Modes of the major scale, pt.3


Recall, that the Ionian, Lydian, and Mixolydian scales are major scales. Consider their intervals:
Ionian = 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
Lydian = 1,2,3,#4,5,6,7
Mixolydian = 1,2,3,4,5,6,b7

We notice that the differences between these 3 scales is in their 4's and 7's. we remember that the pentatonic major scale contains the notes 1,2,3,5,6. Since all of these notes are contained within the above 3 major scales, we could substitute pentatonic major for any of the above 3 scales.

Why the heck would we do that? A few things come to mind. You might not have fully developed your ear, so you know the key that you're in but not which key they're in (sometimes this happens when jamming). You might take the scale-per-chord approach, where you play the corresponding scale over its root chord.
Say you have a vamp of C-F. It's possible that the vamp could be in the key of C (w/ C-Ionian and F-Lydian) or in the key of F (w/ C-Mixolydian and F-Ionian). By playing C-pent.maj. and F-pent.maj., we bypass the potential of wrong notes. It's a a safe decision. I personally suggest that when soloing over unfamiliar material, you go ahead and make a couple of mistakes if necessary to determine the key. Then you can fully exploit the possibilities.

Another reason you might choose pentatonics as substitutions is to create parallel rather than relative transpositions of melodies. say we're in the key of C, and we're playing a run that goes:
1-2-3-2-3-5-3-5-6-5-6-8(1). We can play this run in C,F, or G as the 1 and stay in the key of C.
If our run was: 1-2-3-4, we could use C or G as our 1, and stay in the key but we would need to change the run to 1-2-3-#4 for F or go out of key when the 4 is played from F (4 = Bb in F).

We can also use pentatonics as a stepping stone to learning the shapes of the modes. Recall, that comparitively the pentatonic major is missing a 4 and 7. Compare the shapes mapped out (in standard tuning) for the pent.maj., Ionian, Lydian, Mixolydian scales.

Pentatonic major scale "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|-2-|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|
|-2-|---|-3-|---|
|-6-|---|---|-1-|
|-3-|---|---|-5-|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|

ionian mode"E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|
|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|
|-6-|---|-7-|-1-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|
|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|

lydian mode"E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|
|#4-|-5-|---|-6-|
|-2-|---|-3-|---|
|-6-|---|-7-|-1-|
|-3-|---|#4-|-5-|
|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|

mixolydian mode "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|-2-|---|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|
|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|---|

We notice the intervals for the pent.min., aeolian, dorian, and phrygian modes:
Pent.min. = 1,b3,4,5,b7
Aeolian = 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7
Dorian = 1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7
Phrygian = 1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7

And we can make the same kind of connections that we did for the above major scales.

Pentatonic minor scale "E-shape" (root note on 6th string)

|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|b3-|

aeolian mode "E-shape" (root note on 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|

dorian mode "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|
|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|

phrygian mode "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|
|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|
|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|

Ok. So one thing we can do is understand and exploit the relationship between the pentatonic scale and the modes. Of course, this takes us away from the full flavor of each mode. So how do we get deeper into the modes? The short answer is to practice them as scales, and sing every note that you play.

CREATING MODAL PROGRESSIONS

Taking the chords from a mode, we can create progressions from them. We can use these progressions to solo over and/or compose songs with.

ex. From lydian we could take the two chords I,II and create a vamp I-II to solo over in I-Lydian.

This is a good way to practice playing the modes, creating melodies with a specific mode, train your ears to sound, and build up a knowledge of specific progressions that go with the specific modes. looking for a good place to use such knowledge? You could analyze songs you know (turn chords from letters into numbers, so C-F = I-IV) and then find scales/modes that would go with the progressions. You could find new songs with a TAB search of some kind (try www.harmony-central.com for TAB or maybe www. tabcrawler.com).
Or, if you're the least bit into jazz, I fully recommend picking up a copy of "The Real Book" (old or new editions). - no, I don't get any kickbacks from them, it's a standard book used by most jazz musicians.

