Practice The Way You Want To Play

Recently I had a Skype lesson with someone who wanted to learn more about practicing and while we talked about a lot of different elements of things to work on I forgot to mention one critical thing (that may be a good reminder for you):

When you’re practicing you should practice material the way you ultimately want to play it.

(Be forewarned – this simple sentence requires some context.)

When I was living in small apartments I was really mindful of other people and not disturbing them and made sure that when I practiced that I was really quiet.

Guess what happened when I went to play live?  You couldn’t hear me or make out a single thing I was playing.

You can’t practice something in a passive or lethargic way and expect to play it aggressively /dynamically / with conviction / in a way that creates a moment in a live context.

This is one reason I recommend that people work on specific licks or approaches for short periods of time as a big part of practice is examining nuance and attention to detail.

Here’s (one way) how I approach something new I need to learn in a practice session.

1.  Figure out what I’m playing (and why I’m working on it)

Even before I go to a metronome, I make sure I understand what I’m playing.  If I’m going to add it to my musical vocabulary – I need to understand how it fits in a context.  Examples of this would be:

“Ah..it’s a pentatonic based lick”
“It’s an arpeggio pattern based on harmonic minor chords”
“It’s a scale I’m not familiar with” (Then I need to learn that as well).

The why is generally, “it sounds cool.” but usually it’s tied to a specific song, solo or approach for something I’m going to play in front of people or record.

2.  Figure out where to put all my fingers

Again, still no sign of a metronome yet!  Here I’m looking at the fretboard shapes involved and make sure that I understand what I need to do physically to perform it.  Recently, I was working on a descending scalar pattern for an original tune and realized that the fingering I was using was really difficult and didn’t sound that great.  Even playing it at the slowest possible tempo, it was difficult to get the articulation I wanted.  After about 5 minutes of running options, I discovered a string skipping shape that made it much easier t play and (more importantly) sounded better.

Included in this step is also  addressing what the fingers of the picking or tapping hand need to do.

3.  Understand the phrasing

Usually I’ll try to sing along with the line to help internalize it.  I’m not a vocalist.  You’ll never hear me on American idol.  I don’t do it because it sounds good, I do it so I can really internalize the rhythms and the phrasing.  Tapping my foot helps a lot with that as well…..

I heard a guitarist of some renown play recently and I was shocked at just how bad the phrasing on his tunes was.  Every note was played in the right order but it just didn’t sound musical at all.

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Set a metronome marking

There are a couple of ways I’ll do this but in general I’ll find the fastest tempo I can perform the idea following the 3 T’s (Tone, Timing and hand tension and by “perform” I mean playing it totally in the pocket and every note jumping out at the listener.) and then move it up a few metronome markings until it starts to fall apart.

One place where I think some people get hung up on this is (on the physical side of practicing) equating playing with conviction = playing aggressively = playing with excessive tension.  As the saying goes,

“Tension is trying to be where I think I should be”
“Relaxed is being where I am”

Take your time getting to this step if you need to!  I might be practicing the idea for a couple of sessions before I even get to the point where I can play it in time.  I work on playing the phrase with conviction and intent and then worry about tempo.  Playing all the notes on the guitar quickly doesn’t mean much if you can’t move listeners when doing so.

Eventually, you’ll get to the point where your overall level comes up and you can start playing things closer to the tempo you hear it.

5.  Do.  Observe. Correct (if necessary).

That’s the crux of it right there.  Not getting emotional about what you’re doing or getting hung up on where you should be – just performing it.  Observing what worked.  Correct if necessary.  If I can play something 3-5 times without a mistake – I’ll generally bump up the metronome a few markings and try it again.

(Make sure to check out The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life by Thomas M. Sterner for more on this.  I had another descriptive but I liked his description of “Do Observe Correct” so much that I use it in my own teaching now)

6.  Keep track of what I’m doing and work on it daily

This is an old topic for me but daily focused work makes the difference.  Writing it down let’s you see what kind of progress you’re making.

As a shortcut think of it this way (I stole this from a book that is definitely worth reading – The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive by Jim Afremo)

You want to practice like you’re the number 2 player in the world and have something to prove.  Practice with grit and drive and instead of being totally focused on the end goal – try to be engaged in the process of what you’re doing.

Having said that, when you play or perform – you want to do so like the #1 players in the world.  Those players play with no tension.  Their hands are lose and relaxed and they’re focused but not over-focused.

