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  1. #1

    Question Fireside Chat: Robbie Calvo

    Ask Robbie Calvo Anything (About Modes)

    You're probably already familiar with TrueFire Educator Robbie Calvo, author of the popular courses Sweet Notes, RhythmCraft, SoloCraft, The Rhythm Architect, and 50 R&B Licks, but just in case you've been living under a proverbial rock, here's a little bit about this master of smooth & groovy guitar.

    Robbie studied the art of decorative painting and design at the Hastings College of Arts and Technology receiving distinctions from the City & Guilds of London, England. He also graduated from the Guitar Institute of Technology in Los Angeles. Robbie has taugh guitar at the London Musicians Institute and in 1995 he placed second in the "Guitarist of the Year" finals at London"s Wembley Arena and also took first place in the Unisong international songwriting competition with his instrumental piece "Dark Horses". Robbie relocated to Nashville, TN in 1998, to pursue his songwriting career, writing and pitching songs by day from his 16th Avenue publishing office and playing live at the writers rounds by night.

    Robbie is in the TrueFire Studio this week shooting his next course, which will cover modes (more info to come), so we wanted to open up a Fireside Chat so that you could ask him anything and everything (about modes). Dig in and check back soon for Robbie's responses!

    ASK YOUR QUESTIONS NOW >>
    I'm Zach, the Directory of Marketing & Media for TrueFire. Feel free to contact me anytime at Zach@TrueFire.com. Practice Smart, Play Hard!

  2. #2
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    I will gladly start off the interrogation
    So....what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow......




    Now putting aside that nonsense, I have always wanted to understand when to use the major pentatonic, when to use the minor and how best to shift between them in songs, something besides "when it sounds good". Maybe that is the sole reason but I read that a lot of accomplished players go back and forth in the same songs, are there key transition points, ie. a IV chord or V chord for instance. As well as what points in the scale are the transitional ones.

    G major/E minor.....I'm thinking the E, G or B notes would be the ideal points to switch on, so is the 1,3,5 always good.

    Sometimes I try this and it sounds awesome sometimes it's horrible...what's the secret Robbie?
    Too soon we grow old, too late we grow wise

    "I once played notes so fast that light emanated from the strings whereupon, I saw God.... who then told me to relax and start playing music."

    "You know, once you've had that guitar up so loud on the stage, where you can lean back and volume will stop you from falling backward, that's a hard drug to kick." David Gilmour

    Truefire Science Officer (dabgonit....where's my blue shirt!)

  3. #3

    Default

    Hopefully they read off the queries in the other Robbie thread, I saw the email an hour ago and totally missed it. Much chagrin and knashng of teeth was had.
    Enjoy Your Karma, after all you earned it.
    email: gadlaw@gmail.com
    http://www.facebook.com/gadlaw

  4. #4

    Default For Robbie

    How come you don't curse as much as the other Brits I play alongside, err, when playing modes?

    HAHAHAHAHA! Love you, brother!

    Chris Buono
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  5. #5

    Default Question One from Roman to Robbie

    What creates a mode? Is it the underlying harmony? If so, how do you structure the chord progression to create a mode? That white background is awesomely cool by the way. It feels all Star Trek and Apple Computerish. And I'm disappointed with the shirt, not shiny? What's up with that? Doesn't look right on Robbie. And that Godin, it looks like it has actual strings on it, not catgut nylon strings. Here I thought Godin Guitars were all odd plastic looking things with nylon strings. Anyways, I digress.

    Enjoy Your Karma, after all you earned it.
    email: gadlaw@gmail.com
    http://www.facebook.com/gadlaw

  6. #6

    Default Question Two - Focus on Pentatonics before Modes? By Surfnotes

    surfnotes (signed in using yahoo)
    Hi: Should one first master major and minor pentatonic before focusing on modes (i.e. Mixolydian is a good next step for blues focus)? It just seems so much easier to learn and think in Pentatonic and oh yeah, let's add a flatted 5th, major 3rd, a 4th here, a 6th here, minor 7th here, major 7th here, 9th here, and actually use and integrate things one step (or one half step!) at a time.

