Modes and semantics

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Rainwater

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by Rainwater » Sun Nov 30, 2008 6:06 pm

I've been playing/mosty practicing the CG for 10 months. Thanks to this thread I now unequivocally know the difference between a real musician and me........ 8)

sulponticello

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by sulponticello » Sun Nov 30, 2008 8:17 pm

Mark - don't worry - no-one is arguing - i'm trying to help you ;)

We don't call the alterations for the phrygian scale 'diminished' intervals. In intervallic terms, they would be called 'minor' intervals, but they are usually thought of as relative to the parent major scale e.g. b2, b3 etc

The reason for this is that the notes of the phrygian scale relative to the parent major scale have been flattened accordingly.

That is why I was saying it is best to think of modes in relation to the parent major scale. You are confusing yourself in how you think of them, and in misusing the term 'diminished'.

Hope that helps.

James
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Location: Mildura,Australia

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by James » Mon Dec 01, 2008 6:34 am

Interesting discussion, guys! a while ago, a friend of mine (who played in a jazz combo) spoke of modes and my head would spin. I now feel that with understanding modes , so many aspects of theory are coming together. I see that everything seems to connect! I have been delving into jazz theory and , for me it is helping me with CG. Well it is all music!
I enjoy music theory and look forward to exploring deeper into it. Maybe , at face value, knowing the ins and out of modes, may not be essential for the playing of CG repertoire, but it is very satisfying for me.

mark96

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by mark96 » Mon Dec 01, 2008 9:13 pm

sulponticello wrote:Mark - don't worry - no-one is arguing - i'm trying to help you ;)

We don't call the alterations for the phrygian scale 'diminished' intervals. In intervallic terms, they would be called 'minor' intervals, but they are usually thought of as relative to the parent major scale e.g. b2, b3 etc

The reason for this is that the notes of the phrygian scale relative to the parent major scale have been flattened accordingly.

That is why I was saying it is best to think of modes in relation to the parent major scale. You are confusing yourself in how you think of them, and in misusing the term 'diminished'.

Hope that helps.
I always took a diminished note to be a half-step lower than its value in the given key...'flattened' or 'flatted' works for me.

Just for clarity:
Derivation of the modes comes from the Major (Ionic) keys, but their utilization is most common in enhancing their "root" major. E Phrygian is the third mode of C Major (just as A minor, or alternatively, A Aeolian, is the 6th mode of C Major), but is utilized in more dramatically enhancing music played in E Major. Blending A minor chords and notes with music written in C Major is pleasant and subtle; mixing the same A minor (Aeolian) chords and notes into a piece written in A Major is more dramatic in impact.

It is called "E Phyrgian" because the lead note is E, just as A minor is called the same as its lead note is A. Both could be said to be the Phrygian mode of C Major or the Aeolian mode of C Major respectively. Obviously, using the lead note gives us the immediate connection to the root major scale, and understanding the impact of each mode on its Major scale guides us in our improvising or composing (i.e., Dorian flattens 37, Phrygian flattens 2367, Aeolian flattens 367, etc.)

Are the two paragraphs above a decent summary on semantics and usage?

Mark

Guitar Slim

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by Guitar Slim » Mon Dec 01, 2008 10:00 pm

I'm a pretty basic lead player. I never progressed much beyond folk, country and blues, so my "toolkit" is mostly major and minor scales, pentatonics, and chord-tone arpeggios.

But I'm always curious about this subject. I know how the diatonic modes are constructed from the major scale, that's easy. But how they are applied is confusing. It seems to me that there are several different ways modes are applied and referred to -- and some of them make things unnecessarily complicated. For example, if I'm playing lead over something entirely in the key of C, am I playing "E Phrygian" every time Em comes up in the chord progression? Or am I just playing the "key" scale over the iii in the progression? That's how I would look at it, anyway. I might try to emphasize the root of the chord (E), and the notes in that chord, but to my mind I'm still selecting notes from the key of C major.

