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Very broad, "thought process" question


SHaka40

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Hey guys,

Need some advice from some of you experienced cats on the forum. I've been playing keys for years, but haven't been able to break through the ice when it comes to serious classical or jazz playing. In part, this is because (besides the fact that I don't practice nearly enough and I can't afford a good teacher :rolleyes:...) I have trouble with some basic, philosophical aspects of learning music theory. For example, let's take modes: do you guys think in terms of the scale that a mode comes from, or in relationship to the key that the mode is in? To make this clearer, consider D-Dorian. If I'm just learning to play this mode, should my thought process be 1)D-Dorian is a C-major scale that starts on D, or 2)the Dorian mode is like a major scale (D major in this case) with a flatted 3 and 7. Obviously, both ways of thinking would leave me in the same place: playing D-to-D with all white notes. But which is the "right" way to learn/think?

 

Similarly, let's say I'm learning to play a bassline or a melody. Should I be thinking step-wise/linearly from one note to the next: i.e. up a half step, up a 3rd, down a 5th... Or should I always be thinking of each note in relationship to a key-signature/tonic (IV, VII, ii).

 

Thanks!

--Sean H.

 

Yamaha MOXF8, Korg TR76, Novation X-Station 61, Casio PX-320

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A far as the modes, I'd say that 1) and 2) are just routes to get you to remember and/or understand where you're going. Much like the letter names for notes. You don't always think "G, B, D, C, E G" while you're playing, do you? Heck, if you've developed your sight reading at all, you may not even think of the letters as you look at the black dots and touch the corresponding keys.

 

 

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Sean,

 

For what it's worth, you're not alone in this!

 

So bascially, +1 to what Joe and Tee said... I'm using the mode=scale degree as a reference point, but I'm trying to learn to HEAR the modes more than anything else (thus playing them in all keys). Regardless, I have a hill to climb, too, in terms of remembering what mode name applies to the tones I'm hearing :/

 

As for learning lines, I assume you mean so you can transpose more easily?

 

I lean on scales + ear training (thus relative pitch) from eons ago, using the underlying chord structure as a guide. I don't intentionally internalize it in terms of intervals, although perhaps subconsciously I do. If I get to know a tune REALLY well in a particular key, I "get" the underlying chord structure and tonalities, and can generally transpose to another key--although depending on the tune's complexity, not entirely on the fly.

 

-J

 

 

I make software noises.
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Sean,

 

Great questions. Looking forward to hearing the responses as it would help me in the same way as you.

 

I have a comment regarding what Joe said about sight reading. When I teach my piano students, one analogy I offer them about reading music is this.

 

When we read a book, we aren't reading individual letters but rather groups of letters that we instantly interpret as specific words (we don't read C-A-T, we read the whole word 'CAT' and know exactly what that is in our mind's eye.

 

When reading music, we don't see a group of black dots on the staff, then say, "Well, that's C-E-G and those notes are these certain keys on the keyboard. What really happens is I see the three notes on the page and my fingers instantly know where to go on the keyboard. I don't even really think about the note names, I'm skipping that step in my mind and the black dots on the page are notes or groups of notes in a specific place on the keyboard. The interpretation in my mind is instantaneous, just like when I read.

 

I likewise need to get there when it comes to scales/modal concepts. It needs to be automatic.

 

Greg

Kurzweil Forte, Yamaha Motif ES7, Muse Receptor 2 Pro Max, Neo Ventilator
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I can tell you honestly that without a good teacher you can spin your wheels on this stuff forever. A good teacher can solve this for you in a lesson. Please consider doing what you need to in terms of bux to study at least 2x/month with a master. It's really the only way top learn this, IMO. This will save you googobs of time and stress)

 

Dave Frank

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OP I don't know where you are in your development. Maybe you could play something for us to hear? I always start with Blues based music. I use the term Blues, very loosely. including Gospel, R&B, Soul, Organ based jazz by Jimmy Smith etc etc. To me John Coltrane was Blues based, as was Jimi Hendrix.

Blues based music, is a great way to dip into it. Jazz started with Blues, and rhythm was a big part of it. So getting you blues awareness going, under your fingers and in your heart mind and soul, as well as the way you play the notes, which underscores rhythm.. all of this is covered in Blues based music. jazz is right next door to it! But though I deleted my earlier post, forget about modes. i could play jazz, fairly well without bothering with modal thought at all.

it is an adjunct, to the primal Blues based aspects of much jazz.

edit i just learned that Herbie Hancock, wrote out note for note, a large number of choruses ( 8 or more choruses ) for his Blues soloing to improve!!

