by Alain Caron
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My approach is to be able to name every note I play while I’m playing, its function in the chord and its musical and emotional impact. But I don’t want to think about it while I’m playing, I just want to do it, just like when I speak, I don’t spell the words in my head before it comes out of my mouth but I know what they are. I’ve been trying to develop a mechanism that would allow me to do it, and it starts with the way I practice. I train my brain as much as my fingers, to think fast and ahead of what I’m going to play.
This exercise, over the modes derived from the Major Scale, will help you to locate all the notes and to be able to play freely everywhere on the neck, you will also have a better left hand positioning for sight reading.
Example: in the tonality of C.
Mode 1: Ionian C Maj.7 (Ionian)
Mode 2: Dorian D min. (Dorian)
Mode 3: Phrygian E min. (Phrygian)
Mode 4: Lydian F Maj.7/#11 (Lydian)
Mode 5: Mixolydian G 7 (Mixolydian)
Mode 6: Aeolian A min. (Aeolian)
Mode 7: Locrian Bmin.7/b5 (Locrian)
It is very important to have only one mode in mind at a time to begin with. Start with the “Ionian” mode (Cmaj.) the first note is C, which is the tonic, D the second, E the third etc. But when you do the same exercise with the “Dorian” mode (Dmin. in the key of C) you start on the note C that is the seventh, D the tonic, E the second etc. The point is the learn how to play any modes, anywhere on the neck, in every position. Try to concentrate on each note you play according to the mode or scale you’re in, (Tonic, Second, Third etc.). I suggest you play the arpeggio of the mode before you do the exercise; this will help you to hear the sound and the character of each mode or scale.
You should do this in all keys.
To build the Major scale (Ionian mode) in the other eleven tonalities, take note that it’s built
with two tetrachords separated by one whole tone. One tetrachord being, one whole-tone, one whole-tone, one semi-tone.
-First tetrachord: C to D (one w-tone) D to E (one w-tone) E to F (one s-tone)
-Separated by one w-tone F to G
For 4 string basses, start on the second beat of the first measure of each stave, and don’t play the last beat of the last measure of each stave.
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