Modes - think I finally get it

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relic245relic245 Frets: 249
I've known the mode shapes for many years but always played them as pentatonics with added (usually passing) notes. 

I knew that wasn't it but that's all I had. 

I watched this video below this week. 

I was playing with Ionian and the guy said practice targeting the arpeggio toNes. Play with the 7th for a while until you can start to hear it then play with the others. I've known that for ages but never actually done it.  By actually doing that for a week and my understanding of where intervals are on the fretboard has gone up massively.

Today I decided to play about with the Dorian mode and as usual, played pentatonic licks with a few extra notes. Then started targeting the chord tones but it still sounded like pentatonic. 

Then it hit me. What's the difference between Dorian, Phrygian and aoleon? It's the 2nd and the 6th, whether they are natural or flat. So I started to target the notes that are the difference between the 3 minor modes, ie the natural 2nd and 6th and voila, instant Santana. 

Then if I play a flat 6th instead of the natural I get a completely different sound. Suddenly I get where the flavor of the sounds comes from. It's the notes that differentiate the mode from others.

Maybe it's not a good technical explanation but it makes sense to me where it didn't before. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0-MPqNMTwY

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  • Yep, it's a good thing to know how modes work Relative to one another,  start from the next note in your counting or on the fretboard eg:
    Ionian (Major) CDEFGABC
    Dorian DEFGABCD

    A cool thing I like to do is to set up a power chord backing track, just on one chord, say C, with a C5. Then play through the Parralell modes in the key of C.

    Then do a little modal interchange between the 'Major based' modes
    • Ionian C D E F G A B C
    • Lydian (Major w/ sharp 4 - little spicy against the perfect 5th in the C5 but it works) C D E F# G A B C
    • Mixolydian (Major w/ flat 7) C D E F G A Bb C
    And then the 'minor based' modes
    • Aoelian (minor) A B C D E F G A
    • Phrygian (minor w/ a flat 2)  A Bb C D E F G A
    • Dorian (minor w/ a sharp 6 again, same rub as the sharp 4 but it works) A B C D E F# G A 
    The perfect 5th is present in all these modes,  just like in a power chord, so it's quite liberating and easy to set up a simple power chord loop and hear the effects of the 'magic notes' over the same backing and what it does to the feel. 

    Nice to see the 'polarity' or tonality of the Major sound and minor sound using modes, particularly as in this example it's 3 each side.

    You may also notice that from all the notes above, we have A B C D E F G for naturals, and only Bb and F# for the 'accidentals' (but played very much on purpose!) 

    Hope this helps and is fun to explore!
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  • hollywoodroxhollywoodrox Frets: 89
    Nice post man,  I’m currently trying to get the “feel” of the modes in my ears/head by playing against a drone note , I like the arpeggios section too. I think I will check out all his videos and course on this. Very good post , pleased I looked at it . Thank you
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  • beed84beed84 Frets: 1504
    edited July 11
    There's a very interesting section in Plato's The Republic. It covers "musical requirements" and to some extent why modes exist. Ionian was considered relaxing, Lydian mournful, and Dorian and Phrygian expressing courage and self-control. Modes were determined to represent people and soldiers appropriately, some being discarded or rarely used because they were deemed unsuitable, e.g Mixed Lydian. That's a rough overview, but you get the gist. Nevertheless, having ancient understanding why modes are the way they are certainly helps consolidate ones use of them.
    "Love only what falls your way and is fated for you. What could suit you more than that?" – Marcus Aurelius
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  • vizviz Frets: 5599
    edited July 12
    There’s also the four modes’ and hypomodes’ alignment to the four temperaments - melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic and choleric
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  • proggyproggy Frets: 2730
    viz said:
    There’s also the four modes’ and hypomodes’ alignment to the four temperaments - melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic and choleric

    A course of antibiotics should clear up the last two.
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  • GuyBodenGuyBoden Frets: 470
    Yep, it's a good thing to know how modes work Relative to one another,  start from the next note in your counting or on the fretboard eg:
    Ionian (Major) CDEFGABC
    Dorian DEFGABCD

    A cool thing I like to do is to set up a power chord backing track, just on one chord, say C, with a C5. Then play through the Parralell modes in the key of C.