Speaking of jazz for a moment. One of the most common applications is to think of modes and individual chords in a context. That is to say that there is a relationship between the chord and scale and they use that in choosing a scale to solo with over the changes. They simplest approach (after looking at the key, and playing that major scale) is to look at the particular chord, and play a corresponding scale. So for example over a G7 chord, you could/would play G-mixolydian (over I7 play I-mixolydian). You would do this chord by chord.
Sometimes for one chord, there are several possibilities. It comes down to experimentation to figure out which sounds better in a given moment (sometimes analyzing other chords around the chord can give further context/clues, but right now we're considering the school of thought which looks at only one chord at a time).So here are some chord/scale correspondances with these modes:

CHORD    -    TYPE OF SCALE TO USE

major         use ionian, lydian, mixolydian
7             use mixolydian
maj7          use ionian or lydian
7/11          use mixolydian
maj7/#11      use lydian
maj7/11       use ionian

minor         use aeolian, dorian, phrygian
m7            use aeolian, dorian, phrygian
m9            use aeolian, dorian
m7b9          use phrygian

o             use locrian
m7b5          use locrian

Other chords for a particular scale or mode could be found by looking for root chords from that scale/mode (chords built off the 1). Some examples given at the end of each mode in part 2 under common extensions and other chords.

Some related directions from here:
1.) Seeing how a chord shape fits in a scale shape (or a scale shape fits around a chord shape), and how that relates to their intervals.
2.) looking at a single chord with a relative mode.
3.) looking at larger sections of chords for context (looking at progressions).
4.) Considering parallel movement of intervals or chord voicings within a mode.

So for the first one. Recall, that the Ionian and Lydian modes can have a major seventh chord built off their root notes. We compare the same shape of scale and chord:

ionian mode"E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|
|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|
|-6-|---|-7-|-1-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|
|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|

lydian mode"E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|
|#4-|-5-|---|-6-|
|-2-|---|-3-|---|
|-6-|---|-7-|-1-|
|-3-|---|#4-|-5-|
|-7-|-1-|---|-2-|

major seventh chord "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-7-|-1-|---|---|
|---|-5-|---|---|
|---|---|-3-|---|
|---|---|-7-|-1-|
|-3-|---|---|-5-|
|-7-|-1-|---|---|

We note that the chord shows more notes than we can play at any one instant, but we often use such patterns for creating arpeggios, or voicings within a set number of frets. By comparing the intervals (numbers), we can see that the maj7 chord is contained within the scales (the same intervals are available in both chord and scale), we can use such information ( an overlapping of these maps) to gain a context of connectedness between arpeggios and scalar runs, if such a thing appeals to us. There are times when we play melodic bits in some shape or another (boxes, lead patterns, etc.), and it's a good thing to know where the chords are in relation to the notes we're playing. On the other hand it's always possible to take any idea, and let it stiffle your imagination/creativity. And often, once someone has gotten used to position playing, they feel "trapped in the box" as it were. Get what you can from it, and don't let it convince you that those are the only patterns that can be created or that you even need a pattern. Hopefully, you are building a bridge between your ears, eyes, mind , and fingers so that you can express what is inside your head. You can do this by singing every note that you play. Over time you will develop that connection. But the acronym GIGO fits here, Garbage in garbage out. You shouldn't expect to get out of your fingers what you haven't put into them. If all of your practice/study has been in one or two shapes, then you really shouldn't expect to be able to improvise even the same notes in another part of the neck in a different shape. Likewise, if you learn to sightread in only 1rst position (frets 0-4), you should not expect to be able to fluently play something written for frets 12-15 (without taking the time to figure out where the notes are). Having said that, these lessons are a context to get you started and not an end-all be-all situation themselves. You would do well to ask your self after any lesson, "now how can I apply this to my music, and where can i take this from here".

Moving on, the mixolydian mode can be seen as having a dominant seventh chord built off its root.

mixolydian mode "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|-2-|---|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|
|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|---|

dominant seventh chord "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|---|---|
|---|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|---|---|-3-|---|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|-3-|---|---|-5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|---|---|

As an exercise you could try fluttering back and forth between chordal and non-chordal tones in the scale/mode.
ex.
(1-2-1)-(3-4-3)-(5-6-5)-(b7-1-b7)-1 ascending from bass strings
or
[starting at top strings](1-2-1)-(b7-6-5)-(4-3-4)-(5-4-3)-1
descending.

