Tip #195 – Dorian Vamp

This will be a short tip.

Say that you want a jazz or funk groove but don’t know where to start when it comes to harmonic progressions.

Well, a typical progression used in these styles is the Dorian vamp, which is a repetition of the progression:

i – IV7

Of course, these chords can be altered with upper extensions and sus4, but the root motion is the same.

Both of these chords are naturally found in the Dorian mode (in the example above it would be E Dorian), so it fits right with the tonality you want to be in.

Try it out and feel free to experiment.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 26.) Modes of the Melodic Minor Scale

Not only are there modes built from the diatonic scales of Major and natural minor, but there are modes of the melodic minor, too.


Similarly, they are constructed with the same pitch-class collections, but starting on different pitches and spanning an octave from there.


Below are the different modes and names built from the A melodic minor scale in the key of C:


NOTE:
these are the names I use for the modes. You will encounter multiple names for the same scale, so always be open to change.

Further NOTE: it should be a b6 in the Hindu Scale, my apologies.


Practice building the modes, playing them, and memorizing the names.

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Tip #193 – Using Lightness of a Scale

You might have heard the term the “brightness” or “darkness” of a scale/mode. Typically they are referring to how scales/modes containing a lot of sharp or raised scale degrees from the tonic are referred to as “bright” while those that have flattened scale degrees from the tonic are “dark”.

This is not to say that flat keys are “dark.” We are saying that the intervals that make up the scale that are flattened in comparison to the major scale tend to be more “dark” in tonality.

Can you change a scale to make it more “bright” or “dark?”

Essentially yes by either raising or lowering pitches in the scale (usually done in a circle of fifths pattern of selecting which pitch to alter).

This is good to keep in mind as you are writing and trying to find the right emotion and color to express your musical ideas. That might mean using an unconventional sale/mode or building one from scratch.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 25.) Modes of the Harmonic Minor Scale

Not only are there modes built from the diatonic scales of Major and natural minor, but there are modes of the harmonic minor.


Similarly, they are constructed with the same pitch-class collections, but starting on different pitches and spanning an octave from there.


Below are the different modes and names built from the A harmonic minor scale in the key of C:


NOTE: these are the names I use for the modes. You will encounter multiple names for the same scale, so always be open to change.

Practice building the modes, playing them, and memorizing the names.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Teach Yourself Music Theory – 24.) Diatonic Modes

Now, there are more scales in music than just the major, natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor. In fact, I have came across a reference book that listed over 2,000 different scales. That being said, we are not going to cover all those (just yet), but we do want to cover a new way to look and build scales.


Modes are scales the encompass the same pitches as a key area, but are not technically our known major or natural minor. Their “tonic” and tonal sense of gravity is elsewhere away from the accepted tonic. Diatonic modes are ones constructed from the diatonic pitches of a key – we will go over this shortly.


There are 7 diatonic modes (6 to some people that do not include Locrian), with one scale built on each pitch of a key. Taking the key of C Major for example, here are the modes with their names:


Notice that each mode is a scale that travels an octave length in distance; basically C major scales starting on different pitches. However, they are all obvious different scales even though the contain the same pitch-class collection because of the intervals in the scale.

NOTE: the major scale is the Ionian Mode, and the natural minor scale is the Aeolian Mode.


To build a diatonic modal scale, you can do one of two things:


Say you wanted to build E Dorian. Dorian is the second mode – so, we know that Dorian comes from D Major, just keep the accidentals and start a scale on the second pitch. Or, you can memorize that Dorian is | 1 – 2 – b3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – b7 – 8 | and construct it from there.


Practice building the modes, playing them, and memorizing the names.

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Tip #108 – Innate Pulls of Dominant Modulations

Take a look at the melody below and analyze it the best you can:

Notice how the melody seems to be for the most part centered in an E Mixolydian mode.

However, you have those two measures highlighted in blue that hint at a temporary modulation to B Mixolydian. Then, it returns back to E Mixolydian.

If you play this melody, the transition works so smoothly. Why?

Well, think about the B Mixolydian mode. The mode itself is built around a B7 chord. In common music theory practice, the B7 chord will resolve (typically) to a chord with a root in E.

Thus, that is why the modulation from B Mixolydian is smooth, because it has the innate pull to resolve back to a centered tone of E anyways.

So, for this tip’s overall lesson: when using temporary modulations, consider the resolution of the scale/mode as well as the chords built on it for a seamless transition.

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Tip #89 – Crafting Modal Interchange from a Tone Drone

Going back to an early topic of borrowed chords and altering a harmony by changing a chord quality to its parallel major/minor – here is another way on how to view it:

Say you have a melody that you want to craft around a single note drone. In this example, the tone used will be E.

So, E what?? E major? E minor? E Dorian mode? E Mixolydian mode?

Well… why not all give them a shot?

With keeping the tone drone constant in the harmonies (either as a chord tone or upper structure tension), try changing each section of the melody to be in a different mode. Below is the example with every measure changing to a different mode corresponding to E as the center tone.


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