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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Please help clear this up for me.

A tune in a minor key, I can hear that it's minor, for instance with one flat in the key signature...

Would this be called Gm (dorian) or Dm?

I ask because I'm told that when I see Gm during changes to consider it the Dorian mode of Fmaj (1 flat, root of G). The whole thing confuses the life out of me.

In Jazz, "minor" = "dorian"?

I hope this question even makes sense.
 

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A tune in a minor key, I can hear that it's minor, for instance with one flat in the key signature...

Would this be called Gm (dorian) or Dm?
As a general rule, one flat in the key signature would indicate Fmaj or Dmin. D minor is the relative minor of F major, meaning it is the same scale (key signature), but starting on a different note (the tonic). D min in this context is the aeolian mode of the major scale, starting on the 6th tone of the major scale.

Now, it's true that this could also be G dorian (the dorian mode of F maj).

Yes it can be confusing. The best way to avoid confusion is to learn the 'formula' for each mode or type of minor scale:

dorian = 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
aeolian = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

(those are modes of the major scale)

melodic minor = 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
harmonic minor = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7

(mel & harmonic minor are not modes of the major scale)

Etc...
 

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Its very confusing, and pretty pointless to think of different modes within the context of a certain key. Think of mode and key as the same thing. So in G you could have G major, G minor, G dorian, G phrygian etc. Learn the formulas like JL said then you can figure out what key or mode youre in.
What you need to do is identify the tonic. Thats the note that everything revolves around and what everything seems to resolve to. One flat in the key signature can be f major or d minor and technically g dorian, a phrygian etc. But in reality most of the time dorian, aoelian, and sometimes phrygian modes as a key(mode) for a tune, would have the key sig as the tonic's minor, and accidentals are used. Lydian and mixolydian usually associate with a major. At least it seems this way to me. Hope this makes sense. Sometimes its hard for me to explain theory in writing.
 

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The key signature is more reflective of the Natural Minor Scale (Aeolian). One flat suggests D minor even though Jazz players would tend to play the Dorian over the i chord. Confusing?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Do you mean the D dorian with a B natural?
Maybe he meant G dorian?

What a cluster this is.

Regarding the formulas you wrote about JL, if I understand you correctly you mean:

Aeolian of G maj would start on E. So:

1- E
2- F# (it's in the scale)
3b- G (because normally this would be G#?)
4- A
5- B
6b- C (because normally this would be C#?)
7b- D (because this would be D#?)

When I say normally, I mean notes of the major scale. So on and so forth.
 

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Maybe he meant G dorian?

What a cluster this is.

Regarding the formulas you wrote about JL, if I understand you correctly you mean:

Aeolian of G maj would start on E. So:

1- E
2- F# (it's in the scale)
3b- G (because normally this would be G#?)
4- A
5- B
6b- C (because normally this would be C#?)
7b- D (because this would be D#?)

When I say normally, I mean notes of the major scale. So on and so forth.
D dorian always has a b natural. The modes dont ever change. But sometimes the minors do. Think of it like this. Dorian is a type of minor where you play a natural six instead of a flat six. Dont think of dorian as a scale staring on the second note of a major scale, thats where the confusion starts. I never understood why they teach it like that. In fact, forget everything you know about modes and how they relate to a major scale and you'll be better off. Modes are like flavors. If youre in the key of C, there are many different flavors. Of course theres C major and C minor. But theres also C dorian, C lydian, etc. Make sense?
 

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Has this already been said:

The answer to your question depends on whether the piece resolves to G or D.

???

if it's in G, then G dorian would be the scale of choice, if it's in D, it's D minor.

simple as that.

or am I missing something here?
 

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Aeolian of G maj would start on E. So:

1- E
2- F# (it's in the scale)
3b- G (because normally this would be G#?)
4- A
5- B
6b- C (because normally this would be C#?)
7b- D (because this would be D#?)

When I say normally, I mean notes of the major scale. So on and so forth.
You've got the idea, but you might be making it a bit more complicated than necessary. Think of it this way:

E Aeolian

1) Forget the G major altogether. Now take an E major scale, and flat the 3rd, 6th, and 7th. You're there!

Like this:
E maj = E F# G# A B C# D#
E min Aeolian = E F# G A B C D

edit: I should add that you should also be aware that E aeolian is also the 6th mode of G maj, but keep that 'separate' so you don't confuse the issue. I think it's best to think in terms of the tonic, or in the case of a chord, the root.
 

