# Modes: Harmonization And Basic Modal Theory

This is a basic lesson on modal theory. It is an attempt to dispell a lot of the misinformation on this site and others on modes, and where to correctly use a mode in the context of a song(this seems to be the big fall down of every other article).

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Hi Guys, I've recently completed formal study on guitar. I was having a browse around this site, and couldnt believe some of the incorrect information being shown on modes. There is heaps of it. Too much confusion. Modes are very very simple to learn, and very very very easy to apply, and when done correctly, you have so many correct notes to choose, it makes it very hard to play the wrong thing. This will be a multiple part series, covering harmonization and analysis, Modes of the Major, Harmonic and Melodic minor. I am writing this to be a definitive series on modes and harmonic analysis. There is just way too much information out there, a lot of it incorrect, and a lot of it is also showing the scale patterns without any thought to the chord created from the mode. I will explain all aspects of modes, so you can at least tell what is correct and what is incorrect, and where information hasnt been shown(usually due to a lack of the author's theory training). This first lesson will be on 3 and 4 note chord harmonization, and the degree's of the major and minor scale, which is where all this modal stuff starts from. 3 note major chord scales
```   G   A     B    C   D    E     F
E   F     G    A   B    C     D
C   D     E    F   G    A     B

C   Dm    Em   F   G    Am   Bdim

I   ii    iii  IV  V    vi    vii```
Okay, here we go guys. The basically building block of functional harmony. The major chord scale. I have listed the three notes of the chord, vertically, in the order from top to bottom(5th,3rd, Root) The chord symbol, and the chord degree. So as you can see, C major is the I chord in a C major progression. This major chord scale is movable. So if we are in the key of G it becomes:-
```G Am Bm  C  D Em F#dim
I ii iii IV V vi vii```
So as you can see, the pattern is the same for all keys. 4 note major chord scales
```   B        C      D      E       F     G     A
G        A      B      C       D     E     F
E        F      G      A       B     C     D
C        D      E      F       G     A     B

Cmaj7    Dm7    Em7    Fmaj7    G7   Am7   Bm7b5
I       ii     iii     IV      V     vi    vii```
Now, I've added a fourth note in. This is what is called a four note chord. This is where all modern western music theory comes from. Right here. This is the key to the majority of chord progression seen in western music. Again, this is movable to other keys. Now go find some chord progression, and write the key in the top corner of the sheet of paper. Now find the related scale degree's(the roman numerals underneath the chords). Notice that whatever key your in, the song will have the majority of chords obeying this major chord scale. So go and find some of your favourite songs(in a major key)charts, print them out, and write out the chord scales above each chord. Feel free to comment if your having troubles on certain songs. I'll be checking comments so any help needed can be posted there. The next article will explain how to use the modes of the major scale over these scale degree's, but I'm sure with just this information the penny will drop with some players, and they will begin to see the correct use of modes. Until next time..

### 46 comments sorted by best / new / date

you know what..im just gonna sotp posting..you'll get me second article, the follow up to this one, and im not gonna bother posting again. I was only trying to teach a sorely neglected part of modes, the biggest part in fact, and the one that leads to all the confusion. I dont really care whether people learn this or not, in fact its in my benefit for my job that people dont. Sorry for trying to help, you can all go back to your disillusioned and confused methods now...
Hi Ross/Jay, thank you very much for the compliments. The reason i didnt start at two note harmonies as I think many people would get lost in just how many two note harmonies can be found within chords, especially the extensions. Convention as well, as this was how I was taught this method.
I know it was difficult for you to process but I was saying almost the same thing every argument, that you cam make triads dim or aug, and I never said you had to teach them... I only brought them up when you said that only maj and min chords could be triads... Since I corrected you, you've managed to respond to many accusations I never made... Again you keep saying that you haven't taught dim and aug triads because they aren't going to be used, which I never told you that you should, I only corrected an incorrect statement you made... in other words, you've beenarguing with me about something I never said.
Why the point to keep going when i said i would address them later? Stop trying to make yourself look so big. Its a very logical approach, and you never answer any of my questions. So until you wanna do that, stop wasting my time and that of other musically talented people who would actually like to learn how to use modes correctly, not just some half mumbo jumbo way.
I showed you were everything fit, even the extra note in a Cmaj chord, so shove off buddy, your just a typical know it all troll who has learned theory off some website and made a half arsed attempt at it. Stop trying to make it harder for those who want to learn to do so.
