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  • rbedwell3

Playing outside II: Ionian Alternatives

Now, I know I said part II of this series would focus on Lydian this time, but I changed my mind because the Ionian mode is by far the most common mode to play in music and also the most boring. So I thought I would rush this out there for those stuck playing in Major keys, especially involving I IV V progressions or any variation of it. I know its hell.

First, if you followed my previous explanation for scale choices over the recent four part Dorian alternatives post, then you will be familiar with the following scales: Melodic, Neapolitan minor, Locrian natural 7 and Harmonic minor. These are the scales that can also be played over the Ionian mode that have only one altered note in them. In G Major, or over G Ionian, that would be A Melodic (G#), B Neapolitan minor (A#), E Harmonic minor (D#) and F# Locrian natural 7 (E#).

Before we get into the modal positions and patterns, I just want to explain where these scales come from and why I am playing them over the Ionian mode. I explain in The Modal Method of Music, that all scales are connected to each other, but there are definite routes and keys to use. That is why I would not play G Melodic over G Ionian, but rather, A Melodic. E Harmonic minor, that’s easy to explain, because it is built on the raised root of the Mixolydian mode, D Mixolydian = D# Alt bb7 = E Harmonic minor. Doesn’t mean we are going to E minor though. Far from it. It is the same for all other scales. If you know where their origins are, then you can play them starting on the correct note. That is why F# Ionian b5 is played over G Major. Not G Ionian b5, F#. Or B Neapolitan Major.

Or to put it another way. I really like the Enigmatic mode, yes mode not scale. It’s formula is 1 b2 3 #4 #5 #6 7 and is mode II of the Neapolitan Major bb3 scale. Scale number 41. Now, how do I play that over G Ionian? Just follow the instructions laid out and then B is shown to be the root of the Enigmatic mode when playing in G Major. Easy. Now I’m playing a mode from a scale that is really far out, but still sounds good. I then like to mix with the Melodic scale and its modes to create a nice contrast between the two scales, then resolve. B Enigmatic is B C D# E# F## G# A# and over G Ionian, the altered notes are #5, #6, #1 and #2.

By the way, this is not for playing jazz alone. These scales work in any other setting because I am following the rules that are based upon instabilities in scales and where those instabilities lead to. Not arbitrary scale choices, but an over-arching system that explains how scales fit together. All 66 of them.

The scales and modes that were laid out to be played over A Dorian are exactly the same for G Ionian. The same rules apply too, so reread the previous thread, the four parts on Dorian alternatives, and then apply it to Ionian. Obviously, the altered intervals change when compared to G Ionian, but essentially the four altered notes are: #1, #2, #5 and #6.

I have included B Enigmatic below for those that would like to try over A Dorian or G Ionian.


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