    Enjoy Your Karma, after all you earned it.
    email: gadlaw@gmail.com
    http://www.facebook.com/gadlaw

  7. #7

    Default Question Three- Thinking in terms of Modes when playing Tonal Music?

    Olivier Blaizot Crozon
    Hi, Rob...The use of modes seems quite obvious when playing modal music such as Coltrane, Santana, Miles and countless others...But, apart from some fusion stuffs with very few chords, it seems very difficult to "think" in terms of modes when playing tonal music...what do you think? Thank you and thanks for the great lessons.....

    Enjoy Your Karma, after all you earned it.
    email: gadlaw@gmail.com
    http://www.facebook.com/gadlaw

  8. #8

    Default Question Four - How to Connect Modes together in a Real Song?

    Kevin Bowman Georgia Tech
    Hi Robbie, Love your solocraft and rhythm craft. I'd love for you to include how to connect modes together in a real song. I'm familiar with modes in general, but I struggle to put them all together when chords are flying by at 120-140bpm on real songs (either pop or jazz), which are almost never purely modal. So, I often feel like by the time I've figured out what the chord/mode combination is for a measure---that measure is gone, and now there's a new chord/mode combo to deal with in just 2 seconds or less....

    Enjoy Your Karma, after all you earned it.
    email: gadlaw@gmail.com
    http://www.facebook.com/gadlaw

  9. #9

    Default Must be the sweet notes

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisBuono View Post
    How come you don't curse as much as the other Brits I play alongside, err, when playing modes?

    HAHAHAHAHA! Love you, brother!

    Not just English to all yourapeeing , yeah that's with a southern accent draw but it's Europe people.
    Than again most Brits if they talk to other Brit they talk very fast as well.

    I guess Robbie was meant to be here in the USA, I purchase one of his course by accident and love his thinking.
    Just can;t say enough great things about him.

    Every song is in a mode, I have many course by many instructors.
    I am sure Robboes approach will be one of the best and I have not seen it, just like his voice and I just like his whole way of thinking and playing.

    Thanks again
    Steveo

  10. #10

    Default

    You've got to wonder if Robbie is related to Nigel Tuffnell

    Some great insights in this chat.
    Check it out 2014 Practice Plan & Goals

    Psalm 33 v3 Sing to Him a new song! Play SKILLFULLY as you shout out your praises to Him!

  11. #11

    Default

    So....what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow......

    Birdspeed
    Just visiting TrueFire.com? Why not join us?


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  12. #12

    Default Big Thanks.

    Thanks again Robbie, great insights.
    Can`t wait for the course.

  13. #13

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfboy1 View Post
    I will gladly start off the interrogation
    So....what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow......




    Now putting aside that nonsense, I have always wanted to understand when to use the major pentatonic, when to use the minor and how best to shift between them in songs, something besides "when it sounds good". Maybe that is the sole reason but I read that a lot of accomplished players go back and forth in the same songs, are there key transition points, ie. a IV chord or V chord for instance. As well as what points in the scale are the transitional ones.

    G major/E minor.....I'm thinking the E, G or B notes would be the ideal points to switch on, so is the 1,3,5 always good.

    Sometimes I try this and it sounds awesome sometimes it's horrible...what's the secret Robbie?
    Hi Wolfboy, Here's and approach that you could try to start with. We are in the key of G. Play a G (I) chord then the G major/E Minor Pentatonic scale this will work over the I and VI (E Mi7). Of course you need to apply the resolutions depending on which of the 2 chords you are playing over...this is the key element. Many palyers say they know their scales but when it comes down to a real focused approach they need to apply them better. A course on this perhaps? Ok...now
    Stay in position on the fretboard and play a C major/Aminor Pentatonic scale. This will work over II (Aminor) and IV (C major). Play D major/ Bminor Pentatonic in position and this will work for the V and III. Do you get where I'm coming from. For way too long we've been told that a scale will blanket work over our chord changes, and to a degree it does but if you want to start sounding more musical outlining the chords sometimes is a great approach.