In music that is strictly diatonic, I prefer not to think of "modes" at all. I try to emphasize the changes by choosing notes that emphasize a specific chord. If there's a modulation, temporary shift of key center, borrowed chords, etc., I determine what the implied or temporary key is and choose notes from the appropriate major, minor or pentatonic.

Another simple way modes can be applied in a more "flavorful" way is over a one or two chord vamp, especially if the chords are very "open" sounding. In this instance, there are multiple modes that might work over the same vamp, and each creates a different feel or flavor. I've tried this with occasional success.

I've also seen entire tunes constructed from a mode other than major or minor, with the chords built from the sequence of notes in that mode. Once again, if you know the mode of the piece, improvising in that mode is relatively easy.

But where I really get confused is applying modes to a complex set of real changes -- one in which the notes of the chords don't necessarily all come from the basic key, and where the tonal center is often difficult to determine. What principles apply? How do you determine what mode to use over what chords in the progression? And even in this example, I have to wonder if understanding the chords and their relationships to each other is more important than thinking in terms of modes.

Inquiring minds and all that...

jack_gvr

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by jack_gvr » Tue Dec 02, 2008 5:25 pm

Guitar Slim wrote:... where I really get confused is applying modes to a complex set of real changes -- one in which the notes of the chords don't necessarily all come from the basic key, and where the tonal center is often difficult to determine. What principles apply? How do you determine what mode to use over what chords in the progression? And even in this example, I have to wonder if understanding the chords and their relationships to each other is more important than thinking in terms of modes.

Inquiring minds and all that...
Personally I have come to think that the semantic issues arising from the word "mode" have become truly hilarious.

The permutations of possible relationships between "key" and "mode" are many, because neither is properly defined, and so the question of what "mode" "belongs" to what "key" generates a lot of confused crosstalk such as you have read on the last 20 posts. Does "A Phyrgian" "belong" to the "Key of A" or to the "Key of F" and so on. Ok, whatever. And we get accusations of "No, you're wrong! Yes, I'm right!" flung around.

I'd like to offer a simple bypass for the confused (while the cognoscenti continue their arcane discussion!)
This idea comes from the guitarist Steven King (no, not the novelist.) King's workable suggestion, which has served me well, is that it is un-necessary for most practical purposes to know the "modes". Instead, learn exactly two types of scale: major and harmonic minor, in all keys. Then practice being able to start them on any of the six other notes of the scale besides the root. This gives you, for any key signature area in the circle of fifths, 14 possible octave scales, without any mental baggage other than "major and minor".

A knowledge of the circle of fifths, and the chord families derived from each major and minor scale is of value at this point.
A chord family consists of those chords which can be constructed from a given scale with no alterations, except for the characteristic shifts of the 6th and 7th degrees of the minor scale.
See this chart:
http://www.guitar-vacation-retreats.com ... le5_01.jpg

and this page:
http://www.guitar-vacation-retreats.com ... ifths.html

For instance, the chord family of C Major: Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7, G7(dom), Am7, Bm7(b5) [aka B-half-diminished.]

The A Minor chord family includes the C Major family plus commonly E7 and G#-diminished-7th, plus possible variants of all the other family members where F or G may be sharped (i.e., uncommon chords like C-aug-maj7, etc, plus D7, F#m7(b5), etc.

From this knowledge, it becomes possible to recognize groups of chords from given families, which therefore indicate the scale required. For basic practice in chord families, study the two tunes (1) "Manha de Carnival" by Luis Bonfa, and (2) "Autumn Leaves" by Joseph Cosma (1905-69) (not Johnny Mercer, who only wrote the English words.) These two tunes require switching back and forth between the major scale and its relative harmonic minor scale, i.e, C major and A minor (with two instances of D minor) in "M de Carnaval", and between G major and E minor in "Autumn Leaves" (disregarding the difficult chromatic series toward the end where a descending chromatic scale actually works fine and suits the mood).

When the chords come from areas all over the circle of fifths, it is necessary to look for groups of two or more chords that indicate a given chord family, and make a choice of scale if the chord group may belong to more than one family. In the case of a notoriously difficult tune like Coltrane's "Giant Steps", you will be no more challenged than many other musicians.

