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is major scale enough ??

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Modal Music

Modal music predates Tonal music. As Fretsource has pointed out, in the "medieval pop music" of the British Isles and Northern Europe, modes were keys. So depending on the "mood" the composer was striving for, a piece could have been written in C Ionian, C Aeolian, C Mixolydian or C Dorian.

To better understand the sound of a Mode as Key, we need to turn to our old friends One, Four and Five.

Ionian Mode: I IV V

Dorian Mode i IV v

Aeolian Mode i iv v

Mixolydian I IV v

In some modal tunes the bVII is used instead of the v.

This was a rigid structure. A specific mode, its diatonic harmonies and possibly counterpoint was all. No chromaticism, no modulation. In other words, strictly Diatonic.

Notice that only the Ionian mode has a V (Dominant Major). The other modes all have a v (Dominant Minor). The Dominant Minor does not provide the strong resolution to the tonic that the Dominant Major does. This is one of the prime reasons that the harmonic minor was developed.

The usage of modes in rock and jazz in the 20th Century to the present generally involves such things as extended one chord vamps (4, 8, 16 or more bars), two chord vamps (one bar each) or several different modes with the same root played over a pedal bass or power chords.

Tonal Music

In music theory, the key identifies the Tonic triad, the Major or Minor chord, which represents the final point of rest for a piece, or the focal point of a section. Although the key of a piece may be determined from the key signature, the establishment of key is actually brought about through functional harmony, a sequence of chords leading to one or more cadences.

Many musicians confuse key with scale, a scale is an ordered set of notes typically used in a key, while the key is the center of gravity, established by particular chord progressions.

The chords used within a key are generally drawn from the major or minor scale associated with the tonic triad, but may also include borrowed chords, altered chords, secondary dominants, and the like. All of these chords, however, are used in conventional patterns which serve to establish the primacy of the tonic triad.

Simple songs may stay in a single key throughout while more complex songs may modulate through one or more keys before returning to the original key.

Regards,

Monk

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Notice that only the Ionian mode has a V (Dominant Major). The other modes all have a v (Dominant Minor). The Dominant Minor does not provide the strong resolution to the tonic that the Dominant Major does. This is one of the prime reasons that the harmonic minor was developed.

And also this was the reason for the decline of the modes in Western classical music from about 1600. As harmony and tonality developed, it was found that most of the modes were pretty useless at supplying the notes that could produce good chord progressions, i.e., progressions that could establish a strong tonal centre, as Monk noted above.

The Ionian mode, and with a little 'tweaking', the Aeolian mode, emerged as the only ones that could do the job. They became (and still are) known as the fully transposable "Major and Minor modes", and the old modes were relegated to a position of historical curiosity.

Composers working in the new tonal system were aware of their existence and previous usage, but they mostly ignored them as they rarely had any use for them. The old modes could sometimes be used to create a medieval atmosphere, such as in an opera set in medieval times, for example.

The old modes survived in folk music, though, as it's a mostly handed down oral tradition (or at least the 4 that Monk mentioned - The Lydian and Phrygian modes aren't welcome round these parts :D ).

And the English classical composer Vaughan Williams, often used the old modes to capture the rustic flavour of folk music in his orchestral works. (e.g., Fantasia on Greensleeves).

Modes were revived again in the 20th century by Jazz musicians, who found a new use for them, as mentioned above.

Rock music has inherited some of its modal practices from Jazz, but also from Folk. English rock of the 70s, e.g., Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, etc., made quite a lot of use of the 'folk' modes.

But mostly they use them in a tonal context. The music has modal flavours but essentially it's tonal music, strongly relating to a key centre by use of the I IV & V chords.

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Ok, it makes sense to a degree now. I understand what tonal music is now.

So from what I read, can we agree that modal music is ALSO tonal music, but generally with a weaker tonal center? Besides Ionian and the modified aeolian modes of course.

I mean, basically what you are saying is anything that is governed by a key (practically all of music) is tonal music

"the key identifies the Tonic triad, the Major or Minor chord, which represents the final point of rest for a piece, or the focal point of a section. Although the key of a piece may be determined from the key signature, the establishment of key is actually brought about through functional harmony, a sequence of chords leading to one or more cadences."

So that makes modal music Tonal music as well.

Which means there IS no difference between tonal and modal music. Which means that the original statements You (monk) made are perhaps misleading:

"There are two types of Western music: Tonal and Modal.

If you want to improvise in modal music, it's probably easier to use Modes.

If you want to improvise in tonal music, it's easier if you understand chords and key centers.

If you try to improvise in tonal music using modes, it'll be frustrating & difficult. More so than it needs to be.

If you try to improvise in modal music with chords, it will be just as easy as using modes."

So my question is: What does it mean to "improvise using modes"? My understanding of it before this was you used a different mode (which to me used to mean scale which sounded good in a specific mode) for each chord level (I ii iii IV V vi VII). So for one chord level, you use the ionian mode, for another chord level you use the lydian mode, and it would sound good that way.

