Modes And Diatonic Chord Progressions

author: hounddogmusic12 date: 07/21/2010 category: the basics
rating: 8.9 / votes: 17 
Modes have probably been the cause of more confusion and frustration than any other aspect of learning scales, much less when you attempt to throw in diatonic chords and their relation to the scales, so I'm not going to lie to you, this is going to be a tough lesson. We are going to cover alot of ground in a very short time, but I will try and keep it as painless as possible. (I recommend printing the lesson and taking it one piece at a time) Part 1 (Chromatic scale) Let's start at the beginning....the chromatic scale. (For those of you who have read my other lessons, some of this was already covered in "chord building 101") Learn to think of scales in terms of the "distance" between one note and the next note. The chromatic scale is simply all 12 named notes (that's all there are by the way, 12 notes). The distance between each note in the chromatic scale is one half step. A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# and then back to A or A Bb B C Db D Eb E F Gb G Ab and then back to A # is the symbol for sharp (or 1 half step above, higher pitch) b is the symbol for flat (or 1 half step below, lower pitch) The A# and Bb are technically the same note, it just depends on what key you are in as to which it is called. An "A" chromatic scale looks like this on a fretboard
e ----------------------------------
b ----------------------------------
g --2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14--
d ----------------------------------
a ----------------------------------
E ----------------------------------
Part 2 (Major scale) The "major" scale is made up of 7 of the 12 notes of the "chromatic" scale. To learn how to build a major scale, you have to learn the distance between each of the 7 notes. Let's look at a C major scale (since it has no sharp or flat notes in it and it is easy to remember).
"C" Chromatic               C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C
"C" Major                   C    D    E F    G    A    B C
Now, let's break that down. The distance between the C and D notes is 2 half steps, or 1 whole step, the distance between the D and E is 1 whole step, the distance between the E and F is 1 half step, the distance between the F and G is 1 whole step, the distance between the G and A is 1 whole step, the distance between the A and B is 1 whole step, and the distance between the B and C is 1 half step.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8(1)
C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C
  w   w   h   w   w   w   h
It does not matter which note that you start on to build the scale as long as the distances between the notes stay the same. Say you want to play a D major scale, then just make the D note the first note and keep the distances the same.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8(1)
D   E   F#  G   A   B   C#  D
  w   w   h   w   w   w   h
If you do not understand the chromatic scale and how to build a major scale, stop right here and go back and learn it, or nothing else will make sense. Part 3 (Basic chords) As I said at the beginning of the lesson, I have a lot of ground to cover so I'm only going to cover 4 basic chords and how to build them. Major, minor, augmented, and diminished. All chords are built by using a formula that is based off of the major scale. For example, a "major" chord is built by using the first, third, and fifth notes in the major scale. Let's look at a C major and D major scale again.
       C major                                 D major

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8(1)              1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8(1)          
C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C                 D  E  F# G  A  B  C# D
A "C" major chord is made up of the notes C E and G A "D" major chord is made up of the notes D F# and A
  C major                      D major

e --0--  E 3rd             e --2--  F# 3rd
b --1--  C 1st (root)      b --3--  D  Root
g --0--  G 5th             g --2--  A  5th
d --2--  E 3rd             d --0--  D  Root
a --3--  C Root            a -----
E -----                    E -----
The numeric formula for a major chord is 1 3 5 Minor chords are made by lowering the 3rd note 1 half step. A "C" minor chord is made up of the notes C Eb and G A "D" minor chord is made up of the notes D F and A The numeric formula for a minor chord is 1 b3 5 A diminished chord is made by taking a major chord and lowering the 3rd and the 5th 1 half step each. A "C" diminished chord is made up of the notes C Eb and Gb A "D" diminished chord is made up of the notes D F and Ab The numeric formula for a diminished chord is 1 b3 b5 And an augmented chord is made by taking a major chord and raising the 5th 1 half step A "C" augmented is made up of C E and G# A "D" augmented is made up of D F# and A# The numeric formula for an augmented chord is 1 3 #5 Part 4 (Diatonic chords) Simply put, diatonic chords are chords that are made up entirely of notes found in the root chord's scale (or the key of the song). Once again we'll use the C major scale as a reference.
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8(1)
C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C
If you were to play each tone as a chord rather than a single note, the first tone would be played as a C major chord since all 3 notes in the chord fall within the C major scale. The second tone, or the D, could not be played as a D major chord since as we learned above, the third note of a D major chord is F#, which is not in the 1st tone's (root) scale. Also as we learned above we can lower the 3rd 1 half step to make the chord minor, and by doing that, we get an F note, which is in the root's scale. So we play the second tone as a minor chord. Same principle with the 3rd tone, the E major chord has a G# for it's 3rd tone, so the the E would be played as minor chord. The 4th and 5th chords can both be played as major chords. The 6th tone is played as a minor chord. And the 7th tone has 2 sharp notes in it, the 3rd and 5th, so we need to lower both notes and we get a diminished chord. And again it does not matter what key you are in, the principle stays the same.
 1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8(1)
Maj  min  min  Maj  Maj  min  dim   Maj
Part 5 (Chord Progressions) I'm sure a lot of you have heard at some point or another someone mention something like a 1, 4, 5 progression. Basically what that means is that they are playing the 1st, 4th, and 5th diatonic chords from whatever key they are in. And you guessed it, I'm using the C major scale for my example again.
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8(1)
C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C
We already know that the 1st, 4th and 5th are all played as major chords, so a 1, 4, 5 progression in C major would be Cmaj Fmaj Gmaj Pretty simple right? Another common progression is a 2, 5, 1 progression (used a lot in jazz). In the key of C major, a 2, 5, 1 progression would be Dmin Gmaj Cmaj or Dm G C Here are some other common chord progressions
(1, 5)         (1, 6, 2, 5)
(1, 4)         (1, 6, 4, 5)
(1, 6)         (1, 6, 2, 7)
(1, 4, 5)      (1, 6, 4, 7)
(1, 2, 5)      (1, 6, 5)
Here are a few possible substitutions 3 instead of 1 4 instead of 2 7 instead of 5 Hopefully what's been covered so far alone is enough to open lots of doors for creative composition, but we're just getting warmed up. Part 6 (Modes) Hmmm? Where to start? Let's learn the names of the modes of the major scale first. 1 Ionian (major scale) 2 Dorian 3 Phrygian 4 Lydian 5 Mixolydian 6 Aeolian (natural minor) 7 Locrain Big fancy names right? Don't let the names scare you. As you see Ionian is just a fancy way of saying major scale. We already know how to build a major scale, but how do we build the other modes? One way to look at modes is the major scale has 7 notes in it right? To play the modes of the major scale you simply shift the root note up to each of the 7 notes. If we make the first note the root note, then we are playing an Ionian mode, if we make the 2nd note the root, we are playing the Dorian mode, make the 3rd note the root and we are playing a Phrygian mode, and so on. Let's look at C major again.
               1  2  3  4  5  6  7  
1 Ionian       C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