I'm concerned by the fact that, out of thirty-one comments on this article, twenty of them are by the author, and the last one is simply an insult to a user seeking clarification. If your entire comments section is dedicated to explaining yourself then you have obviously failed to do so in your articles. My advice would be to have a friend of equal or greater knowledge examine your work before you upload it if you intend to 'correct' my own works. This way, you're more likely to be taken seriously as an authority on the matter.
Tom> the reason i was correcting your article, as is does not start with harmonic analysis. Doing a roman numeral analysis on a song identifies the correct approach for modes to a certain set of tones. Teaching this without modes is like teaching someone how to use a gearstick without knowing how the accelerator works. Its a bit ahead of itself. The reason i stopped posting on this site was due to the amount of amateur know it alls. I make my living playing music in a professional working band, i also do session work and some audio and teaching work on the side. It is my 9 to 5 job to know this stuff and how it works inside and out. My explanation was very simple, and just didnt need an arguement by someone who thinks he knows better than someone who does this all day every day. I loved your articles Tom, they were great, but to me I am astounded why you havent taught harmonic/roman numeral analysis as to how to apply modes?
Colohue> how did i not clarify his post...those 20 something posts of mine are making points of how all this relates back to chords, and most importantly, chord scales...
The crux of it all comes down to the fact that Cmaj7 = C Ionian = I Dm7 = D dorian = ii Em7 = E phrygian = iii Fmaj7 = F lydian = IV G7 = G mixolydian = V Am7 = A Aeolian = vi Bm7b5 = B Locrian = vii There. Go have fun. Thats all there is to it. All just inversions of a C major scale.
you did very well at presenting a commonly ignored and as you said, easily applicable idea to general music playing. Ignore these losers who call themselves guitar players. If they cared half as much as they talked they wouldnt be on their laptops, they'd be playing their "7 chords" as kryptic should have been doing instead of wasting space on your lesson page. And as I said already, this lesson was well stated. I would be completely fulfilled with myself if I were to have completed a formal guitar course. Remember that all these terms you people know("progressions", diatonic","masturbatoric-ha thats right") will only serve to distract from the flow of creative energy. Only the most developed players can freely discuss their playing in such terms. The rest are confused, pretentious children who know how to use their mouth much better than than their fingers. And as I said,chris- well done.
So when you see C-Am7-Fmaj7-G7..... you would know you can use an C ionian, A aeolian, F lydian and G Mixolydian. Then we also have modal keys...say for instance these two progression A D E A E D A E The first progression is in the key of A major, the second progression is in the key of E mixolydian. Why? Look at the 1, 4,5 of the first progression, A, D, E. A tone's distance between D and E so obviously the key of A.... why isnt the second the same? Its the same chords...however is starts and ends in E...the V chord of the A major scale...so this is an E mixolydian progression. Just thought id add these as this whole argument has seen me explain a lot of this stuff ahead of time anyway.
My point is this simple kryptic guitar> why argue something thats only semantics and wording in the first place and has no outcome on the final learning result. 3 note chord = triad = 3 note harmony...whatever you'd like to call it. Does it really matter? not in the slightest..i just find myself asking this question over what your arguing.."whats it got to do with the price of tea in china?" there is just no relevance to your argument to what im teaching. If you have a question ask it straight out.. I still dont see the point to sit here and argue with me over this, it has no bearing on what im trying to teach.
All my answers, are coming from my knowledge of Major and minor chords scales...this is where all the modal knowledge starts and finishes.
Wow !! This is my first visit to the lessons section and I think I might give it a miss in the future. I fail to see how this is classed as a lesson for beginners. It starts at a point that neither gives the pupil an introduction nor promotes a desire to learn. Please try to remember that not everybody has had or can afford to have 'formal study' on guitar but would like to learn hoe to improve their playing. Completely agree with Colohue, so many comments and questions suggests the presentation has failed.
countrychris01 wrote: The crux of it all comes down to the fact that Cmaj7 = C Ionian = I Dm7 = D dorian = ii Em7 = E phrygian = iii Fmaj7 = F lydian = IV G7 = G mixolydian = V Am7 = A Aeolian = vi Bm7b5 = B Locrian = vii There. Go have fun. Thats all there is to it. All just inversions of a C major scale.
this is all i needed to see to know that you don't understand modes. this is not how modes work. modes have nothing to do with tonal progressions. to make a composition modal requires a completely different approach, and it is stricter than composing tonally. i know this is how modern jazz theory is taught, and that's why i prefer analyzing (sometimes even writing, but less so) jazz from a classical standpoint. because that aspect of jazz theory is built on taking fancy words and applying them incorrectly. modern modality is not quite the same as modality a few hundred years ago, but it is not quite what you've demonstrated, either. obviously you know some shit, but it doesn't seem that way about modes. modes are more than inversions of scales -- in fact, they're barely inversions of scales and should not be treated as such. they are different compositional entities in their entirety.
