Falling in love with Locrian

Locrian mode is the one most people tend to avoid. The mad one. The psycho. Everyone knows it under different pejorative names but the thing is — almost all theory teachers bash it and label it as “dissonant” or “not too widely used”. Well, maybe the fact that it’s not that widely used is the direct consequence of its ostracism in pop culture (I ain’t talking about jazz here!).

I used to avoid it as well and kept postponing its studies using all kinds of excuses. And then one day— Want to hear a secret? Locrian is, in fact, the most beautiful and sexy and extra tight / please don’t go there / just say the best / of all major modes — and in order to realise this, you only need to get over its diminished first degree! Once you fall from  right into the arms of bII∆7, you’re in love with it forever.

To make this realisation as simple as possible — and also to discover the hidden beauty of this freaky scale, I applied my dissection approach to it and here’s — I’m getting to the point — here’s the exercise I’d ended up with!

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Yes, I used C# key intentionally — mostly because it’s just fun to get out of C basecamp sometimes, no? 🤔

So, left hand here plays the simple 7th arpeggios of the harmonised C# Locrian scale: C#ø7 — D∆7 — Em7 — etc., and is then joined by the right hand that goes up the same scale in groups of 3 notes, with each group starting on the last note of the previous group. Like so: C# — D — E, E — F# — G, G — A — B, etc.

The scale runs blend with moving arpeggios, creating an intricate, very rich and surprisingly harmonious and — yes — pleasant landscape. I was really blown away by it!

Another thing to do here — and that may also add some challenge for the right hand — is to add diatonic jumps (while going up) and broken major 6ths (when going down).

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I highly recommend playing the whole thing one octave higher, so you could truly appreciate the sound of it. Of course, you can take it to all the other keys or use it over chord progressions or ye olde II — V — Is and so on.

I’ll share some practice ideas for Mixolydian mode and touch upon melodic minor topic in the next posts. Harmonise till it hurts—

Piano day (2h)

  • Improvisation
    • Studies in D Dorian
      • ii — v — i in shells in LH
      • Improvisation with “blanket scale” (D Dorian)
      • Try all chord scales for each degree (Aeolian, Dorian, Phrygian and Hm4 for minor), i. e. E Aeol, E Dor, E Phryg and E Hm4 for E-,  A Aeol, A Dor, A Phryg and A Hm4 for A-, etc.
      • Try keeping same modal color over the whole progression (only Aeol / only Phryg / only Dor)
      • Try mixing with blanket scale (sounded weird but definitely playable)
      • Mix Hm4 with minor blues (only a few notes’ difference)
  • Jazz voicings
    • m7 → 7
    • 7 → maj7
    • 7 → m7
    • Fourthy modal voicings (D Dorian, G Dorian)

Observations

Mixing chord scales with key scale is definitely a wonderful framework for improvisation. I learned it from Rich Brown, as he was combining Aeolian and Phrygian over a minor chord to produce cool chromaticisms. It’s not always guaranteed to get great results, but it definitely helps a lot in terms of expanding your vocabulary. For example, I would’ve never thought of combing minor and harmonic minor mode 4 over a minor chord unless I forced myself to try it (which I did), and it actually sounded AWESOME! So yeah, Hm4 over Dorian ii chord — try it, folks.

Bass day (1h 40m)

  • Latin rhythms & walking bass
    • Cha-cha-cha in G & E
    • Walking bass practice with Nashville number notation (keys of G, E, C, Bb)
  • Chord tones
    • Recap all 7th chords in all inversions around the cycle of 4ths
    • In context of the song (very briefly)
  • Tons of Runs (Andy Laverne book) — reading in treble + learning licks for soloing: dominant 7th run in 3 keys

Observations

OMG! I don’t know if it’s just a recent update or was always there, but I have just discovered that you can display chord charts in iReal Pro in NUMBER NOTATION!!! YAAAAAY!!! That’s an absolute killer. Keep improving walking bass line skills and at the same time finally internalise all scale degrees relationships (even though the app is not smart enough to detect mode mixing and modulations to other keys, but still!). Priceless.