mixing modes and scales in one song?? *frustration*

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mixing modes and scales in one song?? *frustration*

Postby pinkfloyd188 » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:46 pm

ok so i have been taking bass lessons for about 9 months now. i've learned the fingering for modes and scales in pretty much any key, at least to my knowledge, so i basically bring in my iPod and my bass teacher goes over songs with me and teaches me new songs.

well, i recently saw the movie "Without Limits" about olympic runner Steve Prefontaine, and besides being a great movie, it had an AWESOME soundtrack. i found the list, downloaded the David Crosby tune Tamalpais High, and went to work on figuring it out.

i thought it was originally a I IV V in Em, but after i brought it in, my teacher tells me that some songs actually use more than one scale/mode, and depending on the major, all i'm doing is hitting the exact same notes during each chord, but starting in a different location.

so...

how can i tell which songs i can use mixolydian or any other mode for all chords (which i believe there are some songs, or i am just wasting 3-4 hours daily) or do all songs follow this rule?

input gladly welcome.
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Postby mttourpro » Wed Jan 31, 2007 1:23 pm

"some songs actually use more than one scale/mode,"

Any song CAN use more than one scale or mode---just depends on how you want it to sound.There will be more or less dissonance in your solo depending on how far "out" you get with the use of tones not inherant in the chord your playing over.Some modes stay pretty close to the chord while others are further from the tonic.

how can i tell which songs i can use mixolydian or any other mode for all chords

Some songs are so basic you can use one mode for the solo over the entire chord progression. These would generally be blues based/simple rock songs i.e. Fire on the Mountain, Bertha, DarkStar, Aiko, etc...other songs are more complex in harmony and wouldn't sound very good if you used only one mode over the entire progression i.e. CrazyFingers, Box of Rain, etc.

People usually "use a mode" when they're soloing over a repetitive part--like say the end of Crazyfingers---but, in the song, you'd want to play through the chords. Given the differences in the chords and the complexity of the harmony, it's likely you'd "use more than one mode".


I highly doubt I'm answering your question very well, cause I'm not really sure of exactly what you're asking. Though. I will say, I think there's a bit of a danger in always thinking about "what mode do I play over" rather than looking at the chord you're playing over as the backdrop to whatever you have to say in your solo. Modes are kinda like maps---they just meant to guide you--they aren't the meant to be the place itself.
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Postby myoung6923 » Thu Feb 01, 2007 4:11 pm

Ok - here's another example - on the jam part of Eyes of the World - the chords go from Emaj7 to Bm - and then depending on what era - it then goes to A.

So if you look at all of the notes of the E maj scale the flat 3rd of the Bm (D) is not there - and it's pretty important because it's accentuates the minor - so...

Over the Emaj7 you would play E maj scale then during the Bm you would switch to maybe a B dorian - because it contains all of the notes of the Bm. And then on the A you could do either one.

It's very confusing for a while - but work hard on it and it will open a lot of doors for you.
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Postby shakedown_04092 » Sun Feb 04, 2007 8:44 am

[quote="myoung6923"]Over the Emaj7 you would play E maj scale then during the Bm you would switch to maybe a B dorian - because it contains all of the notes of the Bm. And then on the A you could do either one.[quote]

I play E maj (E Ionian) over the Emaj7 and E mixolydian (which is also B dorian, because Emaj7 is from the Key of A....) over the Bm part.
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Re: mixing modes and scales in one song?? *frustration*

Postby cunamara » Sun Feb 04, 2007 9:59 pm

pinkfloyd188 wrote:how can i tell which songs i can use mixolydian or any other mode for all chords (which i believe there are some songs, or i am just wasting 3-4 hours daily) or do all songs follow this rule?


There are few songs you can use any one mode for the entire song- at least if you want your playing to be interesting. The modes are used in relation to the chords on a bar-by-bar basis rather than on a whole-song basis. Many songs shift tonal center from one key to another or borrow a chord from another key, so thinking that you can get through a song using only one mode rarely works.

First, you understand that the modes are generated out of the major scale, which is also itself a mode? If not then that is something to address with your teacher.

You pick the mode according to how you want to think about the chord. For example, let's consider "Eyes of the World" since someone else mentioned it. The solos are over a three chord vamp (in the versions I tend to prefer, anyway): Emaj7, Bmin7, and A.

You pretty much always want to use the Ionian mode of the same name with all major 7th chords. So, for the Emaj7 chord you would play in the E Ionian mode, which is also the E major scale. When the vamp changes to Bmin7, you have a set of choices. B Dorian is a logical one because the next chord is A.

