The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 6 – The Circle of 5ths and Modal Interchange

Welcome to the sixth installment of the GuitArcitecture Mode Visualization lesson series.

If you see anything unfamiliar here, you may want to check out:

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In the last lesson, I took a look at using one fingering pattern to play all of the modes.  I wanted to get the sounds under your fingers a little bit and then start to explain a context for them a little more.

In this lesson, I’m going to go into modal interchange more in-depth.  To get deeper into modes, we need to talk about Relative Modes versus Parallel Modes, examine tonal centers and keys and talk about Modal Interchange.

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Organizing the sounds of the different modes:

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  • While the different modes of a parent major scale all contain the same notes, each mode has a unique sound.
  • For the purposes of this lesson, modes of the major scale will fall into one of two (overly general) categories (Major or Minor) based on their third scale degree.
  • The sounds of the modes are based on their scale formulaTheir scale formula is based on their relationship to their parallel major mode. 

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For Example:

To determine the scale  formula of, say,  C Mixolydian, the notes of C Mixolydian would be compared to the notes of a C major scale.

  • Since C Mixolydian is spelled C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb, and
  • C Major is spelled C, D, E, F, G, A, B,
  • the scale formula of C Mixolydian is b7.

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Relative versus Parallel Major 

C major is the relative major scale to A natural minor (A Aeolian) because both are part of the same parent major scale

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C major is the parallel major scale of C natural minor (C Aeolian).

In this case they share a common root, but C natural minor has a different parent major scale than C major.

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Here’s a table that shows the  parallel modes of C Major and their scale formula.

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The Tonal Cycle of 5ths

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Listing the modes in order of scale degree (Ionian, Dorian, etc.) is one way to work through the modes but a  more logical way to see the relationship of the modes is to place them in a tonal circle of 5ths.  So first let’s talk about the circle of 5ths versus the tonal circle.

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The circle of 5ths:

The circle of fifths is a way to see all of the major and minor keys and key signatures in a logical order.  The Wikipedia page on it offers an excellent detailed explanation –  but seeing the actual circle will help clear things up.

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Circle of 5ths taken from Wikipedia.com

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From the pitch C :

  • moving in clockwise motion, the number of sharps in a key signature increase sequentially with each tonal center a 5th away. (C, G, D, A etc.)
  • moving in counterclockwise motion the number of flats in a key signature increase sequentially with each tonal center a 4th away. (C, F, Bb, Eb etc.)

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This is a very handy and compact way to see tonal centers and relative major/minor scales – but adapting it to a tonal circle of 5ths will help clarify modes in a very unique way.

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The Tonal Cycle of 5ths:

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In a tonal circle of 5ths, the circle moves in diatonic 5ths (and thus stays in a particular key).  In the key of C it looks like this:

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The next note in a circle of 5ths after B would be F#, but keeping it in a tonal cycle of 5ths the key of C major, the next note would be F natural.

Now that we have a tonal cycle of 5ths in C Major, let’s fill in the modes associated with each note of C Major.

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Now let’s insert the scale formula of each mode:

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Note:

the scale formula is listed as a series of cumulative alterations rather than sequential.

In general, the more flats in the modal scale formula, the darker the sound.

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Modal Interchange

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The key to using these to create modal sounds is what is called Modal Interchange.

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As a simplified definition –  a mode associated with a specific chord will work over the same chord in any other key.  In other words, D Dorian could be played over any D minor 7 chord in any other key that has a D minor 7 chord in it.

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Rather than thinking of modal ideas when I play,  an easier way (for me) to think about modal sounds is to think of parent scales since all the modes are derived from a parent scale (and it’s less to keep track of).

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If I’m playing a song in the key of F major:

  • soloing over a Dm7 chord
  • and playing the notes from the C parent major scale over that chord
  • I’m playing in D Dorian.

If I use notes from the F major scale, I’m playing in D Aeolian.

If I use notes from the Bb major scale, I’m playing in D Phrygian.

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Since I’ve been dealing with C major – I’ll give a C parallel mode example:

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If you want a C Lydian sound – you’re really talking about playing a G parent major scale over a C Major / C Major 7th) chord or a C major chord progression.  Here’s a shortcut:

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Note (repeated from part 5):

This is a tricky area.  While I use a parent scale approach to visualize how I solo over chords, I am aware of the chord tones (and tensions) and tend to focus on those melodically.

Just running up and down a scale isn’t going to help you really nail changes in the long run, it’s just going to fill space that often doesn’t need filling sonically.

That being said, the first step in any playing process is knowing where to put your fingers – so working through scales is as good a place to start as any….

For beginning or intermediate players new to this – like I said before,  just worry about associating the modes, fingerings and sounds for now.

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Next Steps

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In the next part of this series I’m going to give some major and minor positional approaches and talk about a cool way to use modes to modify chords.  In the meantime you may want to familiarize yourself with the shapes in part 3b of the lesson series.

As before, just go through the lesson at your own pace and return to it as you need to and please feel free to post any questions you might have (or pm me at guitar.blueprint@gmail.com).

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I hope this helps and as always, thanks for reading!

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-SC

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P.S. If you like this post – you may also like:

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THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 5 – MAKING THE MOST OF ONE PATTERN

The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 4 – Modes and Chords

THE GUITARCHITECT’S POSITIONAL EXPLORATION PRE-RELEASE NOW AVAILABLE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3B – SEEING THE SIX-STRING MAJOR SCALE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3A – SEEING THE SIX-STRING MAJOR SCALE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 2 – SEEING THE TWO STRING MAJOR SCALE

The GuitArchitecture Guide To Modes Part 1 – Seeing The Single String Major Scale

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Making Music Out Of Scales

A BRIEF THOUGHT ABOUT MUSIC THEORY

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PRACTICE MAKES BETTER AKA PRACTICING PART I

PROPER POSTURE IS REQUIRED FOR PROPER PERFORMANCE – PRACTICING PART II

TENSION AND THE SODA CAN OR PRACTICING PART III

DEFINITIONS AND DOCUMENTS OR PRACTICING PART IV

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PLAY OR PRACTICING PART V

TESTING YOUR VOCABULARY OR PRACTICING PART VI

POSSESSION IS 9/10S OF THE LAW BUT PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING OR PRACTICING PART VII

SOME USEFUL ONLINE PRACTICE TOOLS

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GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 3

Getting Hipness From A Major Triad Or More Chord Recycling Part 2

GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 1

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Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 3

Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 2

GETTING THROUGH THE GIG – NEGOTIATING A CHORD CHART PART 1

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WARMING UP: FINGER EXERCISES, THE 3 T’S AND THE NECESSITY OF MISTAKES

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