I’ve recently begun a quest to educate myself re: modes. I guess I’ve always used them sub-consciously, but I’m making a concerted effort to burn them in. I’ve been playing them over a droning Root tone, but would appreciate any chord progression input to further my education. What are some of your favorites?

Mixolydian is very tasty, and of course Aeolian is very useful as well. Phrygian has its (dark) place.

However, it’s best not to think of them as a single state and more like snapshots that you move beween.

I think he means favorite chord progressions (i.e. to practice the mode changes over) vice the favorite modes themselves.

Aloha N,

IMHO the quintessential ‘modes’ album is ‘Kind of Blue’ by Miles.
Search the intertoob for some MIDI tracks to play/practice over.

Good Luck!
Wonderful to see ‘growth’.


Dorian has always been my personal fave… funky as hell!
And phrygian is nice too… it is very easy to be dark with it as has been said but it’s also pretty easy for giving something an ‘exotic’ or ‘eastern’ flavour too :smiley:

Keep in mind that while it is very kool and quite rewarding learning/playing this stuff
by yourself or with 'puter ‘tracks’ etc, when you do this stuff with a band and everyone
is playing in the same modal mindset, it is ‘pure music magic’.

But a band playing modally can also be quite terrible.
‘Jazz Oddessy’ —Spinal Tap :slight_smile:


The point Steve seems to completely miss is that you need to have the tools in your toolbox to be able to use them at will. Maybe he thinks he’s better than Joe Satriani and the way he approaches guitar method. If you don’t have anything constructive to add to the thread’s topic, why bother? :wink:

And many attempt the same approach. (only with mucho chops) :slight_smile:

I agree. Gotta have knowledge first, before you can expect anything to come in on it’s own naturally. Doesn’t mean you have to be a genius who graduated from Juilliard, but you need a foundation of some regard.



You MUST have some theoretical understanding of theory (whether it be Jazz/Classical/Indian/Arabic…or whatever) in order to create.

The distinction between the most common two types of musician is that some people need LOTS of tuition and studying (ie. those who go to music college), and people who have (say) 6 x months tuition and can (for instance) be shown a simple ‘12 Bar Blues’ progression and then they advance and advance at an incredible rate, and get so much milage out of a short amount of tuition and snippet of theory. Most of us are the former and of course the very talented and gifted are the latter.


Did too… did too!!! :laughing:

Sorry to drag this back up, but I disagree. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 13 years old in my parents basement. I am not ashamed to admit that I don’t know the first thing about theory. I have managed to teach myself scales and chords and I recognize the names of the different modes that have been mentioned, but I couldn’t play in one if my life depended on it. I play by ear. I’m an ear player. I can still manage to sit in with just about any group (except maybe jazz) and hold my own. By ear. I’ve been writing since I was in my teens (I’m 54 now). I’ve never sought a formal music education. I did have to take a music appreciation class in school. I played in school bands growing up (violin, trumpet, saxophone) so I did learn to read the treble clef (most of which is forgotten). I can read chord charts, Nashville numbers, and fake my way through a fake book by looking at the guitar chords. I take offense to the statement that these facts make it impossible for me to create. I’ve got one CD released already and 2 more in the can ready to send off for copyrights. I auditioned for a semi-famous beach band several years back that refused to hire me because I couldn’t read or make horn charts for the horn players. I know good and well I could have pulled the gig off and done a great job (aside from spoon-feeding the horn players) without reading skills. I can hear a song and learn my parts. Been doing it for 40 some years now.

Now, could I have gone farther? Been more successful? Gotten a recording contract? or even written more solid songs if I HAD a formal music education? I suppose so. I’m almost betting on it. I’m currently back in school working on a degree in computer science but plan to take as many electives in music as I can. Maybe it will help. I’ve known plenty of players in my time that went off to Julliard, MIT, School of the Arts, Music Conservatories, etc. and came back with no ability to improvise. They lost their “ear”. They are now so grounded in the “rules” that they forgot what drew them to music in the first place. I have always been afraid that would happen to me. No, my music is not complex. It does not have musical gymnastics in it. But it comes from my heart. I feel it. I breathe it. I attempt to capture it in Cubase. I just get tired of being treated as a “second-class citizen” in the music community. What I create is just as valid as what Jordan Rudess creates (just nowhere near as complex). Does that make me any less of a musician? If my wife and daughter are the only ones in the world who enjoy and appreciate my music, then that’s okay with me too. I’ll just keep doing what I do. You may not like my music, but some do. That’s all I’m gonna say for now. I just saw that comment and it hit a nerve.

@Paul - I know you didn’t mean that to be directed at me and I didn’t take it personally.

Nice post Brad. I completely agree that you can be a fantastic musician without the theory. The guitarist in the band I play in is really good, but he can only read the basic chords and that’s it, as soon as it involves sheet music or complex chords he has no idea, but he can play it all by ear.
It can be difficult at times when communicating, but in practice it’s more like a language barrier than something that limits his musical ability. I’ll be the first to admit I too sometimes get impatient with him so I can understand Paul’s sentiments too. It’s just a different breed of musician really, not necessarily inferior.

The “rules” do not change based upon whether you ever bothered to learn them or not. You either have learned them (to some degree), and can communicate with others based on such a common language, and maybe pick stuff up faster; or you “never learned any of that junk and can just play by ear” in which case you are doing the exact same thing but cannot describe or accurately communicate it.

Either way, the “rules” are still there.

And they’re not really “rules”, more like “guidelines”.

Sure man, no worries ! :wink:

Super Lochrian. Huge Bill Evans fan here. :wink:


As i say, there are some people who are (without any doubt whatsoever) born to be musicians. And many of these have zero formal training at all (like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, etc etc). But HOW MANY OF THEM COME ALONG IN A LIFE TIME !! ??

The rest of us have to learn from and try to adopt the mindset and intillectual level of these musical giants. And we do this thru COPYING (whether that be singing along to, playing an instrument in unison with, transcribing note for note, or whatever). And by doing this (REPETITION) teaches us DISCIPLINE !! Music is an art-form and like all art-forms it requires DISCIPLINE. And the required amount of discipline can be attained via the afforementioned 3 x methods of ‘copying’).

So, to be a little fairer and less black&white about the matter, YES it is possible to gain all these skills without going to music college or having a tutor. However, you will be limited to your choice of instrument for sure. For instance, i am quite certain that it would be near impossible to learn an instrument (to even a very elementary level) such as the Church Organ, Sitar, or French Horn without formal study.

(btw - i am talking about learning the skills to be able to play/improvise/read/compose etc on a physical musical instrument here and not ‘computer generated music’).



The above can be a bit misleading. Although the above-mentioned artists did not go to music school, they definitely self-taught theory and composition. Parker spent a lot of his spare time analyzing Bach (by his own admission), and the Beatles (well, at least John and Paul…) did the same with classic musical theater. Chet Baker was a huge fan of Bill Evans --among others-- and he had studied him so deeply, he knew many of his solos by heart (and sometimes would play them on his trumpet for his friends. I’m lucky enough to have witnessed such thing. Nothing short of amazing. And yes, I’m a HUGE Bill Evans fan, too. And yeah, I know, I’m repeating myself. :smiley: )

Yes Papi,

All of that is very true. But even so, there can be no doubt that these legends were put on the planet to produce MUSIC !!