 

 

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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But which is the "right" way to learn/think?

 

Great question, and one which can have many good answers. Here's one set and I hope it helps:

 

1) If you are thinking when performing, you unfortunately won't have enough intention and you will be too slow. It's got to get into the subconscious, not the intellectual zone. If you are soloing, you can intellectualize before you play your solo, but once you begin to solo, you "toss it off" using any random thought which comes to mind and everything you got in muscle memory. Plan on surprising yourself.

 

2) As to which way to think when practicing your soloing... The more neural pathways you create the safer you are and the more subconsciously you can navigate. It's like navigating when you drive .... do you know only one way to get home or do you know all the streets around your home? Think of modes, scales and chords (and their relationships) in multiple ways.

 

Develop expertise in improvising/writing over one set of changes (one song) and build your skill out from there. For jazz guys it starts with woodshedding the ii-V-I's. :cool::thu:

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Great info so far guys. Keep the advice coming.

 

Regarding the post or two that asked me to provide some context in terms of my interest...I would say I tend to like the prettier, mellower, ballad, harmonically rich, soulful side of jazz. Think: Bill Evans, Herbie, George Duke, Robert Glasper, etc. I realize there's vast differences between all those guys, and they don't fit neatly into one box, but hopefully that helps. I'm not really sure if you guys would consider that Blues-Jazz or what. I tend to think more of Oscar Peterson and Gene Harris when I think of bluesy players (maybe that's just a misconception on my part though). Love those guys too, but that's not really my style. With that said, I actually play in a contemporary/urban gospel band, and have played at/for churches in the past. So I'm certainly familiar with blues-based music.

 

Regarding the comment that I'm "stuck in my head" (can't find that comment anymore, is that the post that you deleted Tee?), that's a huge understatement...and it's something that hampers me (although it certainly has its benefits) in ways that go far beyond music! I've read several books about the topic, some directly related to music (Kenny Werner's famous "Effortless Mastery" book for one is essentially all about getting outside of your head and shutting off your inner critic), others not. Suffice to say, it has been and continues to be an uphill battle for me!

 

Seems that most of you guys would agree that it doesn't matter which method I use to think about such theory, so long as I get to the point where I don't need to think about such theory anymore. Is that a fair summary?

 

In re-reading my original post as well as all the replies, it has occurred to me that maybe I am looking for a shortcut that simply doesn't exist; as if one way of approaching theory will magically take me to the next level of musicianship faster than the other. In reality, regardless of the thought process, it's going to take hours and hours of practice and repetition (hours that I don't really have right now with a full-time job and college workload :mad: ) to get it to a subconscious level where you can call upon it in real-time with no gap between the imagination and the fingers.

--Sean H.

 

Yamaha MOXF8, Korg TR76, Novation X-Station 61, Casio PX-320

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Check out some of

.

 

Some of his teachings that have just very recently started to unlock some big doors for me:

 

1. Your instrument is an illusion

2. Everything is internal

3. Your instrument is your mind, your body and your emotions.

4. All music is played by ear - if you can't hear it, you can't play it.

 

Elsewhere he talks about 'practice mind' and 'performance mind'.

 

In practice mind, you are thinking, trying, repeating, practicing.

 

In performance mind, you don't think - because thinking is too slow for music.

 

That's why, when you learn a 'hot lick', then try and drop into a spontaneous performance, you inevitably trip up, because your spontaneous 'no mind' is infinitely quicker than your thought process.

 

It may all sound a bit zen and far out, but check out Mr Galper's video clips and prepare to have your musical understanding turned inside out.

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Between your options:

 

1) D Dorian is C major scale starting on 2

2) D Dorian is D with minor 3rd and minor 7

 

The latter is far more useful way to think about it. Of course you need to know #1, and knowing that helps you in C, but would it help you to know that C Dorian is BbM starting on 2? .... well maybe -- it helps you to know it, but it's not likely to be the way you want to think about it.

 

Look at it this way. You need to be able to hear, in your mind's ear, that Dorian mode scale, no matter which key you play it in. Let's say you know which notes to play beforehand. More important than that is for your mind to be able to hear what note you'll play next, before you play it. And it needs to be in the context of D as the resolving note, the home base, the starting point, etc.

 

A little later, you'll want to be able to pick a mode and key and pick a random note in that scale, and (with the root note in mind, having played it) your mind's ear should know what the neighboring notes sound like.

