Working with modes to create different tonal effects is a great way to develop your improvisation skills. This lesson will teach you how do this.
The modes can be used to create different kinds of tonal effects in improvisation.
This course will teach you how to use the various modes available, as well as how to play with them in improvisation. With an emphasis on creativity and technical knowledge, this course is designed to take your ear-training skills to a new level!
Modes are a very useful way of understanding and visualizing different scales on the guitar. Experiment with playing chords as well, since your technique can be directly applied to chord playing. The challenge is playing modal melodies. Because each mode has its own unique feel, they each have their own set of rules and characteristics when you are learning how to improvise over them.
Working with Modes
Working with modes to create different tonal effects is a great way to develop your improvisation skills. This lesson will teach you how to use modes and have them work for you in your musical ideas.
Improvisation is a way in which musicians and composers create music on the spot. A mode is a type of scale, while improvisation uses different sounds to create what is known as “mode playing.” Modes are used in both classical and modern music.
Modes are scales with a tonal quality if used correctly
Modes are scales with a specific tonal quality. To take advantage of that quality, you need to be able to switch modes quickly and easily.
Modes are an easy way to create different moods in your playing. By exploring the different positions of the same chord, you can be surprised by the variety of sounds that you can create. Here we will introduce some tools for finding great scales in any major key, and different ways to approach your improvisational material using modes.
Modes are one of the most powerful tools a guitarist can learn. They allow you to more effectively express yourself, improvise, and create new music on the fly. In this blog we will discuss how to “work with” modes in a practical sense as well as gain an understanding of what makes them unique. You’ll learn about the tonal scales, how they were created, and how you can use them in improvisation.
Every Major scale has 7 modes EG:
C Major scale has the Ionian mode which has C D E F G A B C notes the C Major scale
D Dorian mode which has D E F G A B C notes
E Phrygrian mode which has E F G A B C D notes
F Lydian mode which has F G A B C D E notes
G Mixolydian mode which has G A B C D E F notes
A Aeolian mode which has A B C D E F G notes
And Lastly B Locrian mode which has B C D E F G A notes
This applies to other Major scales EG:
D Major scale has the Ionian mode which has D E F# G A B C# notes the D Major scale
E Dorian mode E F# G A B C# D notes
F# Phrygian mode F# G A B C# D E notes etc
How to use the Modal scales to create different tonalities
So if you play a Major scale but starting from a different note in a scale eg: C Major scale starting from the E note to the E note you are playing a E Phrygian scale.
However if you play any C Major mode over a C major chord progression this won’t change the sound!.
For example if you play over the progression C maj – A min – G major a C major chord progression and you play the D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian mode etc you will still get a C Ionian ( Major) sound. This is because the Progression has a Tonal centre of C Major as it is the first chord played and you brain will relate all the sounds you play to C major.
Every Major scale has 7 core chords in the key
C Major has 7 core chords within it built on the triads 1st, 3rd , 5th notes of the C Major scale = C, E & G notes which = C Major chord.
Then 2nd, 4th & 6th notes of the C Major scale = D, F & A = D Minor chord.
Then 3rd, 5th, & 7th notes of the C Major scale = E, G & B = E Minor chord and so on.
So what creates the modal sound is the chord progression you play over.
C Major 7 core chords = C MAJ-D min-E min-F Maj-G Maj-A min-B Dim.
If I start the Chord progression with D minor chord I create a D Dorian progression as the 2nd chord of C Major is the D Minor chord and the 2nd mode in C Major as shown previously is the D Dorian mode.
If I play the Progression D min- G maj- A min etc using any other chords from the key of C Major I create a D Dorian chord progression and if I then play the D Dorian mode or any C Major mode over this progression I will get a Dorian sound.
How the brain relates to the key centre or tonal centre
This is because my brain will relate all the notes to the first chord which is D Minor.
If I start the Chord progression with E minor chord I create a E Phrygian progression as the 3rd chord of C Major is the E Minor chord and the 3rd mode in C Major as shown previously is the E Phrygian mode.
If I play the Progression E min- G maj- F Maj – A min etc using any other chords from the key of C Major I create a E Phrygian chord progression and if I then play the E Phrygian mode or any C Major mode over this progression I will get a Phrygian sound.
This is because my brain will relate all the notes to the first chord which is E Minor.
And this will repeat for each mode in every Major key.
For example in the D Major key there are 7 core chords = D Major- E min- F# min- G Maj-A min-B min-C# Dim
Therefore a D Major- E min- A Maj chord progression creates a D Ionian progression
If you play any D major mode over this progression you will get D Ionian sound as your brain relates all the notes to the D major chord.
If you play an E min- F# min- A Maj progression which creates a E Phrygian progression and you play any D Major mode you will create a Phrygian sound as your brain relates the notes to the E minor chord.
So this is how to use modes.
Each mode has a different tonality
Each mode has a different tonality for example:
- Ionian mode gives a Major or Happy tonality
- Dorian mode gives a Minor or Sad tonality
- Phrygian mode gives a Spanish tonality
- Lydian mode gives an unresolved tonality creating musical tension
- Mixoldian mode is used in blues as it works well with Dominant 7th chords eg; E7, A7 etc
- Aeolian mode creates a Minor sad, intense or dark tonality
- Locrian mode is rarely used.
How To Practice your Modes
Experiment with different modal progressions such as A Dorian or B Phrygian chord progression backing to create your modal sounds.
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