Modal Vamps
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~Modal Vamps~

When I was learning guitar as a teenager, I found it difficult to grasp the 'vibe' of each mode, but after a while I began to think of each mode as an entity (funny, but it works for me!). I remember reading a fascinating article by Vai (during the promotion of his 'Fire Garden' album), and he was talking about what images he used or imagined whilst playing certain modes. For instance, he would think of the 'Lydian' scale as being very magical, like Maria from the West Side Story. And for the 'Ionian' Scale he thought of something very pure, like Julie Andrews from 'The Sound of Music'. For the Locrian mode he said he imagined a strange deseased Island (though I've not heard him use that mode much, nor many other artists for that matter!). For the Phrygian mode he imagined a Sphinx and pyramids, egypt at night, dark and mysterious(though just thinking of spain usually does the trick for me!).

Partly the reason for people's lack of theoretical understanding concerning modes, as I've said elsewhere, is the lack of clear and precise explination of theory (see 'Modes & Scales' for an explanation of scales, complete with diagrams and chord spellings!). I used to buy all these crazy books that Steve Vai would recemmend (cheers Steve, Ted Greene's 'Chord Chemistry' was a real hoot, and Ted's 60's side-boards and hippy flower power notation were worth the price of the book alone!), and I also tried Allan Holdsworth's chord theory book. Allan's book was very interesting to me, because it had alot of craziness concerning jazz chords and their triad substitutions ect, but he has his own way of thinking concerning theory, just like every other professional musician. Infact, Holdsworth admits in the beginning of the book that he doesn't know a thing about modes! From what I can gather, he knows everything there is to know about modes, but he views them in patterns, and he builds chords not through standard triadic stacking, but through just picking notes from a scale, which is a very unique and ingenius way of going about creating music. Because of this paculiar way of approaching music, his music has an ambiguity to it, similar in a way to the 19th century expressionist composers e.g. Debussy, Ravel, Satie ect.



Within this section, I will give you the frame work to learn the overall 'vibe' of each mode, and as time progresses I will fill this page with various scale backing tracks. If you want to know what the 'Lydian' mode feels like(often used in hollywood films such as 'E.T', 'Back to the future', and 'A West Side Story'), then just download Lydian Vamp from the list below:-

~Modal Vamp Mp3s~


  • Lydian Vamp




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