This is going to be a bit long, but here goes (and please don't give me the replies of "oh go learn your major scales and minor scales some more" that shit just gets old and boring and I need more stimulation that that same ole boring drill)

OK here we go.
I am getting into modes and really wanting to understand, I am self taught and I rely on youtube alot to get the theory over to me, but have yet to find a good video on modes that really gives you an idea of how to use them and make them sound good. Usually its just some doucher running through the modes in G or something and thats about all they tell you. Reading text sometimes is hard to explain when they use a lot of proper terms so I like videos for that reason. However I know sometimes there is just no easy way around it and you need to read a bit. Now I have a scale book as most people do and it will give you this sort of stuff, lets talk about C since in the key of C there are no flats or sharps.

C Major (Ionian)
C Minor (Aeolian)
C Dorian
C Phrygian
C Lydian
C Mixolydian
C Locrian
(that is how the book will have it set up)

Now I've also seen it like this

C Ionian 1st degree of the scale
D Dorian 2nd
E Phrygian 3rd
F Lydian 4th
G Mixolydian 5th
A Aeolian 6th
B Locrian 7th

So my intuition tells me that if you are playing over C you could use the A Aeolian over it for a darker feel since it obviously is just the minor scale. Is that how this would work? I wouldn't want to try to use C aeolian over a C chord correct?

Now I think the worst part about trying to understand modes is when people talk about the "tonal center" because it is hard to find good lessons on this as well (it feels like its just some mystical thing people just know). If the tonal center of a rhythm changes is that another way of saying a KEY change? Or does changing the tonal center mean you are still playing in C but instead you are now resolving to different note such as D rather than C???

Can someone please give me a basic instruction on how modes would work? Perhaps can someone show me a progression and the mode you would play over it, then a shift in "tonal center" and the mode you would then modulate into (or change in key since im still not sure if it is just a fancy way of saying key change)?

Thank you so much, these are the questions I've been trying to understand and I just really haven't found what I have been looking for so maybe this will be understandable and easily explainable.
Last edited by PattyCakes at Dec 23, 2009,
You have the modes in the wrong order and you're just getting confused, from your post it seems you do not fully understand the major and minor scales, it seems like you just learnt the shapes and didn't learn how to construct them and harmonise them.
the way it was explained to me, is that it's all just one scale. the mode changes depending on which note you start your lick on. to me it makes MORE sense to say the tonal center, but that's just me. modes aren't really all THAT important to know. they kind of go in and out of fashion. and apparently they're IN fashion now which is why you hear about them too much. they're all the same notes of the same scale based on a different note.

the Aeolian sounds darker because you're basing your part around the second of the chord, which never sounds happy, but it's all the same notes of the scale.
You have modes wrong for starters.

Ionian 1st degree of the scale
Dorian 2nd
Phrygian 3rd
Lydian 4th
Mixolydian 5th
Aeolian 6th
Locrian 7th

The tonal center is where the song wants to resolve to. So if you are playing in
D Dorian (II of C) you would resolve the song to D instead of to C.
Quote by NoOne0507
You have modes wrong for starters.

Ionian 1st degree of the scale
Dorian 2nd
Phrygian 3rd
Lydian 4th
Mixolydian 5th
Aeolian 6th
Locrian 7th

The tonal center is where the song wants to resolve to. So if you are playing in
D Dorian (II of C) you would resolve the song to D instead of to C.

I did that totally by accident, I realized that just now lol....I was going off the order in my scale book, my bad i will edit and fix this I actually understood I had this wrong.

And I have learned to construct major and minor scales
Quote by PattyCakes
This is going to be a bit long, but here goes (and please don't give me the replies of "oh go learn your major scales and minor scales some more" that shit just gets old and boring and I need more stimulation that that same ole boring drill)

Well, if you really knew your major scale, you wouldn't ask the following questions. So I have to tell you that you should really UNDERSTAND the major scale, intervals, etc. Everything about it. I have a feeling that you might just play the standard major scale pattern.

Quote by PattyCakes

So my intuition tells me that if you are playing over C you could use the D Aeolian over it for a darker feel since it obviously is just the minor scale. Is that how this would work? I wouldn't want to try to use C aeolian over a C chord correct?