If you practice in an engaged manner you’re more likely to perform in an engaged manner and that’s a good thing.

There’s a lot more to practice than what I’ve outlined here (If you check the blueprints page you’ll see a lot of material specifically related to guitar practicing) – but I really think that the steps I outlined offer a reasonable starting point and (perhaps more importantly) can be applied to any skill set you want to achieve.

That’s it for now!  I hope this helps and as always thanks for reading!

-SC

The Modal Microscope And A Sequenced Arpeggio Approach

Hello everyone!

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I’ve been cleaning up a lot of the text for the GuitArchitecture book releases and wanted to post a lesson that uses some ideas and approaches from my Melodic Patterns book (available here).  But first, I need to talk about…

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The Modal Microscope

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When I explain using modes to students – I typically use the analogy of a microscope to discuss viewing modes conceptually on multiple levels.

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Let’s say I want to solo over a D min7 chord.  So I’ll put that “under the microscope”.

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On the 2x setting, I see that a number of minor modes will work over D min7.  In this case,  I’ll choose Dorian.

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Going to the 4x setting on the microscope, I see that Dorian is made up of a series of interlocking 2-string patterns.

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Note: 

If you’re unfamiliar with the 2-string approach I’m discussing I definitely recommend that you check out part 2, part 3a or part 3b of my guide to modes posts.

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If I go to the 8x setting, I can break the 2-string patterns down into 1 string shapes and going to a higher resolution (16x) I can see those shapes as individual notes.  At the 16x setting – maybe I’m looking at the individual notes of D min7 (D, F, A and C) and thinking about accenting those notes in my playing.

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If I now go out to the 1x setting – I see that D Dorian is just a subset of C major.  The thing is if you go playing a bunch of C major scales over D dorian and don’t resolve anything (or focus on the chord tones) – you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.

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It’s good to understand modes on multiple levels but if you see how all of the related modes interlock with each other, then (using the microscope analogy), you can deal with using modes with chords on the 1x or 2x level but use information from the higher levels in your playing.

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Putting this to use:

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I’ve posted a number of technical things here and decided to use a much lower gain approach than normal and slow things down a bit.  The same practice points as before (Tone, Tension and Timing) apply – but this exercise is all about how to find variations in small things.  (If you like the technical things don’t worry I’ve included some deceptively tricky variations as well!)

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Let’s take a 2-string G Major shape.

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The nice things about 2-string patterns like this is that the fingering repeats at each octave.  (So you only need to remember one fingering for a multi octave run).

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One process I explore in my Melodic Patterns book is systematically breaking down patterns to get new sounds out of them.  In this case, I’m going to remove the 2nd and 4th note from the pattern which leaves me with this shape:

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Looking closely at the notes reveals that I have a G, B, C and E which is a C maj7 arpeggio. By limiting it to a  2-string shape,  I can move it in octaves and the fingering stays the same.

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Note:

The drums are the same pattern I’ve used on my other posts, so you can play against it for any other the things I post here (more info below).

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.(I’ve added a C maj7 chord in front of this to give a sense of tonality.)

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Going to a higher resolution

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I know that G parent major also contains A Dorian – which works well over A minor chords.  So playing this shape over A minor the notes – now become: b7 (G), 9 (B), b3 (C) and 5th (E).  Which has a cool sound associated with it.  (I’ve subbed out A min7 for C maj 7 here for the opening chord).

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Sequencing the ideas:

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However cool any scale or arpeggio is, playing it in a linear up and down manner will only get you so far.  By playing groups of notes in short sequences, the arpeggio gains a little melodic drive.

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In this first variation I’ll play groups of 3 (So I’m playing 3 ascending notes from each note of the arpeggio).  One way to immediately make this more interesting is to break the 3 note grouping out of the triplet rhythm.  Playing the same pattern in 16ths – displaces the first note of each pattern across different beats.

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Here’s the same idea descending: (This is another case where the microscope idea comes into play.  The A note ending the phrase isn’t part of the 4 note arpeggio – but gives the descending line a sense of resolution.  Since I’m seeing and hearing the phrase as an A minor tonality – I’m resolving it to the tonic (A),  third (C) or 5th (E).

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For a little variety –  I’ve taken the same idea but played it as sextuplets instead.  I’ve notated the first bar of it (as the notes are the same as the patterns above) – but I play it ascending and descending on the mp3 below.

