Funk Piano Scales|Modes explained Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian, Lydian, Phrygian…

Here I will focus on three funk scales Two of the scales are must have that you can use when soloing and practicing improvisation.I like funk tunes because they often use only a few repetitive chords which means the improvisation material you can generate is huge.

Soloing Funk Scale 1#; The Blues Scale

Masters like BB King Stevie Ray John Coltrane Maceo Parker crated killing solos with using only this scale.

A big part of learning to improvise is simply having the confidence that the notes you’re playing will “work” and sound good. So here’s a great way to practice the blues scale: Take a funky 12-bar blues in any key and use the blues scale for that key to solo over the entire form. You can play a single blues scale over the I, IV, and V chord.

Soloing Funk Scale #2: The Pentatonic Scale

The pentatonic scale is a 5-note scale (penta = “five”; tonic = “tones”. So literally a “5-tone” scale). There are 2 forms of the pentatonic scale – the major pentatonic and the minor pentatonic.

Soloing Funk Scale #3: The Lydian Dominant Scale

The lydian dominant is a hybrid scale. As the name suggests, we’re actually combining the lydian scale (a major scale with a raised 4th) and a mixolydian scale (a major scale with a flatted 7th. We refer to this as a “dominant” scale because we commonly use mixolydian scales to solo over dominant chords). Let’s take a look at a C lydian dominant scale:

– Hi guys, I’m Julian Bradley from, got another jazz piano lesson for you. Today, we’re gonna look in depth into all seven church modes. So you may have heard of words like, Dorian mode, or Phrygian mode, the Lydian mode, the Locrian mode, Mixolydian mode, Well, today we’re gonna look in depth into all of these modes, there’s gonna be a lot of information, but I’m gonna keep it interesting by looking at popular music examples, so we’ve got some Michael Jackson, some Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, and even some 50 Cent as well in there.

So, a big variety of music and let’s get straight to it and I’ll see you on the other side. So first of all, what is a mode? Well, let’s take a scale, in this case, C major, (piano chord chimes) is all the white notes. So it’s only C major though, (piano chord chimes) because we’re treating C as the base note, as the root of the scale. But what we can do is take that same collection of notes, (piano chord chimes) and then building it off (piano chord chimes) each note of the scale, so here I’m treating D as the root of the scale. (piano scale music) And I get a minor sounding kinda thing, that is actually the Dorian mode, which we’re gonna talk about in a minute. (soft piano music) Which has a very different sound to C major.

Then I could build the same set of notes all the white notes off E, (soft piano music) and get this eastern-sounding kind of mode, that’s gonna be called the Phrygian, we’ll get to that in a minute. (soft piano music) We’ll do the same with F. (soft piano music) Get this very bright sounding mode. (piano chord chimes) and I can carry on and do that with each root note. And each scale has a very different character. Even though it’s the same set of notes, each scale has a completely unique character. So to start with, let’s take C Lydian. (piano chord chimes) Oh, the other thing, by the way, I’m gonna treat C as the root for all of these, so that way you can really clearly see which notes I’ve sharpened, and which notes I’ve flattened for each mode.

So I’ve started with C Lydian scale. (soft piano scale music) So the Lydian scale is basically a major scale but with a sharp four. (soft piano scale music) And it’s the brightest of the church modes. (“The Simpsons” theme song) So that’s one famous piece of music that uses the Lydian scale. Actually, a lot of film music, a lot of TV series use this mode ’cause it’s kind of this very bright sound. I know the Blockbuster commercial ended with something like this. (soft piano music) That kind of sharp fall that you’re listening out for. (soft piano music) And the characteristic chords for this (piano chord chimes) is C major, (piano chord chimes) and D major. (piano chords chime) And with each of these modes, a lot of it is about which chords you’re using to create that sound, ’cause if I’m playing C major, and E minor, (piano chords chime) that’s not creating that Lydian sound. But if I play C major, and D major, then that does create the Lydian sound. (soft piano music) So the next mode would be C Ionian scale, a basically posh way of saying C Major.

