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Did you notice how different the two modes sound? (If that sparked interest it may be worth checking out Frank Gambale's DVD, Modes: No More Mystery.) Now let's check out some licks from each mode to hear the moods they create.
Our first lick (Fig. 5) starts by highlighting the b6, and right off the bat I've hit you with the defining note before finishing up with some more traditional minor pentatonic phrasing.
The second lick (Fig. 6) teases the b6 a few times, first in a repeating motif in the first measure, then again in the second measure. What you notice in the second measure is that the b6 pulls very strongly down to the 5. I wouldn't consider it a note you can sit on for long, yet it has a powerful sense of sadness when used properly.
Our final Aeolian lick (Fig. 7) has a bit more range, starting with some standard blues-rock phrasing, then sliding up to the b6, bending to the b7, restating the b6, and coming to rest on the 5. I find this especially expressive in a ballad context.
For the Dorian phrases, the main difference is that the 6 is quite a hip note to sustain over a minor chord because it implies a minor 6 sound. You'll notice that the final note in Fig. 8 has us sitting on that 6.
The next lick (Fig. 9) starts with a more traditional blues sound, but then comes to rest on the 6. You can even experiment with the minor 6 pentatonic scale (a favorite of Robben Ford), which consists of R–b3–4–5–6. You can think of it as a minor pentatonic scale with a 6 replacing the b7.
Our final lick (Fig. 10) offers a bit more range, starting out in the 1st-position minor pentatonic shape before moving to the 4th position. Notice how we target the 6 before resolving on the root.
Jam a bit over the provided backing track below—it has a C minor tonality—and see which sound you find yourself more at home with. With experimentation you'll hear how each mode captures a completely different feeling, yet both provide potent ways to express yourself.
Next time we'll apply these modes to a full minor blues progression to see how we can create something musical out of all this theory.