Pentatonic Hypermodes

I've been experimenting with hypermodes for a while now and thought I'd share both the theory and a practical application here.

As you probably know, one way to find the modes of a scale is to write out its notes and then, one line at a time, write them down again, raising them by one semitone for each row until you end up back where you started. You then pick all the rows that have a root (1) in them and those are the modes of the scale. Here's an example done with the common major pentatonic scale:

1	2	3	5	6	*
b2	b3	4	b6	b7
2	3	b5	6	7
b3	4	5	b7	1	*
3	b5	b6	7	b2
4	5	6	1	2	*
b5	b6	b7	b2	b3
5	6	7	2	3
b6	b7	1	b3	4	*
6	7	b2	3	b5
b7	1	2	4	5	*
7	b2	b3	b5	b6

The rows marked with an asterisk are the modes, and these five scales are the ones you would normally study whem looking at this scale modally. The other rows seem to be a "by-product" and are usually thrown away. Since they have no root notes, they aren't "really scales" and they look as if they'll be hard to think about and use.

Treating these other rows as valid possibilities takes us from a modal approach to what I call a "hypermodal" one. Assuming you already know the basic modes (or can look them up in the Scale and Arpeggio Resources), let's look at the hypermodes alone. I've written next to each one the commonest heptatonic scale of which the hypermode is a subset -- this will give an indication of how it might sound:

b2	b3	4	b6	b7		Locrian
2	3	b5	6	7		Lydian
3	b5	b6	7	b2		Marva Augmented
b5	b6	b7	b2	b3		Locrian
5	6	7	2	3		Ionian (Major)
6	7	b2	3	b5		Marva
7	b2	b3	b5	b6		Locrian Nat 7

One thing is immediately clear -- four of these are going to give us basic sounds from the Major Scale modes, although they might be interesting ways to play them, and the other three are going to give us sounds from three different, rare heptatonic scales.

To me, these three seem as if they'll be more interesting for two reasons. One, of course, is that hopefully we already know how to play the Major Scale modes and we're very familiar with their sounds. The other is that by adding the root to the other three hypermodes we will have six out of the seven notes required to play three exotic heptatonic scales, which would make them much easier to learn.

So that brings us down to three hypermodes that seem worth investigating further:

3	b5	b6	7	b2		Marva Augmented
6	7	b2	3	b5		Marva
7	b2	b3	b5	b6		Locrian Nat 7

The hypermodal approach works best, to my ears, with scales that have large intervals and/or few notes. In Scale and Arpeggio Resources I treat all three- and four-note scales hypermodally, but scales with five or more notes get the modal treatment only; this is partly because of space limitations and partly because of the diminishing returns offered by the hypermodes of larger scales. Yet, as you can see, this does apply quite well to pentatonics: that might even end up being the subject of a supplement to the Scale and Arpeggio Resources in the future.