Aeolian, would you please send me a pm so we can compare notes without cluttering up this page. Yes im teaching from a jazz point of view, as this is how it was taught to me, and to be honest, works for me everytime. Every method has its own merits and inadequacies, and what im teaching now is basically a giant major scale until we get to tonal progressions. Id like to have a look at your method and see what i can gleam from that.
Hey countrychris01, please tell me why did you do not start with 2 note harmonies (double stops) for beginners? Do you think it would be easier for students to start with 2 notes? Convention would be the first reason, second may be your familiarity with chord structure. Would like to see your article start at a less advanced point. There is no reason that an absolute beginner cannot understand modes in their first lesson if you have the appropriate teaching method. As you have mentioned 'modes are very very simply to learn' Try the www.guitarmodes.com.au method for a very very simple method to teach. Looking forward to your next article. Regards, Ross. Guitarmodes
And my friend, i wasnt proving i can write progressions. That was just the diatonic chords of the harmonic minor and its modes..which proves you have no idea of what im even talking about. Thats where the application of those chords come into it. You dont even end up thinking of aug or dim as a triad after that..hence why i did not mention it. I think you better stop your circular arguing mate. I have shown heaps of examples why I have not addressed those chords or included it in my statements, and you just cannot get over the fact. Move on, that piece of knowledge isnt needed in the way im teaching this stuff, and if your such the expert on it yourself, which you have shown you arent by not being able to rebut any of my points i have shown you in theory, and didnt even recognize the diatnoic chords of the harmonic minor modes, then you write an article to clarify some stuff. Do you even know what a Harmonic Analysis is, and have you ever been taught this stuff? Because it seems like you just have no idea, and are trying to put things together based on what you have read. Sorry buddy, but 4 note harmony is what modern music is founded upon, just because we arent playing 4 notes on guitar, doesnt mean it isnt there in the song. This is why its so important to be aware of the relationship of whats being played across all intruments.
uh.... when you say 3 note major chord scale, you mean the diatonic triads of the major scale, right? also your "four note chords" are commonly referred to as 7 chords (or at least thats usually what I hear them called)... why would you call these things three note chords and four note chords? isn't that more confusing than using their common names? since the name "three note major chord scales" sounds like all the chords are major chords, when they infact are not... I understand what you are talking about, but I would say that if you use the term triad or seven chord, and someone doesn't understand what you are talking about, then they arent ready for modes yet, I would think that they are kind of prerequisites....
I was talking about treating an augmenting chord as a first inversion of a minor chord...eg. Eaug = Dbmin...then modally you would use whatever mode that Dbmin is corresponding to the key. Maybe you didnt read my post correctly, but i said triads are also chords, the word is interchangeable. If you also look at my diatonic triad major scale, you would see i included a Bdim as a triad? Well what does arguing over whether or not its a triad or not got to do with this? Modal theory does not approach diminished chords or augmented chords as a triad...they are always extended chords...so your arguing over something, that essentially, has no relation to what im teaching anyway?
Slash> The reason I did this article, is I saw several gaping errors in Tom's article. It was too much b.s, and not put in plain and simple terms for everyone. Regarding the triad and 7th chords..i have heard these things called a bunch of things over my time. Sure they are triads, but they are also chords. They are a 3 note chord...major and minor are the only chords that just need a triad to be complete. It also helps to think of three and four note chords later on, when you actually memorize all the notes within the chord, which is a much needed skill for jazz soloing, and where in fact, learning modes leads us too..
Also Slash, I havent seen harmonic analysis anywhere on Tom's article. He skipped straight to modes and there interval distance. Without harmonic analyzing skills, there is just no point to learning modes.
Also guys, this stuff will also lead into the trickier subjects of chord substitution, key of the moment, and various other uses of modes that I havent even seen talked about here.
If you dont know this article, and the notes within the chords, inside and out, your gonna have trouble later on. If your asked "Whats is the third of a G7 chord" and you cant answer this(it should be like someone asking you your mums name) then really you should be learning that stuff. Very important once we get past the modal stuff and onto soloing with chord tones.
countrychris01 wrote: Sure they are triads, but they are also chords. They are a 3 note chord...major and minor are the only chords that just need a triad to be complete.
isn't a triad a chord? "Music . a chord of three tones, esp. one consisting of a given tone with its major or minor third and its perfect, augmented, or diminished fifth." that's the definition I found of a triad from dictionary.com, so the statement that says that "they are triads, but they are also chords." makes no sense.... also a diminished chord and an augmented chord only need a triad to be complete.... both of them only need three notes to make the chord.... yes there are some extended variations such as dim7, half dim7[min7(b5)], aug maj7[maj7(#5)], and aug min7[min7(#5)] etc., but they only need a triad to be a diminished or augmented chord....
