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A recording from Sion and Colin's Jam Night. We are doing Hey Joe as Col has just bought a beautiful 60th anniversary Fender Strat - which means playing a lot more Jimi Hendrix!

About Hey Joe's modulating modes

Hey Joe is an Interesting composition as it doesn't remain in one mode or key, instead it modulates between overlapping closely related modes during the repeated chord progression:

The first 3 chords C G D are VI VII III  in E minor while G D A are also VI VII III  but in B minor and D A E are also VI VII III but in Fsharp minor. These modes are closely related because they are a fifth apart and the progression goes from one to the other via common chords (first GD is common, then DA is common - the movement pivots around the D major chord which is common to all).

The progression happens so fast over the chord changes though, that its most sensible to just take E minor as the first half and Fsharp minor as the second part.  For soloing take the tonal centre to be E minor at the start - so here I'm soloing over this progression in minor pentatonic on frets 12, 5 & 7. As the modes are closely related, this works well over the second half too as almost all the notes are common - and you can easily use your ear to select the best and worst. However you can use the Mode Decoder to see that its also possible to solo minor pentatonic over the overlapping parts in F sharp minor when these are played. Practically, all this would mean moving up 2 frets during the second part of the progression. The frets to solo minor pentatonic for F sharp minor are 14(and 2), 7 and 9. This movement give you acces to the two notes which are not in the E Aeolian mode but are in the F sharp Aeolian scale - Ab and Db.

By moving up like this and looking at all the notes of the Aeolian scale we can see that the note on the 13th fret of the G string is now available -Ab (and also 16th fret on the Estring)[click here for a backing track]. Bending up to the Ab from the G on the top e string is also a good way to get to the Ab note (bend 15th fret E string up). The Db is nice to play just before the Ab ar the end of the phrase. Db is on the 14th fret of the b string. Note however how these notes sound terrible when played during the first 3 chords though - this is because during these chords we are back in E Aeoian.

The great thing about the Mode Decoder is that you don't need to learn the names of the notes - just where they are in relation to the minor pentatonic shape! I had to look up the names of the notes Ab and Db on a fretboard guide for this explanation once I'd found them with the Mode Decoder!

Another interesting thing you can do to hear the modulation between modes is to play an E minor in place of the start chord C. Eminor is in the E Aeolian mode of course, and E major is in the A Aeolian mode, so moving from the last chord E major to the first chord E minor highlights the change - normally you couldn't play amajor followed by a minor of the same root note.

In this recording I'm just playing E minor pentatonic though as we just launched into it!  I used the The Mode Decoder ® to work out the Ab and Db notes afterwards!

E Aeolian:


B Aeolian


Fsharp Aeolian



Well, the day started off with a slight hiccup as I thought we'd arrived without our wristband passes, despite having checked they were in the box many times! But they were found right at the bottom thankfully though.

Once up and running we were in a nice spot upostairs in Hall 4. Big thanks to Gail and Peter, the organisers, who made it very easy - binbags, electrical sockets and table with paper tablecloth included.

Noise levels were a lot better than in other shows - didn't have to turn things up too much to demo but plenty of guitary background ambience. We were near the 'cigar box' guitar stands which can be loud but weren't this time!

It was great to interact with all levels of guitarist at the show and find that the Decoder has something for everyone. This was my 4th show with the Mode Decoder and me and my jam buddy (and stand manner) Colin really enjoyed chatting about, and demoing the Mode Decoder to everyone we met. The response was overwhelmingly friendly and sales were very good as usual. Better than sales though was finding out that the word is slowly starting to get around.. Several people came by to let us know how useful they found it and we saw many new people and witnessed the 'lightbulb' moment during the demoing. The feedback was very brilliant again - very positive and encouraging.

Unlike previous shows, I think I have now relaxed quite a bit as the anxiousness that no one would 'get' or 'like' the Mode Decoder has well and truly vanished!

Comments were along the lines of

  • "That's a really clever way to show information"
  • "I like it!"
  • *heads nodding*
  • *smiles*

I usually might ask if someone played guitar - which was probably a fairly safe bet since we were at a guitar show! But the answer was often 'a bit' or "I strum a little' or 'so-so', which was good for me as being no great guitarist myself, I was able to show how it was possible for someone like me (and them) with little knowledge, to use the decoder to play along to pretty much any music.

Specific comments I remembered were:

A customer who hadn't bought from me in Birmingham, but had spoken with me about it there but whose friend had bought one. They both came to the stand with a group of some friends and I was so pleased that having seen his friend write a song with his, now thought it was wonderful I smiled broadley as he said to the group "This guy is a genius!" and then explained the whole idea to them. Very satisfying indeed. I think its fair to say that many musicians have had this experience with the device and it is wonderful to think you can cut through the theory and still play great guitar!.

Another customer was an experienced guitar teacher who said that yes, he knew how to play the modes - no problem...then he paused and with a big smile said "But I've just got to have one!!"

By far the most suitable person to have one that sunday was Kevin, who was currently learning the modes with his guitar teacher and had been tasked to write a modal solo. He said that this woul help him to see how the modes worked and he was going to use it to write the solo ... but not tell the teacher just yet and see if he could amaze him with his new ability!

Had some nice comments about my Fender Marauder too - still love it and am quite pleased that it has been discontinued!

Sadly as I arrived home I found we had to call out an emergency electrician and the days profits were wiped out!!

Never mind! - See you next show. :)


SIon at Haydock 2014










Demonstrating the ability to transpose one song from one mode into another with The Mode Decoder®. The original song is in Db mixolydian and has been transposed to Db Aolian. Bit of a rough take, but you get the idea.

Normally this is a very complicated thing to do as chords and solo notes need to be worked out with traditional music theory - but its no sweat with The Mode Decoder® - just read off the chords and notes.

If you're wondering, the change means that the penultimate note of the familiar refrain is down a half step from F to E and the Db chord is changed to a Db minor and the Fsharp changes to Fsharp minor - but you don't need to work any of that out - the Mode De-coder will just make it obvious!

To play the original song, Slash simply detuned his guitar down a half step to Eb and played the familiar D, C and G chords.

As a side-note, The Mode Decoder® allows you to play along with songs recorded down a half step in Eb without having to detune your guitar.

Stmpathy for the Devil is a fairly straightforward song using mainly 3 chords.

We start on E major, which is our root note.

This means that, as E is major, the song could be in either the Ionian, Lydian or Mixolydian mode.

The next 2 chords are D major and A major with a Bminor in one section. This makes the song Mixolydian.

The structure is:

I - VII - IV  with a V section

E - D - A             Bm

On the front of the Mode Decoder ® you can see a palette of 31 chords Mick Jagger could have used to write the song. Its good fun to use them to create your own sections - a middle 8 that never was!

We could use the mode Decoder to do this simply by picking different nimbers 1-7 e.g.

VI - II - I

Reading from the choices on the Mode Decode ®, these could be 

Csharp min7 - F sharp SUS4 - E

Though you could also have

Csharp SUS4 - Fsharp Min9 - E11

...and then back to the song.

To jam along to it look for the 3 neck locations on the Mode Decoder® - These are

Location 1 - F sharp - 2nd and 14th fret

Location 2 - B - 7th and 19th fret

Location 3 - C sharp - 9th and 21st fret (thought the 21st probably won't be useable)

Here is the Stones track for you to play along to