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Why Modes?


"In the key of C, the occasional Dm7 chord is as you said D Dorian, and Em would be E Phrygian. I'm confused now as to why learn the modes if all I'm really doing is the C scale notes?! It seems to my tiny brain to just remember that I'm in C (and choose from those scale notes) rather than think, "I’m in the key of C, but on a D chord, so that means I'm in D Dorian and play D Dorian scale notes."

M. Hubbard via e-mail


Great question! In my opinion/experience, the value of learning the modes is that the scenario you described is PRECISELY what one wants to avoid when playing through a song! If a song is in the key of Bb, it will have a profound negative effect upon your playing if scales for the Gm or Dm chords have to be equated back to the notes of the Bb Major Scale. This is an even bigger problem when tunes are encountered in which the tonic (or "I") chord of the key is never (or very infrequently) played. Additionally, if one has to constantly think of a particular chord's corresponding scale relative to the key, it will usually manifest itself in a lack of variety & fluency when putting together bass lines. I found an enormous amount of freedom when I really assimilated the modes...and it honestly wasn't that hard at all. It's DEFINITELY well worth the effort.

(Note: The modes & their application are comprehensively covered in Volume 2 of the Grooving for Heaven videos.)

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