 

Anyway, my problem with music theory is that my right brain and left brain don't seem to want to talk to each other. I'm super analytical about most things, but for music that analytical ability almost always seems to lag behind, and is left to interpret whatever the heck it is I'm doing (which is usually not that complicated anyway). But it sure does help to communicate ideas, and it helps to give names and structure to stuff that my ears already know.

 

And sometimes, it leads to stuff my ears wouldn't have guessed at. But that's rare. Usually it's mistakes that do that, and I get to sit there playing that mistake over and over trying to figure out why the mistake sounds better than what I'd intended.

 

Worst of all, my fingers do what they know how to do, and I'm not particularly good at getting them to do new stuff based on theory. Oh well! I'm still glad I make the attempt, it definitely helps.

 

Good luck and don't worry. After 10 thousand hours of playing, you'll have a creditable level of mastery. Or so they say. I probably have 20K hours and am still working on that mastery bit, but mostly I repeat stuff my fingers know how to do.

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More great stuff in this thread since I last posted. Greg (Bif_) I was going to come back and post about that very same spelling/reading analogy.

 

Sean H. - You got it. You just have to keep at it, and have patience with yourself. We all go through it. I would guess that even the best cats have to deal with it, they're just further along the curve than many of us.

 

I just got back from my piano lesson. I was expecting it to be a bear. We're supposed to start off each lesson playing & jamming on a tune, but since the last lesson, I've struggled to get the tune we discussed down. I was afraid he'd be pissed. Instead, we went through it. What did I get out of that? Not only did he catch some mistakes that were throwing me off, he pointed out that I need to spend more time with a metronome or anything that forces me to keep the time and keep playing. Why do I bring this up? Because doing this will get me "out of my head." You can't be thinking about all the stuff when you just have to play. That's my suggestion to you. Keep it simple, and keep playing in time. Over time, you can build on it.

 

Of course, if you're working on voicings, fingerings, scales, getting a lick down, etc., you can do that out of time at first. But once that's worked out, you should be able to get those out in time.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Good stuff here. And it supports the way that earlier jazz players developed

All this talk about simplicity seems to me to make te Blues based music as a natural portal into thinking about it for x days weeks whatever and then gradually having it be less conscious

The history of jazz was very blues based.

So why not do what Louis Armstrong and others did ?

But reading. Fingering. Scales. That stuff is more intellect. True

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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I don't disagree with anything I have read here in response to your questions. But I want to add a few things.

 

A good teacher is a brilliant investment.

 

The modes can all be fingered with the same fingering as their tonic major scale ... but I make an exception of F# minor modes. While the F# major fingering can be made to work, use the F# melodic minor ascending fingering. Few books talk about the fingering of modes, so think about my contribution here.

 

I don't spend any time at all playing modes with the left hand.

 

Second, playing in modes is a lot more than getting notes out. Modes are different to the key centres generated by the major and minor scales. And it matters.

 

It particularly matters as we follow the progress of folk music to rock music and modes in jazz.

 

A rock musician would think nothing of playing two chords, like C7 and Bb7, one after another, and back again.

 

But most classically trained musicians would wriggle all night in bed trying to explain how this works.

 

And then we have progressions, as common as new ice, at this time of year, like C, F, G, Am and Bb.

 

So, what key are we in?

 

So, understanding modal harmony, and harmony from key centres built around the major and minor scales is ... useful.

 

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Don't worry about it. There are only 12 notes. 7 are tonal. That gives you a 60% chance of hitting a good one. All the others are passing tones. If you get the one right you will be fine. You learn theory so you don't have to think.

 

"Don't worry about all those notes learn the chords". Jimmy Smith

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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In terms of learning, I started out learning them (dorians, for example) as "C but starting on D", etc...Then when I started practicing them thoroughly it became quicker to think of them as b3 b7. Then after a while I just knew them off by heart without thinking - I found the following excercise very helpful, though:

 

Start at D dorian. Go up two octaves, then when you reach the top, move up a semi tone and come down on D# dorian, down two octaves; then go up E dorian, come down F, and so on, but do it without stopping or pausing between modes. It takes a while to get used to, but it forces you to think on your feet: both on the scale theory and on how you're going to finger the changes (also helpful improv practice). After a couple of weeks of doing that with only the dorians, I had most of them learnt by heart.

 

Everyone is different. Some of the scales I'm trying to learn just now I look at in two ways - some times it can be "B harmonic minor starting on the 7th" or for other scales "the first four notes are C minor, last four are F# minor." Like anything though, it will eventually get to a point where we won't have to think about them.

