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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all...

I notice there's a great amount of talent on this forum right now from all the soundclips I've been hearing. I've got a question for all you theory heads right now. I've been playing for a pretty long amount of time. But as of now, I've only been able to learn how to solo in pentatonics or the minor or major key in which the song or chord progression carries.

The question is how do I know what mode to use when? And how are modes actually related to the key involved?

Please help! I'm trying incorporate some tasty jazz/fusion flava into my playing

Christopher.
 

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jazz/fusion 'flava' doesnt come from the notes, it comes from the phrasing and way you play the notes against the rhythm. you could play charlie parker lines note for note over a rock backbeat and itll still sound like rock...

but i digress. a scalar choice is made by the chord that youre playing over, quite simply. for instance, over an e7(#9) chord (known as the hendrix chord in case you dont know what a 7#9 chord is) you could use a veritable arsenal of scales. my first choice would be e super locrian (f melodic minor scale started on e) because it contains all the notes in the chord. you want to be extremely familiar with the modes of the major, harmonic and melodic minor scales so that you know what important notes they correspond to. the most important notes in chords are the 3rd and the 7th and then any alterations such as #/b 9ths, 11ths, 13ths. if you have an Am7b5 chord, you need to play a scale that has a C (3), G (7), and an Eb (b5).

modes relate to the particular scale you are in. a mode is nothing more than the notes of a particular scale, started on a different note. for example, D Dorian is a C major scale started on D so you get D E F G A B C D. this might not sound complex but when you look at the intervallic relationships you get a natural minor scale with a natural 6 (instead of a b6 that is normally in natural minor) giving you a different sound that just regular natural minor. this comes into play when you want a different sound against an UNALTERED minor 7th chord (meaning the 9th, 11th and 13th extensions are neither raised or lowered).

i could go on, but im at work and dont have time for a longer discussion. if something isnt clear, ill post again with a better explanation or if you have any other questions, id be happy to help you out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hey thanks a lot for the help incidently I was actually going over some stuff that had the hendrix chord incorportated into the progression.

I guess what I need to do is expand my knowledge of modes and how they work with scales. Lot's of work to do.
 

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I really need to bone up on my theory and your post really inspires me to do so.
I use a lot of pentatonic based phrases and always have in the 21 years I've been playing. I always seem to get in ruts in my playing and that's probably why. I just need to expand my arsenal a little more.
I'm one of those guys that just plays and doesn't really think about or analyze what I'm doing. As long as I know what key I'm in I'll solo over the progression aimlessly using various old standby phrases, licks, and diddley, diddlies that I've learned or came up with over the years and I pull it off.
I just feel like I'm faking my way through it though. Anyways, thanks.
 

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you can get a lot of miles out of pentatonics/blues scale. if you feel you are in a rut, just play a different position you normally wouldn't play so the note placement forces you to NOT play your standard phrases but learn new ones. this works for all major/minor/harmonic scales as well. good luck and happy jamming!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Minsc said:
I really need to bone up on my theory and your post really inspires me to do so.
I use a lot of pentatonic based phrases and always have in the 21 years I've been playing. I always seem to get in ruts in my playing and that's probably why. I just need to expand my arsenal a little more.
I'm one of those guys that just plays and doesn't really think about or analyze what I'm doing. As long as I know what key I'm in I'll solo over the progression aimlessly using various old standby phrases, licks, and diddley, diddlies that I've learned or came up with over the years and I pull it off.
I just feel like I'm faking my way through it though. Anyways, thanks.
Man I know exactly what that feels like. I'm going to try doing this, I've downloaded some backing tracks off "The Gear Page" forum. Lot's of really killer players there with a really diverse sense of phrasing. I feel it's all about listening to the tracks, paying attention to the chord progression, figuring out what the chords are then try to play what you hear in your head.

The modes will probably get me as far as a scale can take me but it's all about the phrasing, breaking out from the ruts and forcing yourself to think differently.
 

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Okay, but i also suggest you to think before on a melody (without the guitar) and when you have it on your mind get your guitar and play it. Then think on the mode you are and fill your melody with combinations of the notes.... just try. ;)
 

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Thanks!
Don't get me wrong about using pentatonics and blues scales. It fits into the style I play fine.
I just feel that I'm being repetative is all.
 

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ivan said:
Okay, but i also suggest you to think before on a melody (without the guitar) and when you have it on your mind get your guitar and play it. Then think on the mode you are and fill your melody with combinations of the notes.... just try. ;)
You know, I can hear more stuff in my head when I'm not around my guitar. Like now I'm thinking of something to play over an idea that's been bugging me. It sounds like something I wouldn't normally play either. Unfortunately, I'm at work and I'll completely forget it by the time I get home.
 

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right, just keep it on your mind (if possible) and when you go back home DON'T play your usual pentatonic phrases just try to play that melody and then think on what mode you are.
I insist, DON'T let your fingers get the control this time... this is the key to go out of pentatonics!
good luck (and let me know)
 

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Minsc said:
I really need to bone up on my theory and your post really inspires me to do so.
I use a lot of pentatonic based phrases and always have in the 21 years I've been playing. I always seem to get in ruts in my playing and that's probably why. I just need to expand my arsenal a little more.
I'm one of those guys that just plays and doesn't really think about or analyze what I'm doing. As long as I know what key I'm in I'll solo over the progression aimlessly using various old standby phrases, licks, and diddley, diddlies that I've learned or came up with over the years and I pull it off.
I just feel like I'm faking my way through it though. Anyways, thanks.
Learning is always good, but playing your own style is never faking it dude. I watched a great Paul Gilbert video a while back where is saying basically don't forget that even with fast technical stuff you need to remember to use more simple stuff that has a good feel as well.
 

