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Use of Modes

Discussion in 'It's all in the Mind - Music Theory' started by tenorviol, Aug 31, 2011.

  1. tenorviol

    tenorviol Well-Known Member

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    Hi all - I'm hoping that some of the very well-read people in here can enlighten me a bit?

    I'm very new to the whole world of improvisation and jazz techiques etc and I've been reading up on it. I've done a fair amount of music theory over the years and I have enough paperwork to get me past Grade 8 theory (possibly even LCTL- who knows :confused:).

    It's evident that a lot of store is placed on using modal scales, in addition to the standard diatonic major/minor (plus pentatonic major/minor, whole tone etc), particularly around various types of 7th chords.

    I'm just curious as to why the use of modes in this way has developed, rather than say just chromatic alteration of standard diatonic harmonies? Is it because it provides a sort of standard mechanism for doing it, that's "easily" applied. From what I've been reading it's as though we've come back to figured bass but using chord symbols then putting modes on top of that.

    I probably need to spend some time at some jazz gigs and get talking to some musicians - anything around north Shropshire / south Cheshire?

    Thanks in anticipation! :)
     
  2. trimmy

    trimmy One day i will...

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    Can't help you with the Modes as i'm also new to jazz, but you could try here for jazz/jam nights if you are ever in Liverpool on a tuesday pm me as i attend Parrjazz every tues :) http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?hl...2.603048,-1.867676&spn=5.538749,16.896973&z=6

    Good luck
     
  3. Sweet Dreamer

    Sweet Dreamer Senior Member

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    Hi,

    I certainly have no solid knowledge of modes to help you with. In fact, from you post I'd say that you are probably far better educated in music theory than myself. Just the same I thought I'd post some thoughts that came to mind when I read your post.

    I too have been trying to study music theory mostly on my own via the web and some instructional videos. All these different modes seem like overkill to me, and I often wonder they don't just treat it like you have suggested as merely variations on the chromatic scale. Well, I guess that's basically what all these modes are really. But they have become recognized as and even named as specific modes.

    I've been trying to learn various modes and listen to music written in the various modes to get an idea of what kind of 'feel' a particular mode generates. I can never seem to find a mode I really like and I wonder if there's some way to create a new one. Although I imagine that everything workable has already been tried, recorded, and even named by now.

    In any case, I recently wrote a guitar piece just arbitrarily basically just jamming and writing down the results until I had the whole piece constructed. I wasn't thinking in terms of keys, modes, notes or anything like that. I was just playing. I was doing this on the guitar. I simply played music that sounded good to me.

    After I had finished the entire piece I went to an only guitar scale program (found here):

    http://all-guitar-chords.com/guitar...&scchnam=Harmonic Minor&get2=Get&t=0&choice=1

    I was quite surprised to discover that I was playing a D Harmonic scale. Every single note that I had played was in this scale. I wasn't even trying to do that. I was just playing what "sounded right" to me. So I was quite impressed with this whole idea of modes, even though I didn't set out to play in a particular mode.

    Then I did the same thing again creating a whole new piece. When I was finished I went back to that scale generated and found that this time I was playing in Dorian G mode with absolute perfection. Every note I played was in that scale.

    http://all-guitar-chords.com/guitar_scales.php?qqq=FULL&scch=G&scchnam=Dorian&get2=Get&t=0&choice=1

    I had no clue that I was playing "Dorian". I just played what "sounded right" and it turned out that this is the mode I was in.

    So now I'm starting to go back over songs that I had written before to see if I can discover precisely what "modes" I was writing in for these different songs.

    The other thing I'm starting to do now too is to put in melodies (guitar licks) in previous songs I had written that were originally just rhythm guitar and vocals. What I'm discovering is that they weren't in the "modes" that I had originally thought. So I'm learning a lot about modes from just going back over songs that I had written and sang before, and getting into the deeper details of adding melodic
    accompaniment.

    Of course, all of this relates to the sax too. But I found this guitar scale generator to be really useful. I like the way the graphics is laid out. I actually use this "Guitar Neck Graphic" as a guide even when I'm playing the sax. But that's only because I'm so used to playing guitar that I have grown used to using the guitar as a reference for note patterns.
     
  4. tenorviol

    tenorviol Well-Known Member

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    I'm an ex-native - that could be an option, Liverpool city centre is just about an hour from here - I'll ping you if that's Ok?