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5 alive

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To get a little more mileage out of this arpeggio, I’m going to play the notes in groups of 5.  Here it is in a 1/16 note rhythm (I’ve left off the last 2 notes to keep it on one line).

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Technical note:

Watch the position skip on the A/D and the B/ G strings!!

Here it is as septuplets (5 notes to the beat).

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Changing the note order

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You may have noticed that all of these arpeggios use a linear note order in the sequence.  So if G is the first note of the 1st pattern and B is the 2nd note – every pattern moves in straight ascending or descending order.

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3 Note Pattern: G, B, C/B, C, E/C, E, G

in note order = 1,2, 3/2, 3, 4/ 3, 4, 1 etc.

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But what if we varied up the note order?  In this example, I’m going to take play groups of 3 descending notes on each ascending note of the arpeggio. (So instead of playing note numbers 1,2 3  – I’m playing 3-2-1).

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Here it is descending:

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Displacing the rhythm by a 1/16 makes it cooler.

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And again, descending:

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Obligatory Plug

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I’m only scratching the surface of what’s possible here.  The big takeway here is – if you really go deep on even something small – you can probably find interesting things that will work in your playing.

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I would also be remiss in not mentioning that my melodic patterns book shows every possible unique combination of notes (and rests) in 1 – 6 note shapes and then shows how to combine them into longer sequences (up to 9 note patterns).  It is a deep resource that can open all manner of melodic and compositional doors (and makes a great gift as well!) ; )

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Tones

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I went with another tonal variation here and tried some of the lower gain settings on the Scuffham amp AU.  It’s a cool product and I should have a review up soon.  In the meantime – he’s a screenshot of the laptop set up I used to track this:

Click to see full size

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I‘ve mentioned this in the laptop guitar posts – but the varispeed is a useful plug-in!  When I get bored with a metronome sound – I’ll throw a drum loop into the AU fileplayer and then use the varispeed to control the speed of the loop.

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As always, I hope this helps!

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-SC

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If you like this post, you may also like:

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Books:

LESSONS

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Slash and Burn – Creating More Complex Sounds With Slash Chords

The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes Part 8 – Major Positional Modal Interchange and Complimenting Modes with Chords

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 7 – MINOR POSITIONAL MODAL INTERCHANGE AND COMPLIMENTING MODES WITH CHORDS

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THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 6 – THE CIRCLE OF 5THS AND MODAL INTERCHANGE

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

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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

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

Making Music Out Of Scales

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Chords/Triads/Superimposition/Arpeggios:

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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RECYCLING CHORDS PART II: TRIAD TRANSFORMATION

RECYCLING CHORDS PART I OR WHERE’S THE ROOT?

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FAVORED CURRY OR SPICING UP CHORD SCALES AND TRIADS PART 2

FAVORED CURRY OR SPICING UP CHORD SCALES AND TRIADS PART 1

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RECYCLING SHAPES OR MODULAR ARPEGGIOS FOR FUN AND PROFIT

GLASS NOODLES – ADAPTING A PHILIP GLASS ARPEGGIO APPROACH TO GUITAR

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Practicing:

MELVILLE, MADNESS AND PRACTICING – OR FINDING THE DEEPER LESSON PART 2

Some Useful Online Practice Tools

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

TESTING YOUR VOCABULARY OR PRACTICING PART VI

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PLAY OR PRACTICING PART V

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DEFINITIONS AND DOCUMENTS OR PRACTICING PART IV

TENSION AND THE SODA CAN OR PRACTICING PART III

PROPER POSTURE IS REQUIRED FOR PROPER PERFORMANCE – PRACTICING PART II

PRACTICE MAKES BETTER AKA PRACTICING PART I

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The Ballad Of Cigar-Boy Or Threading Unlikely Connections Together Through Unison Tapping

The Story of Cigar Boy

has  moved!  You can find the all new and improved version here! (http://www.guitar-muse.com/unlikely-connections-unison-tapping-7805)

Slash and Burn – Creating More Complex Sounds With Slash Chords

Hello all,

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I wanted to take a break from the excerpts from the modes book I’ve been posting and post a lesson that’s based on material from my new Harmonic Combinatorics Book.  In that book, I have an entire section about using triads and 7th chords to create more complex sounds.

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Here’s the two sentence synopsis:

  • Playing a minor chord (or arpeggio) a 1/2 step below a major triad implies a Lydian sound by giving you upper chord tensions (7, 9, #11) of that major chord. (i.e. B minor/C).
  • Playing a minor chord (or arpeggio) a step above a minor triad implies a Dorian sound by giving you the upper chord tensions (9, 11, 13) of the minor chord. (i.e. playing B minor over A minor).