2 Dorian          D  E  F  G  A  B  C  D

3 Phyrigian          E  F  G  A  B  C  D  E

4 Lydian                F  G  A  B  C  D  E  F

5 Mixolydian               G  A  B  C  D  E  F  G

6 Aeolian                     A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A

7 Locrian                        B  C  D  E  F  G  A  B
Now you see, all of the modes have the same notes in them, they are all relative to each other, but that does not mean that they are the same scale! What happens when you shift the root (or the focal point of the scale), is you are changing the distances between each note, so the modes all have very different formulas and they all function very differently. For instance, look at the 6th mode (aeolian), it is also known as a natural minor scale, let's look at the distances between each of the notes in an A aeolian, compared with a C major.
   C Ionian (major)               A Aeolian (natural minor)

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8(1)         1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8(1)
C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C            A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A
  w  w  h  w  w  w  h               w  h  w  w  h  w  w
As you can see, the distances between some of the notes change. Another way of looking at modes, which is my personal favorite, is by comparing the numeric formula to the major scale, since that is how we build chords, it only makes sense to build scales the same way. The major scale sets the standard for the numeric formula, everything is compared to it. That's why I told you earlier to stop and learn how to build it. Let's compare numeric formulas
Ionian   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8(1)
Aeolian  1   2  b3   4   5  b6  b7   8(1)
Basically what this means is that the aeolian mode is just a major scale with a flat 3rd, 6th, and 7th.
C Ionian (major)   C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C
C Aeolian (minor)  C   D   Eb  F   G   Ab  Bb  C
Let's look at the formulas for the rest of the modes
1 Ionian         1   2   3   4   5   6   7
2 Dorian         1   2  b3   4   5   6  b7
3 Phyrigian      1  b2  b3   4   5  b6  b7
4 Lydian         1   2   3  #4   5   6   7
5 Mixolydian     1   2   3   4   5   6  b7
6 Aeolian        1   2  b3   4   5  b6  b7
7 Locrian        1  b2  b3   4  b5  b6  b7
(If the scale has a b3 in it, it tends to have a minor feel to it) Part 7 (Tying in diatonic chords with modes) The diatonic chords work the same way with the modes. Match the number of the mode to the number of the tone in the major scale and the corresponding diatonic chord.
            1   2   3   4   5   6   7          

1 Ionian   Maj min min Maj Maj min dim

2 Dorian       min min Maj Maj min dim Maj 

3 Phyrigian        min Maj Maj min dim Maj min

4 Lydian               Maj Maj min dim Maj min min

5 Mixolydian               Maj min dim Maj min min Maj

6 Aeolian                      min dim Maj min min Maj Maj

7 Locrian                          dim Maj min min Maj Maj min
Part 8 (Scale charts) This is what you've been waiting on. And without further hesitation. 2 examples of each mode.
Ionian mode (examples A Ionian)

e -----------------          -----------------
b -----------------          -----------------
g -----------------          -------------1-2-
d -----------4-6-7-          ---------2-4-----
a -----4-5-7-------          ---2-4-5---------
E -5-7-------------          -5---------------

