I want to make sure I am getting these modes correctly...

Well my guitar teacher gave me 6 modes(im assuming he forgot Aeolian)

He gave me like D# Locrian, E Ionian, F# Dorian, G# Phrygian, A Lydian, B Mixolydian

I'm confused because if it goes in order from Aeolian to Mixo, they would all be wrong because Dorian would not be lower then Mixolydian... And the notes in front wouldn't tell you the scale since they just start on that note so would you like go backwards to figure out the scale or something...

Then a website is telling me that the modes start on Ionian to Locrian... then I guess that would mean that each mode has a specific area on the fretboard, but no, if you started there then it would be Aeolian...

I'm getting even more confused okay...

Let's say you start playing a song in a scale, would that first note always be the Aeolian? If you start like on the D fret, A string, would that be a mode besides Aeolian(or whateve ryou start with) because you are going on the A minor scale?

Major scale (any key):
Start on 1, you get major (aeolian)
2, dorian
3, phrygian
4, lydian
5, mixolydian
6, ionian (minor)
7, locrian
8, back to major

does that help?
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First of all, a mode is a way of playing a scale. There are 7 basic modes, all based on the major scale. If you don't know the major scale, learn it ASAP. The intervals are W W H W W W H.

Anyways, since there are 7 notes in the major scale, you can have 7 different root notes (or starting points) and still be in the same key. For the purpose of this lesson I'll be using the key of C, because it has no flats and no sharps, and is one of the most common keys.

First of all, start thinking of notes as scale degrees:

  Note: C D E F G A B C
Degree: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1

The names of the modes, in order, are Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian, and they start on their respective scale degrees.

Starting on the first degree, you get 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1, which is Ionian. Also the major scale.

Starting on the second degree, your notes are D E F G A B C D. This is the Dorian mode. Its formula is 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 1. Here's why:

 Degrees: 1 2 3  4 5 6 7  1
 D scale: D E F# G A B C# D

D Dorian: D E F  G A B C  D
 Degrees: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 1

You should be able to see how the F# was flatted down to F natural and C# down to C natural. That is how each mode's formula is found.

The third mode is Phrygian, its forumula is 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 1. In the key of C, the notes would be E F G A B C D E = E Phrygian.

The fourth is Lydian. Formula is 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 1.

5th is Mixolydian, 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 1.

6th is Aeolian, or the natural minor scale. 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 1.

7th is Locrian, which is a half diminished scale. 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 1.

Therefore, the 7 modes in the key of C are:
C Ionian
D Dorian
E Phrygian
F Lydian
G Mixolydian
A Aeolian
B Locrian

Hmm well I've got the time, so I might as well try to explain concisely.

Well, you see, you've got your original MAJOR scale, AKA ionian in modal terms. I'm sure you know how to get that scale with the steps formula.


From there, we have two ways of getting the modes. One, by using the format as I just did, with whole and half steps, or by numbers.... like, for instance, "1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7." They get you to the same place, it's a matter of preference. I prefer, personally, the number system, but to each his own.

We'll do C and its major modes.... Ionian (your original major starting point), Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian (minor, natural minor, etc.), Locrian. Each mode has its characteristics, but we'll get to that later.

Let's use the number system... you'll see this everywhere:

(Ionian from whole-half step pattern)
Dorian - 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
Phrygian - 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Lydian - 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
Mixolydian - 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
Aeolian - 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Locrian - 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7

Your notes from C major, C D E F G A B, will each correspond to a mode in order... C ionian, D dorian, E phrygian.... etc. In that order.

So, how do you apply the name? Ok, there are certain disticntions to be made here. To find any mode of any note, you START with it's major scale. ORIGINAL MAJOR SCALE, or at least with the number system.

Maybe you know this as well: All the modes from one key will have the same notes (for which differences will, once again, be explained soon), so you could get the modes by using the same notes but starting at different points, right?

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

OR, you could take this route: To get each notes' mode, take their original major scale and apply a number formula.

Ex.: How do we get, say, E phrygian? Start with E IONIAN. E F# G# A B C# D#. Apply 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 to that: E F G A B C D. Same thing as I just did right before this, right? Right.

Ok, this is all probably a mess by now to you unless you have previous knowledge of some of these ideas.

Well, the key question: WHAT ARE MODES, for CHRIST'S SAKE?!?!?

What modes do is allow you to put certain emphasis on notes, but pulling to a new center. C ionian does not have the same tonal center as A aeolian, even though A aeolian comes from, and contains the same notes as, C ionian. C D E F G A B vs. A B C D E F G. What's the difference???

The difference lies in the order of strengths for each mode. It goes 1 3 5 7 2 4 6 (or 9 for 2, 11 for 4, 13 for 6, no biggie for now, they're the same notes). For C ionian, what do we have? C E G B D F A. For A Aeolian? A C E G B D F. Different. DIFFERENT. Which means, by the definition of the order of strengths, they will pull to their root notes, even though the two scales contain the SAME notes. Hard to visualize... easier to hear. The key to gettin modes is practicing with them... but practicing modes is not running up and down a scale, because then we just play the ionian basically, without emphasis on the stronger notes of a given mode.

I'm going to copy-paste from one of my other posts from a while ago:


Aha, maybe I'll make a really long, explanatory post here. Haven't done one in a while...??

