What is NOT a Mode?

This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by chrishenryking@gmail.com ChrisK 2 years, 5 months ago.

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    Hi Willie:

    I am working through Day4 of Improvisation on Modes. I am trying to understand what is NOT a mode. For example, if I want to use Mode with a typical C-Am-F-G7 progression, do I:

    1) play C Ionian (from C to C octave higher), then A Aeloian (from A to A), then F Lydian (from F to F), then G Myxlodian (from G to G)? Isnt this just playing the C major scale on all chords?

    2) play C major scale, then Am scale, then F major scale, then G major scale? This would mean playing the scale of each underlying chord?

    3) play C Ionian, then C Aeloian, then C Lydian, then C Myxlodian?

    4) The example on the video use C Phrygian over melody in key of C. C Phrygian is Ab major scale. So to use C Phrygian in key of C, I have to throw in the Db and Eb chords somewhere in the progression? doing that would make it “Phrygian”? If this is the correct way of doing it, then should I try to use C Lydian over the F chord?

    5) So after all these questions, I really confuse myself. So how do I use MODE with a C-Am-F-G7 progression?

    Thanks for all the great work.


    Jonathan, the answer is “yes” sort of. You seem to be repeatedly asking “Can I use such and such mode over such and such chord?”

    Each mode has a distinctive sound. I would summarize Willie to say, “Use your ear, plus consider theory as you choose a mode to play over a particular chord in a particular song–in a particular key.”

    Seems like all beginner-intermediate combos will play “Blue Bossa” for example. The first chord is Cmi7 for two measures. What mode do YOU want to play? (Willie discusses this in one lesson.)

    Seems cliché that jazz theory calls for Dorian over a Cmi7. So sure…play C Dorian. But, the key signature has also an Ab in it, which doesn’t appear in C Dorian. Play C Aeolian then over that Cmi7. Both are right but both expect you and your ear to choose what distinct modal sound you want.

    The fifth measure of Blue Bossa is a Dmi7b5. For jazz players generally, I believe two modes are typical choices to play over that. Which do you want? D Locrian? Or get into melodic minor harmony and go with the 6th mode of F Melodic minor, often helpfully called D #2 Locrian (first step is a whole step, where as regular [Major mode] Locrian the first step is a half step).

    Your question is a great one. It still perplexes me what mode to choose sometimes because you’ll find some jazz musicians tell YOU what you must prefer or you must not play. Just because it’s not something THEY prefer.

    (Sure, some choices seem clearly wrong like DbMaj7 chord and you try to shove a C Ionian mode over it.) Use your ear. Stand your ground with an open mind when someone tells you, “You can’t play that mode in that song!” I’ve been through it on that Locrian example! Plus always listen to artists you love and see how they approach the song you’re working on.

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