How to practice modal scales in all keys and not slip into practicing mindfulness

I love modal scales. I mean, technically, all scales are modal, but you know what I mean. There is just no such things as standard fingering for C Dorian or D Phrygian, which means, you’re pretty much free to invent your own without feeling “incorrect”, plus — the sound of the full scale, when you play it, is not that beat-up solfège drill (compared to major or minor), so it does not immediately evoke in your mind depressing images of conservatory class full of virtuoso players where even the worst one is ≈1039 times better than you.

But, as always, I find mechanical scale runs a bit of a shit approach. It’s great for learning fingerings, but as soon as fingerings are there, you better add some thought process.

One way is to run scale against the common progression of the mode (aka modal DNA), for example, i — IV7 for Dorian here:

Screenshot 2019-03-27 at 21.32.30

I tend to add bits of improv as well.

Next, you can take modal DNA and break it into intervallic patterns — for example, my favourite — broken 10ths:

Screenshot 2019-03-27 at 21.25.00.png

This way you can also work on hand independency. And, of course, get familiar with modal scale degrees! IV7 of F Dorian? Bam — Bb! Plus, it sounds super nice.

Another slightly more academic way to jazz up the one-hand modal scale practice is to play the scales as you normally would, but instead of doing it to a root chord, change the chords that you play with the left hand to the next scale degree as you switch keys. So, you go: E Phrygian to i, A Phrygian to bII∆7, D Phrygian to bIII7, etc.

Screenshot 2019-03-27 at 21.38.56.png

It’s pretty tricky if you think of it, as you have to keep in mind both key signature and modal formula (or harmonise on the fly). But on the plus side — you (kind of) get rid of this awful sound of endless transposition. You know? I hate it. E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E… Now same shit up the fourth… A-Bb-C-D— 😖 I want every key to sound different! I mean, I know it’s not the case — but this hack will get you close enough to not to get lulled into meditative state. (Unless it’s what you’re using your practice time for! 😄)

I’ll come back with even less boring scale runs soon. Harmonise ’till it hurts! 🤙🏻

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