Yeah exactly..same thing different name..purely semantics, and nothing that will impede functional music knowledge. The whole point was, if your playing a G chord, your just playing a triad...go look at piano voicings to see this... And yes, a dimished triad does only need three notes, same with augmented, but where do you in fact see the use of dimished and augmented chords within modal theory? With altered notes/and or chord substition. The last one is a bit of a stretch really..but it can be done. Eg. Eaug = Dbmin. But the way im teaching modes, really teaches the augmented and diminished in extension forms, and as modes of harmonic minor.
And if your learn to analyse correctly, you actually will never see just the triad used. Every tune ive ever seen a dimisnihed and augmented used in, always had implied altered tone, even if they werent written. Eg the chord progression of- F#m7b5 - B7 - Em In that chord progression, i can tell you straight away that the B7 has an implied b9 note, which may not be written(u never see the note actually written in standards like autumn leaves). The F#m7b5 is a half diminished chord..again where are any of these actually three note triads? Three note aug and diminished dont realyl get seen that much, and when they are seen, its usually an altered chord that implied, and left up to the player to know enough to recognize this.
And please correct me if im wrong krypticguitar, and tell me functionally how modal theory treats a three note diminished or augmented chord?
countrychris01 wrote: Yeah exactly..same thing different name..purely semantics, and nothing that will impede functional music knowledge. The whole point was, if your playing a G chord, your just playing a triad...go look at piano voicings to see this... And yes, a dimished triad does only need three notes, same with augmented, but where do you in fact see the use of dimished and augmented chords within modal theory? With altered notes/and or chord substition. The last one is a bit of a stretch really..but it can be done. Eg. Eaug = Dbmin. But the way im teaching modes, really teaches the augmented and diminished in extension forms, and as modes of harmonic minor.
what are you responding to, no one said that a G chord, isn't a triad, so I'm not sure what you are trying to prove.... and what does modal theory have to do with weather or not a diminished or augmented chord can be completed with a triad... you said that "major and minor are the only chords that just need a triad to be complete." I was telling you that you are wrong. finally whats a this whole "The last one is a bit of a stretch really" what are you ersponding to.... at this piont I don't really know if you can be taken seriously or if you are just here trying to talk about something you know nothing about... and yes if you don't know any basic music theory there is no way you understand modes....
Its funny kryptic, because from where im sitting, it doesnt seem like you know enough modal theory to realize that im pointing out the fact that triads arent really approached as triads with what im teaching.
my chord didnt show up either bud...but im talking xx201x as first inversion in this case...
For instance in a song..if i see the chords... Gaug,F#m7,B7,Ebdim,Em... Now these might be written like this, but analysing it..the Gaug is actually Gaug(maj7),F#m7b5, B7b9, Ebdim7, and Eminor for a final resolution. Even though those chords arent written that way, by analysing it you will find they are diatonic to harmonic minor..so why does it really matter what the name of those chords are when eventually you will see them and think of them as extended chords anyway?
no I was pointing out that they are normally referred to as triads, and using the term three note chord may tell an absolute beginner that he or she is ready... you then decided to say that only major and minor can be complete with a triad, I was merely saying you are wrong from a theoretical point of view, not discusing modes.... my point was that not knowing certian basic terms like triads and seventh chords would turn a beginner away, which I would think is what you want, but using words like three note or four note chords tells them they are ready , and they aren't... also constantly asking "what does this have to do with modal theory?" tells me that you do not understand the point I'm trying to make.... you n3eed to understand music theory pretty well before you can understand modal theory, and you are pretty much telling me that it has nothing to do with modal theory, just because something doesn't have anything to do with modes doesnt' meen that you don't need to understand it before going into modes... again you never told me what it was you are responding to, from what it seems you are just making things up and responding to some invisible posts.... obviously you don't know what you are talking about and are trying to defend it by talking in circles and explaining things that no one ever said.
Well again...ive told you im responding to the facts that modes dont treat any dim or aug as a triad. They are in fact implied four note chords. And modes is not a hard thing at all to learn, nor is it complicated, when taught correctly. This is a complete myth, and mostly due to all the bad information and confusion on modes on the web, and the fact its not taught alongside harmonic analysis. As long as you know the diatonic major chord scale for triads and 7ths, your home and hosed. Ive given you several examples of why I havent talked about diminished and augmented yet..even examples involving chord progression with these chords to show you exactly how they are treated in later stages. Why are we even arguing over this when it has no outcome on the final result?
