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Jazz Piano Lessons: Regarding the Modes

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So that's a discussion of the modes,
what they're useful for.
And to me and to a lot of people who grew
up studied music in Boston for decades.
They are not the most useful
thing to use to blow on.
I should point out here also that
we are not the note police here.
What we're not after is insisting
that you are regimented about
putting chord tones on the beat.
On the contrary,
what we're actually about is
putting a really coherent
structure on the beat.
Because often, let's take a look here.
We've looked at this before.
There's a C7 chord,
it's actually a C9 chord.
I wanna have a D triad on top of it.
I wanna go here.
And I want people to know that I studied
that and I have that on there.
So, the best way to do it,
or at least one really good
option to do it is to play
a D seven bop scale on it and
lower the B to a B flat.
And the notes that that puts on
the beat aren't chord tones, but
they're outlining the thing that I'm going
for in such a strong and compelling way.
That there's no question
that I know what I'm doing.
As the harmony gets more and
more sophisticated, all we need is
an awareness of what we put on the beat.
Listen to John Scofield play the guitar.
Brilliant guitar player, and he plays so
many figures that are like,
I don't even know what.
But they're all over the place.
And they're not derived from
a scale particularly at all, but
it's a really interesting exercise
to analyze what's on the beat and
how that relates to
making things coherent.
And to putting a strong
structure on the beat.
Here's our C guide tones.
That's kind of an interesting
expression [SOUND] of a C altered sound.
what I did there was play an A flat seven.
With a flat 13 scale on it.
I could be playing it like that way.
I could be doing this.
No, let's do it a little different.
All that stuff,
if you took a look at what's on the beat,
it would be something that's giving you
a real clear indication of where I am.
And that's what this is about,
that's what the bop scales are about.
It's not about this note's
legal on the beat, and
that note's not legal on the beat.
It's just about making
us aware of the power
of being mindful of what
we're putting on the beat.
And about cultivating a set of scales
that if these are your basic idea, these
are the ones that are falling comfortably,
that you've figured out fingering on,
and so forth.
That the ones that you naturally go for,
naturally put you in sync.
And that, to me, that was the biggest
leap I ever made as an improviser.
Was, once I got this,
I remember the big smile on my
face playing those practice pianos
at the Berkeley College of Music.
And thinking, all right, I got it.
This sounds right now.
So, the modes, they're great for
certain sorts of things.
But they are to me more
of a theoretical thing
than an actual put it in practice and
use them to blow on thing.
That's just not the way I hear things and
I think you'll be doing yourself
a favor if you work with
the eight notes scales instead.
Let's have a discussion here about
what is meant by modal jazz and
what the modes are,
and how we think about them and
how we use them,
particularly as they
relate to this course,
Artist Works Jazz Piano School.
Essentially the modes,
[SOUND] let's start on
C [SOUND] are names for
a scale if you start it from
different degrees than number one.
C major scale
if we play it, if we're talking about
the chord C, that's the Ionian scale.
Same scale, if we talk about it
starting on a D, over a D minor chord,
it's the exact same notes
That is a Dorian scale now.
It's the same notes, but the scale
pattern is now different, of course.
This one starts out one, two three
In D,
rather than starting with two whole steps,
it's that same scale,
the C scale with D at the bottom,
starts out with a whole step but
then a half step.
It's a minor sound, it's a minor scale.
And If we needed to call
the minor sonority in jazz
by it's modal name,
we would call it [SOUND] Dorian.
If we started on E,
we get a very weird scale.
Let's transpose it elsewhere cuz right
now it still sounds kind of [SOUND],
like this.
Let's do it in F sharp.
[SOUND] Get that around your
head as the key center.
Sounds exotic and maybe kind
of Oriental or something like that.
And it's close to some kind of scales
maybe from the Arab world of music.
And that one starts right
off with a half step.
If we put it back into C now.
That's the Phrygian,
Continuing on up from where we were,
take the C major scale,
put it over an F chord,
with F at the bottom,
and that's called a Lydian scale.