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Seeing (and making sense of ) the bigger picture:

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When beginning players see a 3rd position C major chord they see something like this:

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But an experienced player sees something more like this:

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One of the secrets to seeing more of the fretboard is to see chord tones relationally.  I’ll show you how to do that by applying some of the approaches from a previous Triad Transformation lesson:

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Taking a C major chord:

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C Major Triad

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(here’s a reference chord):

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Lowering the root a 1/2 step gives you a major 7 chord:

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C Major 7

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C Major 7:

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Lowering the 3rd a 1/2 step gives you a 9th.  Since there’s no other 3rd in the chord – this becomes a slash chord of G Major over C (written G/C).  It has a lot of the sound of a major 9th chord – but because it’s missing the 3rd it really only implies the tonality.

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G / C

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G/C:

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If you want this to sound like a Major 9th, we’ll need to add a 3rd in as well.

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C Major 9

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C Maj 9

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Lowering the 5th a 1/2 step gives us the #4 (aka the # 11).  Here I’ve kept the 3rd to make it a Major 9 (#11) chord.

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C Major 9 (#11)

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C Maj 9 (#11)

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Notice that if we lower the root  a 1/2 step – we have a B minor triad:

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B Minor

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So, as a short cut,  playing a B minor over C we imply the sound of a C major  9 (#11) chord without having to memorize a separate voicing.

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Melodic Application

This extends into lead playing as well.  Rather than just playing a C major arpeggio over a C chord, here I’ve replaced the bottom note of a B minor arpeggio with a C and resolved it to C:

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B min / C  or C Lydian Lick

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C Lydian lick (louder than the chord mp3s- FYI):

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Here’s another chord voicing of B minor/C:

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B minor / C

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When I see voicings that use the middle notes of the 7th fret,  I generally try to think of ways to incorporate harmonics into it.  In this example, I’ve added harmonics in to fill out a B minor arpeggio with some encircling to resolve it to C. I forgot the fermata on the first chord – but you’ll figure it out when you hear the mp3.

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B min / C aka C Lydian Lick 2

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C Lydian Lick 2:

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Now we’ll take this in a different direction:  playing B minor over A minor implies a cool A minor 13 sound.  I’ve added an A to lick #1, and a semi-chromatic run that skips the 3rd and makes it a more open sound.

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B min / A min – A Dorian Lick

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B min/A Dorian Lick:

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I’ve resolved the lines to the root notes of the chords I’m playing over – but you may want to stay on a tension depending on the context.

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With any approach like this – always use your ears as a guide for what sounds good and what doesn’t.

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The Quiz:

Did you notice anything about the C major voicings?  Using a B minor triad doesn’t take it to the 13th.

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In any chord tone voicing, raising the 5th a step gives you the 6th (if no 7th is in the chord) or  (in this case) the 13th  So using our initial voicings, the easiest way to bring in the 13th is to raise the G on the high E string to A.

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B min 7 / C Implying C maj 13 (#11)

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Looking at at a little deeper,

if we fully spell out this chord:

  • C (root)
  • E (3rd)
  • G (5th)
  • B (7th)
  • D (9th)
  • F# (#11) and
  • A (13)

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the top 3 notes form a D major chord.  As a modified rule for playing over a major chord:

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  • Playing a minor chord (or arpeggio) a 1/2 step below a major triad implies a Lydian sound by giving you upper chord tensions (7, 9 and #11) of that major chord. (i.e. B minor/C).
  • Playing a major chord (or arpeggio) a step above a major triad also implies a Lydian sound by giving you the upper chord tensions (9, #11 and 13) of the minor chord. (i.e. playing D/C).

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As with any material here, pay attention to the 3 T’s (Timing, (hand) Tension and Tone) and just go through the lesson at your own pace and return to it as you need to.

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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:

.

MAKING MUSIC OUT OF SCALES

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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RECYCLING CHORDS PART II: TRIAD TRANSFORMATION

RECYCLING CHORDS PART I OR WHERE’S THE ROOT?

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FAVORED CURRY OR SPICING UP CHORD SCALES AND TRIADS PART 2

FAVORED CURRY OR SPICING UP CHORD SCALES AND TRIADS PART 1

A BRIEF THOUGHT ABOUT MUSIC THEORY

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The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes Part 8 – Major Positional Modal Interchange and Complimenting Modes with Chords

Welcome to the part eight 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 adapting minor chords to modes and modal interchange.  In this lesson – I’m going to apply the same process to major chords.

