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What exactly is the point of modes?

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  • What exactly is the point of modes?

    I'm almost positive I know what modes are; starting a scale from a note besides the root, ie, playing a G major scale, but starting form the A.

    However, I can't see the point of them at all. I don't know any guitarists who, when soloing, only use the notes within one octave of the root note. When playing something in the key of A minor for instance, I view all notes in the key, regardless of where they are, fair game. I might start playing it on a B, D, whatever, but it's all in A minor. I can understand perhaps going through modes as a way to learn all the notes in a certain key from many different positions, but when you're actually playing, does anyone actually think "I'm playing in mode x"?

  • #2
    YES.

    modes sound different, the way the pattern is - high notes/low notes can't be reached. do you fingertap? modes are extremely important to a shredder!!!!!!!!

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    • #3
      Yes, modes are important, and I think about them all the time...If you have a progression that goes Dm, Eb major, Fmajor what key do you solo in? D Phrygian, which contains notes from Bb major.
      Soloing in Dm wont work, as there is no Eb in Dm. You can break the rules, but do that only because you want to, not because you dont know the rules in the first place.
      Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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      • #4
        Modes and all theory are used by those who teach to explain those who play to those that neither teach or play.

        I doubt SRV, Hendrix, Jimmy Page or Mozart considered the modes they might be playing in.

        But theory, as all knowledge can be very useful and knowing something extra can't hurt your playing. The best thing about learning to play modally is that you end up learning the entire neck of the guitar and the result is a better chromatic understanding of what is going on under your hands. As your ear becomes accustomed to hearing the tonalities associated with the different modes you no longer think in theoretic terms and you just play your instrument. The thing is you can't train your ear to "hear" the outside tonalities and the proper place to use them and your muscle memory won't "remember" where those tonalities are unless you learn and practice modal playing.

        Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power baby!
        www.soundclick.com/failedgrace
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Robert S.

          Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power baby!
          You should put that in your signature. That's a good quote to live by actually.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Mincer
            Yes, modes are important, and I think about them all the time...If you have a progression that goes Dm, Eb major, Fmajor what key do you solo in? D Phrygian, which contains notes from Bb major.
            Soloing in Dm wont work, as there is no Eb in Dm. You can break the rules, but do that only because you want to, not because you dont know the rules in the first place.
            I'm really confused about what you're saying...

            Unless I made a mistake, the notes contained in the chords you mentioned are: A, A#, C, D, Eb, F, G. Now, as I understand modes, you keep all the original notes of the scale, but play them starting from a different root. Those notes don't seem to be in D major or minor keys, so why did you choose a mode based on D? Those notes are all in Bb major, but not in any mode of D, since you don't add or take notes when playing modes.

            And robert, I understand playing modes gives you a better feel for where everything is on the neck, and can help you when playing. However, when actualyl playing, I don't restrain myself to one octave.

            Let's say the song is in the Key of C, I'm not only going to play the notes between the root and it's octave. I play all notes in a certain scale, and I can't see what starting from a certain note would practically help me with. When playing in the key of C, I may start on an A, D, G, whatever, but it's all in the same key, and to me, all notes are fair game.

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            • #7
              Dm, Eb major, and F major only exist together in the key of Bb major. Since Dm is your starting chord, and D is the 3rd note of the Bb major scale, you use the 3rd mode, this being D phrygian. All of the notes you named exist in Bb major and no other key (remember, A#=Bb). Therefore the *parent* key is Bb. However, our chord progression doesnt start with Bb, even though we use notes from that key. It starts on Dm, with our *tonic* being D. Again, D is the 3rd note of the Bb major scale. So, you play D to D but *using the notes from the Bb major scale*. This 3rd mode is phrygian. D phrygian is *not* based on the key of D...it is based on the parent key of Bb.
              In another example, B dorian is not based on B major, or B minor, but A major.
              Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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              • #8
                oooh, I think it's starting to solidify in my head!! Would Dm, Eb, F be considered a "modal progression"?

                Knowing when to use different modes is the most confusing thing I've ever tried to understand about music.

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                • #9
                  Yes it would!!! Because you wouldnt play in regular ol Dm, since it doesnt have an Eb in it.
                  Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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                  • #10
                    Waste, I'm not sure where you got the one octave thing from, but if you've listened to anything I've recorded receintly I too stray out of single octave ideas from time to time.

                    Their are 2 seperate things that maybe need clarifying. There is understanding modality and how families of chords are related to each other and to key signatures, and there is approaching guitar playing from a modal perspective.

                    The first thing is a little complicated but it can make you a dramatically more competent player to understand how music works. I'm not even going to go there as it wasn't my intent in my earlier post. Besides, Mincer seems to be handling that rather well already.

