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Trying to get in the modes mode . . .


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I wish I knew more about modes and modal improvisation . . .


But where to start?


There is alot of brief modal discussion in some of the books I own, but they never go in much detail. What is the best way to practice and memorize them? Should I incorporate them with my scale practice? What modes are the most important to us keyboarders? How do you incorporate them in linear or chordal improv?


Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . .

Amateur Hack
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Pick a mode, any mode, and improvise in it and don't move out of it. Dorian's a good one to start with. Modes like phrygian and locrian sound stranger to the ear, but perhaps hold more promise for streching your ear. As far as chords, build them out of the eight notes of the mode. Don't even worry about figuring out what the chords are. Just pick three or four notes, play them as a chord, improvise over it, alter one of the chord tones by a step or half step (the result needs to be one of the notes in the mode), repeat. Wander. See where the mode leads you. If you stumble across something you like, you'll be able to figure out what you were playing without too much trouble.


Listen to Miles. No one did it better.

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One other thing. Don't transpose your improvisation unconsciously to the root of the mode your playing in. In other words, if your playing mixolydian, don't let yourself think ionian. They're the same notes, but they sound different. It's very easy to do when playing in an unfamiliar mode, and it ruins the effect.
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