Modes – Not As Scary As They Sound!


In previous articles we have looked at Diatonic Chords. We can also build scales in the same way. These are called modes, and from what I’ve seen, they strike fear into the heart of some musicians, so please bear with it, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Again we will stick with the Key of C.

C Major Scale

Note    1st        2nd       3rd        4th        5th        6th        7th

C          D          E           F           G           A           B          etc.

In the same way we built all the chords in the key, we can play a scale starting on each note.

For example:               D          E          F          G         A          B          C          D

On the face of it, so what? Well, we have started on the note D, this implies it is a scale in the key of D. As we have done previously (see my article The Importance of the Major Scale) we need to compare it to the D major scale to see what’s happening.

D Major Scale             D          E          F#        G         A          B          C#

New Scale                   D          E          F          G         A          B          C

Interval                        1st        2nd      ♭3rd    4th       5th       6th      ♭7th

This new scale is called Dorian and is a Mode. If we keep these intervals we can now play Dorian in any key!

If we continue this exercise (starting from each note) we can complete the following table

Scale Name                                        Scale Spelling

1st       Major (Ionian)                                     1          2          3          4          5          6          7

2nd      Dorian                                                 1          2          ♭3      4          5          6          ♭7

3rd       Phrygian                                              1          ♭2      ♭3      4          5          ♭6      ♭7

4th       Lydian                                                  1          2          3          #4        5         6          7

5th       Mixolydian                                          1          2           3          4          5          6          ♭7

6th       Natural Minor (Aeolian)                     1          2          ♭3      4          5         ♭6      ♭7

7th       Locrian                                                1          ♭2      ♭3      4          ♭5      ♭6       ♭7

 

So there you have it, all 7 modes, and you can play them in any key, just start on the note you want and play the correct intervals! That’s a lot of scales just by applying some music theory.

If you remember that a minor chord has a ♭3 we can think of the scales in the following groups:-

Major type scales       Major (Ionian), Lydian and Mixolydian*

Minor type scales       Dorian, Phrygian, Natural Minor (Aeolian) and Locrian

*Mixolydian is sometimes referred to as a Dominant Scale

I suggest you play the modes starting from the same note so you can get the sound of each scale in your head

Starting from C

Ionian                          C          D          E          F          G         A          B

Dorian                         C          D          E♭      F          G         A          B♭

Phrygian                      C          D♭      E♭      F          G         A♭      B♭

Lydian                          C          D          E          F#        G         A          B

Mixolydian                  C          D          E          F          G         A          B♭

Aeolian                        C          D          E♭      F          G         A♭      B♭

Locrian                         C          D♭      E♭      F          G♭     A♭      B♭

Until next time, practice those modes!

 

 

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