So I am very confused at this point. This is my fractured understanding of modes and tonal music:

Tonal music is all western music.

Modal music is music built on modal chord progressions

Western music uses just the two modes (Ionian and Aeolian) because they make the "best" chord progressions.

The easiest way to improvise starting out is using chord tones.

To make your improvisation more interesting, you can use modal scales.

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This is my fractured understanding of modes and tonal music:

Tonal music is all western music.

Modal music is music built on modal chord progressions

Western music uses just the two modes (Ionian and Aeolian) because they make the "best" chord progressions.

The easiest way to improvise starting out is using chord tones.

To make your improvisation more interesting, you can use modal scales.

No.

No.

No.

Yes.

No.

Regards,

Monk

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then I suppose my entire understanding of music theory is broken.

How can music that uses chord progressions within a key NOT be tonal?

If modal music isn't music born out of modal chord progressions, what on earth IS it?

in what way can't modal scales make improvisation more interesting?

nothing you've said so far makes much sense to me.

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Hi tsidewinder,

I suppose nothing in the guitar world creates more confusion than the discussion of modes. And to make it worse you get into these history explanations and so on which have nothing to do with what you want to do, which is play your guitar.

For what it's worth here's my take on it. There are two ways to look at chords...

1. In a progression.

2. Individually like a one chord vamp.

If I have a progression that is in the key of C like the following...

C Emin Amin Dmin G7 C

And I play an F lydian mode over that ( although I would never think that way nor would I teach anyone to think that way, it's confusing and what would be the point?) it's still going to sound like a C major scale because that's the point of resolution.

And even if I play a C major scale over this progression it's still possible to not sound that great if I ignore the chord tones. Look at some of Kirk's lessons on chord tones. You always have to be aware of the chord that is being played at the moment.

Now that brings me to looking at a chord individually. Lets use a Dmin chord as an example. I am only going to discuss this in relation to the major scale modes and not get into into minor scales.

A Dmin can occur in 3 spots in the harmonized scale.

As the ii chord in the key of C (Dorian mode)

As the iii chord in the key of Bb (Phrygian mode)

As the vi chord in the key of F ( aeolian mode or natural minor)

What good is this?

Say you have a bowl of vanilla ice cream (the Dmin chord)

and you want to add a topping like chocolate or strawberry. Each topping is going to flavor your vanilla ice cream in a different fashion.

So with the D min chord if I play the Dorian scale over the chord, the main note that is the flavor of that scale is B natural. A lot of players like this sound because it's is a whole step from the 5th note of the scale and creates and interesting tension you can sit on.

If I use Aeolian mode I get a Bb instead of a B natural and this note creates more of a need for resolution down to the 5th of the scale because it is only a half step away.

The Phrygian mode adds in an Eb which again wants to resolve down to the tonic because of the half step.

In each mode the positioning of the half steps is very important in the way we hear the scale and the way the notes want to resolve.

So in summary a systematic study of the modes gives you a way to explore the different flavors of each scale and what notes are available as passing tones in between the chord tones.

If you know the major scale really well then you know the modes as well because you are only changing the stopping and starting point of the scale, hence changing the position of the half steps.

Knowing the major scale well involves not only the fingering but the position of each note number wise. This way you can easily alter the

major scale to suit your needs.

Keep playing and things will fall into place and don't get to hung up on theory.

Best Wishes,

Bob

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_tsidewinder_,

I apologise for taking so long to get back to you.

As I have stated in numerous other posts, I consider modes useful in a modal situation such as So What or Oye Como Va.

However, in a tonal situation with rapidly changing chords, I would focus on chords & function as well as chromaticism.

As bmurnahan pointed out with his example, if all the chords in a progression are in the same key and you approach each one as a mode, you're taking one thing and turning it into five things that are the same as the one thing. To me that's complicating things for no reason and it doesn't add contrast or variety.

Regards,

Monk

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I must admit my email stopped informing me that this post was being posted to and I didn't want to drag it up again as I am unsure of my own knowledge, but I had some thoughts about the posts by Fretsource.

It seemed to me, and again I may be incorrect here, that we have a situation where something I described, is seen as incorrect in music theory, however in music practice is correct.

Modes are chosen based on Key Signature.

This is what I got earlier from a few posts. Fair enough. In music theory that may be the way that it works.

But in music theory you can have B# and C##.

In music practically, you don't have B# or C##

In music theory is the Mode chosen by the Key Signature but in practice you can be playing several different modes at different times over a single piece, depending on the chords you are playing and the notes that you play in relation to that chord.

I think of it like this because if you play just 3 notes. Depending on the root, those 3 notes could come from any number of Scales or Modes.

Until you know what the root is, you can't know what scale those 3 notes come from. There may be a few scales/modes that are soo odd for instance a scale producing C## where only a few scales/modes could possibly produce those notes, but generally speaking I think this holds true.

I don't now how right that is, but it is how I thought about it practically.

