Modes = Meh

By werox

the modes are overrated

5 comments to Modes = Meh

  • bigmack209

    that was really in depth -_-. What do you think vai and satch (sorry for the common example) use as a base for a mood they want to try to convey? You might not notice it, but all licks can be traced back to a mode, and usually the type of feeling it will have. And what’s the point of your post? To discourage newbies from learning theory? Good job.

  • Double D

    In all due respect to bigmack209, too many inexperienced players get lost in the modes, usually after reading about Satch and Vai, without a good understanding of how the modes relate to chord tones, resulting in ill-conceived, overly scalar playing. Harmonizing the major scale in all keys, then relating that to the modes is perhaps a better way to approach this theoretical biscuit.

  • joe

    I think it’s a pretty hilarious quote. And I like to imagine that werox is a lot savvier than he sounds.

    I agree with Double D — “modes” are a black hole for many student guitarists, and for exactly the reasons he specifies: Too many learn them melodically, but don’t explore the harmonic implications. Which means they’re just running diatonic scales starting on the “wrong” note. And these, of course, tend to be exactly the players who would benefit the most from doing anything OTHER than running fast diatonic scales.

    I have a crackpot interesting theory about modes: I believe modern listeners perceive only two of them, major and minor, but that we allow some leeway in chromatic variation. I think we file all modes with a major third between the first and third scale degrees in the same bin, but permit raised fourth and lowered seventh variations — Lydian and Mixolydian are just chromatic variations on Ionian. Same with minor: the lowered second (Phrygian) and and raised 6th (Dorian) are just Aeolian variations. And Phrygian is a theoretical abstract with no basis in common-practice harmony. I defy you to find a piece of music where the tonic triad is a diminished chord.

    Did I mention that I’m a geek?

  • Reading the comments I see references to those using modes and students: There are good and bad students—if someone does a crap job of applying the proper mode, that’s their own fault.

    Careful listening to the unique quality of each mode gives you insight into how to frame your playing. If you’re simply a scale robot, none of these beautiful variations on the major scale are worth a dime. Learn to harmonize the major scale with all intervals and build interesting chords and arpeggios as well. You’ll find all the modes become alive when you find their tonal sweet spots. Don’t be a robot!

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