Advanced Music Theory Lesson 1: The Modes

As we discussed in previous lessons, the Major scale is also know as Ionian and the Minor scale as Aeolian. We also know that the relative minor is the major scale starting from it’s 6th degree. The scales starting from all of the other degrees will now be introduced. This group of scales is known as “the modes”.

Lets start in the key of C.

If we re-spell the C Major scale (Ionian) starting from each subsequent degree in the scale, we end up with the following:


Mode Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

C Ionian

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

D Dorian

D

E

F

G

A

B

C

E Phrygian

E

F

G

A

B

C

D

F Lydian

F

G

A

B

C

D

E

G Mixolydian

G

A

B

C

D

E

F

A Aeolian

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

B Locrien

B

C

D

E

F

G

A


In the example above, the modes are all relative to C Ionian or the key of C Major. They are simply a re-spelling of that scale.

Now, lets see the modes in parallel to C Ionian. Each mode is related to a different key / different major scale.


C Ionian

C

D

E

F

G

A

B


C Dorian

C

D

Eb

F

G

A

Bb

C Dorian is parallel to C-Ionian. It is relative to Bb Major / Bb Ionian.


C Phrygian

C

Db

Eb

F

G

Ab

Bb

C Phrygian is parallel to C-Ionian. It is relative to Ab Major / Ab Ionian.


C Lydian

C

D

E

F#

G

A

B

C Lydian is parallel to C-Ionian. It is relative to G Major / G Ionian.


C Mixolydian

C

D

E

F

G

A

Bb

C Mixolydian  is parallel to C-Ionian. It is relative to F Major / F Ionian


C Aeolian

C

D

Eb

F

G

Ab

Bb

C Aeolian is parallel to C-Ionian. It is relative to Eb Major / Eb Ionian


C Locrian

C

Db

Eb

F

Gb

Ab

Bb

C Locrian is parallel to C-Ionian. It is relative to Db Major / Db Ionian.


Memorize the names of the modes and their relative and parallel relationships. In time, this will help you apply them to your instrument. Once you have begun improvising with the modes, knowing their characteristic pitches will help you to capture each modes individual sound.

© 2009, Synaptic Systems Inc.




Comments

  1. Doug Edgar says:

    Hey Gil. Your new site is great!! As someone who has been working on his guitar playing the last couple of years, I really appreciate the time you’ve put into this. Soon at band practice I’ll hear Bruce say, “Doug old chum, you play better than me.” NOT!
    Doug

    • Thanks Doug old chum!

      I appreciate your comments! Hope you have a great day. Tell Bruce … “Bass player .. play better” … do it .. and see what he says! LOL

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