A "ii-V" progression defines a scale by itself. There are 24 possible common "ii-V" progressions, one for each major and harmonic minor scale, and it is of value to learn them.

Some chords require hybrid scales. Knowing the "modes" will not help you with those, anyway! since the "modes" by definition are inversions of the major scale. Discussion of those hybrid scales would make this post too long, which it is already.

In the case of "modal" jazz tunes requiring a particular mode, you will discover that one of your scales from the above set of 24 WILL fill the bill for almost all cases. A little experimentation will discover which one is appropriate. For instance, for Chick Corea's "La Fiesta", which specifies "Solos in Spanish Phyrgian", mixing your C Major and A Harmonic minor scales will work out fine, but using "E" as the de facto tonal center, which you easily can do because you have practiced starting these scales on any note.

KenK

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by KenK » Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:13 pm

Hi Chris-

Jack gave you a very good answer, he beat me to it, but here's my take on a couple of your questions.

"For example, if I'm playing lead over something entirely in the key of C, am I playing "E Phrygian" every time Em comes up in the chord progression? Or am I just playing the "key" scale over the iii in the progression?"

The answer is "yes". Both interpretations are correct and don't contradict each other.
Over time, I've found that (in jazz) chordal players tend to think in "modes", horn players tend to think in key centers. You question above illustrates both concepts.

"...where I really get confused is applying modes to a complex set of real changes -- one in which the notes of the chords don't necessarily all come from the basic key, and where the tonal center is often difficult to determine. What principles apply? How do you determine what mode to use over what chords in the progression? And even in this example, I have to wonder if understanding the chords and their relationships to each other is more important than thinking in terms of modes."

The basic answer is to look to the next (or sometimes previous) chord to determine the notes not indicated by the chord in question.
ex) Em--A7 would indicate E dorian,
Em--Am could have a couple of answers, we still don't know if there's an f or an f# and that's the determining factor here.

For more complex music- take "Fall" or "Nefertiti" for example.
In these tunes, I look at each chord as having it's own mode.
The nature of this style is harmonically ambiguous. So you have a lot of leeway in your choices.
These 2 are what is meant by "modal jazz" btw.

Don't know if that answers your question, but it's an attempt anyway.

Ken

Guitar Slim

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by Guitar Slim » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:39 pm

jack_gvr wrote:Personally I have come to think that the semantic issues arising from the word "mode" have become truly hilarious.
Yeah, it's always been Greek to me! :wink:

Thank you Jack and Ken for your informative responses. I'm really considering backing off on the CG repertoire for a while and working on some more creative aspects of guitar playing -- improving my harmonic vocabulary, developing my improv and composition skils, etc.. This information seems like a good introduction and points in the direction I'd like to go. Thanks again.

GuitarDoc

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by GuitarDoc » Thu Dec 04, 2008 12:00 pm

Wow! You learn something every day. How is it I've reached the grand old age of *** (well, lots and lots) and never come across these 'modes' and things. I'm afraid I used to think a scale was a scale was a scale. No wonder I can't play my guitar properly - or at least, not as expertly as Bream/Williams/Segovia and the gang.

What have I been missing? :?

mark96

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by mark96 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:50 pm

I just wanted to thank all the contributors to this thread -- it has been an immense help to me in understanding the topic. Better even than tutorials, because so many perspectives were brought into the discussion. Thank you all for the time and patience you took to help me learn a little bit more...

Mark

zukr

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by zukr » Wed Feb 04, 2009 10:09 pm

hey man this is a great discussion, I still haven't understood what Jack is saying
need to sit down and go through the examples and read the posts a few times.
Thanks very much

Zukr

jack_gvr

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by jack_gvr » Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:49 pm

It's worth re-iterating that the modern understanding of "modes" as being the various inversions of the major scale is a VERY RECENT phenomenon (150 years or less, at the MOST, and arguably only since the 1950's with the birth of serious modern jazz theory), and that the historical literature and theory on modes shows many differing points of view which evolved over time. In the 17th century the argument, for a while, was about whether there should be 8 modes, or 12 modes, and both of those systems were quite different from the modern viewpoint. By the 18th century it was generally agreed that there should be only two, called "major" and "minor". In NONE of the earlier systems was the "Locrian" considered to be a valid mode, and there were explicit and agreed-upon reasons why not. The mere fact that you could play a scale on the natural notes from B to B was not good enough.

