Mastering Modes: Aeolian (Guitar Lesson)


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Kris Norris

Mastering Modes: Aeolian

Kris explains Aeolian, which is the 6th mode of the major scale. This is also known as the natural minor scale. He covers the target tones and plays to a backing track.

Taught by Kris Norris in Kris Norris Artist Series seriesLength: 7:32Difficulty: 3.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (01:32) Introduction & About Aeolian Kris is back in lesson 23 with more on the modes of the major scale. If you are just jumping in here, it will help to watch the earlier mode lessons to better understand some of the terms and theory used here.

Lesson 23 is all about the Aeolian mode, which is the exact same as the natural minor scale. Kris uses the term "minor scale" throughout this lesson when referring to the Aeolian mode.

Scale Degrees / Step Pattern

If we take E major (E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, and D#) and lower, or "flatten," the 3rd, 6th, and 7th scale degrees, we get the E minor scale (E, F#, G, A, B, C, and D), or E Aeolian. In terms of half steps and whole steps, this scale consists of the following pattern: W-H-W-W-H-W-W.

NOTE: The screen Kris references can be found in the Supplemental Content section under "Aeolian Chart."

Sixth Mode of the Major Scale

The Aeolian mode occurs naturally in the major scale starting on the 6th scale degree. For example, the C# Aeolian mode is derived from the sixth scale degree of the E major scale. C# Aeolian or C# natural minor is spelled C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A, and B.

Relative Major and Minor Keys

An important relationship exists between the E Aeolian mode / minor scale and the G Ionian mode / major scale. These scales share the same pitches and key signatures (one sharp - F#). However, the tonic of each scale is different. G major is spelled: G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#. If you count up to the 6th note of that scale, you arrive at E, which is the basis for the E Aeolian mode / minor scale These scales are related. E minor is referred to as the "relative minor" of G major, since these scales contain the same pitches and share the same key signature. Conversely, G major is referred to as the "relative major."

NOTE: For more information pertaining to relative major and minor keys, please refer to Matt Brown's 10th Reading Music and Rhythm lesson.
Chapter 2: (02:28) What is Aeolian? Target Tones

Kris' target tones of choice in Ionian are the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th. He uses G Ionian as an example, which produces the following target tones: G, B, D, and F#. He states that even if these target tones are used over a minor chord or minor chord progression, you are still playing a major tonality. This is partly true; the notes he has specified are a Gma7 arpeggio and on their own can create a major or Ionian sound. However, as discussed in other lessons in this mode mini-series, the harmony you are playing over has the final say in determining the sound of what is played. For example, if these target tones are played an Em chord, an overall Em9 harmony is implied. Respectively, G, B, D, and F# function as the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th of the Em9 chord. Consequently, the prevailing tonality is distinctly minor, not major. While you may think and even hear the notes you are playing as "G major," a dressed-up E minor tonality is produced.

The target tones Kris suggests to create an Aeolian sound are the b3 (G), b6 (C), and b7 (D). As always, make sure to target notes in the chord you are playing over at the moment. Targeting a C note over Em (E-G-B) will sound dissonant and urges to resolve down a half step to B. Targeting a G over a D chord (D-F#-A) will have a similar urge to resolve down a half step to F#.

Diatonic Triads / Primary Triads

The diatonic triads in E Aeolian are: Emi (i), F#o (iio), G (III), Ami (iv), Bmi (v), C (VI), and D (VII). The primary triads are i, iv, and VII. In relation to an E tonal center, these chords are Em, Am, and D. As with the Phrygian and Dorian modes, the chord built from the fifth scale degree is minor. The resolution from a minor v chord to tonic is considered to be weak. Consequently, the VII chord is frequently used to establish a resolution back to the tonic chord.

Harmonic Minor Tonality

A common tool used by composers for centuries is to simply make the 5th chord major, which produces a B chord (B-D#-F#). This can be extended to B7 (B-D#-F#-A). This gives the V chord the leading tone (the natural 7th scale degree, D#), which pulls the harmony towards the i chord (Emi). However, care must be taken when this chord is used; playing a D natural note over a B chord will sound dissonant and not as effective as a D#, so you can no longer use just E Aeolian. Instead, The E harmonic minor tonality (E, F#, G, A, B, C, D#, E) must be used.

