Ionian b2 scale: two weeks on

So it's a week since my last post on the subject and two since I started working on this scale with some seriousness. The patterns and sounds are becoming quite familiar now and my main job this week was to find modal applications over different chord qualities. This is an important step in integrating a new sound into your real-world playing rather than just noodling over drones or vamps.

On Maj 7 chords I made an odd discovery: as expected, the Ionian b2 itself sounds fine, especially over tonic majors, but over Lydian type chords (maj7#11) I accidentally found myself playing the Ionian b2 built on the 2 of the underlying chord. This gives a scale that has no root -- a "hypermode" as I call it -- and on paper it shouldn't sound good. But as Brian Clough (or perhaps somebody else) said, "football is played on grass not on paper", and the result seems very successful to me even in context where a "smooth" sound is expected.

Ionian b2 is also a good sound over Maj 7 chords; this isn't too surprising, since it's just the major scale with one altered note. That alteration does give some interesting colour, although it has to be handled with care. The Maj 7 arpeggio is at the b2, a sound I would usually use over a dominant chord but there's no special reason why it can't be used here too.

Latangi is a fairly accessible sound in this context, too, with the Maj 7 arpeggio at the 5 giving it a strongly Lydian sound that can then be "confused" by going to the augmented arpeggio at the root (which adds the altered note, the b6).

Senavati is an easy sound to like over minor Maj 7 and minor 6 chords, not so good on m7s. Without the b3, Locrian bb3 doesn't outline the minor harmony strongly enough for me to find an application of it, so Senavati is my only choice over minor chords. I did, though, like the sound of Locrian bb3 over a half-diminished chord.

Dominant chords are tricky because when they're functioning (i.e. resolving to the I) you can make almost anything sound good over them; this makes them less interesting when exploring new sounds. So instead we need to look to "Lydian dominant" sounds, often written as 7b5 or 7#11 chords such as those found near the beginning of "Inner Urge" or, more briefly, in many older standard tunes.

Mixolydian b5 is an obvious choice here; most of its notes can be found thanks to the Maj 7 arpeggio on the b7, which is a sound I already regularly use in this context so it's nice to have a scalar "analogue" for that.

Aeolian b4, since it has no 11, can work in this context as well, and the chromatic notes ascending to the b4 (=natural 3) give it a bluesy sound. The Maj 7 arpeggio falls on the b6, which is a sound I normally use of Maj 7 harmonies; the overall effect still seems a bit diffuse to me, so this is a sound I may need to explore a bit more.

Here are some next steps:

  • Getting plenty of mileage out of Senavati over minor chords, probably on modal tunes like "Impressions" and "So What".
  • Getting more familiar with my three new sounds over Maj 7 chords, especially getting the difference between them into my ears.
  • Combining both on the first 8 bars of Wayne Shorter's tune "Mahjong"
  • Getting familiar with Mixolydian b5 over Lydian dominant chords like those near the beginning of "Inner Urge".
  • Continuing to play Superaugmented Natural 3 on the first 10 bars of "Ju Ju", a sound I really like.
  • Looking at specific chord forms that come out of these scales.
  • Work on developing lines over major and minor ii-V-Is, combining some of these new modes with existing (and more "inside") sounds.

That's five out of the seven modes plus one hypermode (out of five). Since the remaining two modes (Aeolian b4 and Locrian bb3) haven't grabbed me so far I'm going to ignore them for now.

In the spirit of not trying to do too much at once, I've decided that next week will be about Ionian b2, Senavati and Mixolydian b5 only; we'll see at the end of it whether I'm ready to move on to any of the others. Remember, it's always better to learn a few things thoroughly than too many things half-heartedly.