• Here Are Important Modes Every Jazz Musician Must Learn

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    In this lesson we’re focusing on the important modes every jazz musician must learn.

    At the earliest stage of jazz studies, it is important for every serious jazz musician to learn and master modes and how they can be transposed to start from any note on the keyboard.

    Although it’s of the greatest importance to master all the modes, there are modes that every serious jazz musician must not leave home without; and we’ll be covering them in this lesson.

    Let’s refresh our minds on the concept of modes before we proceed.

    A Short Note On Modes

    For the past 400 years, the concept of key has prevailed and music is either played in the major or minor key.

    Before what we know today as key C:

    …key D:

    …key E:

    …and so on, modes were used.

    A mode consists of a step wise collection of white notes on the piano from a given note till its octave. For example, from B to B (all white notes):

    …is a mode and differs from the key of B major:

    …or B minor:

    Due to the fact that there are seven white unique notes on the piano, we have seven modes as well:

    Ionian

    Dorian

    Phrygian

    Lydian

    Mixolydian

    Aeolian

    Locrian

    …and you’ll do well to check them out.

    C to C:

    …is the ionian mode.

    D to D:

    …is the dorian mode.

    E to E:

    …is the phrygian mode.

    F to F:

    …is the lydian mode.

    G to G:

    …is the mixolydian mode.

    A to A:

    …is the aeolian mode.

    B to B:

    …is the locrian mode.

    Attention: All seven modes are unique, save for the ionian and aeolian modes — which are similar to the major and minor key respectively.

    Essential Modes Serious Jazz Musicians Cannot Do Without

    Let’s go ahead and explore two modes that every serious musician must not leave home without.

    The Lydian Mode

    The lydian mode is the fourth mode and can be formed by starting on F:

    …an ending on F:

    So, playing from F to F:

    …produces the lydian mode.

    The lydian mode sounds a lot better than the natural major scale in Jazz improvisation. For example, the F lydian mode:

    …sounds a lot better than the F natural major scale:

    …when played over the F major seventh chord:

    …because the fourth tone (aka – “avoid tone”) is raised by a half step. This is the characteristic difference between the natural major scale and the lydian mode.

    Therefore, raising the fourth tone of the natural major scale produces the lydian mode. Raising the fourth tone of the D major scale:

    …which is G:

    …by a half step (to G#):

    …produces the D lydian mode:

    “Check Out The Lydian Mode In All Twelve Keys…”

    C lydian mode:

    Db lydian mode:

    D lydian mode:

    Eb lydian mode:

    E lydian mode:

    F lydian mode:

    Gb lydian mode:

    G lydian mode:

    Ab lydian mode:

    A lydian mode:

    Bb lydian mode:

    B lydian mode:

    The Dorian Mode

    The dorian mode is the second mode and can be formed by starting on D:
    G dorian mode:

    …an ending on D:

    So, playing from D to D:

    …produces the dorian mode.

    The dorian mode sounds a lot better than the natural minor scale in Jazz improvisation. For example, the D dorian mode:

    …sounds a lot better than the D natural minor scale:

    …when played over the D minor seventh chord:

    …because the sixth tone (aka – “avoid tone”) is raised by a half step. This is the characteristic difference between the natural minor scale and the dorian mode.

    Therefore, raising the sixth tone of the natural minor scale produces the dorian mode. Raising the sixth tone of the D minor scale:

    …which is Bb:

    …by a half step (to B):

    …produces the D dorian mode:

    “Check Out The Dorian Mode In All Twelve Keys…”

    C dorian mode:

    C# dorian mode:

    D dorian mode:

    Eb dorian mode:

    E dorian mode:

    F dorian mode:

    F# dorian mode:

    G dorian mode:

    G# dorian mode:

    A dorian mode:

    Bb dorian mode:

    B dorian mode:

    Final Words

    The lydian and dorian modes bode well for major and minor chords and every serious jazz musician must master them in all twelve keys.

    See you in the next lesson!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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