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Have you ever had a mental block when it comes to … cameras … auto repair … plumbing, whatever. One of the biggest mental blocks I’ve had in my life involves getting my head around modes. Just mentioning the word “mode” makes me start to hyper ventilate!
When Richard Smyth mentioned that he had written a book, MODENomics Book 1, with companion CD specifically about this subject, I did a mental eye-roll and thought “here we go again”. But you know what … this time was different.
For starters, the entire book is 16 pages long and for me, that was reassuring. This seems do-able! Maybe I won’t have to quit my day job and devote the rest of my life to this after all! I flip the book open … Richard lays out the theory behind modes in one page, devotes a page to using the book and CD, talks a bit about phrasing … turn the page and we’re into the first mode!
OK, so … the Phrygian Mode. Sounds like something a group of monks might chant on a cold dark night … right? So far I’m not excited. Well let’s flip the CD on and hear what Richard does with it …… whoa. OK, so that sounds significantly cooler than I thought it would. As a matter of fact, that is some of the most tasteful playing I’ve heard in a while! At this point, I’m feeling inspired and I turn back to the book.
Being the terrible reader that I am, I’m instantly drawn to the pictoral showing the Phrygian mode with colour coded dots indicating the Chord Tones, Scale Tones and Transitional Tones. In other words, as well as showing the mode in notation, Richard draws a pictoral that illustrates the shape of the mode. Hey … this isn’t as scary as I thought! I flip on the hip sounding play-along track for the Phrygian mode and start noodling, utilizing the shape indicated and … a half hour later I realize I not only now know the Phrygian mode in one position, but I’ve actually had a blast working it into my own playing style!
Richard has been a pro player and educator for many years. His playing is very musical and tasteful in a Robben Ford meets Larry Carlton sort of way … exceptionally interesting solos with really beautiful phrasing. The companion CD is very much in Richard’s own style but I know a lot of other idioms that use modes extensively … everything from heavy rock/metal to modal jazz standards!
It is extremely rare that I feature a method book on this site. So why do it now? Because I’m sure there are a LOT of other players out there like myself, who are stuck in a rut and want some more interesting note choices in their playing. If this book does anything, it DEFINITELY gets you playing in different directions … really opens up your improvising skills and does it in a very ENJOYABLE way!
Audio samples coming soon!
16 page instructional book
6 tracks with author demonstrating modes
6 Play Along tracks
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