In order to use modes well, you must understand this. The B dorian mode is created by playing a scale from B to the next B above or below in the key of A. If you don't get this, ask your teacher. The relationhips between the modes and the major scales should have been covered in your first lesson on modes.

When the vamp changes to A, then you can switch to the A Ionian mode (AKA the A major scale). So to sum up: Ionian mode over Emaj7, then Dorian mode over Bmin7, then Ionian mode over A. Hopefully this points you in the direction of understanding the relationships between modes and chords.

Now there are even more sophisticated ways to look at this, but I don't want to muddle things up for you at this point.
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Re: mixing modes and scales in one song?? *frustration*

Postby shakedown_04092 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 7:16 pm

[quote="cunamara]Now there are even more sophisticated ways to look at this, but I don't want to muddle things up for you at this point.[/quote]

PLEASE...keep going. Very well articulated and easy to understand.
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eyes of the world

Postby Duaneonau » Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:28 pm

Thats cool that you used eyes of the world as an example, that is a very fun song to jam on, getting to change your key and your mode. An observation I've made is that in figuring out the right mode and key to play in, it is helpful to find the essential notes of each chord that is being played and then poke around for others that sound good and piece it together from there.

A good example I think is "fire on the mountain". The chord progression is B then A. Now if you play each chord as single notes you have a basic idea of how the lead sounds. But from there you can decide which key to play in, and that will totally change the sound of the song. The B chord can be played in key of B, Gb, and E. And the A chord can be played in the key of A, E, and D. Personally I like playing in the key of E for both these chords, and so does the Dead, but for a different sound, you can switch it up.
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Postby pinkfloyd188 » Tue Feb 06, 2007 9:33 am

as mentioned above, i know that any mode is just playing a major scale, but starting in a different location.

in eyes of the world though, i tend to just use the major scale in every chord progression. it sounds ok during the G-C-G-C-D thing, but when i use it during B at the jam, it sounds off, but i can't get it to sound right.

as someone mentioned above about individual notes, i play bass, so i tend to play single notes alot :-)

but yeah, i understand how to use modes and all the fingering, it's just confusing to find out that some songs use more than one mode.

thanks to you all for the help, keep it going if you have more to add.
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Postby cunamara » Fri Feb 09, 2007 5:32 pm

pinkfloyd188 wrote:as mentioned above, i know that any mode is just playing a major scale, but starting in a different location.


Well, the modes start on different steps of the major scale. The Ionian mode starts on the first scale step, the Dorian mode on the second scale step, the Phrygian mode on the 3rd step, Lydian mode on the 4th step and Mixolydian mode on the 5th step, etc.

If you analyze each mode, you'll see that the Ionian scale is the major scale; the Dorian scale is a minor scale; the Phrygian mode is a minor scale; the Lydian mode is a major scale; the Mixolydian mode is a major scale; the Aeolian mode is a minor scale, and the Locrian mode is a diminished scale.

in eyes of the world though, i tend to just use the major scale in every chord progression. it sounds ok during the G-C-G-C-D thing, but when i use it during B at the jam, it sounds off, but i can't get it to sound right.


It might not sound right during the chorus (the G-C-G-C-D part) if you are playing the G major scale (or Ionian mode as they are the same thing), then the C major scale and then the D major scale. Since that part of the song is in the key of G, the C major scale and the D major scale will introduce dissonant notes that can sound incorrect.

What you want to be doing is playing in the key of G, using the G Ionian mode, C Lydian mode and D Mixolydian mode under the respective chords.

but yeah, i understand how to use modes and all the fingering, it's just confusing to find out that some songs use more than one mode.


The "jam" is properly called a "vamp" when it just goes back and forth between two chords (say, Emaj7 and Bmin7). Let's just stick with that for now.

What's happening here is that the song is shifting keys. This happens in each verse of "Eyes of the World" in which one line is in E major and then there's a sort of punctuation in A major between the lines Jerry sings. Look at the chords- do you see where that happens?

The Emaj7 chord is the I chord of the key of E (it can also be the IV chord in the key of B). So you can use the E major scale (Ionian mode) under the Emaj7 chord and sound good. You could tweak things a bit, think of it as the IV of B and play the E Lydian mode under Emaj7. That might sound OK.

Then the song shifts for a couple of bars to Bmin7 and A major. Ba-dom ba-dom, ba-dom ba-dom. Over this you want probably to play in the key of A, so over the Bmin7 you could play B Dorian and then A major (A Ionian).

Then for the choruses the song shifts to the key of G, which we've already covered.