(soft piano scale music) So I’ve just unsharpened the four, basically. (piano scale music) We don’t need to spend time on this, plenty of songs are in the major mode, or in the Ionian mode. (“Jingle Bells”) What is worth saying though is that the characteristic chords for the Ionian mode (piano chord chimes) are the one, the major one chord, (piano chord chimes) the major four chord, and the major five chord. (piano chord chimes) So the next mode we’re gonna look at is C Mixolydian. (piano scale music) It’s basically a major scale but with a flat seven. This is kind of quite a cheesy sound. (“Ghostbusters” theme) So there’s Ghostbusters, and we got Phil Collins’ “Sussudio”. (“Sussudio” by Phil Collins) And the characteristic chords for this scale, (piano chord chimes) are major one chord, (piano chord chimes) the major four chord, in this case, F major, (piano chord chimes) and the major flat seven chord, so in this case, B flat major.

(soft piano music) A lot of blues music as well uses the Mixolydian mode. (piano blues music) So the next mode is gonna be the Dorian mode. (piano scale music) And this is basically in minor scale. (piano chord chimes) but with a major sixth, (soft piano music) And this mode is gonna be favor of a lot of people, my mom included, every time I play any piece that’s in the Dorian mode, and she’s not even musical, she’ll always say how nice it is.

A lot of Michael Jackson pieces are in the Dorian mode. (“Earth Song” by Michael Jackson) So really, I’m just going between the minor one chord, (piano chord chimes) and the Major four chord, which is F major in C Dorian. (soft piano music) (“Mad World” by Gary Jules) And there’s another Michael Jackson, I guess, “Thriller”. (“Thriller” by Michael Jackson) And then, if you want a jazz example, let’s take “So What” by Miles Davis. (“So What” by Miles Davis) So, this is taking D minor going to C minor. (piano chord chimes) The Dorian mode’s also used a lot in funk music. (piano funk music) (keyboard funk music) Okay, so the next scale will be the Aeolian mode. (soft piano scale music) Aeolian is just the posh word for minor, the natural minor scale.

Again, like with the major scale, a lot of pieces use this, don’t really need me to give examples, but. (“Heaven” by Bryan Adams) (“Blue” by Eiffel 65) There’s a little bit of that flat six. (“Blue” by Eiffel 65) You’re just listening out for the flat six. The characteristic chords for the Aeolian scale, (piano chord chimes) would be the minor one, (piano chords chime) the minor four, so F minor, (piano chords chime) and the minor five. (piano chord chimes) Also though, you know, (piano chord chimes) the flat six major, so A flat major, (piano chords chime) and also the flat seven major, so B flat major. (“Heaven” by Bryan Adams) Okay, so the next mode will be C Phrygian, the Phrygian mode. (piano scale music) It’s got that flat two, which is very distinctive, very eastern sound. (soft piano music) A lot of kind of hip hop, R&B kind of songs use this.

But actually, what’s quite common with this one is to alter the third. So, instead of having a minor third, you can alter the third and sharpen it to a major third. (piano scale music) (dramatic piano music) So that’s a lovely scale if you’re gonna be doing anything, if you wanna sound eastern in any way. (soft piano music) That’s usually (soft piano music) what composers will do. And the characteristic chords for the Phrygian mode are the minor one, so C minor, (piano chord chimes) and the flat two major, so that’s D flat major. (piano chords chime) Okay, and to end with, we have the Locrian mode. (soft piano scale music) And this is kind of an anti-climactic ending to this video ’cause really, there’s not much you can do with the Locrian mode.

And certainly no popular music has ever been written, to my knowledge. So if you’ve made it this far, well done, seriously. That was a lot of information we just went through. But now it’s question time, and I want to ask you guys if you can think of a popular music example, other than the ones I played, that uses any of these church modes that we’ve just gone through. So maybe the Dorian, the Mixolydian, maybe the Phrygian. If you can think of anything, please type in the comments box below this video, I’m pretty good at reading the comments and I’ll get back to you.

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