MANUAL

pitch axis theory

Do you want to learn how to create your own melodies using different modes?

If you want to spice up your guitar playing and create your own melodies using all the different modes you should definitely learn about pitch axis theory!

Pitch axis theory is a fascinating concept that can be used to create amazing songs with rich harmonic variety and contrast.

 It is based on the idea of using a single scale or mode as the TONAL CENTRE of a song, and then changing the chords around it to create different moods and colours.

 This technique can be used to create songs that are adventurous, expressive and surprising.

Some examples of songs that use pitch axis theory are:

– YYZ by Rush: This instrumental song uses B as the pitch axis and switches between B Phrygian dominant and B Lydian modes to create a contrast between dark and bright sounds.

– Eruption by Van Halen: This guitar solo uses E as the pitch axis and switches between E minor pentatonic and E harmonic minor scales to create a tension and release effect.

– Black Star by Yngwie Malmsteen: This neoclassical song uses A as the pitch axis and switches between A Aeolian and A harmonic minor scales to create a dramatic and epic atmosphere.

– Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits: This classic song uses D as the pitch axis and switches between D Dorian and D Mixolydian modes to create a smooth and groovy feel.

– Money by Pink Floyd: This iconic song uses B as the pitch axis and switches between B Dorian and B Phrygian modes to create a funky and psychedelic mood.

Pitch axis theory is a powerful tool that can help you write songs that are original, creative and expressive. 

You can experiment with different scales, modes and chords to find your own voice and style. 

 Pitch axis theory is not a rule or a formula, but a way of thinking about music that can open up new possibilities and inspire you to create amazing songs.

Pitch axis theory was popularized (although not invented) by Joe Satriani, who has used pitch axis theory to create diverse and colourful musical landscapes in many of his compositions.

 Using pitch axis theory, you can switch from a dark and heavy sound to a bright and cheerful one, or from a mysterious and exotic mood to a funky and groovy one, all while staying in the same key.

 You can do this by changing the MODES you play over the same root note, creating contrast and tension that keeps your listener engaged and surprised.

Pitch axis theory is not only a useful tool for guitar players, but also a fun and creative way of making music.

 Remember, put simply, pitch axis is a way of creating melodies and harmonies that use a single tonal centre or pitch. 

This means that you can play different MODES over the SAME power chord or note which will create interesting contrasts and colours. 

Pitch axis theory is not only fun, but also very useful for improvising and composing music in any style.

 You can use pitch axis theory to create tension and resolution, to modulate to different keys, or to add variety and expression to your playing. 

Pitch axis theory is not too hard to learn, but it does require some basic knowledge of music theory and guitar scales/modes. 

Once you master the basics, you can explore endless possibilities and unleash your creativity!

One very simple way to use pitch axis theory is to use drone notes or power chords as a harmonic backdrop.

 A drone note is a single note that is played continuously throughout a piece of music. 

A power chord is a chord that consists of a root and a 5th, without the 3rd.

The 3rd is what determines whether a chord quality is MAJOR or MINOR. 

Power chords have no 3rd and are therefore neither MAJOR nor MINOR, so, like drone notes, they are ambiguous in terms of harmony:

This means that they can fit with ANY mode!

To create modal melodies using drone notes or power chords, you need to follow these steps:

Choose the MODE that you want to use. 

Choose a TONIC note that will be the centre of your melody.

 (This is the note that corresponds to the mode you chose.) 

For example, if you want to use the DORIAN mode, you can choose D as your tonic note.

Choose a drone note or a power chord that matches your tonic note. 

This will be the harmonic foundation of your melody. 

For example, if your tonic note is D, you can use a D drone note or a D power chord.

Get somebody else to play the drone note or power chord or record the drone note or power chord using a loop pedal or create a backing track.

Play your scale or mode patterns that corresponds to the tonic note on your guitar in any pattern or position on the fretboard that takes your fancy.

Experiment with all different modes and patterns, dynamics, rhythms, articulations and intervals to create your melody.

 You can also use some chromatic notes and bend them up to the diatonic notes or use them as passing tones to add some colour and tension to your melody.

The possibilities are endless and only limited by your own imagination! 

Try to emphasize the characteristic notes of the mode you are using and make your melody and phrasing as musically interesting as possible. 

For example, in DORIAN mode, the flattened 3rd and the natural 6th are the notes that give it its distinctive sound so you may choose to target or emphasize them.

Enjoy playing your modal melodies and improvise and explore different modes and tonics.

N.B. Power chords DO NOT work with the LOCRIAN mode as the LOCRIAN mode has a flattened 5th, so, only play LOCRIAN over a drone note or a compatible chord – like a diminished or m7b5 chord.

Here are some tips and tricks to make your modal melodies more interesting and expressive.

To create MODAL melodies, you need to know which notes are the most important in each mode. 

These are called the characteristic notes, and they are the ones that differ from the major or minor scale.

 For example, in the DORIAN mode, the characteristic notes are the minor 3rd and the major 6th.

 These notes give the DORIAN mode its distinctive flavor.

One way to emphasize the characteristic notes is to use them as landing points in your melody. 

For example, if you are playing in D DORIAN, you can end your phrases on F or B, or use them as passing tones or bridging notes into other modes. 

This will make your melody sound more MODAL and less like you are just playing a scale.

Another way to create MODAL melodies is to use MODAL chords as harmony. 

MODAL chords are chords that are built from the notes of a mode, and they usually include the characteristic note. 

For example, in D DORIAN, some modal chords are Dm7, Em7, G7. 

These chords highlight the minor 3rd and the major 6th of the mode.

You can use modal chords as a backing track for your melody, or as part of your melody itself. 

For example, you can arpeggiate (pick out the individual notes of) a modal chord in your melody, or use its individual chord tones as target notes. 

This will make your melody sound more harmonious and coherent with the mode.

You can also create modal melodies by using some creative techniques such as modal interchange, modal mixture and modal modulation.

 These techniques involve borrowing chords or notes from other modes that share the same root note.

 For example, in D DORIAN, you can borrow chords or notes from D IONIAN, D PHRYGIAN, D LYDIAN, D MIXOLYDIAN, D AEOLIAN or D LOCRIAN.

This will create some contrast and variety in your melody and also some tension and resolution. 

For example, you can use a Bb major chord (from D MIXOLYDIAN) as a temporary dominant chord that resolves to Dm7 (from D DORIAN).

 This will create a strong cadence and a MODAL flavour in your melody.

Remember, MODES are NOT scales, they are musical expressions that can convey different EMOTIONS and MOODS.

 Experiment with different modes and see what kind of melodies you can come up with.

And above all else…

HAVE FUN!