We arent living in 1700's either, the modern foundation of music is 4 note harmony, which means every chord must have 4 notes. Whether or not you want to regard it as that or not, even when you play a diminished or augmented, its got an implied 4th note, whether or not you are playing it.
I never said it was difficult I said that you need to understand theory to be able to understand modes you said
If you dont know this article, and the notes within the chords, inside and out, your gonna have trouble later on. If your asked "Whats is the third of a G7 chord" and you cant answer this(it should be like someone asking you your mums name) then really you should be learning that stuff. Very important once we get past the modal stuff and onto soloing with chord tones.
this tells me that you should understand chord construction, therefore beginners who don't know any theory should not waste their time. you also say
As long as you know the diatonic major chord scale for triads and 7ths, your home and hosed.
which also proves my point, that you need to understand theory on some level. and I never said that you need to talk about dim and aug chords, but if you are going to say something as outrageous as
major and minor are the only chords that just need a triad to be complete.
I'm going to correct you, you never said "major and minor are the only chords that just need a triad to be complete the way we are going to apply them modally" that may have been more correct, instead you keep trying to say "in modes you need this and you don't need this so I'm not wrong" where infact you are at a basic music theory level. I don't care about proving that you can write progressions, thats great, but I'm not saying you can't.... and we are arguing about this because of your outrageous statement mentioned above... you decided that you needed to argue the point that you are correct which makes you look more ignorant than the original statement did to begin with. it doesn't really matter to the point, that I have been making all along, that modes don't treat dim and aug as triads. since the point I have been making from the begining is that triads can be diminished or augmented, (not that modes must incorporate them, you are the one that came to that conclusion) and that a basic knowlege of music theory should be a prerequisite to learning modes...
countrychris01 wrote: We arent living in 1700's either, the modern foundation of music is 4 note harmony, which means every chord must have 4 notes. Whether or not you want to regard it as that or not, even when you play a diminished or augmented, its got an implied 4th note, whether or not you are playing it.
no I don't live in the 1700's, but when I play C major there is only C E and G (if you wanna get technicall it goes XCEGCE
please tell me where the fourth note is in this chord... don't tell me what Cmaj7 is, tell me the fourth note in this Cmajor chord because I would love to know... don't know why but this part didn't show up on the post...
Exactly, and do you say your playing a C triad, or a C chord... you say you use a chord...which is a 3 note chord...like i originally said.. To me your just as confused as the rest on modes. We are arguing over the name of something that isnt even seen in music today...everytime those chords are seen, its implied that its a 4 note harmony. Three note chords work for songs because of the bass and the melody, creating 5 voices throughout the song. Something outrageous as that? ITs just not needed for what im teaching, which is why i didnt mention it. If you cannot tell me what modes are being use over the progressions ive listed, just sit down and you might learn something. Obviously your picture of music theory does not extend enough to see what im actually referring to. In a modern context, no augmented or diminished chords are treated as three note triads, so i didnt feel the need to mention it. The progression I have written are the diatonic chords from the harmonic minor scale. This is where the modal application for diminished and augmented come from. They are treated as four note harmony. My friend, your failing to see the forrest for the trees.
Three note chord work in the situation of playing because say we play a C in first inversion... And we have a vocalist singing a B and the bassist playing a C, we have a C maj 7 chord throughout the entire band. Now this may only be written on a chart as a C chord..but its an implied maj7 chord.. What happens if the bassist has an A note written then.. the entire ensemble will be playing an Amin9, but the chart will still only have C as the chord..
Hi Countrychris01 Keep with the lesson, some gems will come out of it, readers just have to be keen to pick up on them eg. Elven, thanks PS Don't forget to mention Parallel and Relative approach to modes this will answer most queries such as the one above that mentions inversions of scales. Yes, I think that saying modes are inversions of scales when you use the Relative approach to modes is an good analogy. Thanks. My method teaches single notes/all scales across the fretboard. 2 note harmony, 3 note harmony, 4 note harmony, 5 note harmony etc, across the fretboard. They all build on each other using a very simple technique. It does not progress to application (this is where you have expertise) but does stress there needs to be a chord under every melody and improvised note. We in Australia get shot down if we try to highlight our own abilities, successes or innovations but we do trust a high profile advocate. Would you be so kind as to take a look at my method and offer a critique? (see Bruce Arnold's Critique) Regards, Ross. Guitarmodes.com.au