Had an 'aha' moment about modes today

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Jun 30, 2017 11:50 am
by Farelli • 189 Posts

I was watching a few videos about modes from Ben Levin, and he was explaining all the modes in C major as people tend to do.

But he took it a step further than most, demonstrating all the modes using C as the starting note, and then explaining the key that the different modes are in (e.g., C Dorian is in the key of Bb, since C is the second note of Bb, etc.).

As he put that up I had a flash of revelation and an assumption: that if I organized the modes in order of 4ths based on the key of the mode starting on C, I'd have something I've seen before.

So I wrote down all the modes starting on C with the resulting key that each mode is in, and then organized it in order of 4ths (G C F Bb Eb Ab Db).

I was pleased as punch when, as I expected, the modes, in order were:
- Lydian
- Ionian
- Mixolydian
- Dorian
- Aeolian
- Phrygian
- Locrian

This is not the order the modes are typically listed in. Typically they are listed in the order of the starting note in the key of C (Ionian - C, Dorian - D, Phrygian - E, Lydian - F, Mixolydian - G, Aeolian - A, Locrian - B).

But in the order from my 'flash' the modes are listed in terms of what people tend to call their 'brightness' to 'darkness.' The first 3 are the major modes, and the last 4 are the minor modes (flat 3rd).

And in order, they progress: 1 sharp, no sharps or flats, 1 flat, 2 flats, 3 flats, 4 flats, 5 flats.

This is one of those "I should have learned this when I was a kid" moments, but it was still cool.

Last edited Fri Jun 30, 2017 11:55 am | Scroll up


RE: Had an 'aha' moment about modes today

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:22 pm
by Paul Kump • 12 Posts

Yes, I had a teacher who taught me the modes this way. I was initially surprised to learn that Lydian was the most inside-sounding (knowing nothing more, I would expect Ionian). But my ear agrees with the list; I definitely prefer the sharp-4 sound of the Lydian scale over the natural fourth in the Ionian. I guess the half-step clash with the fifth is more appealing to me than the half-step clash with the third.

My teacher would have me play the modes in the way most learn: Playing the relative scales so that each scale has the same key signature. But then he would also have me play in parallel keys: Keeping the tonic the same, e.g., G Ionian, G Dorian, G Phrygian, et seq. In this way, you really start to become aware of the relationship between the modes. I would start with G Ionian, then play G Lydian. Go back to G Ionian, then play G Mixolydian. That helps to relate the major modes—loosely speaking—back to Ionian. Then play G Aeolian, then G Dorian. Go back to G Aeolian, then G Phrygian. That helps relate the minor modes back to G Aeolian. In this way, for example, you can view the Dorian mode as a minor scale with a natural 6th instead of the usual way of a flat-3, flat-7 scale.

Jerry C's Canon Rock plays on this idea of parallel keys. The song, primarily in D Ionian, changes ("modulates" ?) to D Locrian in a bridge near the end of the song. In comes back to D Ionian before the song's end. If you haven't heard that song, you should check it out. (I play a cover of it on my youtube channel.)

Get an instrument with lots of sustain, say a square-wave synth or a heavily distorted guitar, and hold a G note. Then play all seven parallel keys with G as the tonic and hear how they all sound over the G.

youtube channel

Last edited Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:52 pm | Scroll up


RE: Had an 'aha' moment about modes today

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:00 pm
by Paul Kump • 12 Posts

Excuse me...Jerry C's Canon Rock modulates from D Ionian to D Aeolian, not Locrian.

youtube channel
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RE: Had an 'aha' moment about modes today

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:53 pm
by Adam • 172 Posts

Hi Farelli,

That's AWESOME that you came to your realization! To build upon Paul's idea to try to create a "drone" and play along, another good way to practice how the modes "fit" or "sound" in a certain key is to download the free MP3's that Pebber has of one note being played for the entirety of the track.

If you have trouble locating these, please let me know, as I can just send them over to you!

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