The issue is similar to the arguments over movable-do vs. fixed-do solfege. There have been easily a dozen or more different solfege systems invented, two with only 6 syllables - Guido and the Arabic solmization system Durr-i-Mufassal - and ancient Greek and Hindu systems (the Hindu from the 5th century AD, well before Guido) with seven syllables, plus the later version of Guido's system with 7 syllables (proposed as early as the 1480's) and its evolution into several different strains of modern solfege, plus the "Bocadezation" system of the early 1600's which had a different set of seven syllables.

So debating the merits of different systems of modes, or different solfege syllables, is an exercise of the same class as debating the merits of different computer operating systems. The actual working systems that have evolved don't necessarily reflect the best theoretical practices, and tend to be portmanteau systems hacked together by working musicians who don't have informed historical overviews and who are working within specific cultural circumstances that affect their way of thinking. How each of us individually decides to deal with this body of knowledge is really an individual choice, so comments like "your way of thinking about modes is ***ed up" or whatever, reflect the narrow knowledge of individuals who can't see the big picture.

KenK

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by KenK » Fri Feb 06, 2009 1:01 am

jack_gvr wrote:In the 17th century the argument, for a while, was about whether there should be 8 modes, or 12 modes, and both of those systems were quite different from the modern viewpoint. By the 18th century it was generally agreed that there should be only two, called "major" and "minor".
Hey Jack-

I never heard of a 12 mode system, unless you talking the Diatonic 7,
plus the Harmonic and Melodic minor familes.

Is that it? If not could you list them?
What exactly would be an 8 mode system?

You may recall in our previous exchanges that I'm a jazz dude.
So this kind of stuff is not only interesting but useful as well.

Thanks,
KenK

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Tonyyyyy
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Location: Sussex, UK

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by Tonyyyyy » Fri Feb 06, 2009 3:41 am

KenK wrote:[

Is that it? If not could you list them?
What exactly would be an 8 mode system?

You may recall in our previous exchanges that I'm a jazz dude.
So this kind of stuff is not only interesting but useful as well.

Thanks,
KenK

This is what jackgvr means by the 8 mode system (I think its fairly clearly explained)

http://www.guitarpress.com/hsp3a.html

and as for the 12 modes:

1. Dorian: D E F G A B C D
2. Hypodorian: A B C D E F G A
3. Phrygian: E F G A B C D E
4. Hypophrygian: B C D E F G A B
5. Lydian: F G A B C D E F
6. Hypolydian: C D E F G A B C
7. Mixolydian: G A B C D E F G
8. Hypomixolydian: D E F G A B C D
9. Aeolian: A B C D E F G
10. Hypoaeolian: E F G A B C D
11. Ionian: C D E F G A B C
12. Hypoionian: G A B C D E F G

I have no jazz background at all - I know the more usual modes from folk and early music. So I would find Dorian or phrygian as normal (more so probably) as major. If I were to improvise, I would have to make myself deliberately use a major scale .

KenK

Re: Modes and semantics

Post by KenK » Fri Feb 06, 2009 4:36 pm

Hi Tonyyyyy-

Thanks for that list-
Now I'll have to do some more research into it.

Interesting that:
Hypodorian is the same as Aeolian
Hypophrygian is the same as Locrain
Hypolydian is the Major scale (Ionian)
Hypomixolydian is Dorian
Hypomixolydian is Phrygian
Hypoionian is Mixolydian

All the "hypo" modes start a 4th below their "namesakes".
I don't think it's a coincidence. I'm guess it has to do w/ a common chordal movement at the time. Not sure though. I'll have to scour the web for clues. :mrgreen:

KenK

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