    Then do a little modal interchange between the 'Major based' modes
    • Ionian C D E F G A B C
    • Lydian (Major w/ sharp 4 - little spicy against the perfect 5th in the C5 but it works) C D E F# G A B C
    • Mixolydian (Major w/ flat 7) C D E F G A Bb C
    And then the 'minor based' modes
    • Aoelian (minor) A B C D E F G A
    • Phrygian (minor w/ a flat 2)  A Bb C D E F G A
    • Dorian (minor w/ a sharp 6 again, same rub as the sharp 4 but it works) A B C D E F# G A 
    The perfect 5th is present in all these modes,  just like in a power chord, so it's quite liberating and easy to set up a simple power chord loop and hear the effects of the 'magic notes' over the same backing and what it does to the feel. 

    Nice to see the 'polarity' or tonality of the Major sound and minor sound using modes, particularly as in this example it's 3 each side.

    You may also notice that from all the notes above, we have A B C D E F G for naturals, and only Bb and F# for the 'accidentals' (but played very much on purpose!) 

    Hope this helps and is fun to explore!
    Another good idea, but slightly more advanced harmonically, is to record the bass root note of a mode and then create chords (Harmony) with the other notes Not including the root.


    Play all of the chords against the root note. (NOTE:Do not use the root note D in the chords.)

    Mode D Dorian.

    Bass note D.

    Six Triad Chords: EBG FCA GEB AFC BGE CAF     




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  • GreatapeGreatape Frets: 68
    Yep, much more musical and productive to think about the appropriate triad and passing tones than modes. Who's got time to think about that on the gig? The greats - Bird, Carlton, etc - are thinking chords...
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  • KRSKRS Frets: 7
    edited September 25
    Hey @relic245 I've got some ideas on how to learn modes. 

    Disclaimer. This is not my original concept. It's from 'The Advancing Guitarist' by Mick Goodrick. 

    Ok, so first of all you need to get which basic triads go with which mode. For example, the triad associated with Ionian is major, and Dorian would be minor.  There is more to it than that, but you must understand and be able to play each chord/mode. 

    Make some 'vamps' for each mode in the key of C. Then solo on one string at a time for each mode. For example Eminor chord with top E string gives you E Phrygian. Take time to play each note in turn and you will gravitate to the notes that sound good. 

    Do do that for each mode on every string. Sounds like a lot of work and well, it is! But I could instantly see how this approach helped the process of learning mode when I started this idea..

    I've been doing this same method for about 25 years and it really is a lifetimes work. But, I can do D Dorian on any string any position. And some other stuff. Seriously though, this approach has helped me so much over the years. 

    Doing this starting with C major helps to unlock the neck as an added bonus. You learn to 'see' C major on the neck. There is the added benefit of freeing up your technique so that you don't have to play in positions. You can go in any direction, up, down or across.

    The most important thing you learn is how the intervals of each mode relates to the root. Mainly because looking at the interval between say C and E is easier on one string than when looked at on two strings (A and D string for example, bottom two notes of C major open chord). 

    There is a quote in the Mick Goodrick book that goes something like 'when you know your intervals, you'll know your intervals'. I think he means once you start learning the realtionship between say C and F, and you can see this on the neck, everything gets a whole lot easier.  It does. 

    TLDR. Learn modes on one string at a time, starting with the modes of C major. 
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  • From a fretboard visualisation standpoint, if you commit to truly knowing the major scale and its shapes and intervals, does that not give you "one weird trick" to unlock the modes? Instead of learning new shapes and interval positions for each mode, wouldn't the easiest way to visualise the modes across the neck be to go "hmm, the 1 3 5 in A Dorian are just the 2 4 6 of the G major scale or the 1 3 5 in B Phrygian are just the 3 5 7 of the G major scale, whose intervals I've already memorised" and so on.

