How to Play Like David Rawlings?

El Gobernador

fezz parka
Apr 21, 2011
36,182
Nunyo, BZ
I didn't diss him,
In a backhanded way, you sure did.

There's a Carter Family song called No Depression in Heaven. From the 30's.

Rawlings plays country/folk music. And he bends the rules. It's not 100% pure. He stretches the boundaries. Just like the jazz greats did with Bebop.
 
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dogletnoir

V----V
Nov 1, 2013
13,690
northeastern us
Paging @dogletnoir - in theory terms, what is he doing?
Let's look at Cumberland Gap specifically.

First off, i was reminded of this tune:

... or should i say Neil was letting his folkie roots show when he wrote that one? ;)

Anyhow, here's the wikipedia entry on the song: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumberland_Gap_(folk_song)
Although they mention the key as being D, it feels like the Rawlings version is in D minor
with a very typical Appalachian simple yet eerie sounding modal harmony.
Rawlings brings that out in his warmup even before the song starts, and his opening riff
of D A D E F E firmly establishes that he's going to be in modal territory for this one.

His solo sounds like he's mostly playing in A minor against the D minor harmony.
Also, emphasising 3rds, 7ths, and 9ths gives his playing a different sound; it's kind of
a jazzy approach, even though the underlying harmony isn't really using jazz chords.

At least that's what i'm hearing.
Pretty cool stuff.

EDIT: (And he did go to Berklee, after all... so he's definitely not a stranger to jazz harmony)

HTH!
 
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Pisces One

Strat-Talker
Mar 17, 2015
134
AL
Let's look at Cumberland Gap specifically.

First off, i was reminded of this tune:

... or should i say Neil was letting his folkie roots show when he wrote that one? ;)

Anyhow, here's the wikipedia entry on the song: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumberland_Gap_(folk_song)
Although they mention the key as being D, it feels like the Rawlings version is in D minor
with a very typical Appalachian simple yet eerie sounding modal harmony.
Rawlings brings that out in his warmup even before the song starts, and his opening riff
of D A D E F E firmly establishes that he's going to be in modal territory for this one.

His solo sounds like he's mostly playing in A minor against the D minor harmony.
Also, emphasising 3rds, 7ths, and 9ths gives his playing a different sound; it's kind of
a jazzy approach, even though the underlying harmony isn't really using jazz chords.

At least that's what i'm hearing.
Pretty cool stuff.


Thanks a bunch! When you say, "modal", how do you mean? How do scales relate to modes?

Here's an interview that matches your analysis: https://scottnygaard.com/writing/dave-rawlings-interview-and-lesson/

He is a fan of 9s and 11s.
 

dogletnoir

V----V
Nov 1, 2013
13,690
northeastern us
When you say, "modal", how do you mean? How do scales relate to modes?
There are at least two distinctly different ways to look at modes.

The first way is to see them as they are derived from the 'parent' diatonic scale, only offset to
different degrees.
So in the key of C major, the diatonic mode patterns would be C to C (Ionian), D to D (Dorian),
E to E (Phrygian), F to F (Lydian), G to G (Mixolydian), A to A (Aeolian), and B to B (Locrian), and
each mode would also relate to a diatonic chord.
The diatonic chord series for C Major is C Major 7, D minor 7, E minor 7, F Maj 7, G dominant 7,
A minor 7, and B minor 7b5, and that series of chord qualities holds true for any major key.
In the key of F Major, the first chord would be F Major 7, then G minor 7, A minor 7, Bb Major 7,
C dominant 7, D minor 7, and E minor 7b5, and the modes that relate to each chord would also
be in that same sequence of Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, etc., only starting on F and continuing through
the notes of the F Major scale.
The 'ii chord' in the key of F Major is G minor 7, and if you play the F major scale over that chord but
start and end on the G, you are playing the G Dorian mode, and all of those notes will be perfectly consonant
with the underlying chord.
The same goes for the relationship between all of the other diatonic modes & chords in that major key.
So, you'll never be wrong... but things can start sounding a bit 'vanilla' if you stick to only the diatonic notes.

This is where the modes can be used in a different way.
Let's go back to F Major, but instead of playing F Ionian, we play F Lydian over the I chord.
We have a scale which still has a Major feel to it, but the 4th is now raised a half step so we're not using
only the diatonic notes.
We haven't crossed over into dissonant territory yet, though... we're just adding a bit of extra 'spice' to that
F Major chord.

