Using the Modes

Using The Modes 

Modes in Improvisation 

Improvisation means making up the music spontaneously. Improvisation can be in a solo, or “ride,” where the “lead” instrument is showcased and is making its own musical statement. Improvisation can also be scattered throughout a piece of music, in what are usually called “fills.” A good guitarist uses the right mode for the right chord. This is based, not only one the type of chord (major, minor, 7th, and so on) but on the relationship between that chord and what comes before it and after it. For example, the the Ionian mode is a major mode with a major 7th arpeggio. This mode is used for the “one” chord (roman numeral I) of the key. The Lydian Mode is also a major mode with a major seventh arpeggio, but it is the IV chord – it has a subtle but distinctly different sound than the Ionian. 

Of course, once you know which modes have the “correct” sound for the piece of music, you may choose to play those “in” notes, or be a little more daring by playing a mode that has some notes which alter the harmonic structure – in other words “out” notes. 

Guitar Solos 

Guitar Solos, also called “rides,” are created by guitarists most often by improvisation. Always remember – the most important thnig is to be musical. Being musical is often not as easy as it sounds. The tempation for the guitar player, or any other musician for that matter, is to show off what they know. After all, that’s the point, isn’t it? Music is a performance art. The real issue is – what makes for good performance? Always try to play what makes sense for the piece you’re playing. 

Guitar Solos Using one Mode

The simplest way to use modes in improvisation is to find one mode that fits over every chord in the progression and just stay with that. this is limiting, because only certain combinations of chords will work. More complex progressions always require at least a minimal amount of changing the mode being used as certain chords appear in the progression. 

Guitar Solos Using Changing Modes 

When you learn to change modes to fit whatever chord comes along you’ll find that a ton of limitations have been lifted. Not only that, but you’ll be able to actually define the chord progression by the notes you use in your solo. The arpeggio, or chord tones, within the mode define the sound of the chords. This means a listener will be able to hear the flow of the chord changes without even having someone playing the chords themselves.