So there are at least two ways to organize how you think about the song, which in turn determines what you play. First is the concept of "tonal center." A song is considered to be in a key, but the key can change. Different sections of the song can be in different keys ("Eyes" being a good example of this). So, if you asked me what key "Eyes" is in, I'd say "E major." But the tonal center of the verses changes from E to A, and the choruses are in G! So when I think of key I think of "tonal centers-" which is "what key is this bar or set of bars in?" Most songs begin and end in the same tonal center.

The other way is through associating modes with chords. Keys have sets of chords (capitalized are major, lower case are minor with the exception of vii): I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii. The vii chord is a diminished chord meaning it has a minor 3rd and a flatted 5th. Anyway: the Ionian mode goes with the I chord, the Dorian mode goes with the ii chord, the Phyrygian mode goes with the iii chord, the Lydian mode with the IV, the Myxolydian mode with the V, the Aeolian mode with the vi and the Locrian mode with the vii. So when you see a minor chord you need do decide what its function is: is it the ii, iii or vi? That will tell you what mode to play. If you see a dominant chord (D7) you play the Mixolydian mode. A major triad could be the I, IV or V in any given key, so you have to do some analysis in order to pick your mode. With practice this becomes almost instantaneous (if you're like Phil, you know what it is before it happens... and then you play something unexpected).

I think I got those in the right order: I Don't Play Like My Aunt Lucy: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian.

Geez, does that make any sense to a guy playing music less than a year? This is pretty abstract stuff! Tell me if I am confusing you. I'm not a great teacher and I tend to pull in too many things too quickly.
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Re: mixing modes and scales in one song?? *frustration*

Postby cunamara » Fri Feb 09, 2007 11:02 pm

shakedown_04092 wrote:
cunamara wrote:Now there are even more sophisticated ways to look at this, but I don't want to muddle things up for you at this point.


PLEASE...keep going. Very well articulated and easy to understand.


Thanks! I never know if I am just overdoing it and creating a muddle.

So, we've been talking about choosing what to play by identifying tonal centers and modes. Of course, these are closely related.

You can autopilot your way through it and play the major scale over major chords, the Dorian mode over minor chords, and the Mixolydian mode over dominant (7th) chords. This is what lots of shredders do, and their playing ends up sounding like fast scales and really isn't all that interesting. To my ears it sounds like they are practicing in front of an audience.

Or you can pay attention to what you are doing and choose what to play by applying different ideas against different contexts. Let's stick with "Eyes" to illustrate.

The 2nd and 3rd verses are (I'm notating this in 4/4 with a double time feel):

|Emaj7 Emaj7|Amaj Amaj|Emaj7 Emaj7|Bmin7 Amaj|
(repeat)

So you can play the E major scale over the Emaj7 naturally enough. However, you can also think of Emaj7 as the IV chord of the key of B major, so you *could* play the Lydian mode of the B major scale over that Emaj7, which will give you a different feel. (One of the problems with modes is terminology. You can also call the "Lydian mode of B major" by the name "E Lydian scale.")

You can treat the A maj chord as the IV of E major, applying the Lydian mode over the A maj (a.k.a., A Lydian scale). Or you could treat the A maj as the I chord and play the A major scale. You could even treat the A as the V of D major and play the Myxolydian mode (A Mixolydian scale) over it!

So this already broadens the tonal palette. Say you were cycling through the verse changes a few times. You could play in E major over the Emaj7 and stay in that key, playing the Lydian mode over the A chord. Then over the next Emaj7, you could play in B major using the Lydian mode for that key (that is, E Lydian scale). When you get to the |Bmin7 A maj| bar, you could play in the key of A major over both chords using the Dorian mode over Bmin7 (B Dorian scale) and the major scale over A maj.

In this example then, you are treating the song as if the tonal center starts in E major, shifts to B major and then shifts to A major. You use modes to match the harmony of the chords. Does that make sense? I think that part of the craft of lead guitar is that someone could hear just the lead part on its own and follow the chord changes of the song.

Now, the solos in "Eyes" are played over a two or three chord vamp. In some eras of the Dead, it was Emaj7 to Bmin7 going back and forth. In other eras it was Emaj7 to Bmin7 to A maj. I prefer the latter as it keeps a feeling of progressive resolution in the structure of the vamp and refers back to that little punctuation between the lyrics.

If you listen to, say, the "One from the Vault" version, you can hear Jerry shifting from the E major scale to the D major scale over the B min- I suspect he was thinking in terms of the Aeolian mode there, using the B minor chord as the vi in the key of D- but also sometimes from E major to A major and treating the Bmin as the ii of A major. It's an easy switch to make as the Dmajor scales and A major scales conveniently overlap on the fretboard. When Jerry makes the switch he tends to emphasize the difference between the D# in E Major and the D natural in either D major or A major.

I hope that makes some sense!
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