Which is different from a major
scale because instead of
B flat in there, we've got this B.
It's kind of the Disney wonder sound I
think about it as.
Then if we go up, continue to play the C
major scale over a different base note,
[SOUND] now we've got
the Mixolydian scale.
Which again, is differentiated
from a major scale because we
don't have that raised seventh.
We have the flat seventh.
So if we were to pick a mode that
we would say a G 13 chord is,
[SOUND] it would be the Mixolydian scale.
Quickly continuing up,
if we started on a A,
we have the Aeolian scale which
bears a resemblance to things
that you might know as harmonic and
melodic minor scales.
I think that's the harmonic minor.
I don't think in those terms, so,
Aeolian, and to be honest, this
is one that I just never use so I don't
even really know what the name of it is.
That's the principle of the modes though,
is that we move up the chord.
we keep the same scale
tones as the Ionian.
The modes are useful to the way that
I think of jazz in a couple ways.
For one thing, we construct a lot
of our harmony out of these.
For example,
let's put up a G mixolydian scale.
And that's the C major scale but
we're playing it over a G chord.
So it's the natural scale for
our G7 chord.
When we're looking for extensions on this,
we look in the mixolydian mode.
Sometimes we look outside the mixolydian
mode, like for our sharp 11.
That makes
us our G13 chord.
So they are really most useful,
in my opinion,
as ways of looking at the tonal center.
As a practical matter for, for soloing?
I don't find them all that useful.
And the reason why, as we've discussed
in a few lessons, is that as you play up
them, since they're seven note scales,
they kind of get out of whack.
And the best expression of that
is by looking at what these scales put on
the beat.
There we're cool.
It's all chord tones.
We're in sync with the harmony
that we're blowing on.
Let's continue to play up.
Those are the exact
opposite of chord tones.
And since the ear perceives
the notes that it hears
on the beat to be the harmony,
we are effectively,
if we're blowing away on these notes,
that sounds awful.
And the reason why is that we are putting
what should be between notes,
we're putting them on the beat instead
and we're ending up with that.
We're not using any harmonic leverage
by putting the chord tones on the beat.
This sound should be pretty well
under your fingers by the time you
get to this lesson.
But this isn't the sound
we're looking for.
Those are all
notes that are in
the proper mode.
They're in the Ionian mode.
Why can't I use them?
Why doesn't it sound
good when I'm using them?
They're part of the scale that
so-and-so told me to use.
The problem is that you're
putting them on the beat.
And this is the problem that's so
elegantly solved with
the eight note scales.
Now, all the way up,
you can play down from here.
That could be like that piano in the,
what was it, the 5000 Fingers of Dr.
Terwilliger that disappears
over the horizon.
And you would still be in sink
putting cord tones on the beat,
as long as you play this scale, just for
the addition of this little passing tone.
So, the mode is great.
You look at the keyboard, all the white
keys, that's the tonal center of C.
You look at the keyboard, the A flat major
scale, that's the tonal center of A flat.
That's a real good use of the modes and
once again, building our
chords from things that we find in the
mode is a very useful way to think of it.
[SOUND] There's C.
That's beautiful because we're choosing
our extensions, in this case a G triad.
When we play our triadic harmony,
our gospel harmony,
that's a perfect example of
something that we draw straight
from the mode we're in.
If we're in a minor chord,
we're moving the chords down the notes of
the mode.
We're not using our bop scale here.
We're not adding that extra tone.
If we're on a F7 chord,
we're doing the same thing.
We're drawing.
As we move the chord around,
we're moving to the next note in the mode,
in this case, the mixolydian mode.
Same thing when we're
sitting on the major chord,
we're using the notes of the Ionian mode.
That to me is what the modes are for,
but as a practical matter,
to use them for blowing,
they'll put you out of sync.
Whereas, if the sound that kinda
of falls under your fingers,
cuz you're gonna get
something under your fingers.
And it's either gonna be major scales,
minor scales, and
Mixolydian scales that are seven notes.
Or you're gonna get something in there
that keeps you in sync.