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!