Understanding Modes of the Major Scale

A “mode” of the major scale is a variation of a set of notes, starting on a different root than the major scale to obtain a different harmonic substance.

Modes are commonly used in all styles of music, predominantly Jazz and Classical but there are plenty of cases where they occur in all genres.

Modes are commonly misunderstood but very easy to realise by looking at this chart below:

There are seven modes as you can see from the above. The order of the modes never change so your 5th mode of the major scale is always going to be Mixolydian for example. The only thing that changes are the keys and the notes that correspond with that particular key. To discover the sounds of each mode, you can easily go to a piano and play every white key from C to C - that would be the first, "Ionian". Then play every white note from D to D - that would be your "Dorian", then E to E - "Phrygian" and so on. 

Transfer this knowledge to any instrument and learn how each mode sounds, not how they look. Once you hear that specific sound, the modes become very valuable in improvising, composing etc.

Now you want to know how to recognise them if you have a chart or sheet music put in front of you.
Let's say that your key is written as C because there are no obvious sharps or flats, but your progression starts with a Dm7 chord, and is primarily fitted around that e.g. (Dm7 | Bhalfdim | Fmaj7 | Dm7). Does this mean that your key, or better put, "mode" is Major/Ionian?
Not straight away. If we quickly analyse this we can see that D Dorian would be a wise choice to write a melody on/improvise over, simply because your piece is based around the root of D. Dm7 is the second chord in the key of C and D Dorian is the second mode. 

Similarly if your key signature states 2 sharps (D major) but everything resolves around a G major progression, then G Lydian is the best choice because it is the fourth mode and is four steps up from D in the key signature.

If you would like any more help on modes or music theory in general, please contact me to discuss. Remember that I am available for lessons in Caerphilly, Pontypridd, Tonypandy (RCT), Aberdare, Cardiff and surrounding areas. I am also available for Skype and Facetime lessons.

Learning an instrument: Ukulele

If you are new to learning instruments or music, the most common instrumentation choices are either guitar or piano. Why?

Ukulele arrangement of The Beatles 'Something', arranged by Josh Embling.

1) They have been featured in popular music for over 100 years. 
2) They are generally seen everywhere e.g. in music stores, buskers always play them, your favourite band has them on stage etc.
3) They are statistically the 'coolest'. 

However, a new musical renaissance started to form in the late 2000's. This was the feature of the ukulele in popular music. The ukulele is a fantastic little instrument, and of course I mean that literally. 

If you didn't already know, it has 4 strings standardly tuned to 'G, C, E, A' and is a really easy instrument to start learning for anyone of all ages. It is about half the size of an acoustic guitar, and the base pitch is a lot higher. Like any instrument though, if you want to play something to a decent level you have to put in the hours of practice every week, stay dedicated and committed to achieve some minor or major success. Ukulele is no different. 

You can purchase a beginner ukulele for less than £30 via any music retailer* and start learning straight away. I recommend either a soprano or concert ukulele to begin with. Soprano's are smaller than concert's but not by much.

Here's a basic chart showing the basic chords C, Am, F and G. You should be able to get these sounding clean within an hour or so. 

Common ukulele chart seen for a lot of pop songs.

Common ukulele chart seen for a lot of pop songs.

If you're interested in ukulele lessons, I teach within the South Wales area covering Tonypandy, Porth, Pontypridd, Treorchy and the rest of Rhondda Cynon Taff, Vale of Glamorgan, Cynon Valley, Cardiff and more. Click the link on the text content to the right for more info! >>>>>>

 

* I recommend any of the following retailers: 

             Bournemouth, England

             Bournemouth, England

Guildford, England


Guildford, England

      Portsmouth, England

      Portsmouth, England

                  Pontypridd, Wales

                  Pontypridd, Wales

         11 stores across the UK.

         11 stores across the UK.

             Online retailer. 

             Online retailer.