I was asking for ideas to be featured here and my awesome junior Ramon (monster guitarist don’t play play!) asked me on practicing modes. His description of his problem is that when he improvises on a D Dorian mode, his thinks of C Major/Ionian which he finds is ‘not the right thing to do’. This was asked few weeks ago and I thought I should give it a tackle this time!

First of all, there is no right or wrong way of what to think while improvising. Boring answer? Lets go a little more specific. The problem awesome-Ramon has is that he thinks of the C major scale when he’s improvising on D Dorian. There is nothing wrong with that thinking. Both C major and D Dorian have the same notes C D E F G A B with different reference points where C major’s is C (duh!) and D Dorian’s is D (duh duh!). If we are aware of the 7 different modes of a major scale and knowing the different harmonies that are formed by the different modes, referring back to the parent major scale makes our brain work a lot simpler. I don’t like to be bogged down by multiple scales and modes because it’s very tiring and it hurts the improvisation (except while practicing when I need to get my brain and hands working!). So instead of having the burden of 7*12=84 (in 12 keys) modes, why not think of the parent major scales which are only 12? Of course before that we will need to work out the different chords that are contained within each major scale. It’s like math. Don’t memorise all the formulas. Many of them can be worked out easily from one formula alone which is similar to how the 7 modes are branched out from the parent major scale. Boy was I good in math…

I will come out with some examples in my next post but for now, what Ramon does is what I would do to save more brain processing power for coming out with (hopefully) tasty licks. Besides that, I will write on how I look at different modes specifically and how I visualise them while improvising. Stay tuned!


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