You see, the way I understand modes (which is a common way, as I have learned) is through this little thing called the Order of Strengths. It goes as such:

1 3 5 7 9 11 13. Or, 1 3 5 7 2 4 6.

That is the order of the notes in any given scale from most to least identifying of that scale. The 1, or tonic, best describes the scale because, well, it is the tonic... the 3rd determines major/minor, the 5th diminished (or augmented... or just not), etc. As you go from left to right, the strength of the note gets weaker and weaker and weaker. The 6th tone, whether natural or flat in relation to the tonic's major scale, has the least power in helping you, as the listener, determine the mood of the song.

That's what modes do... they give us a mood and a context.

Now, what am I getting at here? Well, take C ionian. C D E F G A B. Order of Strengths? C E G B D F A. Now, take D dorian. D E F G A B C. Same notes, right? So what's the difference? The Order of Strengths: D F A C E G B. Completely different, eh?

That is the essence of modes... each note, even though they are the same as the original ionian parent, has a completely new value under each mode. The C used to be the tonic, but under D Dorian it is merely (and I use that term lightly of course) the 7th, with 3 other tones in front with more power in telling you the mood.

And this concept is difficult to grasp because, well, most guitarists are ****ty practicers. Nuff said. They don't know how to practice scales. When you memorize positions for each mode and run up and down them mindlessly, you can't feel the resolution as strongly as if you were playing over a chord that is directly reflecting that mode. After a while, you're pretty much working on simple technique...

I ask some people around who say they are into theory... well, for one, most of them don't listen for it in the music they like... and second, they tell me literally 99% of the time, "Well, I practice my scales and just work on the positions." No wonder their soloing and improv blows a monkey dick.

The modes are only "basically starting on a different note of the scale and continuing there" because that's how you practice them. They're only "basically starting on a different note of the scale and continuing there" when you just run up and down positions. They're only "basically starting on a different note of the scale and continuing there" think of them as positions. STOP THERE. Really, practice them. No, but seriously, PRACTICE THEM. Ok, maybe I'm not being clear enough:


What I mean is listen to music that is very mode-based (well, okay that's all music but you know what I mean)... like Jazz. Feel a ii-7 V7 that never resolves to the Imaj7... see how things sound different over an improv session based on a Imaj7 ii-7 iiim7b9 IVmaj7#11. That's how you practice, by listening. And playing, of course. You never get to learn how modes really work until you hear them and recognize them and play them yourself.

Until then, they're just "basically starting on a different note of the scale and continuing there."

So, now let's say you take a real talented guy like SRV. "Well, Matt, how does SRV sound good when he is just mindlessly running up and down? Why is that not bad?"

Well, you gotta understand... There are people like SRV and BB King and Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk and Gillespie and all those greats, that are simply born with the music in their mind. It's sort of the Kantian (remember Kant? Philosopher, the Enlightenment?) theory as it goes towards music... These guys have these things in their heads, and they don't know it, really. They just have to find it... it's there, it just needs a little nudge.

But for 99.99999999% of the rest of us, it needs to be practiced. We have to find it, only it's hard because it isn't imprinted by GOD himself on our brains. The true musician doesn't think "OK, D Dorian now... where am I at? Okay, C note, where do I go from there?" They think "..." They practiced them to the point of instrinsic learning... where they don't have to think about it anymore, where the modes aren't something on paper with numbers and notes, but pure sounds. Real musicians see them without the numbers and the letters, in their naked form... their natural form. Eb phrygian is not "Eb phrygian" but "[insert sound]."

Don't get me wrong here, those guys had to practice an absolute assload to get that good, but once they get there, they are amazing.

Me: Remember…
Quote by New_F0und
All the modes are the same "shapes", they are the same major scale "shape" but contain different roots
this is confusing me even more, gwiter...w.e says that it starts with Aeolian and Deffy says it starts with Ionian... what is the point of naming the modes...

and like phrygian has a a distinct sound, but why can't all of the other modes sound like it since if you just move the scale to lower or something to make like the locrian go to where the phrygian is....ugh
Quote by Papathurzday
what is the point of naming the modes...
We name modes so we have have to refer to things like "that scale with the sharp 4," we can just call it Lydian.

Quote by Papathurzday
but why can't all of the other modes sound like it since if you just move the scale to lower or something to make like the locrian go to where the phrygian is....ugh
Phrygian is not a scale finger or a box pattern. It is a series of intervals, 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7. The other modes don't sound like Phrygian because they contain different intervals. Clearly, Dorian, 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7, is different that Phrygian.

Now, you say, "but E Phrygian is E F G A B C D and D Dorian is D E F G A B C, aren't they the same?" No, they are not the same. While they do contain the same notes, they are not the same. E Phrygian is an E minor scale with a root of E in the key of E minor. D Dorian is a D minor scale with a root of D in the key of D minor.
Quote by Papathurzday
and like phrygian has a a distinct sound, but why can't all of the other modes sound like it since if you just move the scale to lower or something to make like the locrian go to where the phrygian is....ugh

the phrygian has that sound because of the flatted 2nd. and the reason youre able to say 'why cant all other modes sound like it?' is the exact reason people name them.

counting gives you a way to reference it.

for example, you can learn every Major or Minor scale, or you can just know that E minor has the same notes as G Major and when you go to do something in E minor, you can use the same 'scale' as G major.

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