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Chris Spencer >> Evolution of Jazz Guitar >>
guest teacher Chris Spencer

ChrisS: Welcome to the third live lesson installment for the jazz guitar series. This week you will be taking a in-depth look at the major modes, which are the inversions of the major scale. You will get to examine each one by itself, learn how to grab it on the neck, and understand how to apply them in a tune. After you learn a mode, you will be given a pattern and a sample lick for further inspiration. Please note that each pattern is equally applicable to all the other modes presented. So if you like a particular pattern, you should apply it to all the modes.

ChrisS: We are going to skip the Ionian mode, which is essentially the major scale in its natural form. Let's look at the Dorian mode instead. The Dorian mode is essentially a major scale beginning on the second note of the scale. Using a C major scale, we can construct a Dorian mode if we call the D the root note and go from there

ChrisS: So the scale would look like this: D dorian: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D

ChrisS: Here's a scale and a jam loop for you to work the dorian mode. In order to comprehend the modes a little better, lets compare the intervals of each mode to those of an ordinary major scale. In other words we will look at the dorian mode as an alteration of the major scale and list the scale degrees. Dorian mode scale degrees: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 8, So if you wanted to change a major scale into a dorian mode you would simply just flatten the 3rd and 7th degrees of the scale. Essentially, we would lower those particular degrees by a half step, or by one fret in guitar terms. By understanding this relationship it should make it easier for you to transfer any of the major scale fingerings that you already have under your belt into the dorian mode. Does everybody understand this idea of adapting a major scale into the dorian mode?

lv8rdoc: so the major scale would have f# c#?

ChrisS: Yes that would be a D major scale. So it sounds like you got it, lets move on... Because the dorian mode has a flatted 3rd, it is useful over minor chords. It is also unique because it has a natural 6th and flatted 7th. So it works best over chords that have these same ingredients within. Play a dorian mode over the following types of chords: Minor 7, Minor 6, Minor 11, and Minor 9, Here's a pattern for you to check out...

ChrisS: and here's a little lick that uses a snipet of that pattern

ChrisS: Let's check out the next mode, phrygian. The phrygian mode is built of the 3rd note of a major scale. Using the key of C again, you will find the phrygian mode in E. E Phrygian mode: E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E

ChrisS: Jam loop 2 will be used for the phrygian mode and here's a fingering for E phrygian.

ChrisS: Now let's compare to a major scale again, Phrygian mode: 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 8. As you can see the phrygian mode is quite different from a major scale. Many of the scale degrees are lowered which results in a dark sound. The 3rd degree is lowered once again, so the fundamental sound is minor. You can play a phrygian mode over the following types of chords: Minor 7, Minor 11, 7Sus(b9)

ChrisS: Since it has a flatted 9th it usually isn't a first choice in many cases.

ChrisS: So here is a pattern and a lick for you to check out. See a pattern here? We are systematically looking at the major scale from every possible perspective, each scale tone is getting a turn at being the "root". If we look at the major scale with the 4th degree being the root, we have the Lydian mode. In the key of C we would construct this mode with the F as the root. F Lydian mode: F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F

ChrisS: here's a lydian scale and jam loop 3. Comparing to the major scale we have: Lydian mode: 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7, 8. This is the only scale where we actually raise a scale tone instead of lowering. Consequently, this scale is often thought of as the brightest sounding mode. See for yourself, play the lydian scale in F and then follow with an ordinary F major scale. You can play the lydian mode over the following types of chords: Maj7#11, Maj9#11 There are also many times that you can freely substitute a lydian scale for an ordinary major scale.

ChrisS: Mixolydian is a very useful mode. Since it is constructed off of the 5th degree of the major scale, it relates directly to the V chord. In the key of C, you would build a G mixolydian scale. Now lets look at the mixolydian mode... G mixolydian mode: G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G

ChrisS: Use looping sound clip #4 for the mixolydian mode, Let's compare the mixolydian scale to a major scale: Mixolydian mode: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 8. You can see that this mode is also very close to major scale with one exception, the flatted 7th. It does have a major 3rd so the underlying chord sound would be major. The flatted seventh implies a dominant chord sound which, as mentioned earlier, makes this a wise choice for a V chord. In fact any dominant 7th chord is fair game so it works well in lots of places, including the blues. You can play the mixolydian mode over the following types of chords: 7, 9, 13, 7sus4. Please note that these chords sometimes will be preceded by the letters "dom" which stands for dominant.

ChrisS: These patterns might take a while to get under your fingers, so have a little patience. If you frequently revisit them over the next few weeks, they will start to flow. lets check out aeolian... Aeolian is also known as the natural minor. It is the most common minor sound and we call it the relative minor of its major counterpart. You build aeolian off of the 6th degree of a major scale. In the key of C you would play the Aeolian mode in A. A Aeolian mode: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, Here comes jam loop 5 for the aeolian mode.

ChrisS: and here's a fingering for A aeolian.

ChrisS: If we look at the scale degrees, Aeolian mode: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 8, So, the aeolian mode works well on minor 7th and minor 9th chords. Notice that the 6th degree is flatted, so they don't work very well over the minor 6th chords. Here's a pattern for aeolian...

ChrisS: and a lick to go along...

ChrisS: The last and probably least used mode is Locrian. As you will see, it is an incredibly dark sounding chord, since most of the scale degrees have been lowered. In the key of C, we would build locrian off of B, the seventh degree of the scale. B Locrian mode: B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B

ChrisS: Jam track 6 will work with Locrian.

ChrisS: The scale degrees for this one are severely altered when comparing to a major scale. Locrian mode: 1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7, 8. Notice that the only note that hasn't been lowered is the 4th degree. In this case we have a minor 3rd which once again implies a minor sound. However, the lowered 3rd in combination with the lowered 5th degree indicate a diminished sound. So what we have on the seventh degree is a half - diminished scale ( the seventh would need to be lowered another half-step in order for it to be completely diminished). Play locrian over min7(b5) and half-dimished chords.  As you can see, this is probably the least used mode, although it does work well when you are playing a minor II chord since it is often a half-diminished sound.

ChrisS: Sometimes you will see the chord symbol like this: BO7 Well that's it folks, I hope this makes sense.

lv8rdoc: what's the "0"

ChrisS: The symbol is a 0 with a line through it.

lv8rdoc: meaning what tho

ChrisS: It is usually a little smaller than the one I sent across. It is an abbreviation for half-diminished. The idea is that the 0 by itself stands for a diminished, with a line through it, it is half-diminished.

lv8rdoc: got it

ChrisS: your welcome, thanks everyone. Next week, we will look at some pentatonic scales and other miscellaneous hub bub.

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