Now, we have three modes that have a Major flavour (Ionian, Lydian, and Mixolydian) and three that have a
minor flavour (Dorian, Phrygian, and Aeolian... we'll set Locrian aside for the moment).
Personally, i would consider playing F Ionian against the I chord in F Major to be 'diatonic' (since all of the notes
i'm playing are contained within the parent F Major scale), but playing F Lydian or F Mixolydian over the I chord would be a 'modal' approach, since i'm basing my melodic content on the intervals of those modes rather than those of the Ionian parent Major scale.

This is a very telling statement by Mr. Rawlings:
"I’m kind of interested in how notes sound against other notes."

It's something we both have in common, actually. :)
 
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Spacejazz

Strat-Talker
Jun 6, 2022
309
Orlando
There are at least two distinctly different ways to look at modes.

The first way is to see them as derived from the 'parent' diatonic scale,
only offset to different degrees.
So in the key of C major, the diatonic modes would be C Ionian, D Dorian,
E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian, and B Locrian, and each mode
would also relate to a diatonic chord.
The diatonic chord series for C Major is C Major 7, D minor 7, E minor 7, F Maj 7,
G dominant 7, A minor 7, and B minor 7b5, and that series of chord qualities
holds true for any major key.
So in the key of F Major, the first chord would be F Major 7, then G minor 7,
A minor 7, Bb Major 7, C dominant 7, D minor 7, and E minor 7b5, and the modes
that relate to each chord would also be in that same sequence of Ionian, Dorian,
Phrygian, etc., only starting on F and continuing through the notes of the F Major scale.
The 'ii chord' in the key of F Major is G minor 7, and if you play the F major scale over that
chord but start and end on the G, you are playing the G Dorian mode, and all of those notes
will be perfectly consonant with the underlying chord.
The same goes for the relationship between all of the other diatonic modes & chords in that
major key.
So, you'll never be wrong... but things can start sounding a bit 'vanilla' if you stick to only the
diatonic notes.

This is where the modes can be used in a different way.
Let's go back to F Major, but instead of playing F Ionian, we play F Lydian over the I chord.
We have a scale which still has a Major feel to it, but the 4th is now raised a half step so we're
not using only the diatonic notes. We haven't crossed over into dissonant territory yet, though...
we're just adding a bit of extra 'spice' to that Major chord.

Now, we have three modes that have a Major flavour (Ionian, Lydian, and Mixolydian) and three
that have a minor flavour (Dorian, Phrygian, and Aeolian... we'll set Locrian aside for the moment).
Personally, i would consider playing F Ionian against the I chord in F Major to be 'diatonic' (since
all of the notes i'm playing are contained within the parent F Major scale), but playing F Lydian or
F Mixolydian over the I chord would be a 'modal' approach, since i'm basing my melodic content
on the intervals of those modes rather than those of the Ionian parent Major scale.

This is a very telling statement by Mr. Rawlings:
"I’m kind of interested in how notes sound against other notes."

It's something we both have in common, actually. :)
This was so nice of you to take the time to write all of this out for him. Very thoughtful...great job!
 

El Gobernador

fezz parka
Apr 21, 2011
36,182
Nunyo, BZ
Not a freaking clue. Real answer.

Maybe this will help. Read it in small chunks. :)

Modes...and chumpdom.


In the key of C:
C-D-E-F-G-A-B
1-2-3-4-5-6-7

The 1-3-5-7 = C-E-G-B. Cmaj7

Now this is how the modes harmonize ( build chords):

Take the first (1) degree, the third degree (3), the fifth degree (5) and the seventh degree (7):

1-3-5-7 (modes are vertical)
C-E-G-B = I Cmaj7
D-F-A-C = ii Dm7
E-G-B-D = iii Em7
F-A-C-E = IV Fmaj7
G-B-D-F = V G7
A-C-E-G = vi Am7
B-D-F-A = vii° Bm7b5

So the above chord progression is built using the Ionian, Phrygian, Mixolydian and Locrian diatonic modes in the key center of C.

The modes are the gateway to harmony. This is what you should know about the modes before you start using the modal scales that have a common root. Not a key center...the root or start of the scale.

