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Building a Modal Chord Progression For Lead Guitarists

Aug 26, 2008
To bring out the unique feel of the various modes is one of the challenges of building a modal chord progression. Without taking care in selection , this character can become confused. Now, lets look at Dorian and Phrygian. They are both minor modes. Both will utilize a Minor 7th as the tonic chord. For example If we imparted lII chord into the mix, but played it as a simple triad, we would use the chord of C Major in both cases. Thus, we have an identical chord progression, although both the modes are different.

We can arrange this by adding another note on top of our III chord, giving us a major 7 for Dorian and a Dominant 7 for Phrygian (B vs. Bb) - a fairly subtle modification that corrects the balance.

A better mode to deal with all this is to cautiously select chords that are characteristic to the way in question. For example, lets look at a Lydian progression, we will start with A major 7 as our tonic. We should emphasize on what is different in that musical mode as compared with others to cement the Lydian. Lydian has the risk of being confused with Ionian and Mixolydian. By looking at the table above, we can understand that of these three modes, only Lydian has a major chord in the second degree - Mixolydian and Ionian are both minor in the 2nd degree, so this would be a wonderful chord to use. This makes sense because we understand that Lydian has a sharpened 4th.

This same sharpened 4th forms the 3rd of the chord. Since this chord would normally be minor in a regular major scale, sharpening its 3rd would make it major. So another mode to look at picking distinctive chords is to base them on notes within the scale that are distinctive - it generally comes to the same thing.

To keep the bass note voicing on the tonic is another trick that we can use to concentrate on the mode of the progression. It really draws attention to where in the scale the chord is rooted, despite the fact that it complicates the chords a bit. Furthermore, it also allows you to concentrate on the tonality of the manner you are working with. Though this trick is less important. But this is a great way to start out and assist you to become more advanced.
Building a Modal Chord Progression For Lead Guitarists

To bring out the different feel of the various modes is one of the challenges of building a modal chord progression. Without taking care in chord selection, this part can become confused. As an instance, lets look at Dorian and Phrygian. They are both minor modes because they have flattened out 3rds. Both will practice a Minor 7th as the tonic chord. If we imparted for example a III chord into the mix, but played it as a simplified triad, we would use the chord of C Major in both cases. So, we have an identical chord progression, although both the modes are different.

We can fix this up a little by imparting another note on top of our III chord, giving us a major 7 for Dorian and a Dominant 7 for Phrygian (B vs. Bb) - a fairly subtle change that pretty much redresses the balance.

A better mode to deal with all this is to carefully pick out chords that are characteristic to the mode in question. For instance, lets look at a Lydian progression, we will start with A major 7 as our tonic. We should emphasize on what is unique in that mode as compared with others to cement the Lydian. Lydian, as being a major musical mode has the risk of being mixed up with Ionian and Mixolydian. By looking at the table above, we can see that of these three modes, only Lydian has a major chord in the second degree - Mixolydian and Ionian are both minor in the 2nd degree, so this would be a great chord to use. This makes sense, because we know that Lydian has a pointed 4th.

This same sharpened 4th forms the 3rd of the chord deduced from the second degree of the musical scale. Since this chord would normally be minor in a standard major scale, sharpening its 3rd would make it major. So another manner to look at picking distinctive chords is to base them on notes within the scale that are distinctive - it pretty much comes to the same thing.

To carry on the bass note sounding on the tonic is another trick that we can use to concentrate on the modality the progression. It really draws attention to where in the scale the chord is rooted. But it complicates the chords a bit. Moreover, it also allows you to focus on the tonality of the mode you are working with. Though this trick is less important but is a remarkable mode to start out and assist you to become more advanced.
About the Author
E Walker is the founder of Planet of Rock. Find out how guitar backing tracks will improve your guitar playing skills. Sign up for our FREE guitar affiliate program and start making cash!
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