    Regarding a bluesier approach try using Minor pentatonic on the I7 a dominant 7th arpeggio on the IV7 and V7 chords.

    Hope that helps, Regards,

    Robbie

  14. #14

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisBuono View Post
    How come you don't curse as much as the other Brits I play alongside, err, when playing modes?

    HAHAHAHAHA! Love you, brother!

    Hey Chris...Love you too baby!!!

    I do curse quite a bit ...it's part of being British!!! I do try and keep it clean but the times I string a line of four letter words together that's when Ali has popped in to the control room...embarrassing...:-)

    Hope all is well matey peepz

    Robbie

  15. #15

    Default

    Robbie

    What about switching between the (for example) E Major and E minor pentatonic a lot of players do that to add a little minor blues flavour to a major piece, but I can never find the right places!
    Check it out 2014 Practice Plan & Goals

    Psalm 33 v3 Sing to Him a new song! Play SKILLFULLY as you shout out your praises to Him!

  16. #16

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gadlaw View Post
    What creates a mode? Is it the underlying harmony? If so, how do you structure the chord progression to create a mode? That white background is awesomely cool by the way. It feels all Star Trek and Apple Computerish. And I'm disappointed with the shirt, not shiny? What's up with that? Doesn't look right on Robbie. And that Godin, it looks like it has actual strings on it, not catgut nylon strings. Here I thought Godin Guitars were all odd plastic looking things with nylon strings. Anyways, I digress.

    Hey Gadlaw,

    I thought I'd take a break from the 'Gay British Shirts' ...:-) Stay tuned for the next course though I'll find the tackiest purple lycra shirt to wear with rhinestones on it..ha...not bloody likely! Too Nashville!

    The Godin RG3 sound good though right? I love it!

    Thanks mate for keeping the fire going.

    Robbie

  17. #17

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by steveo View Post
    Not just English to all yourapeeing , yeah that's with a southern accent draw but it's Europe people.
    Than again most Brits if they talk to other Brit they talk very fast as well.

    I guess Robbie was meant to be here in the USA, I purchase one of his course by accident and love his thinking.
    Just can;t say enough great things about him.

    Every song is in a mode, I have many course by many instructors.
    I am sure Robboes approach will be one of the best and I have not seen it, just like his voice and I just like his whole way of thinking and playing.

    Thanks again
    Steveo
    Hi Steveo,

    Thank you so much for the compliments on my approaches. I really wanted to simplify the Modal approach and show how easy it is to understand and apply given a clear method to follow. I hope this new course 'The Modal Expose' is the biggest course for me yet. I know it contains incredible power for players of all levels and can't wait for it to release. Early June I'm told.

    Thanks again,

    Robbie

  18. #18

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by PosterBoy View Post
    Robbie

    What about switching between the (for example) E Major and E minor pentatonic a lot of players do that to add a little minor blues flavour to a major piece, but I can never find the right places!
    Try outlining the chord first...for example over E7 play the Major pentatonic but focus on the major 3rd (G#) and then switch over to the minor 3rd (imply the bend though towards G#) or it won't sound good. Try playing a major pent lick over a track and then a minor lick after it...resolve to any tone other than the minor 3rd in the second lick. the b7 is always a good one because it's the characteristic note in the E7 chord.

    I'll be producing a very special course on all of this in the very near future so stay tuned.

    Regards,

    Robbie

  19. #19

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by xtcoranges View Post
    Thanks again Robbie, great insights.
    Can`t wait for the course.
    You are very welcome, it's always my pleasure and I can't do it without your support. Thank you.

  20. #20

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by PosterBoy View Post
    You've got to wonder if Robbie is related to Nigel Tuffnell

    Some great insights in this chat.
    Learnt everything I know from Nigel Tuffnell. He's my boy!

    Scuse me while I try and fold this meat and bread into a cohesive sandwich....btw my Les Paul is still sustaining while I made my cup of tea and it's not even plugged in!

    Bum Cakes, Mud Flaps, my babes got 'em!

