Watch the What Are Modes? online guitar lesson by Fareed Haque from Modal Improv Survival Guide
What are modes? Any note in a scale can be treated as a root note. Each note thus becomes the root note of its own 'Mode' of the parent scale. Each scale has as many modes as it has notes. A 5 note scale has 5 modes, a 7 note scale has 7 modes. A C Scale from D to D is teh 2nd mode of C major, a c major scale from E to E is the third mode of C major. D is the root note of the 2nd mode, and E is the root note of the 3rd mode of C major. We use the notes in each mode to build chords and melodies that reflect the sound of each mode.
When you think of mode also think of MOOD. Each mode has a certain sound or feeling, and we like to use each Mode to create a certain Mood....this is a big part of what happened to jazz in the 60s. Modes were originally used as a way of describing the types of scales used in different folk musics from around the world. Flamenco music from Spain often uses the 3rd mode of major, while Carnatic music from India often uses the 5th mode of major. Chinese music often uses different modes of the pentatonic scale. Composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, Stravinsky and others used a modal approach to write music that sounded more folky, earthy and not so classical. Similarly jazz musicians in the late 50s and 60s became more and more interested in folk music - blues, African and Indian music. As they wanted to get away from a jazzy style based on songs from popular - and often corny - musicals, they searched for roots music, and found modes. Whereas early jazz and bebop players used a chromatic, arpeggio based approach to build melodies, modern modal players used modes and often LIMITED their note choice to create moods; they might use only 5 or 7 notes in a scale - ans stick to just those notes - rather than embellishing with all 12 notes of the chromatic scale, as did more traditional jazz players.
Since modes evolved in jazz from a desire to get away from the Be Bop sound, DONT USE MODES TO PLAY BEBOP! It does not work. Using modes to play Bebop is like using a screwdriver to hammer in a nail. You can sort of do it, and the nail and screwdriver both get messed up in the process. If you wanna play Bebop go to the Bebop Survival Guide RIGHT NOW. Hurry! One last thng: You may notice that in this entire course there is not one Greek mode name, no toga wearing jazz musicians, no Phrygian, Myxolydian, Lydian #6, Macrobiotic b2. Why?? 'Cuz as far as I know NO ANCIENT GREEKS EVER PLAYED JAZZ! Listen, we got enough to work on without having to memorize silly ancient Greek terms that have nothing whatsoever to do with jazz. The 1st mode of major is best called...hmmmm " The 1st mode of major". You down with that?? Works for me, and i hope we can purge jazz theory of all this extra clumsy and cumbersome terminology RIGHT NOW and forever more. Sorry Berklee, Greek mode names are great for ancient Greek music, suck for Jazz.