Modes confuse many guitarists – particularly those of us who grew up listening to rock and other popular music. We might know our majors and minors, but then some jazz player will show up and start throwing around strange sounding words like “Mixolydian” and “Phrygian” and making us feel dumb. We know these having something to do with “modes” but we don’t know any of the details.
Master the Modes strives to close that gap by giving you some intro material to each of the modes. It includes an ebook, as well as some jam tracks, so you can play around and explore the characteristic sounds of each mode.
The approach is simple. After some introductory material on the mode in the ebook, you are encouraged to listen to an intro track – which is a slower track featuring a guitar solo in the selected mode. You can then listen to another version of that track without the guitar solo, so you can experiment yourself. There are also two versions – with and without guitar – of a more sophisticated track, so you can further explore on your own. Lastly, there’s an audio track called “Master Class with Rob” which goes through some more concepts related to modes and intervals.
I’d like this product a lot more if it was called, “Introduction to the Modes,” because while the material it contains is quite good, it is still very basic. The notion that you can “master” a mode with a couple of pages of information and two jam tracks is absurd on its face, particularly when some of the information included in the ebook is somewhat simplistic. For example, they trivialize the various modes as being light or dark primarily as a function of the number of sharps or flats in each mode – more flats equals darker, more sharps equals brighter.
But the differences between modes are far more subtle and sophisticated than that – to call Lydian a brighter version of the major scale is an oversimplification, and not a very useful one at that, since many find Lydian to be less saccharine than the major scale.
The authors make a big deal out of the idea of teaching all the modes with the same root (eg, C Lydian, C Dorian, C Ionian etc) instead of teaching them all from the same notes (eg C Dorian, D Ionian, E Phrygian) and there’s certainly nothing wrong with this approach, although I wish they wouldn’t act as if it was such a revolutionary idea – this is how many people learn modes.
One of the big questions is, for $20 is this is a very reasonable way to start learning about modes? In my opinion, the answer to that question is a qualified yes. While I do think this is a good introduction to modes, and the jam-track based approach will make it accessible to many players, there is far more information available in other, similarly-priced products (for example, Don Latarski’s “Practical Theory for Guitar,” which covers the modes, and much much more, for under $30). By the time you’ve played the jam tracks, and maybe listened to the other songs they mention in each mode (which you have to find recordings of on your own), you will have the slight taste of what each mode is. Not a lot more.
The traditional advice about modes has been to learn a little bit about them all, and then pick two, and really try to master those two. I think that advice would be well served here. Use this booklet to learn a bit about modes, to get oriented, and to discover what you really want to dig into. But when you’ve decided what modes you want to master, just know that you’re going to have to go much, much deeper than this product can take you if you really want to Master the Modes.