 

Nord E4 SW73

Yamaha MODX7

Mainstage 3

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I am struck by the analogy between the following story and the variety of ideas here. The story of six blind boys washing their elephant ( Indian story ) - each boy posits his opinion about what the elephant looks like.. the tail, the trunk, the tusks, etc.

One fellow says there are no chords, whoa, ok, no chord. another says 7 good notes, 5 passing notes, 60% chance of hitting right note. Tee says forget modes for now, others start talking about modes.. etc.

 

My friend, the hard part is the most direct and quickest route.. playing the piano in a Blues fashion is that route. Huge generalization...but this a forum not a private lesson. I am being as specific ( non general ) as I can be.

It is not about modes, not about harmony that much, not about studying independence.. independent of the "thing itself", the thing you are having such a tough time doing, it is not about scales, it is not about theory. Do you think earlier players of this music, were all stuck in their heads?

Only use thinking in a need to know basis haha that is funny.. just sit down and use your intuition, or instinct and choose what blues based tune/ possibly associated with some lesson or other on Youtube and get on that bucking bronco. I am making a lot of exaggerated statements, but I know I am telling you what your intellect rejects. and that is good.. there will always be time to study harmony, theory, modes, fingerings, scale work... but the thing is to be a jazz player, you want to be coming more from an instinctual place NOW. The most accessible way to do this is with music that has a definite mood, mode, deep feeling, practically no harmonic complexity whatsoever= less thinking= Blues based music. I started with Boogie woogie!!

Take this dudes advice. The other advice is good too, but mine is in tune both with how I developed, and by a fortunate coincidence how early jazz developed. You know Tee is on to something, because he understands your issue from his own issues.. what Emerson called trouble with doing! Getting out of the "head", sit down at even a piano and learn some boogie woogie. Nothing like it for quick access to where you want to be!

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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I'll try to explain how I think about it, although it's clear that there is no single correct way. In fact, I use multiple alternatives myself:

1. D dorian is like D natural minor with a raised 6th. (Actually, I tend to think of it the other way around by now. And in the specific case of D, I take the shortcut of "all white keys" anyway.)

2. D dorian is the scale of a Dm13 chord.

3. Dorian is the scale you get when you have a minor i and a major IV chord (Dm and G in this case), as opposed to a minor iv chord (Gm) for the natural minor scale.

 

I don't usually think of any scales other than the one built on the tonic, except when a song modulates to different key. It's more like: "OK, the song is in Em. Oh, there's an A chord, I guess I should probably play E dorian through most of the song." Until I get to a B7 chord, where things really depend.

 

If a song uses the natural minor scale, you can sometimes get some nice effects by briefly switching to dorian on a i chord, and then covertly switching back to natural minor on the next iv chord. You can hear an example during Joe Sample's solo in Street Life, near the beginning of the second half (at 4:28 in the version I have). That's one reason to think about natural minor and dorian in combination.

 

Also, if I play a tune that uses the dorian scale, and I want to jazz it up a little, I usually start thinking in the natural minor scale a fifth above (usually accompanied by things like i9 and IV13 chords). These are the same notes, obviously (say, D dorian vs. A natural minor), but I somehow think about the notes in a different way if I have a different root note in mind.

 

I hope any of this makes sense, as I'm mostly self-taught.

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At any given moment in music, there are 12 notes to melodically consider. narrow this down to chords and key center, removed from the 12 tones. minor chords, the notes in question are 2 or b2... #4 or 4, 6 or b6 7 or b7

also use the key center as a way to whittle down the options of 12 notes.

Dm the main notes to decide about are Eb or E Bb or B C or C# I think this is fun. You do not have to subscribe to complex theories about modes.

Just have fun with your options when slowly playing a tune.. "Do I wish the Eb or the E or who knows, both" And so on.

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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I read above: At any given moment in music, there are 12 notes to melodically consider.

 

etc

 

If this helps you, good.

 

Following directly up on your posting: On the one hand you have diatonic key centres, and on the other you have modal centres, and then atonality.

 

Embrace atonality if you wish.

 

My last post here was clearly too subtle: no-one suggested what key we were in, and so it might be presumed that people avoided the allied, often inter-mixed, concepts of diatonic centres, and modal centres. These are created with definitive chord progressions, and in turn they permit (facilitate) melody making (improvising) with scales or modes.

 

You can never stop thinking.

 

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Trapper To make the best music, I suspect thinking has to be suspended for the most part, if not entirely. Wagner's Tristan, I have read, just came to him via intuition. Theory people think all day long, about an amazing intuitive experience.