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1. C D E F G A B C (C MAJOR) AKA IONIAN MODE
2. D E F G A B C D (DORIAN MODE)
3. E F G A B C D E (PHRYGIAN MODE)
4. F G A B C D E F (LYDIAN MODE)
5. G A B C D E F G (MIXOLYDIAN MODE)
6. A B C D E F G A (A MINOR AKA AEOLIAN MODE)
7. B C D E F G A B (LOCRIAN MODE)


1. Typical major scale aka Ionian Mode. Note that #1 and #6 are the relative major and relative minor respectively. Key signatures above were for C major/A minor (natural minor - that is) make sure you learn the intervals between each note of each scale/mode and apply it to all key signatures.
C-w-D-w-E-h-F-w-G-w-A-w-B-h-C (w=whole step between notes, h=halfstep (only one fret from a guitar perspective between notes)) Take the note names out of it and what you have is a series of whole or half steps that make up what we commonly call a major scale - that is : W-W-H-W-W-W-H

2. (D DORIAN MODE) D NOTE TO D NOTE WITHIN A C MAJOR KEY SIGNATURE. SERIES OF INTERVALS: W-H-W-W-W-H-W IN COMPARISON THE THE KEY SIGNATURE OF D MAJOR (F# AND C#) NOTE THAT THE 3RD SCALE DEGREE ARE LOWERED.

3. (E PHRYGIAN MODE) E NOTE TO E NOTE WITHIN C MAJOR KEY SIGNATURE. SERIES OF INTERVALS: H-W-W-W-H-W-W IN COMPARISON TO THE KEY SIGNATURE OF E MAJOR (F#, C#, G#, D#) NOTE THAT 2ND, 3RD, 6TH, AND SEVENTH SCALE DEGREES ARE LOWERED.




I NEED TO RUN TO WORK BUT HOPEFULLY THIS WILL GIVE YOU THE RAW TOOLS TO FINISH UP THE MODE/SCALE COMPARISONS ABOVE. REMEMBER ONCE YOU LEARN THE THEORY BEHIND THIS STUFF ITS TOTALLY EASY AND VERY USEFUL. IF YOU ONLY LEARN FIGERINGS FOR EACH MODE THAT WILL HAVE LIMITED VALUE TO YOU LONG RUN.

Lee
 

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Just to add my 2cents regarding modes.

Playing the 'C' scale (C,D,E,F,G,A,B) against a 'C' chord...it will be (and sound Ionian).

Playing the same set of notes but starting on D (D,E,F,G,A,B,C) is called D dorian, however, playing D dorian against a 'C' chord, it's going to sound like Ionian, therefore nothing has been achieved.

The secret to modal playing is play 'against' the right chords. For example, D dorian (same bunch of notes as 'C') sounds Dorian against a Dm chord (which is the II chord in the key of C).

At the end of the day, playing modes with no backing is just the same scale and the same bunch of notes. If you are playing C Ionian or D dorian or E phrygian or F Lydian or G mixolydian or A Aeolian or B locrian.....it's the same notes (C,D,E,F,G,A,B). The only difference is which note you start on which is a load of crock anyway.

Where modes work, is the 'feel' and the 'sound' they provide against certain chords. For example -

BACKING CHORD....SCALE..............IMPLIED FEEL

C.......................C Ionian............Happy
Dm.....................D Dorian............Santana
Em.....................E Phrygian.........Dark/Goth
F.......................F Lydian............Dreamy
G.......................G Mixolydian......Jazzy
Am.....................A Aeolian..........Gypsy
B.......................B Locrian...........Spanish

Please bear in mind for the above examples, it's the same scale...C major (C,D,E,F,G,A,B). A mode is defined by the backing CHORD. Also, I suggest you forget about the crap that you have the start on a certain note. It can help when you first step out understanding this but pretty soon, you won't abide by that rule because it doesn't matter.
 

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Beyblade is totally on the money - its all about the chord and keysignature you are playing over. Play a I IV V in C major then thrown in a solo with B flats in it instead of B natural - now you are playing in C mixolydian and not just plane old C major/Ionian - very rock and roll feel to it. One of the most flavorfal (is flavorfal a word?)uses of modes is to bring in those outside-of-keysignature accidentals that spice up the sound.

Lee
 

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Even of you are playing a I IV V progression in C.....i.e. 12 bar - C, F & G...say you play your solo in the key of C (C,D,E,F,G,A,B) over the whole progression, I quite dig how against the C, it sounds Ionian, against the F it sounds Lydian and against the G it sounds Mixolydian. It's the easiest way to solo and being aware of what the changes are meant to sound like, I feel gives me the opportunity to express myself better.

Of course and as eelblack2 suggested, you can also play the entire solo in the key of F (F,G,A,Bb,C,D,E) so against the C chord, it sounds Mixolydian, against the F chord it sounds Ionian and against the G chord, it sounds Dorain provided that the rhythm doesn't emphasise the 3rd because for Dorian to work, it really needs to be a Gm.

If you want to be real clever, you can change scales for each chord so that the 'entire' solo is Ionian, Lydian etc in feel. Say you wanted the whole solo to sound Lydian like alot of Steve Vai's work is, against the C chord, you solo in key of G, against the F chord, you solo in the key of C and against the G chord, you solo in the key of D.

The trick in soloing with changes like this is to anticipate the change and make the transition to the next scale seamless. Personally, this is my not my preferred method of improvising. Not only is sticking to one key while soloing easier, as the rhythm section changes to the next sequence in the progression, I find it gives my solo's more impact through excitement, especially when playing live.
 
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