Mudcat Café message #1869082 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #95827   Message #1869082
Posted By: Canberra Chris
26-Oct-06 - 09:46 AM
Thread Name: Modes vs Scales
Subject: RE: Modes vs Scales

I find modes intuitively simple and fun to play with, especially for improvisation.

Take a piano, and forget the black keys, or take a penny whistle. Start on any note, and go on up for an octave. That will be one of the modes. Doesn't matter which one.

If you happened to start with C, you will recognise the sequence as also being the major scale. If you started with A, you will recognise it as the minor scale.

If you start one one of the others, it will sound a bit weird, funny, sad, haunting, ethnic or something, but each has its own flavour. It is that flavour that matters, and gives music in that mode its characteristic feel, in just the same way that major and minor scales (which are just two of the modes) are different in mood.

Whichever one you picked, go up and down a bit til it starts to sound familiar, rather than odd. Then, with the first note being '1', go 1, 3, 5, 8 (8 being also 1 for the next octave), then down again, and play around with that sequence.

Now vary that sequence, playing around, like maybe 1, 5, 3, 8, or 1, 8, 5, 3 or whatever, til you start to find a sequence that gives you an idea for a little tune, using those notes as the backbone, but straying into others if you like. Keep it simple, and repeat it til it is familiar, and try to write down the number sequence some simple way so that you can repeat it again.

OK, now comes the magic. Pick any different starting note to find a new mode, doesn't matter which one. Play up and down the new octave, play the 1, 3, 5, 8 starting of course from the new '1', til you get the feel of the mode and its mood. That sequence will still be the backbone of the new mode. Now play your first tune but from the new position, going up and down the same number of notes. It will 'work' and be the 'same' tune in one sense, but with the different flavour of the new mode.

Now, if your mind is anything like mine, it will go WOW! and you will start exploring a new, wonderful, simple, rich, elegant, expressive universe, needing only a few white notes, and not having to know any theory or what anything is called.

5/7 of our musical world (the five unfamilar modes) is as unexplored as the ocean deeps.

It is so easy, and so creative, that I am tempted to do little else musically but pick a mode at random, explore it, and allow tunes to unfold out of it like flowers.