    Chord tones
    Dorian - 2/4/6
    Phrygian - 3/5/7
    Lydian - 4/6/R
    Mixolydian - 5/7/2
    Aeolian - 6/R/3
    Locrian -  7/2/4

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  • relic245relic245 Frets: 249
    Thanks, @KRS ;

    Sounds like a great drill. It's quite similar to how I learned the names of the notes on each string. I worked on one string at a time
    and went round the circle of 5th's both ways. Only took a short while before I knew the entire fretboard.

    I don't get a lot of time for learning/playing these days so I'm probably not going to go into that much depth  but I'm having a lot more fun with modes now. 

    Instead of thinking of patterns I'm thinking of intervals. That's making it so much easier to target chord tones, especialy the ones that give the mode flavour. So if I'm playing Dorian, knowing when I'm going to the b7, 9th or 13th is really brining out the individual sounds. It's really helping my ears to develop too. 
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  • KRSKRS Frets: 7
    Glad you can get something from that @relic245 . It's one of those ideas that sounds a bit daft at first until you try for a few weeks. For me, I started to play ideas that may not have happened without having played on one string. I certainly didn't learn to play that way and would struggle to play outside of a bog standard minor Pentatonic shape. 

    I left some bits out 'cos I was trying to avoid a wall of text. When you've had enough of one string, start using two adjacent strings. Then you can suddenly play bigger intervals and start to use some pattern playing, the traditional way of learning guitar scales. Then of course, three strings at once until you reach all six. By then I think most players will notice a huge difference in their technique, fretboard knowledge and ability to play modally. 

    The book I borrowed this from then suggests doing the same thing for all twelve keys (what?) and then of course melodic and harmonic minor and maybe diminished and whole tone. I'll stop there because that clearly is a ton of work that would take a lot of time. But you get the idea. 

    What I like to do when I'm doing this kind of thing is maybe half an hour using say G mixolydian and then play over something that uses G mixolydian. 'All Blues' is a good set of changes for this because it stays on a G7 for so long. 

    Totally agree with you about intervals over patterns. I think you can play either the interval or phrase you hear in your head or you can play a pattern or a lick (that you may also hear in your head). Having the ability to do both is definitely the most fun!


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  • KRS said:
    Hey @relic245 I've got some ideas on how to learn modes. 

    Disclaimer. This is not my original concept. It's from 'The Advancing Guitarist' by Mick Goodrick. 

    Ok, so first of all you need to get which basic triads go with which mode. For example, the triad associated with Ionian is major, and Dorian would be minor.  There is more to it than that, but you must understand and be able to play each chord/mode. 

    Make some 'vamps' for each mode in the key of C. Then solo on one string at a time for each mode. For example Eminor chord with top E string gives you E Phrygian. Take time to play each note in turn and you will gravitate to the notes that sound good. 

    Do do that for each mode on every string. Sounds like a lot of work and well, it is! But I could instantly see how this approach helped the process of learning mode when I started this idea..

    I've been doing this same method for about 25 years and it really is a lifetimes work. But, I can do D Dorian on any string any position. And some other stuff. Seriously though, this approach has helped me so much over the years. 

    Doing this starting with C major helps to unlock the neck as an added bonus. You learn to 'see' C major on the neck. There is the added benefit of freeing up your technique so that you don't have to play in positions. You can go in any direction, up, down or across.

    The most important thing you learn is how the intervals of each mode relates to the root. Mainly because looking at the interval between say C and E is easier on one string than when looked at on two strings (A and D string for example, bottom two notes of C major open chord). 

    There is a quote in the Mick Goodrick book that goes something like 'when you know your intervals, you'll know your intervals'. I think he means once you start learning the realtionship between say C and F, and you can see this on the neck, everything gets a whole lot easier.  It does. 

    TLDR. Learn modes on one string at a time, starting with the modes of C major. 
    This book literally changed my playing life. 
    " Why does it smell of bum?" Mrs Professorben.
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  • KRSKRS Frets: 7
    Hey @professorben, me too. I picked it up again recently to look at the bits I skipped 'cos it looked like too much work at the time, and I'm still learning and having fun with this book years after I bought it. Must remember to put the guitar down and go feed the ducks. 
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