Basics Of Diatonic Modes

Basics Of Diatonic Modes

Before get started with different types of diatonic modes, we should have to look the basics of diatonic modes. So, that you can easily understand them. In case you haven’t visit the diatonic scale blog, please give a visit, it helps you to understand all these in a better manner.

Over here, in basics of diatonic modes we going to look at few important terms related to diatonic modes, which are Relative Modes (their sub types too), and Parallel Modes.

If there is one thing that scares musicians, in particular guitarists, it is the diatonic modes. Widely known but rarely understood, “the modes” are nearly mythic for many players at many levels.

Most of us know that the modes are essential, that great players know all about them. Still, it feels like they are miles away — part of what people call “music theory” and not at all the sort of thing that we can understand, much less make use of.

Maybe you have heard of modal jazz and believe that the modes are of interest to advanced jazz players with years of formal training but that they are otherwise unnecessary or beyond our reach.

But the modes are not monstrous. They are not a myth. They are not only for people who spend their 20s in music school. They aren’t just for jazz musicians, and they aren’t, once you have learned them, any more difficult to use than any other scales. What they are, however, is essential.

When we talk about modes and scales, we talk about two ways to relate to one another consonantly. One is being in parallel, and the other is being relative.

The modes give us a way to understand the interconnectedness of different scales, offer us various scales to choose from in many situations, and give us the tools to compose or improvise in any number of ways over and in virtually any harmonic framework.

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We have seen that a mode is simply a re-orientation of a scale, treating a different note as the root and re-defining the other notes in the scale. The notes stay the same, but since the harmonic center is different, the set of intervals has changed (a perfect 5th in the A minor scale becomes a major 3rd in the C major scale). And that is the essence of modality — the fact of the relative harmonic value of notes.

A note is not a static, unchanging thing; a note does different things in different contexts (depending on the harmony playing underneath or in the background). It is relative. That is the fact that confuses many players, and it is why the modes are often avoided.

Before going any further, it is crucial to understand a few terms.

Relative Modes

Relative modes are what most of us think about when we think about “the modes,” It is how the modes have been presented thus far. Relative modes are scales that contain all of the same notes but begin at different places. C major and A minor are relative scales, same as G major and E minor.

Coming back to the minor pentatonic modes, it was said that all of the modes of the minor pentatonic are relative to one another because they share the same notes, as we’ve seen: for example, A minor pentatonic and C major pentatonic are relative scales, same as the mode 3 of A minor pentatonic in D and A minor pentatonic, and so on.

Relative modes are proper when extending the range of a piece up or down the harmonic space on a guitar fretboard. They are also helpful when figuring out which chords will substitute best for other chords, but we’ll get to that later in the book.

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Parent scales

Parent scales are the scale from other modes that are derived. As we’ve seen, for all five modes of the minor pentatonic, the first mode — the minor pentatonic, is considered the Parent minor scale since other modes are derived from it.

It is essential to be able to tell quickly what is the parent scale of each mode that you encounter. For example, can you figure out the parent scale of minor pentatonic mode 4 in C#?

You would need to list out the notes first by applying the minor pentatonic mode four formula starting from C#:
C#(R) – TS – E(m3) – T – F#(P4) – TS-A(m6) – T – B(m7)
We know that relative modes are just re-orientations of the parent scale, so after
which note C# comes as the 4th?
It’s F# (F#, A, B, C#, E). So the parent minor scale of the minor pentatonic mode 4 in C# is F# minor pentatonic.

There are quicker methods to figure out the parent scales, which usually involve using your instrument. However, this will come naturally with time as you continue to use modes in your playing. On guitar fretboard, for instance, there are physical shapes you can derive from the notes and their positions relative to one another. You can visualise this shape anytime you want to quickly recall the Parent scale and other relative modes of a mode.

Tonal center

Tonal center is like the center of gravity – it is usually the chord or a note (as in our case with audio examples) that the mode is played over. When we use a mode, some notes will help define the tonal center in our solo. These are the good notes, or you could also call them the home notes. These notes are usually the notes of the chord playing in the background at the moment, and the strongest of them is the Root note (it is usually the safest one to land on during playing).

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Then, some notes pull away from the tonal center, establishing a movement, and some will add lots of tension which tends to be resolved to a home note. There are also bad notes, which can clash with the tonal center or other messages playing in the background. They usually won’t sound good at all.

Parallel Modes
what are parallel modes

A parallel mode or scale is simply a scale that shares its root with the original scale in question. In other words, the modes that share the same tonal center are parallel. For instance, A major and A minor are parallel modes, B minor pentatonic, and B major pentatonic are parallel modes, same as E Locrian and E Lydian (don’t worry about the fancy names for now), or any other mode/scale with the same starting note. In audio examples for the minor pentatonic modes, we played parallel modes against the A drone note.

Relative modes share the same parent scale — they have the same notes, ordered differently. Still, they have different Roots, which means they have various tonal centers. On the other hand, parallel modes share the same root — the same tonal center, but they have a different Parent scale. This distinction is essential to understand and remember.
Parallel modes are pretty helpful in modal harmony when it is not uncommon to alter the harmony of a piece by substituting one parallel mode for another. This is called modal interchange.

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Now, you have learn the basics of diatonic modes, you are eligible to learn the different types of diatonic modes.


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