Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Learning Modes - Another Step

In my last post, we looked at a very simple chord progression with a couple of chords. Most likely you will be playing music that is much more complicated. So what happens when a Cm shows up in your song in G major? There is a note in that chord that is not in your key! Well there are a couple things you can do here.
  • Do not play an E during this chord
  • Switch to C Minor
  • Find some other mode that works
Well option 1 is simple enough, but we want to spice things up a little. Option 2 and 3 actually go together. If we look closely at C minor, we find that it is 3 flats. Bb,Eb,Ab. Now by looking at the key signature, we see that the relative Major to C minor is Eb Major. If we look at the relative Majors to modes of G, we have G-F-Eb-D-C-Bb-Ab. So Eb Major == 3rd mode of G, which is G Phrygian. To see what other modes of G we could play over this Cm chord, we simply need to see which of the modes of G contain a Cm chord. Well since Cm is C-Eb-G we can see that Eb Major, Bb Major and Ab Major have Eb's in them (as well as C's and G's). So our options for playing over a Cm in G are
  • G Phrygian (Eb Major)
  • G Aeolian/minor (Bb Major)
  • G Locrian (Ab Major)
Get ready for a little bit of information overload. If we take the notes of the modes of G

G Ionian     G A  B  C  D  E  F#  G Major
G Dorian G A Bb C D E F F Major
G Phrygian G Ab Bb C D Eb F Eb Major
G Lydian G A B C# D E F# D Major
G Mixolydian G A B C D E F C Major
G Aeolian G A Bb C D Eb F Bb Major
G Locrian G Ab Bb C Db Eb F Ab Major

and then figure out what all the triads are
Ionian         G  Am Bm  C   D  Em F#°
Dorian Gm Am Bb C Dm E° F
Phrygian Gm Ab Bb Cm D° Eb Fm
Lydian G A Bm C#° D Em F#m
Mixolydian G Am B° C Dm Em F
Aeolian Gm A° Bb Cm Dm Eb F
Locrian G° Ab Bbm Cm Db Eb Fm

we can make a list of the modes that contain each chord

G Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
Gm Dorian,Phrygian,Aeolian
G° Locrian
A Lydian
Am Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
Ab Phrygian,Locrian
A° Aeolian
Bm Ionian,Lydian
B° Mixolydian
Bb Dorian,Aeolian,Phrygian
Bbm Locrian
C Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
Cm Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
C#° Lydian
D Ionian,Lydian
Dm Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
D° Phrygian
Db Locrian
Em Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
E° Dorian
Eb Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
F#° Ionian
F#m Lydian
F Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
Fm Phrygian,Locrian

Then we can generalize them into a more portable method using chord numbers
I     Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
i Dorian,Phrygian,Aeolian
i° Locrian
II Lydian
ii Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
ii° Aeolian
bII Phrygian,Locrian
iii Ionian,Lydian
iii° Mixolydian
bIII Dorian,Aeolian,Phrygian
biii Locrian
IV Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
iv Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
#iv° Lydian
V Ionian,Lydian
v Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
v° Phrygian
bV Locrian
vi Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
vi° Dorian
bVI Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
vii° Ionian
vii Lydian
bVII Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
bvii Phrygian,Locrian

Now if we use this chart we can easily get our list of available modes for many chords that may be in our tune. If we run across an Ab major chord in our key of G tune (which would be a bII), we see that G phrygian (Eb Major) or G Locrian (Ab Major) might work well. Which would make sense since playing Ab major over an Ab Major chord would make sense.

Does this mumbo jumbo make sense? Have I made a chordal miscalculation? Sound off in the comments.
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