Inner music, personality and culture

Hi All,

Just need some feedback on an issue I have been experiencing. When I improvise I sound very minor, I even make major scales sound minor and flamenco(ish). In other words, I have hard time sounding happy. I might have a good day, but when I pick up the guitar it sounds melancholic and phrygian no matter what. Any suggestions why? Could it be due to cultural influences, life experiences or personal perspective? It is an interesting topic to explore. Maybe I should be seeking professional help and go see a psychologist!? Haha! Love to hear what you think…


1 Like

Hey Engin,

It could be that this minor sound is what you’ve picked up on as sounding “right.” For me, Aeolian mode, usually with an extra note, was where I historically tended to spend most of my time. Someone else I know plays bluegrass/folk and to her, anything other than Ionian (which sounds the most “right” to her) or Aeolian sounds “wrong.”

There are a lot of people who successfully express themselves using only one or two modes. I wouldn’t view it as a problem, just as part of the journey.

That said, one tip from @kiko that is very helpful in expanding your options is to spend a month or more focusing on one specific mode. If you feel stuck in minor modes, pick one of the major modes and try using that as much as you can for musical exercises, out of the box, out of the plateau, and more. Try to find licks in that mode and see how other guitarists express themselves when using it.

Also, be sure that if you’re playing a solo or melody that you have something else (backing track, your DAW, a keyboard with sustain) playing one or more chords to define the key/mode. If you play the scale using G Ionian shape without anything else and feel the desire to resolve it to E, that wasn’t really Ionian mode you were playing or hearing. Context matters for the modes.

Another thing I like to experiment with is the idea of mediants. Using hybrid picking or finger picking a nylon string, I like going up or down a minor or major third without a care for the mode. Seriously try this out and see what you think. Loop as much as you want, then end on Em or E. You can even play the minor shape one, end on Em x4, then go right in the the major shape one, end on E x4, and back.

    Em                      Gm                Em          C#m
    E                       G#                E           C

I like this sound and this simple idea expresses it well in my opinion. Given that this is non-modal, perhaps it will sound different to you than what you play already.

Hybrid picking day is one of my favorites to play around with a new mode or sound. The triads make the sound of the mode clear, where riffs can sometimes be ambiguous.

Hope this helps! Best wishes on your musical journey!

-Matt C.


Thank you Matt, so many awesome suggestions. I really appreciate your help. I will work on the mediants and see if I can embrace some of that into my improvisations. These tabs will be most helpful. Thank you! I have been working on triads and playing chord progressions by breaking them into their triads. I get some cool melodies and ideas for riffs.

I really also like your suggestion for creating the right context. I rarely play with a backing track or a running note in the background…I think I need to change that in order to get out of my comfort zone. I am sure that is going to help.

Thanks again.