Modal scales: aim not to become fluent, but rather a native

In the previous post I’ve shared another non-boring way to fall in love with a scale that might sound intimidating, dissonant or uncommon (or is labelled by people as such). Like a Locrian modal scale. Recently I’ve been doing some recap and used this approach with Mixolydian mode. And it turns out it works beautifully there as well!

As always, the point of doing these studies for me is to really internalise the hallmark mood of a particular mode. Major and minor (both harmonic and natural) are almost like the kids you grew up with, right? You can finish most typical runs and progression before they end. The major scale is so predictable you’re getting nauseous halfway around the circle of 5ths. But whenever you switch to the modal world, be it major mode or harmonic minor mode, or a melodic minor mode, or some exotic non-heptatonic thing, it immediately starts to feel “unfinished”. Like, why does the Lydian mode sound as if it were questioning something? Who’s Phrygian angry at? And why does Mixolydian suddenly feel annoyingly round and overly clean, like a badly photoshopped fashion model?

So, this feeling of “wrongness” and peculiarity — as opposed to instinctive nature and obviousness that you have with major and minor — apparently originates from the fact that you might not have had a chance to hang out with those modalities and make friends with them. It’s somewhat reminiscent of foreign language phonetics that sound funny — but a little more subtle. Well, there’s a way to alleviate this problem and learn to accept modal scales as they are — by dissecting them!

Here’s the same approach that I used to tame Locrian mode — applied for Mixo (you can find the detailed description in the previous post):

Screenshot 2019-05-27 at 10.25.29 PM.png

Starting with simple arpeggiated modal 7th chords.

Screenshot 2019-05-27 at 10.25.53 PM.png

Moving on and adding the Mixolydian scale (F in this case) dissected in groups of 3, ascending and then descending over the moving arpeggios, thus producing the unique blend that gives you a much fuller impression of the mode compared to just bluntly rolling up and down the scale.

Screenshot 2019-05-27 at 10.25.40 PM

And finally adding the octave jumps to challenge the right hand and add even more definition and depth to the picture. That’s it! Gotta keep it short, as I’ve probably already been dragging on this topic a little bit too long. Make sure to check out other dissection posts, and tune in back later for the new (hint: left hand) stuff!

 

Piano day (1h 40m)

Left hand + extensions

Modal studies

  • All Mixo scales

Voicings + left hand

  • Major & parallel minor ii7 — V9 — I∆7 — IV∆9 | iiø — V7b9 — im7
    • Only ascending broken 10ths + arpeggio octave above
    • Ascending & descending broken 10ths
    • Only descending broken 10ths
  • Focus on descending broken 10ths around the cycle

Melodic exercises

  • Diatonic Mixo 10th-based pattern

Piano day (1h 40m)

Technique

  • Transposing Hanon (3 random exercises from Book 1) to F & Bb major

Modal studies + left hand

Rhythmic studies + hand independency + modal studies

  • Moving accents + scale runs (Dorian C thru Eb)
  • Mixolydian scales
    • I7 chord apreggiated with LH
    • Scale runs + articulated b7, 5 and octave with RH

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

Piano day (1h 40m)

  • Improvisation
    • Chromatic progressions
      • Mixolydian over dominant, 3-7-9 shells, all keys
      • Dorian over minor, same
  • Modal studies
    • Harmonising Lydian mode
      • All keys, using 7-3-5 shells in RH and 1-5, 1-6 pattern in LH
  • Exotic stuff
    • Just trying different polychods from “The Jazz Language”
  • Comping + soloing
    • Airegin in A-
      • 2 runs of solo
      • 3 runs of comping with 1-5-1-6 pattern in LH
    • Baubles, Bangles and Beads in G
      • Comping + broken 10ths in LH

Piano day (2h)

  • Modal studies
    • Harmonising Mixolydian mode with shells (3-7-9) — C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db
    • Harmonising Dorian mode with shells (3-7-9) — C, F, Bb, Eb
  • Improvisation
    • Lydian pentatonic in all keys over major chords in 7-3-6 shells
    • Recap minor blues scale
    • Harmonising Mixolydian mode with block chords & 7-3-5 shells in LH & runs starting on each new scale degree in RH (C-D-E-F…, D-E-F-G…, F-G-A-Bb…, etc.)
    • Same for Dorian
  • Comping
    • Free comping over “Worth the Wait” in Eb (just chords & focus on voice leading)
    • “Worth the Wait” in C — block chords in LH, chord scales in RH

Piano day (1h 40m)

  • Improvisation
    • Chromatic progressions
      • Mixolydian scales over dominant 7th chords in shells in all keys
        • LH separately
        • Shells with LH
        • Arpeggiated shells with LH
      • Dorian scales over minor 7th chords in shells in all keys (same approach)
    • Just a quick Lydian pentatonic recap
  • Modal studies
    • Mixolydian transitions between all degrees in A — B voicings (F)
      • Base 7-3-5
      • Base 3-7-9
    • Same with Dorian (C, F)