Axe of Creation: Fifty Shades of Minor

What’s going on everyone!? Welcome to another installment of Axe of Creation here at the wonderful Gear Snobs. This month we will be exploring the different shades of Minor, and no, it’s not fifty! We won’t be going into much detail about the harmony found within the multitude of flavors we’ll be sampling this month. We’ll be focusing more on the shapes, patterns, and fragments. Having a good foundation of these shapes will allow us, you, to explore the many shades of not only Minor but Major and/or Dominant sounds as well.

One…Two…Flat Three

One thing that I’d like to bring to you attention is how every “minor” mode will start with this scale fragment. The key ingredient is the b3 (flat three). Any time you see a b3 in a mode or chord, you (now) know you’re always dealing with some sort of minor flavor. Take a look at the colors of Minor we will be exploring below. Notice anything? Of course you do! They all begin with 12 b3!

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Let’s look at some of these fragments at random. Notice all we are doing is moving around the same 3 note pattern or fragment. Anytime we play this, we are implying some shade of minor. In the last measure below, I’ve placed our fragment on E as we will be playing all the modes we explore on or in Em.

GS_May_Part1_2

Our First Two Shades

The two shades or modes we will be exploring are Melodic Minor and Dorian. Only one note separates the two modes, and that will be the 7th and b7th. I like to view scales as only playable in three different way. This is very useful identifying chord tones and smoothly transferring between different keys.

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Key Characteristics

Now all modes have certain notes that are characteristic to them, what gives them their color or flavor or sound. This week we will be looking at Melodic Minor and Dorian. The only difference is the raised 7th within MM and creates an augmented chord to draw ideas from. Dorian is very popular mode and adding the 2nd and 6th bring a really nice, melancholy sound. It’s not teenage heartbreak-angst minor or sadness.  Below are two melodic examples, one for each mode. I’ve kept the rhythm and phrasing simple and straightforward as to just show you or hint at what these alterations can sound like.

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That wraps up the first half of our Shades of Minor lesson. I recommend interchanging these two modes as well as the two upcoming in the next part. This really allows you to “hear” the color or flavor of each mode. For those who enjoy my Drop D lesson, let that D5 roar and explore that key as well!

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Gregory Arthur is Axe of Creation, a Gear Snob, and a Father of Two. He challenges you to become uncomfortable with yourself in attempts to gain a new perspective. Never give your energy away to what you’re not. Focus on what resonates within you and bring forth in creation. 

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