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Fong, don't forget that the song is also in a mode. Look at Bob's example above. It's in the key of C and the mode is MAJOR. He can play a solo over it choosing notes from the C major scale. He could also insist that those notes he chose were actually from F Lydian. He could even say that he changed mode every chord to get those same notes. But, as he says, what would be the point? Musically, that's not what's happening. The key centre is C throughout, regardless of the root of any of the chords, and whether he was thinking in terms of the C major scale, the F Lydian mode or the Indian Sankarabharana scale, all of which use the same notes (CDEFGAB), is irrelevant. The mode of the song is MAJOR and that's what his solo is in.

If he really wants to flavour it with different modes, then he would have to introduce chromatic notes such as he mentioned by using C Phrygian to get an Eb, etc.

But even that's unnecessary - he could just take any 'out of scale' note he wanted from the chromatic scale, without thinking in terms of modes at all.

The bottom line is that modes belong to modal music. Tonal music, such as Bob's example, has no need for any modes other than the major and minor modes - plus the chromatic scale to complete the set.

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sorry, but this honestly sounds like you guys are giving out opinions not facts.

"But even that's unnecessary - he could just take any 'out of scale' note he wanted from the chromatic scale, without thinking in terms of modes at all."

Sure, but then again, we could just play any ol' note we please and hope it sounds good, couldn't we?

I asked:

"Western music uses just the two modes (Ionian and Aeolian) because they make the "best" chord progressions."

Monk said:

"no"

but fretsource said

"it was found that most of the modes were pretty useless at supplying the notes that could produce good chord progressions, i.e., progressions that could establish a strong tonal centre, as Monk noted above.

The Ionian mode, and with a little 'tweaking', the Aeolian mode, emerged as the only ones that could do the job. They became (and still are) known as the fully transposable "Major and Minor modes", and the old modes were relegated to a position of historical curiosity."

so I don't know if you guys are making stuff up, don't fully understand yourselves, make lots of typos, or just disagree with each other.

Next, we have this issue :

"To me that's complicating things for no reason and it doesn't add contrast or variety."

so they "complicate things" and "don't add variety". You are saying they are useless, for modern improvisation.

Except that I've heard that various guitar greats like steve vai and joe satriani use modal scales a lot in their improvisation. They are also excellent music theorists.

anyone have a link that explains modes clearly? I'd fed up with trying to sort through various viewpoints while trying to learn something.

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anyone have a link that explains modes clearly? I'd fed up with trying to sort through various viewpoints while trying to learn something.

There are countless forums that go on and on and on about modes, _ts_, I suggest you head off there, but before you go, how about thinking about MELODY. If all you want to do is play modes, simply learn them! Play them! That's just a matter of memorizing, which is easy. I can't understand what the problem is. Learn them, play them, listen to them and see/hear for yourself what you like or don't like.

I listened to Joe Satriani in a video go on and on about modes, then listened to some of his music (I'm not awfully familiar with his playing) ... guess what his melodies consisted of: Chord tones ... and they were beautiful melodies. That's because melody loves chord tones.

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TS - I don't know why Monk said "no" because in his earlier post he pointed out that only the Ionian mode can produce the V chord, needed for establishing a strong tonal centre.

That's pretty much the same as what I said too. It's not opinion, it's an easily checkable fact in any music history book.

Monk didn't say that the modes were useless for modern improvisation. He said they were useful in a modal context.

When Joe Satriani demonstrates modes he does it in a proper modal context - where they belong.

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a reliable guitarist told me that all u need to know fr playin lead is a good knowledge of major scales...so if i learn da major sclae in all da five positions n then be creative with those notes , will it b enuf ?? it sounds nice to me cuz i can change da key by movin up or down the frets.....am i right???

one more thing...there are millions of amazing guitarists in this world n surely all of em cant have absolute knowledge about all scales cuz from wat i can make out it needs a decent amount of intellect ( which i think i lack ;) ) ..then how do these guys reach at a level where they can improvise n make one hell of a solo...surely there has to b a way out

i hope this is not misinterpreted as me tryin to take an easy way out ( i rlly work hard at guitarin) cuz i'm really curious to find a way through which i can improvise decently wen my buddy gives me any kinda chord progression n not js be stuck in a box...thnx

Major scale was obviously the first scale I learned, but I don't like improvising in major or any of it's modes that much. There are 100+ scales and each of them have their own sound. I bought 'Scale Bible' and just practiced a lot of different scales until I found the ones I really like. One of them was Minor Pentatonic Blues, it's a really fun scale to improvise in. And it's pretty easy to learn it. If you're serious about playing guitar, you should learn different scales.

Thing about 'playing by ear'. None of my friends learn scales. Only with one of them I can actually jam and we're in harmony, because he has really good ear and knows hes fretboard. All the other ones just sound too random and usually hit some random notes that just sounds way off. Scales will help you to train your ear/train your fingers and be a better musician.

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Tonal music, modal music, western music, schmoozick!

If you seek something original in your playing I'd recommend quickly ditching the pigeon holing of music and just play.

I've been at it for more than 35 years, in that time one sees through all the categories or whatever and finds oneself playing outside the lines.

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