NOTE: For more information on the harmonic minor scale, please refer to lessons 21-23 of Matt Brown's Phase 2 Rock Series.
Chapter 3: (02:05) Aeolian Target Tones The sample chord progression Kris provides in this scene consists of the following chords: G (2 mm.), C (1 mm. plus 2 beats), D for 2 beats, G (2 mm.), C (1 mm.), D for 2 beats, G for 2 beats, Em (2 mm.), D (2 meas.), C (2 meas.), and Am(add9) (2 mm.). The first 8 measures feature the primary triads of G major. Consequently, Kris refers to this as a "major" progression. The last 8 measures use the primary triads of E minor plus the VI chord (C), and Kris calls this a "minor" progression.

Actually, this entire progression can be considered a G major progression: I-IV-V-I-IV-V-I-vi-V-IV-ii. While it doesn't necessarily follow functional harmony, which follows more movement in downward 5ths (such as vi-ii-V-I), the progression is nonetheless diatonic to the G major tonality. Notice how the vi chord (Em) only briefly appears in the middle of the progression, which does not allow the ear to really settle on this chord as tonic, or the "home" chord. The ear is more drawn to the I (G) due to its frequent appearance in the first half, and the whole step downward resolution from ii (Am) to I (G) every time the progression ends and restarts.

Notice at 1:00, when emphasizing the F#, G, and B notes which Kris states creates a "major" sound, how few of the notes seem to fit. This has less to do with the "major" or "minor" quality of the notes, and more to do with the harmony underneath. At this point, he's playing over the C chord (C-E-G) and Ami(add9) (A-C-E-B). Notice how dissonant the F# note sounds over the C chord, but he resolves it up a half step to the G note and it sounds consonant (lacks tension). However, when he goes to the B note, though, there's dissonance again since the B note longs to resolve up a half step to the root note C. When the chord switches to the Ami(add9), neither the F# nor the G notes seem to fit at all. They are both whole steps away from chord tones (F# and E, and G and A) so there's less urgency to resolve, but at the same time there is no stability with either note.

These major scale target tones lose their "major" quality when the harmony changes. This is an important aspect to take into consideration when writing and/or improvising a solo.
Chapter 4: (01:26) Aeolian Playing Example In this scene, Kris improvises in E Aeolian using the target tones discussed earlier.

Video Subtitles / Captions





Supplemental Learning Material

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Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


mae82mae82 replied on February 13th, 2013

I really struggle to get my heads around modes. If one is playing in E minor, why is it E minor? Why not G major? It has all the same notes in. If I'm playing a B Dorian mode, why aren't I playing in A Major.mi just can't get my head around it!!

mae82mae82 replied on February 13th, 2013

Slowly getting it thanks to watching and soaking up this vid!

neef68neef68 replied on January 9th, 2013

It's all improvised. If there were tabs it would defeat the whole purpose of the lesson. It's crazy how interesting you can make improvisation sound with the knowledge of a couple of scales and scale positions ;-)

pdanielpdaniel replied on October 25th, 2012

Tabs for the solos would be wonderfull :)

jpfanboyjpfanboy replied on January 1st, 2010

Good lesson!

Kris Norris Artist Series

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Kris Norris kicks off the JamPlay.com Artist Series with a wide array of ideas and lessons; from changing strings on a floyd rose, to advanced sweeping / legato techniques and soloing applications.



Lesson 1

Changing Strings - Floyd Rose Style

Kris Norris demonstrates how to install new strings on a guitar equipped with a Floyd Rose tremolo system.

Length: 13:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Warm-up Exercises with Kris

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Lesson 3

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Kris covers chromatic and scale pattern exercises. Also, he explains some variations on these exercise and provides you with the knowledge to create your own variations. Now you don't have any excuse...

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Lesson 4

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Kris covers right hand techniques such as palm muting, tremolo, palm muted string skipping, and upstroke accents.

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Lesson 7

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Kris presents excerpts from his song "Remaining Foolish" from Icons of the Illogical. He explains the arpeggio patterns used in various parts of the song and also talks about alternate picked arpeggios....

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Length: 10:08 Difficulty: 4.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

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Length: 8:52 Difficulty: 4.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

A Closer Look At Pick Thickness

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Satriani Inspired Tapping

Kris Norris explains how to play a Joe Satriani inspired tapping etude.

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Lesson 12

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Lesson 15

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Lesson 16

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Lesson 17

Mastering Modes: Basic Scale Theory Primer

This is the first lesson in the "Mastering Modes" mini series. Here Kris explains the fundamentals of scale basics.

