Modes

March 10, 2009 § Leave a comment


guitarA short and comprehensive session on modes. For any sensual guitarist who wants to express a particular feeling or emotion with a wide spectrum of melodies ought to have a fine vocabulary just like a good orator ought to have a strong vocabulary in his/her language.So, modes are like the vocabulary to your language–music! If you need fluency you’ll need to learn the modes in all different positions,you’ll have to train your fingers to glide over various shapes quickly as you  warm-up.

What are modes?

Well you may know of a major scale, say a C-Major(common for beginners) or an A major scale. The progression of notes from the root note(i.e, the first note of a Major scale always) to the last(or seventh note) and again back to the root follows a specific order of half and whole steps,which is WWHWWWH in case of a major scale. W=>whole step and H=>Half step. This is your mode of the first form.Now if you permute these 5 W’s and 2 H’s  you get different modes depending on the position of W’s and H’s. So if you start from the sixth(sixth note) of a major scale and follow the order notes of C Major you get a different mode.

Example: The notes in C major are C D E F G A B C.

If you are at the sixth step which is the note A in this case and follow the same notes of C-major starting from (A B C D E F G A  ) you get a mode called Aeolian mode.You can call it A Aeolian. So its nothing actually complex,but its just the note with which you start of a major scale determines the mode.Now again an important note: I just said that “the note with which you start from a major scale determines…” .I  used major word there because my reference  point here is a major scale with respect to which i decide what kind of mode it is. Its important to choose a reference point otherwise you’ll just be confused and lose some hair!.So the goal here is to go about it carefully make a bunch of patterns on a paper and you can follow it blindly later once you are sure that the data is correct.

How many modes are there?

There are seven standard(there’s no standard among the guitar community speaking frankly but we just make it up to avoid any confusion that might creep in) modes.

These are

1)Ionian-major

2)Dorian

3)Phrygian

4)Lydian

5)Mixolydian

6)Aeolian

7)Locrian

The modes are given in order as in if you start with the 3rd step of major an follow that formula i had used earlier you’ll get that Phrygian .Example you start on E of a c-major scale and complete an octave it’ll be you E Phrygian mode.

*Does the notes change from a C Ionian(major) to a C Aeolian modes?

Yes! the notes on a C ionian and a C aeolian are different

*So how am i gonna remember all notes in each scale or mode?

You don’t have to!.There’s a simple trick.Here’s it: If you start from A of a C major scale and go about the scale we get A Aeolian scale.See the beauty of it!. So if you know the C scale you know D-Dorian E-Phrygian F-Lydian G-Mixolydian and so on.just start on that particular note and complete an octave using the notes of a C major scale(remember we chose everything with respect to ionian scale) .For further clarification the notes of an A Aeolian would be A B C D E F G A.

The notes of D Dorian would be D E F G A B C D.

* So are you saying that C Ionian and A Aeolian are the same?

Yes Absolutely! and so are D Dorian E phrygian F lydian G mixolydian.

*Where do i go from here?

Well we just did it for C Major. Do it for all the twelve notes and you have your complete vocabulary  of your language.The only thing that remains is your effort in learning them and then choosing which bunch of notes or which mode to use for what kind of expression.That’s your personal choice and it largely determines your creativity and artistic ability.

So, go ahead and explore the artist inside you!

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