Anthony Wellington just blew my mind. Again. Garret Graves, on Talkbass, posted a link to a Fodera clinic he did just a few months ago. Its called “Modes for 4, 5, 6, and 7 String Bass“. The video is an hour long, but what he shared can be condensed into about 15. The rest are jokes, repetition and making sure the crowd is following what he says. In a nutshell – he shows 3 finger patterns that are used for all of the modes of the major scale and how to remember and play them all from one position on a 7-string bass. This is easily reduced for 4, 5 and 6 string bass – and then he has an audience member who has never touched a bass with more than 4 strings come up and actually do it on a 7-string.
I can’t believe what I just watched. I tested it out on the C major scale and A minor scale, because I know those patterns and know that those particular scales have no sharps or flats. They worked. I double-checked by confirming all of the notes on a diagram of a 6-string bass neck. It checked out. Anthony is right. Music is math. When we press frets on the neckboard, we’re plotting points on a graph.
He made a few really interesting points in his clinic about the modes – one of them being that there aren’t 7 modes. There’s really just one big mode. Seeing it plotted out on a 7-string bass really drove that home. Seeing how, with a 4, 5 or 6 string bass, we’re looking at a smaller section of that mode also makes sense. Knowing that from his one pattern, we can play any mode is just plain jaw-dropping. I can see how practicing it will eventually let us use the patterns to play starting on any degree of a given scale as well.
So, after re-watching George Urbaszek’s video about the modes of the minor pentatonic scale, I worked out the finger patterns and scale degrees (using the names as they’d appear in the major scale) for all of the modes in C (C minor pentatonic). They’re below.
- The first chart shows the finger patterns using 1-2-3-4 as index-middle-ring-pinkie. These are closed, moveable patterns.
- The second shows the patterns as scale degrees, and then the “formula” for each pattern using scale degrees.
- Finally, the last shows the actual notes for all of the modes of C.
- I’ve included the notes for D as well, because I worked it out to confirm that the patterns worked in other keys – and it did!
Mode 1 is the regular minor pentatonic. Mode 2 is playing from the 2nd note to the 2nd note an octave higher. Mode 3 starts on the 3rd note and ends on the 3rd note an octave higher, and so on for Mode 4 and Mode 5. As an aside, Mode 2, when played in A, gives us “My Girl,” but I think its the guitar part.
Here’s the 3rd of the minor pentatonic scale vids that I watched about a month ago. This one comes from George Urbaszek, who runs the website creativebasslessons.com. I learned that scales each have their own modes some time ago, either from Talkbass or from a book, but this is the first that I’ve seen the ones for the minor pentatonic scale in play.
George explains that in this session, he’ll show us the modes of the minor pentatonic scale and how to use them. He lets us know that a mode is simply playing a scale from a particular scale degree and finishing on that same degree, an octave higher. So, instead of starting on the 1 and ending on the 1 an octave higher, we could start on the 2 and end on its octave, etc. Being that the minor pentatonic has 5 notes, it then has 5 modes.
I’m recovering from a cold that I caught earlier in the week, after getting back from Ohio. While I was downstairs, waiting for the laundry to finish washing so I can put it in the dryer, I got to thinking about the 2nd pattern for the major scale. I like it for two reasons: (1) its easy to visualize it and “see” the difference between the major and minor scales using this particular pattern, and (2) I like the sound – having 3 notes on a string has this more “open” sound and feel to me, I’m actually really curious about this 4-note-per-string scale exercise that I’ve heard about now.
Anyway, here’s a sheet I just drafted that shows the 2nd pattern for the major scale and then all of the other modes, using it as a foundation. I color-coded notes a little. Red ones are flatted and the sole blue one is sharped. I’m going to look at it more in the AM and see if it helps me when visualizing scales.
- (PDF) scales-from-pattern-2
The 7th and last video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is an extra called “Modes deconstruction“. It runs almost 7 mins long. When the file is opened, the title screen calls it something a little different – “Thinking about the modes and hearing their different ‘sounds’ (a rough illustration…)”.
This one’s a bit different from the others. Moir and Worth are present, seated at a piano in more casual wear, and Moir explains that they’ve been looking through the online forums (something that sets this apart from the Developing Your Musicianship class right off the bat, and in a good way) and found that some people understand the concept of modes, but don’t quite know what they’re supposed to sound like.
He continues by walking us through the notes of C-Ionian and D-Dorian. C-Ionian is the major scale, starting on C. D-Dorian uses the same notes but starts on D. They look like this (the numbers show their scale degrees):
So, its the same notes, but we’re starting from a different place. Some people are confused about why this should sound any different, since its the same set of notes. Moir explains that although the notes are the same, their relationship with each other changes. What he means by this is that their function in the scale is different.
Here’s a great video from Ryan McClelland of BassMatter that talks about the modes of the major scale and gives examples of them all in play on the same song. Some of it around the middle and end might go over the head of people who are completely new to scales and theory, but listen through it. He shows how each of the modes relates to the C major scale (or Ionian mode) and the playthrough really shows how seamlessly they can fit into a song if they’re in the same key.
This is a great supplement for those of you who took Fundamentals of Music Theory from Coursera. The 4th video from Week 1 deals with the modes of the major scale, and Ryan’s video dovetails nicely into it.
Yesterday, when I was going through that post on TalkBass about Carol Kaye‘s opinion on chordal playing vs. scalar playing, I came across an interesting history piece which discusses Plato‘s take on scales or modes – some 2,500 years ago.
Its interesting that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Here’s a link to Michael Hammer‘s article from his website, Pianonoise!. Its a great companion piece to some of the material that I’ve posted from Melanie Spiller and John Byrne, on their respective blogs, which also discuss music history.
If you’re interested in music history or cultural, links to related articles can be found in the Music History / Culture section of my ugly History / Topic Index, which can also be accessed from the top of the page.