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Do you mean the D dorian with a B natural?
What, there's another one?

buddy lee, this has got a bit more complicated than maybe it needs to be. Jazz music follows the standard notational conventions, so 1 flat in the key signature is Dm. What you should play over that is a more complicated question. But as for the 6th, you'll hear guys play the natural 6th as a color tone, the flat 6th as part of an implied V7b9 chord, or both or either as passing tones. Check out Bird playing 'Diverse' ('Segment'), good example of all of these.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
What, there's another one?

buddy lee, this has got a bit more complicated than maybe it needs to be. Jazz music follows the standard notational conventions, so 1 flat in the key signature is Dm. What you should play over that is a more complicated question. But as for the 6th, you'll hear guys play the natural 6th as a color tone, the flat 6th as part of an implied V7b9 chord, or both or either as passing tones. Check out Bird playing 'Diverse' ('Segment'), good example of all of these.
Ok, noted. What about individual changes in a song. If I see Gm I'm thinking G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F no? As opposed to G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F
 

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Depending on your band, and your comfort with playing "out" you could play any of the scales anyone has mentioned here...including the D dorian. If you are playing something hip but out, your mates can either use their ear and follow you there by altering the chord voicing a little, or you can resolve it back to where it needs to go when you are ready.
All twelve tones can be made to fit into a chord somewhere, it is all about the approach...Don't ask me about the approach though. I am just getting into extending chords beyond the common 11th's and 13th's.
 

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The key signature is more reflective of the Natural Minor Scale (Aeolian). One flat suggests D minor even though Jazz players would tend to play the Dorian over the i chord. Confusing?
b - F Major / D minor
bb - Bb/Gm
bbb - Eb/Cm
bbbb -Ab/Fm
bbbbb -Db/Bbm
bbbbbb - Gb /Ebm
- C/Am
# - G/Em
## - D/Bm
### - A/F#m
#### - E/C#m
##### - B /G#m

-------------------------------------------------

In the case of a tune in D minor (Natural Minor/Aeolian). There will be a Bb in the key signature, however a Jazz player will tend to play B naturals as chord tones over tonic chords (D Dorian). Over Pre-Dominant and Dominant chords the tendency is toward Bbs.
 

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What about individual changes in a song. If I see Gm I'm thinking G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F no? As opposed to G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F
If you see Gm, essentially you would be thinking G Bb D (the minor triad). That's what Gm means. All other tones are subject to the context (what key you're in, the melody of the tune, etc) and to the particular minor sound you want to get.

So, for example if you see a Gm and you're playing a blues in the key of F, and you want to think of it in terms of a scale, your first choice would probably be G dorian (you're filling in with the tones of F major scale, the key), but you could alter some of those tones. Far better to think in terms of the chord tones, though. So Gm in that context would be G Bb D F and it's likely leading into a C7 chord (C E G Bb). So, to take it a step further, when moving from Gm to C7, the Bb stays in place (it's shared by both chords) and the F moves down a half step to E. Those chord tones, the 3rd & 7th, are the important notes in that progression.

Of course there are other chord symbols for a minor chord such as Gm7b5, in which case you are given more info (in this case a b7 and a b5). Or G min/maj7 which implies a maj7th (G Bb D F#). The minor 3rd is always there; it's what makes the chord minor. The min 3rd AND a b5 means some sort of diminished chord, but now I'm getting too far afield.

Best thing to do is get a cheap keyboard, sit down and play the various chord types so you get the sound in your head.
 

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Ok, noted. What about individual changes in a song. If I see Gm I'm thinking G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F no? As opposed to G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F
This depends on a ton of things, probably most importantly the chord's function. If, for instance, the Gm is followed by a C7 then an F, you're in F, so from the standpoint of "what mode works here", G dorian is the conventional answer. But if the key center is currently Gm, then what I said above is relevant.

I don't want to harp on this since you're still finding your feet as a player, and the chord-scale relationships are a common starting point for teaching improvisation. But IMO music doesn't really function this way, chords don't necessarily imply any particular modes. Ultimately the notes of the chord are what they are, everything else is negotiable. Use your ears. Listen to everything you can, steal what you like. Spend a lot of time with a piano and your horn and work out some melodies. Only your ears will tell you whether they work or not.
 

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People teach all the time that you play a particular scale on a particular chord. This has a good point in that it gives the beginning improviser somewhere to start, but it has a bad point in that it doesn't teach the right way to think about chords.

Look at it this way: Dorian mode (for G dorian, that's equivalent to the F major scale, that is Bb and E natural) is used for MODAL COMPOSITIONS or perhaps modal sections of a tune. In other words a relatively long (say, more than 4 bars) section with just the one chord / mode.

It's actually not correct to think of a mode and chord at the same time - a mode is a set of notes that convey a particular feeling when played over a certain root tone. (The word "mood" comes from the same root as the word "mode".)