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Note:

I’ve outlined this process thoroughly in part 7, so if you have questions – just check the instructions there.

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One Chord Modal Interchange Exercise – Major

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 Of the parent major scale modes I’ve been covering – there are 3 that can be used over an A major chord:

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  • A Lydian (E major):

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A Lydian – Click to enlarge

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  • A Ionian (A Major):

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A Ionian – Click to enlarge

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  • A Mixolydian (D major):

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A Mixolydian – Click to enlarge

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Here’s the major-based chord progression:

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Repeat each bar 2-4 times ** Click to enlarge**

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Here are the steps (repeated from Part 7):

  • Record or loop the pattern in time 
  • Playing over the loop practice switching modes each bar.  I’ve outlined the fingerings above (see earlier posts in the series if you want to see how I derived them) with a sample rhythm.  As an initial step – just practice ascending and descending the patterns in a scalar fashion.
  • As the level of familiarity with the modal interchanges increases, try removing the repeats and increasing the tempo (thus increasing the difficulty level).

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Note:

Make sure you don’t start every bar with the low A root!

The goal of this is to be able to switch between modes “mid-stream”.   As a first step, when playing these ascending and descending make sure that wherever you are in the pattern ascending or descending that you transition into the next mode smoothly.  The initial goal here isn’t speed – it’s fluidity and being in control of switching between modes.

(See the melodic note below for some other tips once you get comfortable with the transition).

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Now let’s examine each chord (and mode) individually:

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  • First measure: A Major

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A Major – Play A Lydian, A Ionian or A Mixolydian – Click to enlarge

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The modes could be played over this chord are:

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A Lydian (recommended), A Ionian (be careful of the 4th) and A Mixolydian

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  • Measure 2: A Major 7

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Lowering the root to G# creates an A major 7 chord – which works with either A Lydian or A Ionian.

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A Major 7 – Play A Lydian or A Ionian – Click to enlarge

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  • Measure 3:  Lowering the G# to G produces an A7 – stick with A Mixolydian for this one.

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A7 – Play A Mixolydian – Click to enlarge

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  • Measure 4:  I’m going to start the process of chromatically ascending certain pitches rather than descending.  So I’ll go back to A Major here.

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  • Measure 5:  Raising the 3rd (C#) a 1/2 step to D produces an Asus4 chord.  The #4 in Lydian will clash with the natural 4th – so go with Ionian or Mixolydian for this one.

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A sus4 – Play A Ionian or A Mixolydian – Click to enlarge

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  • Measure 6: Raising the 4th another 1/2 step results in an A major (add #11) – a chord firmly in the domain of A Lydian.

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A Major (add #11) – Play A Lydian – Click to enlarge

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The chord progression then goes back to A major where any of the 3 modes could be used.

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Notes:

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  • Harmonic – If you’re playing with another musician try taking this one chord vamp idea and using your ear to change the chord when the soloist changes modes.  You can make other chordal alterations as well creating melodic movement in the voicing –  is a great approach to use both in comping on a single chord as well as creating melodic movement between 2 chords (more on that in another lesson).

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  • Melodic – As the soloist in this approach – try to change modes then the rhythm player changes chords.  As soon as you get comfortable with the shapes – try making melodies and taking them through each modal change.  (See part 5  for an example of that process with one modal shape).

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The nice thing about playing with human beings (rather than sequences) is that people can introduce random factors into playing.  A person can make all kinds of melodic or harmonic decisions that require the other person to change and adapt.  It develops a dialog and allows people to become more attune to playing with other people (and ultimately more musical).

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The next lesson will cover a go a little deeper into modal chord progressions and offer some new challenges.  As before, just go through the lesson at your own pace and return to it as you need to.  Also 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:

.

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 7 – MINOR POSITIONAL MODAL INTERCHANGE AND COMPLIMENTING MODES WITH CHORDS

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 6 – THE CIRCLE OF 5THS AND MODAL INTERCHANGE

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

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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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The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes Part 7 – Minor Positional Modal Interchange and Complimenting Modes with Chords

Welcome to the seventh 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 the modes and the circle of 5ths.  In this lesson, I’m going to:

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  • show how to modify a minor chord to cover minor modal interchanges and
  • show how to switch modal patterns in position

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Complimenting Modes with Chords

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A lot of print has been used to describe how modes fit with chords but substantially less has been written about modifying chords to fit various modes. I’ve developed this approach as an introductory way to work on modal interchange it does three things:

  • Limits harmonic content to simplify the modal interchange process
  • show a way to modify chords to work with modes and
  • develops the skill set for changing modes in position.