No, you can't play D Aeolian or C Aeolian over just a C chord.
Also I don't understand why you have seen it as:
C Ionian
D Aeolian
E Dorian
F Phrygian
G Lydian
A Mixolydian
B Locrian

You usually put them in this order:

C Ionian
D Dorian
E Phrygian
F Lydian
G Mixolydian
A Aeolian
B Locrian

And that is because they share the same notes.

Now I think the worst part about trying to understand modes is when people talk about the "tonal center" because it is hard to find good lessons on this as well (it feels like its just some mystical thing people just know). If the tonal center of a rhythm changes is that another way of saying a KEY change?

You could just say that the tonal center is the root note. E.g. if a song is in A minor the tonal center is A. So if the tonal center changes then yes, it is a key change.

Or does changing the tonal center mean you are still playing in C but instead you are now resolving to different note such as D rather than C???

Where the song resolves to has little to do with your lead playing over it, what is more important is where your backing chords resolve to.
Try to play this chord progression:
C-F-G and then play a C chord in the end, and that is where you can hear the resolution because it just feels "home" at that C chord.
Let's say you wanted to make something in D Dorian, so as I said earlier it has the exact same notes as C major, so what we want to do is to use the same chords as those in the C major scale, but make it "resolve" to D minor .
The chords of C major (in sevenths chords):
Cmaj7
Dm7
Em7
Fmaj7
G7
Am7
Bm7b5

Now try and play the chord progression:
|: Dm | Em7 :| repeat and when you end with a D minor chord it feels "home".
Last edited by matiasfjeldmark at Dec 23, 2009,
Quote by NoOne0507

The tonal center is where the song wants to resolve to. So if you are playing in
D Dorian (II of C) you would resolve the song to D instead of to C.

but you are still playing in C right?? because most people say the note you resolve to is usually the key, but that i guess doesn't apply when using modes?

and to the poster above, thanks a lot that is a good explanation, and very understandable.
Last edited by PattyCakes at Dec 23, 2009,
Quote by PattyCakes
but you are still playing in C right?? because most people say the note you resolve to is usually the key, but that i guess doesn't apply when using modes?

and to the poster above, thanks a lot that is a good explanation, and very understandable.

If your song resolves to D then no, you are not playing in C. D dorian contains the same notes as a C major scale but that does not mean you are playing in C major. Wherever the chords resolve to, that is the key that you are playing in.
Quote by CaptainFlux
If your song resolves to D then no, you are not playing in C. D dorian contains the same notes as a C major scale but that does not mean you are playing in C major. Wherever the chords resolve to, that is the key that you are playing in.

Woah, you just blew my mind. I'm listening in here trying to understand modes as well, but you kinda confused me. If D dorian has the same notes, then in some technical sense, you are still playing in C major, right? I mean that in the way that when you're playing an A minor scale, you're still in C major, technically. Am I right, or am I missing something?
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You are missing something. It shares the notes yes, but it is not harmonically correct. D dorian doesn't sound like C Major and doesn't resolve to C. It shares the notes, but the sound created by it is totally different than C Major. But if you're reading music, you don't need to read it any different than C.
Quote by guitarmaniac88
Woah, you just blew my mind. I'm listening in here trying to understand modes as well, but you kinda confused me. If D dorian has the same notes, then in some technical sense, you are still playing in C major, right? I mean that in the way that when you're playing an A minor scale, you're still in C major, technically. Am I right, or am I missing something?

Yes D dorian has the same notes as C major, but when you compare it to D major you see that it makes up a whole new scale with different intervals giving it a unique flavor. Yes technically you are playing the same notes, but your playing in A aeolian not C major. If your playing in D dorian while the backround chords are C F and G you are just playing in C major with a resolution to D technically,even though your really playing in D Dorian
You Are Now Aware Of Your Own Breathing
Last edited by conquistador at Dec 24, 2009,
Quote by guitarmaniac88
Woah, you just blew my mind. I'm listening in here trying to understand modes as well, but you kinda confused me. If D dorian has the same notes, then in some technical sense, you are still playing in C major, right? I mean that in the way that when you're playing an A minor scale, you're still in C major, technically. Am I right, or am I missing something?