Length: 19:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Mastering Modes: Ionian

In this lesson, Kris explains the history behind the modes and then explains the Ionian mode.

Length: 9:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Mastering Modes: Dorian

In this lesson, Kris covers the Dorian mode, which is the second mode of the major scale.

Length: 13:39 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Mastering Modes: Phrygian

Kris explains the basics of the Phrygian mode, which is a minor sounding mode of the major scale.

Length: 7:43 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Mastering Modes: Lydian

In this installment of the "Mastering Modes" mini-series, Kris covers the Lydian mode. This is the fourth mode of the major scale.

Length: 9:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Mastering Modes: Mixolydian

Kris explains the basics of the Mixolydian mode, which is a major sounding mode of the major scale.

Length: 10:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Mastering Modes: Aeolian

Kris explains Aeolian, which is the 6th mode of the major scale. This is also known as the natural minor scale.

Length: 7:32 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Mastering Modes: Locrian

Kris covers the Locrian mode, which is the 7th mode of the major scale.

Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

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Lesson 26

Song Workshop Experiment - Finale

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Lesson 28

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Lesson 29

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Lesson 30

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Length: 25:12 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

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Lesson 32

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Lesson 33

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Lesson 35

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Length: 7:13 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
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About Kris Norris View Full Biography Mr. Kris Norris was born August, 31 1978 in Canton, Ohio. He began playing around the age of 14. Early on the self-taught guitarist took an interest in metal and began playing in a local Virginia metal band. Kris' early influences were rooted in Swedish metal, bands include In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and Edge of Sanity. Norwegian Black metal also played a part in Kris' interest including early Mayhem, Emperor, and Ulver. Kris started Disinterment with future Darkest Hour bandmate Ryan Parrish. Disinterment lasted over 6 years and developed a local following in the Virginia metal by being some of the first players to incorporate Swedish metal and 3 guitar players.

College Days
When Kris was 17 he attended Virgina Commonwealth University School of Music (VCU). He studied Music composition and focused on film with world renowned composer Dika Newlin. Kris also studied classical guitar with John Patykula, prize student of Jesus Silva who was the prize student of Andre Segovia. Kris left the University after 6 years of studies. After college, he began his teaching career instructing private students and giving lessons at Mars Music. Kris' teaching career would eventually be put on hold to join Darkest Hour.

Darkest Hour Days
Kris' first album with Darkest Hour ,Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation, the 2005 release was recorded at Studio Fredman in Gothenburg, Sweden with producer Fredrik Nordstrom. Ironically, the same studio facilitated many of Kris' influences 10 years prior.

Darkest Hour's next release, Undoing Ruin allowed Kris to stretch his wings and show what he could truly do on the instrument with the addition of several solos. The record was produced by Canadian metal mastermind Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, Steve Vai). Townsend was a big part of pushing Kris to his own musical potential on Undoing Ruin and even more so on the follow up record, Deliver Us.

Deliver Us was released in 2007 and debuted at 110 on the Billboard Chart. This would be the last Darkest Hour record with Kris as a member. The album like its predecessor was also produced by Devin Townsend, who was able to take a bigger hand in its production. Devin pushed Kris to experiment with his own playing and to hone in on his strongest abilities.

Kris' career with Darkest Hour spanned 6 years, 23 countries, 4 continents, countless tours, 3 albums, near 200,000 album sales, and many lifelong friendships made along the way. With the birth of his son in 2008, Kris felt he needed to take his career closer to home while still focusing on music and guitar. In order for Darkest Hour to devote 100% to their music and touring, Kris came to the decision to amicably part ways with the band.

His Future:
As of early 2009, Kris has full sponsorships from ESP, EMG, Peavey, DigiTech, InTune, and Morley. Currently, Kris is producing and mixing aspiring metal acts while also working for Final Symphony Studios out of Charlottesville, Virgina. Kris also edits records for James Murphy (Testament, Obituary, Death) at Safehouse Productions. Kris has released his first solo record through Magna Carta Records, entitled Icons Of The Illogical. His solo effort was recorded at Karma Productions with Cory Smoot (GWAR) and features vocals from Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe.

Kris is excited to be an addition to the JamPlay Instructor Roster. Lending his metal chops and thorough education to his lessons make him a valuable teacher. Kris is excited to be making lessons for JamPlay and just as stoked to learn new things from our other instructors. Check it out and stay Metal.

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