Modes in Action: Why Not

Now that you’ve had a couple of months to get familiar with the modes, let’s try our hand at something a little more challenging with them. I’ve written a short tune consisting of only two chords, Dm7 and Ebm7. Each chord lasts for eight bars and then changes. You can use only one scale on the chords, the Dorian Mode (refer back to Lesson 1 if you need a refresher). You will use D Dorian Mode for eight bars, and then move up one step and use Eb Dorian Mode for eight bars.

This is called a “plateau modal” tune by many , including my Composition Teacher, Ron Miller at The University of Miami School of Music. You can find similar compositions in “So What” by Miles Davis and “Impressions” by John Coltrane.

In one of the mp3 clips you’ll hear me playing the etude for the first 16 bars. Notice that the etude is not particularly musical, but it shows how to use the scales and sequences from Lesson 2 with these two chords. After 16 bars, I went to free soloing, using just the two modes in different patterns.

You can also download the clip without my playing and try you own ideas with the track. Don’t feel compelled to do the etude as is, you can also take one or two measures and practice them against the backing track.

You can also learn the etude slowly (always a good idea) and gradually work up to the 110 beats per minute tempo of the track-pretty brisk! This just gives you a chance to experiment with the modes in a musical fashion. Have fun!

Peace and Low Notes,

Roy C. Vogt
Nashville Bassist
Bass Instructor, Belmont University, Nashville, TN

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Roy VogtAbout the Author:
Roy Vogt is an internationally-acclaimed bassist and educator. He is the creator of Teach Me Bass Guitar, the world’s most comprehensive DVD course for bass guitar.

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