A chord, on the other hand, is a group of notes, usually based on "stacked thirds", that has a harmonic function and relates to the chords around it. So it's really not correct to think of what scale to play over a chord, but rather, what key you are in at the moment and how this particular chord emphasizes certain parts of the key, and choose notes from the root scale of the key, emphasizing the notes in the chord of the moment.

A good way to construct scales when playing over a chord progression is to use the base scale of the key; for Gm that would be a scale with 2 flats. Then, based on the chord you are playing, alter only those notes needed to fit the chord tones. For example, using the following chord progression:

Gm | Em7b5 | A7b5b9 | D7b9

You would construct your improvisation with the following structure:

Gm - use natural scale (same as Bb major), emphasize G Bb and D and perhaps F
Em7b5 - change Eb to E natural, emphasize E, G, Bb, D
A7b5b9 - change C to C#, emphasize A, C#, Eb, G, Bb
D7b9 - change F to F#, emphasize D, F#, A, C, Eb

So that's 4 different scales for four different chords, and some of them don't really have names. CONFUSING AS ALL GET OUT, which is why teachers often say "use this scale for this type of chord". But that's really wrong, so how best to approach this complexity?

DON'T THINK OF A CHORD AND A SCALE AT THE SAME TIME. Instead, think of the CHORD PROGRESSION, and create little lines (AKA guide tones) that follow through the progression. Using the same progression, here are 3 lines that you can follow through. In your improvisation, these notes would be emphasized, and runs or arpeggios constructed to decorate, as you wish.

Progression: Gm | Em7b5 | A7b5b9 | D7b9
Line 1: F | E | Eb | D
Line 2: Bb | Bb | G | F#
Line 3: D | D | C# | C

There are other lines you could use too (figure some out!). These lines follow the progression, and along with the chord tones, emphasizing the notes in the lines will make your improvisation "fit" the progression.

The best way to figure this out is, as Mr. Fry so eloquently put it, is to sit down with a keyboard and your horn and work it out. Using your new found knowledge, go listen to how the masters approach the same improvisation, and if you hear something you like, absolutely steal it. Analyze it and see if you can figure out what the player was thinking about at that point. You will then be on the way to understanding the progression.

It ain't easy, and it will take a while - most people will tell you that they learn new things all the time. It's a journey, not a binary leap from "not-knowing" to "knowing"; there is always more to learn and new ways to understand things you have already learned.

It's really quite remarkable how many different ways 12 little pitches can be organized...
 

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D dorian always has a b natural. The modes dont ever change. But sometimes the minors do. Think of it like this. Dorian is a type of minor where you play a natural six instead of a flat six. Dont think of dorian as a scale staring on the second note of a major scale, thats where the confusion starts. I never understood why they teach it like that. In fact, forget everything you know about modes and how they relate to a major scale and you'll be better off.
I am kinda confused. Modes like dorian, phyrgian etc always refer to modes of the mjor scale. So I have never heard of D dorian having Bb - it would be G dorian that has Bb. D dorian has no flats or sharps. Modes of the harmonic minor have rather different names. the II mode of D harmonic minor would be locrian #6, i.e. E locrian #6. It wouldn't be called E dorian, just because it is the second mode of the parent scale.

Finally, if the song is based on a pure minor (i.e. aeolian, not harmonic or melodic), then essentially the chords in it would be essentially the same diatonic chords that you find in F major?

If any of the above points are wrong, I would be grateful to be corrected on them. Thank you.
 

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I have more fun when I just play, and let the keyboard/guitar player worry about what extention/scale I'm using.:)

As stated above, it gets confusing if you try to derive the Greek modes (modes of the 'major' scale) by remembering Ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian.

It's much easier to remember that mixo has a b7, dorian is b3 b7, and lydian is a #4, as compared to major

Keys are named for their major/aeolian counterparts.
 

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I am kinda confused. Modes like dorian, phyrgian etc always refer to modes of the mjor scale. So I have never heard of D dorian having Bb - it would be G dorian that has Bb. D dorian has no flats or sharps. Modes of the harmonic minor have rather different names. the II mode of D harmonic minor would be locrian #6, i.e. E locrian #6. It wouldn't be called E dorian, just because it is the second mode of the parent scale.

Finally, if the song is based on a pure minor (i.e. aeolian, not harmonic or melodic), then essentially the chords in it would be essentially the same diatonic chords that you find in F major?

If any of the above points are wrong, I would be grateful to be corrected on them. Thank you.
You got it. I didnt say d dorian had a Bb, or if I did, didnt mean to. I was just saying that, to me, thinking of modes as to how they relate to a major scale doesnt make sense. I guess its kinda easy to figure them out that way but it makes more sense to think of them as a type of key. C major, C minor, C dorian, etc. So, if youre playing "so what" and someone says "hey, what key is the b section in?" you'd say "Eb Dorian!" ( I think) lol. Its been a while!
 
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