                    My point was that playing the entire neck in any given key is a handy thing to be able to do. The vast majority of players perceive the neck as having "areas". They play all their key of A solos out of the 5th fret A bar chord shape running a variation of the blues scale because that is there "A" is. They only approach guitar playing out of the first position and maybe another one or two variations at best.

                    By playing modally, or practicing all the major scales starting on the low E string and beginning on each note of the scale you not pnly play through all the modes but you soon start to see the entire neck as being valid and accessable and that all sorts of new possibilities for melodic variation become possible.

                    Once the entire neck becomes useable real estate and you start to consider the circle of fifths and how to rotate accidentals in and out of your ideas and you start messing around with outside tonalities in a controlled fashion playing starts to really get fun.

                    After awhile the neck sort of turns into a chromatic playground and all you have to do is to think it to play it. The farther you take it, the more fun it is.
                    www.soundclick.com/failedgrace
                    www.myspace.com/robert_sherman
                    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1513342220

                    T4D got a new gig!

                    (Please send sig worthy material!)

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                    • #11
                      This is a great pice of advice. Most players play blues in A at the 5th position. As an excercise, spend a month playing anywhere but the 5th position.

                      You can get to notes in any key in any position. They are all right there. Guitarists tend to use 'position playing' because of the way the instrument is laid out.

                      Modal playing (and not just modes of the major scale) *will* make your playing more interesting than the next guy's. If the relationship between the whole/half steps changes, then your phrasing changes. This is why modes are important.
                      Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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                      • #12
                        Ok, I understand all about knowing modes helping you learn the fretboard better, and when you're just playing them up and down they sound different etc.

                        Mincer, you explained your post well, I thought a D phyrigian meant starting from the 3rd note of a D scale originally, thanks for clearing that up.

                        What I'm still lost on, is where they actually come in when playing. I guess maybe I just don't understand all the rules well enough to understand that I'm breaking them or something, because I just can't get this.

                        Any mode of the Bb major scale still has the same notes as the original scale, so if someone is playing a progression in the key of Bb major, regardless of what mode you use, you still have all the same notes to choose from when soloing.

                        If I am soloing over a progression in Bb major, and the first note I hit is not a B, am I using a mode? I guess I just don't have a full enough understanding of the rules to realize if I'm breaking them or which I'm using. From what you're saying mincer, it seems that to play a D phyrigian, you must confine yourself to using the notes of Bb major with D being the highest and lowest note you use (though I may understand what you're saying wrong). When I'm playing in a Bb major, the lowest note I use may be the first fret on my low E string, and the highest may be the 22nd fret of my high E string, am I breaking some sort of rule in playing like this?

                        After re-reading this thread, I realize that I sounded a bit "anti-mode". I don't have anything against modes, it's just I really can't understand their practicality beyond giving you a better sense of the fretboard.

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                        • #13
                          I think you are getting confused about what the tonic is. Playing our progression from above, you certainly can use the first fret of the low E, an F, and the last fret of the guitar, a D. You don't confine yourself to 1 octave, unless you want to. What I am saying is that D is your tonic, and you resolve your phrases on a D..*but all of the other notes are from the Bb scale*. It sounds way different than resolving your notes to Bb, which wouldnt work, since a Dm chord has an A in it.
                          Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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                          • #14
                            Mincer, I used major scales in that example as a starting point. I've had all of 2 students every work all the majors through all their modes and only one of those is really starting to "get" it. Most players don't have the patients to learn the entire neck, at least in my teaching experience.

                            It has been my experience that beginning players first start out tossing all sorts of stuff in to thier solos and alot of the outside tonalities clash with the harmonic structure. This is not because they are playing "wrong" notes, but they are playing them at the wrong time.

                            There is really only one rule in music and that is if it works, it works. It is possible to end a solo on any note irregardless of the underlying tonality and dissonance, especially in a situation where the key signature is modulating can be a very powerful tool.

                            All that being said, it's far easier to break the rules and be successful at it if you first know what the rules are.
                            www.soundclick.com/failedgrace
                            www.myspace.com/robert_sherman
                            http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1513342220

                            T4D got a new gig!

                            (Please send sig worthy material!)

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                            • #15
                              well, ending on a tonic was just an example, and i teach this so students can hear what a mode sounds like. I have been pretty successful showing students how modes relate to the parent key- in fact many students can hear a chord progression, and find notes all over the neck that 'work' very quickly. I usually start with 1 key (F), and would all the way up the figerboard. Once you know that 1 key, it is easy to transpose to other keys- the muscle memory is already there. Of course you can use other notes, but like i said before, make that because of choice, rather than limitation.
                              Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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