I am not anti thinking in music, there is a place for thinking, ( developing the awareness of contrapuntal, rhythmic, analytical etc aspects. but not when performing!! ) but not the highest place.

I do not know why you mentioned atonality.. I certainly never did. I am not a fan of it.

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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There is more to it than the scales. The tendencies of harmonic motion are different, which means throw out I-IV-V progressions and V-I cadences. In modal harmony 5 tends to go up, 3 goes up & 2 goes up & down. In tonal harmony 5 tends to go down, 3 goes down & 2 up.

Try these progressions out for the real modal feel.

Mixolydian: I-V-ii-vii-I

Dorian: i-III-IV-i

Ionian: I--IV-vi-iii-IV-I

Lydian: I-V-vii-II-I or I-V-II-I

Aeoilian: i-VI-VII-VII6-i

Phrygian: i-III-iv-vii6-i or i-iv-II-vii-i

Aeolian/Dorian: i-IV-VI-VII-i

 

E.M. Skinner, Casavant, Schlicker, Hradetzky, Dobson, Schoenstien, Abbott & Sieker.

Builder of tracker action and electro-pneumatic organs, and a builder of the largest church pipe organ in the world.

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There is more to it than the scales. The tendencies of harmonic motion are different, which means throw out I-IV-V progressions and V-I cadences. In modal harmony 5 tends to go up, 3 goes up & 2 goes up & down. In tonal harmony 5 tends to go down, 3 goes down & 2 up.

Try these progressions out for the real modal feel.

Mixolydian: I-V-ii-vii-I

Dorian: i-III-IV-i

Ionian: I--IV-vi-iii-IV-I

Lydian: I-V-vii-II-I or I-V-II-I

Aeoilian: i-VI-VII-VII6-i

Phrygian: i-III-iv-vii6-i or i-iv-II-vii-i

Aeolian/Dorian: i-IV-VI-VII-i

Hey there, what do you mean when you say In tonal harmony 5 tends to go down, 3 goes down & 2 up? Can you give a key and use actual examples.

C major is my favorite key for understanding. so in C major which goes up, etc? Thank you.

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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I have no doubt that C major is the favourite key for understanding for some of us. This is because, when you haven't done enough practice, you "think" better without having to work out sharps and flats. And the same "haven't done it" stuff leaves you short of musical growth, insights, understandings, and access to advanced performance.

 

Try thinking in sounds.

 

This will give you greater access to both diatonic major-minor harmony, and modal harmony.

 

I know this will be difficult and a challenge for people who accept stuff like, "To make the best music, I suspect thinking has to be suspended for the most part, if not entirely ", but it will lead to their rapid improvement and development.

 

Just because you don't understand what thinking is and how cognition underpins and works with our psycho-motor and affective processes doesn't entitle you to make such blind speculative statements.

 

MushMusic gave you some insights into modal harmony. Why not practice them, in all keys? This would be both technically relevant and developmentally appropriate for you.

 

 

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Hey Trapper.. I play in all keys - I play many standards in 12 keys, not all, but to one degree or another i play many standards in 12 keys. And I do it, without practising them.

You are limited by your over reliance on mind. Study Ouspensky or his teacher Gurdjieff or read Inner Game of Tennis or Golf.

I didn't literally mean all thinking stopped, though that would be an interesting experience, I would invite. I meant minimal thinking while playing. A similar point is made by Gurdjieff or Ouspensky regarding eg driving a car.. "he" said, you would drive very poorly if you literally thought about driving .. he spoke of another Center that performs the driving.. not thought - same idea in the Inner Game books.

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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Hi Shaka, much food for thought has been spreaded here, so as a jazz teacher, I'll try to just give a little practical approach to learning modes.

 

First, you should *not* think of a mode as a certain degree of a major or minor scale; that's too slow for musical thinking. You should think of each of them as a separate entity, and try to *visualize* them on the keyboard in terms of "peaks and valleys" of white and black keys.

 

To achive this goal, try this exercise: Starting with D for example, play the D major scale. Then play D dorian (as it were the 2nd degree of C major). Then D phrigian, D lydian, and so on. Do the same starting from every key. Also, do it while playing the corresponding chord with your left hand.

 

In my experience, this is an excellent way to memorize/visualize modes. Do the same with all sort of scales, like the diminished, augmented, whole-tone, "harmonic major", etc.

Please note that this is just a method to recognize modes quickly; it says nothing about their musical use, which is another matter altogether.

 

 

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