Modes are some of the oldest scales in music. In fact, they predate our modern major, minor, diminished, and augmented scales by a longshot So why, you might ask then, are they not used nearly as much?
Well, simply because the modes are so strict; they contain absolutely no sharps or flats, and they work well with few other scales.
One of the scales they work best with, though, is one of the most popular scales in modern music; the C Major scale. This is because the modes are built off of the scale degrees of the C Major scale.
There are seven modes in total, but in this article we are only going to cover on of these scales; the Aeolian mode on bass guitar.
The Aeolian mode is the sixth mode of the C Major scale, which means that is falls on the submediant, or the sixth scale degree, of the C Major scale. This gives us a small clue as to its properties, seeing as a scale being built off of a scale degree must certainly hold similar properties to it, and in this case the scale is being built off of the note A, which is the sixth note name of the C Major scale.
Quite simply; the Aeolian mode is made up of an odd collection of half steps and whole steps. The pattern is as follows:
Whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step
So how do we now translate this pattern into creating our mode? First off, we need to start with the sixth scale degree of the C Major scale, or the submediant, which is A.
Then, we need to apply this pattern to the notes; starting with A, a whole step brings us to B, then a half step gives us the note C, a whole step brings us to D, another whole step brings us to E, a half step gets us to F, a whole step brings us to G, and a final whole step brings us back to where we started from; A.
Now that we know this, you may be a bit curious as to what purpose a simple extension of the C Major scale serves.
Let’s say we have a C Major progression that is focusing around the submediant triad, maybe with the chords A, C, E, C, A. If we were to use the C Major scale to play over this, we would have to either rework it or else it wouldn’t work at all. If we use A Major, we will quickly discover that the properties are far too different to be compatible.
The Aeolian mode would be the perfect fit to play over this scale degree of the progression.
In the end, the best way to familiarize yourself with the Aeolian mode on bass guitar is by playing it; creating patterns, riffs, licks, and other exercises. Have fun, and good luck!
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