    Update: PM sent
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 1, 2011
  5. rudjarl

    rudjarl Senile Member. Scandinavian Ambassadour of CaSLM

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    Hi,
    the need for sorting music into scales and modes is older than we might think. But personally I believe it is a result of the human need for sorting and arranging stuff :)

    From LACHES OR COURAGE by Pluto 380 BC.
    (Considered to be the fouth of his Dialogs)
    'I am delighted beyond measure: and I compare the man and his words, and note the harmony and correspondence of them. And such an one I deem to be the true musician, attuned to a fairer harmony than that of the lyre, or any pleasant instrument of music; for truly he has in his own life a harmony of words and deeds arranged, not in the Ionian, or in the Phrygian mode, nor yet in the Lydian, but in the true Hellenic mode, which is the Dorian, and no other. Such an one makes me merry with the sound of his voice'
    (translated by Benjamin Jowett, New York, C. Scribner's Sons, [1871])
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 31, 2011
  6. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    Yeah, that sounds about right.

    BTW ancient Greek modes, although sharing the same names, are not the the ones we use. Medieval musicians merely pinched the names.
     
  7. rudjarl

    rudjarl Senile Member. Scandinavian Ambassadour of CaSLM

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    I know, but they (the modes obviously) were used to describe the difference of mode/ feeling you got from different ehh.... modes by the Greek too.
     
  8. Nick Wyver

    Nick Wyver noisy

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    Aye, being ancient Greeks, they got awfully complicated about it.
     
  9. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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    who mentioned Pythagorus?
     
  10. tenorviol

    tenorviol Well-Known Member

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    [Sorry - this overlaps other comments - I got sidetracked by someone coming to measure up my kitchen and I've just caught up]

    Thanks for that - really interesting. The 'authentic' or 'church' modes have been around for a very long time - theoretically devised by the ancient Greeks, but promulgated through Gregorian Chant. They were extended by starting a 4th lower (I think) and you have another set all prefixed with 'hypo'.

    Essentially, they all have an octave with 2 semi-tones lurking somewhere - it's the location of the semi-tones that gives the different characteristics of each mode.

    Two of the modes (more or less) became our major and minor scales.

    One of the reasons for the 'lack' of character between both modes and keys is the use of equal temperament (that's a very complex subject, best avoided:D - there is a useful book on the subject called 'How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony' - see [link] which is an amusing read and is written by an American jazz music professor).
     
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  11. kevgermany

    kevgermany Landrover Nut Cafe Moderator

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    True, and it's an interesting read, if a little one sided. What he fails to do, imho is answer the tuning problems inherent in other temperaments, which equal temperament was designed to address (at least for keyboards and other fixed scale instruments).
     
  12. tenorviol

    tenorviol Well-Known Member

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    Yes, that's a good point - he does go heavily one way, but I took it as being to make a point. The main issue with equal temperament is the poor tuning of the thirds. When you get to be a bit better than I am on the viol, you are encouraged to use temperaments things such as Velotti, sixth coma mean etc - I'm just beginning to think about re-tuning my frets to start doing this (on the tenor anyway). This provides slightly poorer 4th and 5ths, but better thirds.

    As you say ET was devised to enable keyboards to play in all keys.
     
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  13. tenorviol

    tenorviol Well-Known Member

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    Hi - I've sent a pm re next week.

    Thanks
     
  14. stefank

    stefank Member

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    I think chromatic alterations of scale, so if I see a G7 chord I think (if I think at all) "G major with flattened 7th" rather than "G mixolydian" - but it's the same thing. It's really a case of whatever works best for you, with the ultimate aim being not thinking about it (at least consciously) at all.
     
  15. trimmy

    trimmy One day i will...

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    Replied :thumb:
     
  16. tenorviol

    tenorviol Well-Known Member

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    Just to say met up with trimmy at Parrjazz last night and had a great time. Some very good musicians playing. :)
    Big thank you to trimmy for the recommendation :welldone
    It's too far for me to do every week (about an hour's drive), but I'll certainly pop over once a month or so.

    Ron :mrcool
     
  17. zannad

    zannad Member

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    good point...personally I find it easier thinking of a mode as another scale starting on another degree of the original root - in essence that's all there is - modes are basically scales hidden within other scales and it is useful to know that by playing a scale, we are also practicing all the other modes too (play the melodic minor and you also get the lydian augmented and altered scale!! to mention a few) ...a lot depends on the way we practice scales - practicing a scale up\down limits modes awareness - practicing scales up to the 9th and back an octave and so forth unlock the modes and we start getting more aware of them...
     

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