Example: The major degrees

C Ionian = C-D-E-F-G-A-B
C Lydian = C-D-E-F#-G-A-B ( 4th in G)
C Mixolydian = C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb (5th in F)

These are pretty safe when playing over a Cmaj7. Only on one scale (Mixolydian) are you missing a chord tone. Mixo has 3 of them. If you resolve to Bb... you'll be a chump.

The minor modes are where the half steps separate being a hero from being a chump.

C Dorian = C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb (2nd in Bb)
C Phrygian = C-Db-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb (3rd in Ab)
C Aeolian = C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb (6th in Eb)

Two chord tones for resolving to Cmaj7 in each mode. 5 chances for Chumpdom. 2 chances to be a hero.

Now let's let the shizz hit the fan:

C Locrian = C-Db-Eb-F-Gb-Ab-Bb (7th in Db)

Six shots at Chumpdom. One shot at being a hero. ;)

But...use the degrees in the right key centers...your possibilities increase to stay a hero.
 

Spacejazz

Strat-Talker
Jun 6, 2022
309
Orlando
Maybe this will help. Read it in small chunks. :)

Modes...and chumpdom.


In the key of C:
C-D-E-F-G-A-B
1-2-3-4-5-6-7

The 1-3-5-7 = C-E-G-B. Cmaj7

Now this is how the modes harmonize ( build chords):

Take the first (1) degree, the third degree (3), the fifth degree (5) and the seventh degree (7):

1-3-5-7 (modes are vertical)
C-E-G-B = I Cmaj7
D-F-A-C = ii Dm7
E-G-B-D = iii Em7
F-A-C-E = IV Fmaj7
G-B-D-F = V G7
A-C-E-G = vi Am7
B-D-F-A = vii° Bm7b5

So the above chord progression is built using the Ionian, Phrygian, Mixolydian and Locrian diatonic modes in the key center of C.

The modes are the gateway to harmony. This is what you should know about the modes before you start using the modal scales that have a common root. Not a key center...the root or start of the scale.

Example: The major degrees

C Ionian = C-D-E-F-G-A-B
C Lydian = C-D-E-F#-G-A-B ( 4th in G)
C Mixolydian = C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb (5th in F)

These are pretty safe when playing over a Cmaj7. Only on one scale (Mixolydian) are you missing a chord tone. Mixo has 3 of them. If you resolve to Bb... you'll be a chump.

The minor modes are where the half steps separate being a hero from being a chump.

C Dorian = C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb (2nd in Bb)
C Phrygian = C-Db-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb (3rd in Ab)
C Aeolian = C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb (6th in Eb)

Two chord tones for resolving to Cmaj7 in each mode. 5 chances for Chumpdom. 2 chances to be a hero.

Now let's let the shizz hit the fan:

C Locrian = C-Db-Eb-F-Gb-Ab-Bb (7th in Db)

Six shots at Chumpdom. One shot at being a hero. ;)

But...use the degrees in the right key centers...your possibilities increase to stay a hero.
An awful lot to digest. Would it be possible for you to make a video lesson of all of this so that we can see and hear you talk through it as you play all of these examples? That would be extremely helpful. I know it is a lot to ask though.
 

touch of gray

Strat-O-Master
Jul 10, 2022
537
Bismarck, ND
Dude, I get that you don’t get it. As you can tell from this thread, many people consider Rawlings to be a kind of genius, who rewrites the rules of country music. So just back out of this thread. You’re killing the vibe.
I love his guitar playing, but it is the sum of their singing and playing together along with great songs that blows my mind.
 

El Gobernador

fezz parka
Apr 21, 2011
36,182
Nunyo, BZ
An awful lot to digest. Would it be possible for you to make a video lesson of all of this so that we can see and hear you talk through it as you play all of these examples? That would be extremely helpful. I know it is a lot to ask though.
I wish I had the time. Best thing to do is record a vamp of you playing a Cmaj7 chord and try the different modes against it.

You'll hear it.
 

Spacejazz

Strat-Talker
Jun 6, 2022
309
Orlando
I wish I had the time. Best thing to do is record a vamp of you playing a Cmaj7 chord and try the different modes against it.

You'll hear it.
I think this video is covering what you have written out. Am I correct Fezz?


And then here is what Jens Larsen has to say about learning modes in particular to jazz:
 
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