  21. #21

    Default Mode maddness

    People really have a hard time with modes.
    Me I am no expert and also it seems a touchy subject that seem to hit a nerve in people and not in a good way.
    I am so looking forward to this course.
    I am a simple thinking person have always been this way.
    I can play guitar to almost any piece of music simply by hearing is it major or minor in tonality.

    While it is rule like the minor 3rd will clash and sound good over dom7 or major chords .
    the Major 3 is not a good clash with a minor chord.

    I think it was someone who posted when to play G major or E minor these are the same notes so when you wish to compare Pentatonic scales do this with E major and E minor.

    I am hoping people here will ask good questions and not be offended in any way.
    I can tell I am playing mode as I can hear the major scale and sing it as well so when I hear me play a little part of a solo like Prince's intro to when the dove cry this is a mode, it is Phrygian as well.

    I am able to use Dorian,I have seen many teachers say that they are playing Dorian and they are playing all major chord and the tonality is major and this makes no sense at all, it sounds good because they are really just playing the Major and minor pentatonic.
    I play Country to and often the licks follow the chord so I think Mixolydian with this.

    Lydian if the raised 4th is a resolutions note then it has to be Lydian.

    While I think people learn in different ways, I can see the chord shapes even in the modes I see the shape of the chords.

    I think it is also best to really be able to sing or hear the major scale in your head, ears or brain , if nothing else as a form of reverence.

    Each person will certain modes better, for different reasons.
    Me songs like shine on you crazy diamond well it minor in mature it;s mot sad as Aeolian or Phrygian but it not all Dorian in nature either .
    While a song Something i the way she moves old James Tayloir song seem easy to say that is Mixolydian as it contain the b7th.

    Again this is just food for thought since many more rocking songs seem to use the b7 chord as the functional 5th chord.
    either way it is the rock scale wish we could just call Mixolydian the rock mode lol
    Peace
    Live, laugh and play

  22. #22

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by robbie calvo View Post
    Try outlining the chord first...for example over E7 play the Major pentatonic but focus on the major 3rd (G#) and then switch over to the minor 3rd (imply the bend though towards G#) or it won't sound good. Try playing a major pent lick over a track and then a minor lick after it...resolve to any tone other than the minor 3rd in the second lick. the b7 is always a good one because it's the characteristic note in the E7 chord.

    I'll be producing a very special course on all of this in the very near future so stay tuned.

    Regards,

    Robbie
    7th?!!!! i don't really play blues and can't remember the last time I used a 7th in anger, so I'm approaching this from a more pop rock/ hard rock place. Think of sequences like a I, V, VI, V Just to spice it up a bit
    Check it out 2014 Practice Plan & Goals

    Psalm 33 v3 Sing to Him a new song! Play SKILLFULLY as you shout out your praises to Him!

  23. #23

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by PosterBoy View Post
    Robbie

    What about switching between the (for example) E Major and E minor pentatonic a lot of players do that to add a little minor blues flavour to a major piece, but I can never find the right places!
    He answered you very well and now you say you don;t play the blues.
    Cross roads an old song but Clapton put a spin on it with Cream.
    Same as BB king and others use before on A the one chord you play A major.
    D the 4 chord play Minor, it would sound good to stay in minor back to the one, or you could move back to major.
    The 5 chord E it is in E major.
    Saw John Mayer play it with Clapton and he seem to just stay in the A minor petatonic and add the 2rd and 6th notes.
    There is 7th in the Pentatonic to make angry or even play, Seem I do add it in the mix often as a Chromatic note.
    You may like the flavor of the flat 6th not a note that is very bluesy.
    Blues has made it way into most popular music so you may also wish to see this.

    Not even sure how a person really don't like playing some blues, it is human nature to do so, this is how rock was born they took blues and made it louder and more angry maybe louder and dirtier for sure.

    God made Dirt so Dirt Don't hurt.
    Angry guitar playing is no sin so I would try that as well.
    The b5 can be a disturbing tine against the 5 but when use with the 7th in a chromatic fashion it just sound cool and is used in Rock, Blues and Country.
    You need to just accept that the 1 4 5 progression is blues based as well.
    Peace

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