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(All useful skills to have – btw).  Since I’ve been dealing with C major – I’m going to look at A minor (the relative minor chord) first.

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One Chord Modal Interchange Exercise – Minor

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Before we get into the exercise, let’s make sure we’re clear about the modes we’ll be using.  Of the parent major scale modes I’ve covered – there are 3 that can be used over an A minor chord:

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  • A Dorian (G major):

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Click to enlarge

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  • A Aeolian (C major):

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Click to enlarge

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  • A Phrygian (F major):

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Click to enlarge

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Here’s the accompaniment pattern:

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Repeat each bar 2-4 times ** Click to enlarge**

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Here are the steps:

  • Record or loop the pattern in time 
  • Playing over the loop practice switching modes each bar.  I’ve outlined the fingerings above (see earlier posts in the series if you want to see how I derived them) with a sample rhythm.  As an initial step – just practice ascending and descending the patterns in a scalar fashion.
  • As the level of familiarity with the modal interchanges increases, try removing the repeats and increasing the tempo (thus increasing the difficulty level).

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Note:

Make sure you don’t start every bar with the low A root!

The goal of this is to be able to switch between modes “mid-stream”.   As a first step, when playing these ascending and descending make sure that wherever you are in the pattern ascending or descending that you transition into the next mode smoothly.  The initial goal here isn’t speed – it’s fluidity and being in control of switching between modes.

(See the melodic note below for some other tips once you get comfortable with the transition).

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Now let’s examine each chord (and mode) individually:

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  • First measure: arpeggiate a minor chord in 4/4 time (in this case A minor).

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A minor – Play A Dorian, A Aeolian or A Phrygian – Click to enlarge

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In order of increasing darkness, the modes could be played over that chord are:

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A Dorian, A Aeolian and A Phrygian

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  • Measure 2: adapt the chord to a specific mode using the mode’s characteristic note.

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The first mode explored in this example will be A Phrygian.  Since Phrygian’s characteristic note is the b2, I’ll change the 2nd root (A) with the b2 (Bb) creating an A minor (add b9).

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A minor add b9 – Play A Phrygian – Click to enlarge

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  • Measure 3:  I’ll continue the chromatic motion on the G string changing the Bb to B natural. This produces an A minor (add 9).

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A minor add 9 – Play A Dorian or A Aeolian – Click to enlarge

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  • Measure 4:  Now the 5th of the chord (E) will move chromatically to F, emphasizing the b6 of the Aeolian mode creating an A minor (add 9, b6) chord.

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A minor add 9 add b6 – Play A Aeolian – click to enlarge

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  • Measure 5:  The 6th of the chord will now move chromatically to F#  emphasizing the natural 6 of the Dorian mode and creating an A minor (add 6, 9) chord.

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A minor add 6, 9 – Play A Dorian – Click to enlarge

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The chord progression then goes back to A minor where any of the 3 modes could be used.

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Notes:

  • Harmonic – If you’re playing with another musician try taking this one chord vamp idea and using your ear to change the chord when the soloist changes modes.  You can make other chordal alterations as well creating melodic movement in the voicing –  is a great approach to use both in comping on a single chord as well as creating melodic movement between 2 chords (more on that in another lesson).

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  • Melodic – As the soloist in this approach – try to change modes then the rhythm player changes chords.  As soon as you get comfortable with the shapes – try making melodies and taking them through each modal change.  (See part 5  for an example of that process with one modal shape).

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The nice thing about playing with human beings (rather than sequences) is that people can introduce random factors into playing.  A person can make all kinds of melodic or harmonic decisions that require the other person to change and adapt.  It develops a dialog and allows people to become more attune to playing with other people (and ultimately more musical).

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The next lesson will cover Major chord variations in this same style.  But if you want to get a head start the process is the same as what I just covered, the characteristic notes for the major modes are:

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Lydian: #4

Major: Natural 7

Mixolydian: b7

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As before, just go through the lesson at your own pace and return to it as you need to.  Also 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:

.

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 6 – THE CIRCLE OF 5THS AND MODAL INTERCHANGE

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

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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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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:

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

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