Every year on Christmas Day, my band does the 12:00 Mass at our church. The entire set is Christmas carols, though I add a modern twist to the songs. For instance, I arranged a latin/reggae version of the classic “Do You See What I See.”
It was the first time we ever performed that tune, and it was a real hit. After the service, several people came up to me and commented how they liked the fills that I played in between verses and the long solo I played at the end; we ran out of singing room, so we just vamped on the D – C change, and I soloed on top of it.
What was cool was that it was the very first time in all of my career of playing that I consciously applied modes to my soloing. I’ve lately taken an interest in studying modes yet again, and after reviewing modes with great videos by Vinnie Moore and Rob Chappers, I’m starting to finally “get” them. I’ve known the modes from an intellectual standpoint, but it wasn’t until I saw the two video sets that I really started “hearing” the modes. That’s the problem I’ve had with all the written material about modes. The articles and books I’ve read on musical theory talk about the “spelling” of different modes and what-not. But hearing them makes all the difference in the world, and today I was able to apply what I’ve been reading about for years.
The way I arranged “Do You See What I See” was perfect for the Lydian mode which “sounds” kind of Middle Eastern to me. The song starts out in C then goes to D. With my fills, I did an F Lydian, then when I changed the key, did a G Lydian. I didn’t really think too much about what I was playing, I just made sure to stay in the major scale and keep the “theme” of the mode. I mixed that with a minor pentatonic in places, but always resolved back to the Lydian.
It was a very powerful and moving experience for me. I really had no idea what I could do with modes until today. But you can bet I’ll be expanding my use of them. Now, to be a bit fair to myself, I’ve been inadvertently using Dorian and Mixolydian modes for years. I knew I was using a major scale when I was playing; for instance, when I wanted to have a “darker” feel, I’d use what I now understand to be a Dorian mode. I just didn’t know it at the time.
This is really cool stuff, folks! Imagine after 42 years of playing, I’m finally getting it! 🙂
So have a “Modal” Christmas!