If you mean you are playing in the key of C major, but playing A minor over it and resolving to the C, then no, you are not playing A minor you are playing C major. A shape means nothing, if you are playing a shape you know of A minor, but resolving on C, then you ARE playing in C major.
wow, this thread really surprised me. I expected there to be arguments with people giving incorrect advice about modes. There were a couple of people asking about that stuff, but then everyone corrected them correctly (lol)

maybe we're finally getting past all the unneeded complications with modes around here

*crosses fingers*
I really think this is turning out to be one of the better threads i've seen on modes...good questions, good answers...not too confusing just simple yes/no and props to everyone who knew the actually answers for making it not so confusing!
Last edited by PattyCakes at Dec 24, 2009,
Do the following test and you will know the modes.

In the Key of C you have the following chords C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim

You will need a looper or a recording device.

Since we are in the key of C we will use ONLY the C major scale.
Record into your looper a C chord. Play the C major scale in any order. You have Ionian
Record into your looper a Dm chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Dorian.
Record into your looper a Em chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Phrygian.
Record into your looper a F chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Lydian.
Record into your looper a G chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Mixolydian.
Record into your looper a Am chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Aeolian.
Record into your looper a Bdim chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Locrian.

Hope this helps
Quote by statocat
Since we are in the key of C we will use ONLY the C major scale.
Record into your looper a C chord. Play the C major scale in any order. You have Ionian
Record into your looper a Dm chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Dorian.
Record into your looper a Em chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Phrygian.
Record into your looper a F chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Lydian.
Record into your looper a G chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Mixolydian.
Record into your looper a Am chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Aeolian.
Record into your looper a Bdim chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Locrian.

You were good, but you forgot to mention one VERY important think about this. You should have said: "Play the notes of the C Major scale over it in any order, but resolve an a Y (Y being whatever the mode is)". Cause even if there's a bdim chord going on, if you're still resolving to C, you're still in C Major.
Quote by DiminishedFifth
You were good, but you forgot to mention one VERY important think about this. You should have said: "Play the notes of the C Major scale over it in any order, but resolve an a Y (Y being whatever the mode is)". Cause even if there's a bdim chord going on, if you're still resolving to C, you're still in C Major.

so if you have Bdim chord and you are playing C major over it you would want to resolve to C? And not B?

but if you are playing Dm you want to resolve to D? hmmm confusing
Quote by PattyCakes
so if you have Bdim chord and you are playing C major over it you would want to resolve to C? And not B?

but if you are playing Dm you want to resolve to D? hmmm confusing

If you were in B Locrian, you would play the notes of the C Major scale, but would resolve to the B instead of the C. If you just had a Bdim chord, and you resolved to C, you would be in C Major, because the C is what is being pulled to as the tonic center.

Yes, in Dm you want to resolve to the D, because THAT is the tonal center.
Quote by DiminishedFifth
You were good, but you forgot to mention one VERY important think about this. You should have said: "Play the notes of the C Major scale over it in any order, but resolve an a Y (Y being whatever the mode is)". Cause even if there's a bdim chord going on, if you're still resolving to C, you're still in C Major.

But for instance the bdim is already in the 7th degree so if you play C major over it and not end on a b note it is still Locrian.
Here is an example of exactly what I am talking about
http://www.guitar-music-theory.com/modes-preview3.html
Last edited by statocat at Dec 24, 2009,
Quote by DiminishedFifth
If you were in B Locrian, you would play the notes of the C Major scale, but would resolve to the B instead of the C. If you just had a Bdim chord, and you resolved to C, you would be in C Major, because the C is what is being pulled to as the tonic center.

Yes, in Dm you want to resolve to the D, because THAT is the tonal center.

No you wouldn't - if you're playing the notes of the C major scale over a Bdim then you are playing B Locrian. It's impossible to resolve to C in that context, the Bdim chord you're playing over makes that decision for you.
Actually called Mark!

