Sunday, August 12, 2012

More on Modes

Q: Great dorian lesson, thanks. But when we see a Dmin7 on a chart while jamming, and thinking whether we should play a pentatonic a mode or whatever, isn't that decision should be strictly related on the KEY of the song? Aren't we risking playing notes completely out of key when we use modes?

A: Great question. It's all about musical context. There are two kinds of harmony and for the lack of better words let's say that one is functional harmony and the other is non-fuctional, modal or maybe static harmony (for lack of better words). When we talk about functional, we are talking about chords that work together inside of a particular key. So a Dmin7 chord inside of a Cmaj7-Fmaj7-Dmin7-G7 progression is functioning as a "ii" chord. As you know the "ii" chord is the dorian chord. If you tried to play one of the other minor modal scales it would sound wrong. You don't even really want to be thinking modes in this case anyways, I mean it's just a C major progression and that's all you really to know or consider. We hear the tonal center of this progression as C major.