Sunday, October 28, 2007

Scales ala mode

1. What are modes?

A mode is an ordered series of musical intervals. There are 7 modes to be derived from the major scale, with each mode utilizing a different degree of the major scale as the key centre, while maintaining the notes.

2. If all the notes are the same, why do they sound different?

The distance of each note from the root changes, depending on which interval is functioning as the root. It is important not to think of a mode just as a collection of notes. What defines a mode is not just the note names, but how they sit in relation to the root note. For example, in the key of C major we may have the C Ionian and the A Aeolian.

C Ionion – C D E F G A B (root 2 3 4 5 6 7)
A Aeolian – A B C D E F G (root 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7)

From the example above, we can see that although all the notes are the same, in relation to the root note, the intervals change. For example, in C Ionian, the distance from C to E is a major 3rd. However, in A Aeolian, the distance from the A to the C is a minor 3rd. This means that the 3rd note of C Ionian and A Aeolian will have a different color against the root note.

3. What are the "static" and "dynamic" forms?

The static forms represent a shape that can be used to play the mode in one position i.e. being able to reach all the notes without having to move your hand from one position on the fret board. The dynamic form has a position shift on the top 2 strings.

The G major is a convenient key to practice the modes in. I would suggest starting on F# Locrian, in the 2nd position. When ascending (i.e. playing from low to high), use the dynamic form. When descending, use the static form. For example, you would play the dynamic form of F# Locrian, and descend on the static form of G Ionian. You would then play the dynamic form of G Ionian, and descend on the static form of A Dorian. Repeat this process until you are back on F# Locrian (at the 14th position, in this case)

The 7 modes are:
Ionian - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (Fig 3 and 4)
Dorian - 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 (Fig 4 and 5)
Phrygian - 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 (Fig 5 and 6)
Lydian - 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 (Fig 6 and 7)
Mixolydian - 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 (Fig 7 and 8)
Locrian - 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 (Fig 1 and 2)

Remember to transpose these modes and practice them in every key. In later weeks I will discuss alternate ways of conceptualizing these modes with different "shapes", as well as how chords are derived from them. You can practice these scalar exercises using both strict alternate picking or economy picking. I have included a suggested picking pattern for economy picking Fig 1. You should extrapolate this concept to all the other patterns.

You can download the sheet music (with tabulature) here:
Page 1
Page 2

A much better way is to download the free Sibelius Scorch plug-in and access this page. It allows you to see the notation and tab as well as play back the file so you can hear what you should be playing.

Disclaimer: This is the first time I've ever used Sibelius (or any notation software!) so you can expect the quality of the sheet music provided to improve

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