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No you wouldn't - if you're playing the notes of the C major scale over a Bdim then you are playing B Locrian. It's impossible to resolve to C in that context, the Bdim chord you're playing over makes that decision for you.

So... even if it doesn't resolve to the B it's still B Locrian? Won't it still pull towards the C anyways?
Quote by DiminishedFifth
Didn't really say much I didn't know.

Did you notice though he didn't resolve on a A note for the Aeolian example. Because Am is the second degree of the G major scale you can play the G major scale over Am and it become Aeolian. It all about how the scale sounds over the chord that brings out the mode.
Quote by statocat
Did you notice though he didn't resolve on a A note for the Aeolian example. Because Am is the second degree of the G major scale you can play the G major scale over Am and it become Aeolian. It all about how the scale sounds over the chord that brings out the mode.

Alrighty. I understand. And yeah, I noticed he ended on the G.

Thanks. :]
Quote by DiminishedFifth
So... even if it doesn't resolve to the B it's still B Locrian? Won't it still pull towards the C anyways?

The fact that you're playing over a B dim chord determinses the resolution, what you play over it is immaterial in that respect.
Actually called Mark!

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Quote by DiminishedFifth
Alrighty. I understand. And yeah, I noticed he ended on the G.

Thanks. :]

Good stuff. I had the hardest time understanding modes until this concept was shown to me. Now modes are not scary anymore.
Quote by DiminishedFifth
So... even if it doesn't resolve to the B it's still B Locrian? Won't it still pull towards the C anyways?

The 'tonal centre' and therefore 'resolution' will be created 90% by the harmony. (figure pulled out of thin air)

You will be hard pressed to create a tonal centre different to the underlying chord using the melody from the 'c major scale'.

If you have a lead line that fits nicely in A Minor, and you play this line over a Fmaj #11 chord, you will probably find that it doesn't work very well and doesn't actually resolve to the A like it did over an Am chord.
Quote by DiminishedFifth
If you were in B Locrian, you would play the notes of the C Major scale, but would resolve to the B instead of the C. If you just had a Bdim chord, and you resolved to C, you would be in C Major, because the C is what is being pulled to as the tonic center.

Yes, in Dm you want to resolve to the D, because THAT is the tonal center.

Ok cool thanks man, just making sure we were on the same page. Thats what I thought but I guess the way I read it had me a little confused...

Gracias!

Quote by stratocat
Do the following test and you will know the modes.

In the Key of C you have the following chords C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim

You will need a looper or a recording device.

Since we are in the key of C we will use ONLY the C major scale.
Record into your looper a C chord. Play the C major scale in any order. You have Ionian
Record into your looper a Dm chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Dorian.
Record into your looper a Em chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Phrygian.
Record into your looper a F chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Lydian.
Record into your looper a G chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Mixolydian.
Record into your looper a Am chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Aeolian.
Record into your looper a Bdim chord. Play the C major scale over it in any order. You have Locrian.

Hope this helps

^ this is probably the most helpful thing I have ever seen on modes, quick and simple and puts it into an easy perspective for someone who is not into all the terms and jargon that is associated with more difficult theory. A+++ this should be made a sticky, this is like the end all be all explanation of the basics, surely there are many more things that could be talked about but this is a great start!

SO NOW I found another question, say you got a progression C F G C in the key of C, and you wanted to play a Lydian Type feel to it, you would probably want to play F Lydian correct? Now this mode has no sharps or flats. How do you maintain the Lydian feel?

This is what I am thinking, You are playing over C the first chord i the progression in the backing track, but you are playing F Lydian (F Lydian is the IV mode so I am hoping it has that major feel, kinda happier correct?) But while playing over C you are in F Lydian, so do you want to land on C before the progression then switches to F then land on F before the progression switches to G, etc???? Do you want to basically resolve to each note in the progression as the chord change happens? Hope this makes sense.
Last edited by PattyCakes at Dec 25, 2009,
whoops sorry for the repost
Quote by branny1982
The 'tonal centre' and therefore 'resolution' will be created 90% by the harmony. (figure pulled out of thin air)

You will be hard pressed to create a tonal centre different to the underlying chord using the melody from the 'c major scale'.

