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What is the best way to learn modes? #1659811
04/14/11 12:31 AM
04/14/11 12:31 AM
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lechuan Offline OP
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I am currently working on memorizing all modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian) in all keys, so that I can play them in the same way I'd play scales.

I have found that there are two main ways to think of the modes:

1) Starting on a different scale degree of an existing scale (ie. E Phrygian is just C major starting on the 3rd scale degree)

2) Alterations to the current scale (ie. E Phrygian lowers the 2nd,3rd,6th,7th scale degress, so E phrygian would have: E,F(natural),G(natural),A,B,C(natural),D(natural)

My teacher has suggested that in the long term, the best way to learn the modes is as alterations to existing scales (method 2). While I don't have a problem doing this for C major, I find it's a lot of mental gymnastics for F# for example, and it's faster just to use Method 1. Maybe I just need to know my scales/keys better to get faster.

Which approach to memorizing/learning modes do you find has worked best for you in the long term, especially when it comes to using modes in improvisation?

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Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1659824
04/14/11 01:45 AM
04/14/11 01:45 AM
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The easy fix is not always the best in the long term. Working your brain ,as in method 2, will affect a lot more than just knowing your modes. It improves your ability to learn new chord voicings, technical exercises, transposition and theory to mention a few. The key of C is great because it shows the alterations in black and white. Working in F# will help you really understand what you are doing and improve all the keys you already think you know.

Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1659846
04/14/11 02:48 AM
04/14/11 02:48 AM
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Music is made of intervals; they rule the whole thing.
So, method 2 is the closest to this concept, and, by consequence, the one bearing more benefits over the long term.

Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1659871
04/14/11 04:02 AM
04/14/11 04:02 AM
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First of all, while I am a jazz player, I do not refer to the old Greek modes by their old Greek names. I personally find there's no connection between what I'm playing and the original usage of the old Greek modes. It's almost a way to exclude the general public from our ... jargon; we become the high priests of jazz. wink

Having said that, the easiest way to learn the ... modes is simply to practice your scales starting on each and every scale degree. I find it infinitely easier to think of a Db major scale starting on say C than stating C Locrian. (Does the C Locrian mode start on the C (in Db major) or is a C Locrian mode the mode starting on B in C major? That's one reason why I find it easier to simply state, scale degree 7 in Db major than labeling it a mode.)

Practice your scales that way using similar thirds \ sixths and contrary thirds \ sixths starting on every single scale degree ... in every major key as well as all the various flavors of minor keys.

One way to remember the names of the modes (ascending, starting from scale degree one in major) - I (Ionian) dig (Dorian) pot (Phrygian) leave (Lydian) me (Mixolydian) alone (Aeolian) ... or I dig playing loud music at lunch.


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Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1659872
04/14/11 04:03 AM
04/14/11 04:03 AM
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ten left thumbs Offline
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Originally Posted by lechuan


2) Alterations to the current scale (ie. E Phrygian lowers the 2nd,3rd,6th,7th scale degress, so E phrygian would have: E,F(natural),G(natural),A,B,C(natural),D(natural)



I'm also with method 2, however, bear in mind that each mode then becomes a 'thing in itself' to learn. I would suggest not learning them all at once, or you will get terribly confused. Presumably you can already play major and minor? So learning aeolian in all keys won't be too hard. Then take dorian and learn that one. Then you get the flavour - "this is what dorian sounds like" - rather than it being very confusing and complicated.

Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1660149
04/14/11 03:49 PM
04/14/11 03:49 PM
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I disagree with what you're trying to do, that is, learn modal scales so that in a real life improvisation situation you can fit some modal scale on the spot to some improvisational pattern. If you're finding that difficult to do, no wonder, because I don't see how you can do that in real life. That is, in real improvisation I don't believe you're going to be able to analyze the situation at light speed and then instantly determine that you can use X modal scale in it. In my experience, real life improvisation is all by ear and on the spot, and whatever "modal scales" happen to appear in it is essentially by chance, not because you analyzed the situation to the nth degree according to what you learned in a textbook about modes.

I suggest you start playing be ear. That is, sit down and simply dig in with both hands and play purely by ear, with no concern for textbook theory, or right or wrong notes, or right or wrong anything. This is how you learn about the instrument and what you can do on it, and how you train you ear (all of what you're learning now in your lessons and in the textbook will start to make sense to you for the first time when you start doing this)--you're not getting any of this in your textbook or from your teacher.

What you want is to get to the point where you know more or less which keys to press in order to get the sound you want. When you can do that, you know you're a real piano player.


Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1660195
04/14/11 05:44 PM
04/14/11 05:44 PM
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Just my 2 cents based on studying jazz for over 4 years:
1. One scale at a time is more than enough.
2. Some of those scales are pretty obscure. I've never practices phrygian, for example. Dorian and myxolydian are important. Learn those two first. Lydian and Locrian are more advanced, but useful.
3. Very quickly, get past scales and start using these in the context of chord progressions and tunes. I like to play II V I progressions around the circle of fights, and just improvise over each progression, using the appropriate scale.

Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1660222
04/14/11 06:23 PM
04/14/11 06:23 PM
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Portland, OR
tangleweeds Offline

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Quote
1)Starting on a different scale degree of an existing scale (ie. E Phrygian is just C major starting on the 3rd scale degree)


I find that practicing them this way ends up with my ears having mental images of modes as incomplete chunks of diatonic scales (scales that start/end in the "wrong" place).

Quote
2) Alterations to the current scale (ie. E Phrygian lowers the 2nd,3rd,6th,7th scale degress, so E phrygian would have: E,F(natural),G(natural),A,B,C(natural),D(natural)


Here some relationships that help me remember:

Lydian is like Ionian/Major but with a raised 4th (4th = tritone not perfect)

Mixolydian is like Ionian/Major but with a lowered 7th (7th is minor not major)

Dorian is like Aeolian/Natural Minor but with a raised 6th (6th is major not minor)

Phrygian is like Aeolian/Natural Minor but with a lowered 2nd (2nd is minor not major)

Locrian is "dysfuntional" because its 5th is diminished (tritone)

In other words it helps me to think of the modes in this order:

Code
Lydian      w w w H w w H
Ionian/M    w w H w w w H
Mixolydian  w w H w w H w
Dorian      w H w w w H w
Aeolian/m   w H w w H w w
Phrygian    H w w w H w w
Locrian     H w w H w w w
(Lyd again) w w w H w w H 


Quote
Which approach to memorizing/learning modes do you find has worked best for you in the long term, especially when it comes to using modes in improvisation?


To do this:

Quote
Very quickly, get past scales and start using these in the context of chord progressions and tunes.


See if you can make it convincing that the tonic is the mode's tonic (final?).

Of course I'm doing all of this in the context of Celtic (shudder i hate that label) music not jazz, but the modes remain the same.


Last edited by tangleweeds; 04/14/11 06:30 PM.

Please step aside. You're standing in your own way.
Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: tangleweeds] #1660511
04/15/11 08:21 AM
04/15/11 08:21 AM
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ten left thumbs Offline
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Originally Posted by tangleweeds




Of course I'm doing all of this in the context of Celtic (shudder i hate that label)



Why shudder?

Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: ten left thumbs] #1661055
04/16/11 03:20 AM
04/16/11 03:20 AM
Joined: Dec 2008
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Portland, OR
tangleweeds Offline

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Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
Originally Posted by tangleweeds
Of course I'm doing all of this in the context of Celtic (shudder i hate that label)

Why shudder?

It's one of those dangerous labels (like "new age") which encompass music I love and music I loathe, and when I've used the term too indiscriminately, I've found myself cornered by enthusiastic fans of the stuff I find mind-numbing.

Actually anything I'm able to improvise & play as a late-elementary pianist tends to be pretty mind-numbing in its simplicity, but at this point I'm still astounded to find myself doing it at all laugh

Edited to add: It seems relevant somehow to mention that I played the tin whistle off and on for a few years before returning to piano (I now alternate whistle & piano periods). It was my fascination with the mystery of what gave modal trad tunes their distinctive sound that initially got me sucked into music theory.

When I play piano it's generally Baroque, ragtime, or blues, but for whatever reason my piano improvisations often have a Celtic flavor.

Last edited by tangleweeds; 04/16/11 03:28 AM.

Please step aside. You're standing in your own way.
Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1661065
04/16/11 04:08 AM
04/16/11 04:08 AM
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ten left thumbs Offline
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Oh I see. We don't get that use here.

Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1666169
04/25/11 09:39 AM
04/25/11 09:39 AM
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lechuan Offline OP
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Thank you all for your feedback, there is a lot of great information on this thread.

ten left thumbs & jjo: Great idea about learning only one mode at a time. I switched over from trying to learn all the modes in one key to learning an individual mode in all keys. This has been a great help for internalizing the sound of the mode.

Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1666433
04/25/11 05:28 PM
04/25/11 05:28 PM
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Southwest
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Modes and Their Use In Jazz by Lee Evans
http://www.halleonard.com/product/viewproduct.do?itemid=9043

Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: Amant] #1666480
04/25/11 06:49 PM
04/25/11 06:49 PM
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Toronto
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AJF Offline
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Originally Posted by Amant
Modes and Their Use In Jazz by Lee Evans
http://www.halleonard.com/product/viewproduct.do?itemid=9043



This book only covers modes of the major scale.
I would recommend finding a text that also includes modes of the melodic minor scale-- like The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine for instance. In jazz, the melodic minor modes play a key role in how players improvise on dominant chords especially. You are far more likely to hear players using the Altered Scale (7th mode of melodic minor), or the Lydian Dominant scale (4th mode of Mel. Minor) or the half step-whole step diminished scale on 7th chords than the Mixolydian mode (5th mode of major). The "problem" with using Dorian, Mixolydian, Ionian to improvise on a 2-5-1 progression (jazz's most recurrent progression) is that you're really just using the same scale for all three chords--eg. D Dorian, G Mixolydian and C Ionian are all just a c major scale.
This gets really boring fast.
When you start to add the melodic minor modes into the mix (mainly on the V7 chord)
things start to sound a lot more interesting and colourful.

Last edited by AJF; 04/25/11 06:50 PM.


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Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: AJF] #1666780
04/26/11 10:06 AM
04/26/11 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by AJF
Originally Posted by Amant
Modes and Their Use In Jazz by Lee Evans
http://www.halleonard.com/product/viewproduct.do?itemid=9043



This book only covers modes of the major scale.
I would recommend finding a text that also includes modes of the melodic minor scale-- like The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine for instance. ,,,.


I find the Evans book is a nice introduction to modal music. Nevertheless, you are absolutely correct that the Levine Book is much more comprehensive in regards to modes.

Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: AJF] #1667220
04/27/11 12:29 AM
04/27/11 12:29 AM
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Dave Ferris Offline
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Originally Posted by AJF
In jazz, the melodic minor modes play a key role in how players improvise on dominant chords especially. You are far more likely to hear players using the Altered Scale (7th mode of melodic minor), or the Lydian Dominant scale (4th mode of Mel. Minor) or the half step-whole step diminished scale on 7th chords than the Mixolydian mode (5th mode of major). The "problem" with using Dorian, Mixolydian, Ionian to improvise on a 2-5-1 progression (jazz's most recurrent progression) is that you're really just using the same scale for all three chords--eg. D Dorian, G Mixolydian and C Ionian are all just a c major scale.
This gets really boring fast.
When you start to add the melodic minor modes into the mix (mainly on the V7 chord)
things start to sound a lot more interesting and colourful.


Most definitely.

A book that I've gotten a lot of milage out of would be Walt Weiskopf's "Around the Horn".
http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Around-The-Horn/5139171

Granted, a lot of the Etude materiel is Saxophone based, but there still is enough "there" to really give you good examples of how these modes work.
It cleared up a lot of grey areas for me. Highly recommended.


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Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1668082
04/28/11 02:39 PM
04/28/11 02:39 PM
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here's an interesting take on chord/scale relationship by Hal Galper..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NehOx1JsuT4&feature=relmfu

Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: etcetra] #1671758
05/04/11 11:45 PM
05/04/11 11:45 PM
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Originally Posted by etcetra
here's an interesting take on chord/scale relationship by Hal Galper..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NehOx1JsuT4&feature=relmfu


Thanks for posting this!



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Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1672218
05/05/11 07:47 PM
05/05/11 07:47 PM
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Jam on each mode, they have an important place in modern jazz systems. I recommend playing them all in C position. Then eventually in all the possible keys

C Ionion (C parent)
C Dorian (Bb parent)
C Phrygian (Ab parent)
C Lydian (G parent)
C Mixolydian (F parent)
C Aeolian (Eb parent)
C Locrian (Db parent)


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Re: What is the best way to learn modes? [Re: lechuan] #1672305
05/05/11 11:43 PM
05/05/11 11:43 PM
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Originally Posted by lechuan
I am currently working on memorizing all modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian) in all keys, so that I can play them in the same way I'd play scales....Starting on a different scale degree of an existing scale (ie. E Phrygian is just C major starting on the 3rd scale degree).


Here's an interesting exercise:

Select a scale (e.g. Bb). Play nine notes of that scale in the RH. For example, starting on Bb play up to C. In the LH, play and hold the diatonic seventh chord (which is Bb Maj7) while the RH plays up to the C. This is Ionian. Starting on that new ninth note (C in this case), come back down the octave playing the C diatonic seventh chord (Cm7) in the LH. This is Dorian. Stop at D in the RH and play up again for nine notes, holding the diatonic 7th (Dm7) in the LH (Phrygian). Continue to play all modes. Then select other scales and play all modes in those scales.

Hop


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