? try this up and down a few times. try to make
up a little melody using the notes.

ok. so you say you want a different sound. something like a minor flat 9 sound. well, let's try it....oh..oh..wait. we don't have a 9 to flat in our scale. we only have a 2. oh well, it'll do. so let's take our c minor (aeolian) and flat the 2. like this:


e------------------------------------------ b---------------------------------9-11-13-- d-------------------------8-10-12---------- g-----------------8-10-11------------------ a---------8-10-11-------------------------- e--8-9-11----------------------------------

this new scale is the c phrygian mode, and has a b2, b3, b6, and b7. these are
also the notes in an ab major scale. try this over a cm7 and see how it
sounds, or even a cm7-9 to an abmaj7.



ok, so now you really want to get crazy and flat the 5 of our phrygian scale.
ok, but don't tell your parents. the new scale would be:

e----------------------------------------- b--------------------------------9-11-13-- d------------------------8-10-11---------- g----------------8-10-11------------------ a---------8-9-11-------------------------- e--8-9-11---------------------------------

this new scale is the c locrian mode and has the same notes as a db major
scale. this would work over a cm7b5.

another way to look at it is as follows. a mode is a displaced scale. it is a new scale created by moving the starting point of another scale. the following table summarizes the seven modes we've just studied

in c major start on:
no flats or sharps
b3, b7
b2, b3, b6, b7
mixolydian b7
b3, b6, b7
b2, b3, b5, b6, b7
so according to the table, to play an e phrygian scale, play a c-major scale,
but start on e, and end on e.
you see, an a aeolian scale and a d dorian scale and all he scales above, all
have the same notes as a c major scale, just with different ordered intervals.
the following is an exercise that takes you through all seven modes. it should
be played smoothly and at an even tempo repeating each mode twice.

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