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—

Practice session: Locrian dissection and more

Scale studies

Improv

  • Always on my mind
    • Shells
    • 10ths
    • Free improv

Observations

When playing from the chord chart, there is always a temptation to look on it even after you already know the progression by heart. It could be helpful to try and memorise the chords in the process of improvising to be able to look away from the chart and concentrate on introducing new left hand patterns and right hand runs.

Practice session: continuing with melodic minor studies + diving into Locrian

Sounds like I’m getting a taste for dissonances, huh? 🥴

Scale studies

  • All Melodic minor scales with proper descent over natural minor (told you it’s a classical week 😄)
  • G# Locrian scale dissection over moving degrees in groups of 3 — sheet music soon 🤖
  • G# Aeolian dissection over moving root arpeggio in groups of 3
  • C Aeolian dissection over moving root arpeggio in groups of 3, then 2

Session timing: 1h 40m

Piano day (2h)

  • Improv + scale studies
    • 2-octave Locrian scales in all keys
      • Both hands
      • In harmonic thirds + 1-5 shells in LH
  • Jazz voicings
    • Dorian fourthy voicings (D, G, C, F) — man I needed it so badly!
  • Left hand + technique
    • Intervallic patterns
      • 1-5-10 (all m & M)
      • 1-5-10 — (5) — 1-5-10 over ii — V — I – IV + iiø — V7b9 — i (major + parallel minor) in shells in RH — KILLER!

Piano day (2h)

  • Improv / scales study
    • Locrian 2-octave scales in all keys with two hands
    • Locrian improv is all keys (over m7b5 around the cycle in iReal)
    • Aeolian scales in all keys
    • Aeolian improv (same approach)
    • Minor blues: quick recap in C thru Eb
  • Voicings + modal
    • Cycling Mixolydian ii — v over I7 in all keys
    • Cycling Mixolydian IVmaj7 — v over I7 in all keys
  • Left hand
    • Intervallic patterns
      • Cycling broken tenths (1-5-10) in m & M
      • Cycling 1-5-10 + 5-6 in m & M