Recall, that the minor seventh chord can be built off the root notes of Aeolian, phrygian, and dorian modes.

aeolian mode "E-shape" (root note on 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|---|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|

dorian mode "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|
|---|-5-|---|-6-|b7-|
|-2-|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|-6-|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|-4-|---|-5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|-2-|b3-|

phrygian mode "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|
|-5-|b6-|---|b7-|
|b3-|---|-4-|---|
|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|
|-4-|---|-5-|b6-|
|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|

minor seventh chord "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|b3-|---|---|---|
|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|---|-5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|b3-|

And you can build a half-diminished seventh chord (m7b5) off the root of the locrian mode.

locrian mode "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|
|---|b6-|---|b7-|
|b3-|---|-4-|b5-|
|b7-|---|-1-|b2-|
|-4-|b5-|---|b6-|
|-1-|b2-|---|b3-|

half-diminished seventh chord "E-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|---|---|---|b7-|
|b3-|---|---|b5-|
|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|b5-|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|b3-|

2.)
Say i have a I7 chord (say G7), I would normally play I-mixolydian over that. But I could also play a IV-Ionian (C-ionian) over it, or a v-dorian (D-dorian) over it, how about a ii-aeolian (a-aeolian), or iii-locrian (B-locrian)? They all work, and give different emphasis to the same collection of notes (thus evoking slightly different moods from the same notes). In order to use such an approach, you need to understand not only what chords are built off the root of a scale, but in other positions as well.

3.)
Say that the chord before the G7 is a Dm7. I could look at Dm7-G7 as being i7-iv7, which is a dorian progression (and I could choose to solo over both chords in D-dorian). Or I could see it as v7-I7, which is a mixoldian progression (and i could use G-mixolydian to solo over it). Or I could see it as ii7-V7, an ionian progression (solo over in C-major). And maybe it comes from a different system. maybe i-IV could be seen as a melodic minor progression (solo over in i-melodic minor), etc.

4.)
We often hear harominzed scales played, where 2 or more of the notes of the scale are played at the same time in a melodic context involving parallel movement. here is an example in D (D major, D-ionian) in thirds, with a d drone. Compare the TAB to the fretboard.

D major
0|-|0|0|-|0|-|0|-|0|0|-|0|-|0|0|
0|-|0|0|-|0|-|0|0|-|0|-|0|-|0|0|
 |-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-| 
0|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
 |-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
 |-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|


|-2-3-5-7-5-3-5-2---|
|-3-5-7-8-7-5-7-3---|
|-------------------|
|--0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--|
|-------------------|
|-------------------|

And here is an example of the progression Imaj7-ii7-iii7-IV7 from ionian (in Ashape, root notes on the 5th string). Key of C. (note we can think of Imaj7=1,3,5,7; ii7=2,4,6,1; iii7=3,5,7,2; and IVmaj7=4,6,1,3)

|-|-|5|-|6|-|7|1|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|3|4|-|5|-|6|-|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|7|1|-|2|-|3|-|-|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|5|-|6|-|7|1|-|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|1|-|2|-|3|4|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|


|--3--5--7--8---|
|--5--6--8--10--|
|--4--5--7--9---|
|--5--7--9--10--|
|--3--5--7--8---|
|---------------|

OUTSIDE PLAYING.

Say the above chords resolved to C. Dm7-G7-C. Then, choosing to solo over in D-melodic minor will clash slightly with the progression. This dissonance of playing the C# note in D-melodic minor against the chords could be diminished or exaggerated by the performer. The C# is considered "outside" in the context given. You may find yourself drawn to or repulsed by various outside sounds.

One common example is to choose to replace I-ionian with I-lydian, which creates one outside note (the #4 in place of the 4). Another common example is to replace i-aeolian with i-dorian, creating one outside note. You are in effect using another key to solo with. These two examples are commonly heard in jazz.

An example commonly heard in Blues, specifically by harmonica players, is to play I-mixolydian instaed of I-ionian (so if you're playing in th ekey of D [i-ionian] use a harmonica in the key of A [D-mixoldian=A-ionian as far as the key goes]).

Well, my suggestion for all this would be to record yourself playing progressions from specific modes, and then play around with it. Try soloing by chord, by a couple of chords, by the full progression, by key, tinker with outside playing. And enjoy yourself. If you got this far - give yourself a break and have some fun (you've earned it).

Well I was going to go over how to find all the possible scales and chords within an octave in an equal-tempered tuning, but I'll leave that until another lesson on modes.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts
snglstringtheory@aol.com


How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart simianmoon.com/snglstringtheory/guitar/8theory3.html

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Previous lesson - Modes of the major Scale, pt.2
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Last updated January 1, 2003
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