Wynton Marsalis Discussion Forum


Choosing between modes


Total Posts: 1

Joined 2011-05-15


Hi, I’m new to jazz and improvisation and I recently learned that specific chords lend themselves to certain modes for improvising, namely the modes that contain the notes of the chord. My question is, how does one decide which modal option to use? As a simple example, if I have a Cmaj chord, C-E-G, I could improvising using the Ionian mode of C, the Mixolydian mode of F, or the Lydian mode of G.

All three have a different sound quality in general, but is there any other criteria I should consider? For example, if I choose the Mixolydian mode of F, should I keep function in mind? Will the listener be expecting me to resolve down a fifth when the song wasn’t really going that way? Or if I choose the Lydian mode of G, will it destroy the major tonality of the C chord? Or something else I haven’t even thought of yet?