Dorian mode (examples A Dorian)

e -----------------          -----------------
b -----------------          -----------------
g -----------------          ---------------2-
d -----------4-5-7-          ---------2-4-5---
a -------5-7-------          ---2-3-5---------
E -5-7-8-----------          -5---------------

Phyrigian mode (examples A Phyrigian)

e -----------------          -----------------
b -----------------          -----------------
g -----------------          ---------------2-
d -------------5-7-          ---------2-3-5---
a -------5-7-8-----          ---1-3-5---------
E -5-6-8-----------          -5---------------

Lydian mode (examples A Lydian)

e -----------------          -----------------   
b -----------------          -----------------
g -----------------          -------------1-2-
d -----------4-6-7-          -------1-2-3-----
a -----4-6-7-------          ---2-4-----------
E -5-7-------------          -5---------------

Mixolydian mode (examples A Mixolydian)

e -----------------          -----------------
b -----------------          -----------------
g -----------------          ---------------2-
d -----------4-5-7-          ---------2-4-5---
a -----4-5-7-------          ---2-4-5---------
E -5-7-------------          -5---------------

Aeolian mode (examples A Aeolian)

e -----------------          -----------------
b -----------------          -----------------
g -----------------          ---------------2-
d -------------5-7-          ---------2-3-5---
a -------5-7-8-----          ---2-3-5---------
E -5-7-8-----------          -5---------------

Locrian mode (examples A Locrian)

e -----------------          -----------------
b -----------------          -----------------
g -----------------          ---------------2-
d -------------5-7-          -----------3-5---
a -------5-6-8-----          -----3-5-6-------
E -5-6-8-----------          -5-6-------------
Look at my lesson called "Learning the Fretboard" to learn to move these scale shapes across the strings without a lot of memorization. Part 9 (Harmonic major, Harmonic minor, Melodic minor and their modes) I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here, but I will give you the scale, it's modes, and the diatonic chords. First up, the Harmonic Major scale and it's modes
1. Harmonic Major   1    2    3    4    5   b6    7
                   Maj  dim  min  min  Maj  aug  dim

2. Dorian b5        1    2   b3    4   b5    6   b7
                   dim  min  min  Maj  aug  dim  Maj

3. Phyrgian b4      1   b2   b3   b4    5   b6   b7
                   min  min  Maj  aug  dim  Maj  dim

4. Lydian b3        1    2   b3   #4    5    6    7
                   min  Maj  aug  dim  Maj  dim  min

5. Mixolydian b2    1   b2    3    4    5    6   b7
                   Maj  aug  dim  Maj  dim  min  min

6. Lydian #2        1   #2    3   #4   #5    6    7
                   aug  dim  Maj  dim  min  min  Maj

7. Locrian bb7      1   b2   b3    4   b5   b6   bb7
                   dim  Maj  dim  min  min  Maj  aug
Next, the Harmonic Minor and it's modes
1. Harmonic Minor       1    2   b3    4    5   b6    7
                       min  dim  aug  min  Maj  Maj  dim

2. Locrian(natural 6)   1   b2   b3    4   b5    6   b7
                       dim  aug  min  Maj  Maj  dim  min

3. Ionian augmented     1    2    3    4   #5    6    7
                       aug  min  Maj  Maj  dim  min  dim

4. Dorian #4            1    2   b3   #4    5    6   b7
                       min  Maj  Maj  dim  min  dim  aug

5. Phyrigian dominant   1   b2    3    4    5   b6   b7
                       Maj  Maj  dim  min  dim  aug  min

6. Lydian #2            1   #2    3   #4    5    6    7
                       Maj  dim  min  dim  aug  min  Maj

7. Ultralocrian         1   b2   b3   b4   b5   b6   bb7
                       dim  min  dim  aug  min  Maj  Maj
And finally, the Melodic Minor and it's modes
1. Melodic Minor        1    2   b3    4    5    6    7
                       min  min  aug  Maj  Maj  dim  dim

2. Dorian b2            1   b2   b3    4    5    6   b7
                       min  aug  Maj  Maj  dim  dim  min

3. Lydian augmented     1    2    3   #4   #5    6    7
                       aug  Maj  Maj  dim  dim  min  min

4. Lydian dominant      1    2    3   #4    5    6   b7
                       Maj  Maj  dim  dim  min  min  aug

5. Hindu                1    2    3    4    5   b6   b7
                       Maj  dim  dim  min  min  aug  Maj

6. Locrain natural 2    1    2   b3    4   b5   b6   b7
                       dim  dim  min  min  aug  Maj  Maj

7. Super Locrian        1   b2   b3   b4   b5   b6   b7
                       dim  min  min  aug  Maj  Maj  dim
See, I told you we were going to cover a lot of info and hopefully I kept it fairly painless and you were able to learn something. I know that I kind of flew through some things, so if you have any questions, feel free to post your comments.
More hounddogmusic12 lessons:
+ DADGAD Tuning The Basics 09/14/2009
+ Chord Building 101 Chords 08/25/2009
+ Playing With Triads For Beginners 07/13/2009
+ Learning The Fretboard Chords 06/22/2009
+ Understanding Guitar Triads Chords 06/19/2009
Comments
Your captcha is incorrect