If you have a lead line that fits nicely in A Minor, and you play this line over a Fmaj #11 chord, you will probably find that it doesn't work very well and doesn't actually resolve to the A like it did over an Am chord.

Right, if you have harmony underneath..... your locked into that. Whatever melody you play will be heard based on that relationship.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Dec 25, 2009,
Quote by PattyCakes
SO NOW I found another question, say you got a progression C F G C in the key of C, and you wanted to play a Lydian Type feel to it, you would probably want to play F Lydian correct? Now this mode has no sharps or flats. How do you maintain the Lydian feel?

This is what I am thinking, You are playing over C the first chord i the progression in the backing track, but you are playing F Lydian (F Lydian is the IV mode so I am hoping it has that major feel, kinda happier correct?) But while playing over C you are in F Lydian, so do you want to land on C before the progression then switches to F then land on F before the progression switches to G, etc???? Do you want to basically resolve to each note in the progression as the chord change happens? Hope this makes sense.

The notes of F Lydian over a C chord is just C major. If you want that lydian sound, you'd have to play C Lydian.
Quote by isaac_bandits
The notes of F Lydian over a C chord is just C major. If you want that lydian sound, you'd have to play C Lydian.

So they are like scales in a sense...which ever kind of chord you are playing over defines the mode such as C chord and C Lydian go together, D chord and D mixolydian go together? hmm it seemed a little bit trickier than that but i guess it isn't...cool
It is a bit trickier than that - they are scales and chords they are played over. Look at Always With Me Always With You Opening Chords of Joe Satriani, they are Lydian. How did he find them? Find me a single chord book/encyclopedia in the world with that first chord in it. So, how did he create it then?

The answer, is he knows a hell of a lot about music theory, he knew exactly what was going to work. So, when you say that its a bit trickier than that, you're right. Check out Mike Dodge's lessons, he seems to do a pretty good job trying to explain it. I havent seen anyone else here that I could recommend, including the Crusades.
Quote by Sean0913
Check out Mike Dodge's lessons, he seems to do a pretty good job trying to explain it. I havent seen anyone else here that I could recommend, including the Crusades.

Indeed. Great articles.
Quote by PattyCakes
So they are like scales in a sense...which ever kind of chord you are playing over defines the mode such as C chord and C Lydian go together, D chord and D mixolydian go together? hmm it seemed a little bit trickier than that but i guess it isn't...cool
You can do it like that if you have a single chord vamp, and if you've got a vamp of a couple of chords then it may work well with a few different scales/modes, but if you have a chord progression then most likely the chord progression will dictate what the root and mode are, and you'll find it difficult to successfully make it sound like anything else and still sound like you know what you are doing.
Quote by zhilla
You can do it like that if you have a single chord vamp, and if you've got a vamp of a couple of chords then it may work well with a few different scales/modes, but if you have a chord progression then most likely the chord progression will dictate what the root and mode are, and you'll find it difficult to successfully make it sound like anything else and still sound like you know what you are doing.

Right,

A single chord vamp allows you to play with the context.

For example if you have a Dm7 vamp, you could see the Dm7 as a....

ii7 (dorian)

iii7 (phrygian)

vi7 (natural minor)

as opposed to playing over something like C - G - Am - F, where there isn't as much room for interpretation.
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Quote by PattyCakes
So they are like scales in a sense...which ever kind of chord you are playing over defines the mode such as C chord and C Lydian go together, D chord and D mixolydian go together? hmm it seemed a little bit trickier than that but i guess it isn't...cool

Over a vamp, the root of the scale will be the root of the chord.

Over a progression, the root of the scale will be where the progression resolves. If you have a progression in F Lydian, and you manage to sneak a C chord in there [that somehow doesn't steal the resolution], you can play F Lydian over the C chord in the F Lydian progression, but only when it is the progression. You're mode is always determined by where the notes resolve, not the scale pattern, starting note, or ending note.
This thread is fantastic for people new to modes. Wish I would have came across this years ago instead of googling and having migraines for a few months. Haha. This thing should be stickied or something.
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