Correction: I must acknowledge joeythedrummer for pointing out a mistake in my previous article, The Why Of Notes. The mistake involved an interval in the F major scale. The correction was with the last interval, E to F. I had written it as a WHOLE STEP, when in fact, it was a HALF STEP.
Welcome back to the third installment of my series of basic theory articles. In this article, we will expand upon what you have already learned from the previous two.
What are modes? For all intents and purposes, they are simply scales. Is the major scale a mode? YES!!! It is the Ionian mode.
How do we build modes? That is the easy part. Take the major scale (here we go again). Now, follow your basic whole, whole, half, whole, whole whole, half pattern. That mode starts on the FIRST NOTE of whatever major scale you are playing. So in the key of C major, if you start on the FIRST NOTE of that key and play a scale, you are in the Ionian mode. Simple.
What about the other modes? There are seven modes altogether. They are based upon each note in the major scale. To make this easy to understand, let's use some illustrations. We already know that the scale starting on C in the key of C is the Ionian mode because it starts on the first note of that key. The NEXT MODE starts on the second note (or SCALE DEGREE). It is D. It is called the Dorian mode. So when we are in the key of C, a scale starting on D is considered Dorian.
Let's show the modes and their notes:
KEY OF C
C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C = Ionian [major](It starts on the first note)
D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D = Dorian (It starts on the second note)
E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E = Phrygian (It starts on the third note)
F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F = Lydian (It starts on the fourth note)
G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G = Mixolydian [dominant](It starts on the fifth note)
A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A = Aeolian [minor](It starts on the sixth note)
B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B = Locrian (It starts on the seventh note)
Now this is REALLY IMPORTANT: Notice how there are no sharps or flats in these modes. They are MODES OF THE KEY OF C. And if you remember correctly, the key of C has no sharps or flats.
How do we construct modes in a key?
*First, build your major scale.
*Second, remember the sharps or flats in the key.
*Third, iterate through each scale degree using ONLY YOUR ORIGINAL KEY'S sharps or flats.
Let's try it.
1) Build The Major Scale
KEY OF D
D to E = whole
E to F# = whole
F# to G = half
G to A = whole
A to B = whole
B to C# = whole
C# to D = half
2) Remember Your Sharps Or Flats
If you look, you'll see the D major scale has TWO SHARPS: F# and C#.
3) Build Your Modes
KEY OF D MAJOR
Use your two sharps for EVERY MODE in D major
D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D Ionian [major](It starts on the first note)
E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D, E Dorian (It starts on the second note)
F#, G, A, B, C#, D, E, F# Phrygian (It starts on the third note)
G, A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G Lydian (It starts on the fourth note)
A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A Mixolydian [dominant](It starts on the fifth note)
B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A, B Aeolian [minor](It starts on the sixth note)
C#, D, E, F#, G, A, B, C# Locrian (It starts on the seventh note)
Did you catch how the modes on the fifth and sixth scale degrees were also called dominant and minor? (I'll tell you about the dominant later) Even the minor COMES FROM THE MAJOR SCALE!!! It is simply a MODE of the major scale. This is where they get the term "relative minor" because it is RELATIVE to its major counterpart. So what is the relative minor of C major? It is A minor. The relative minor ALWAYS occurs on the sixth scale degree of a major.
C major's relative minor = A minor
D major's relative minor = B minor
E major's relative minor = C# minor
G major's relative minor = E minor
A major's relative minor = F# minor
and so forth.
And lastly for modes, let's explore the step pattern of the minor:
KEY OF C MAJOR
A to B = whole
B to C = half
C to D = whole
D to E = whole
E to F = half
F to G = whole
G to A = whole
So the pattern for any natural minor is:
whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole
This is simply the major step pattern STARTING and STOPPING on a different spot.
What are they? They are simply notes that are WRITTEN DIFFERENTLY but SOUND THE SAME.
C# sounds the same as Db
D# sounds the same as Eb
E# sounds the same as F
Fb sounds the same as E
F# sounds the same as Gb
G# sounds the same as Ab
A# sounds the same as Bb
B# sounds the same as C
Cb sounds the same as B
Why are they like this? It's totally for practical purposes. For instance, there is a whole step between D and E. If you raise (or sharpen) the D a half step, you haven't made it to the E. You are now IN BETWEEN them. But your ACTION taken on the D note makes it sharp since you MOVED IT UP. If you start on E and go down (flatten) one half step, you haven't made it to D. You are now in between them and in the EXACT SAME SPOT you were before. But since you LOWERED THE E, the note is Eb. Since there is only ONE PLACE between D and E, that space can be moved UP into or DOWN into. If you move the top note DOWN into it, that note becomes flattened and occupies that space. If you move the bottom note UP into it, it becomes sharpened and occupies that same space. So that note has two names. Which one is used depends on the "how" and the purpose. There are also scalar reasons for using certain sharps or flats, but we won't go into that until later.
In the next article, I will talk about the importance of scale degrees and intervals greater than a whole step.
Thanks for reading.