Modes

A brief description of modes and their application to playing rock symphonies, along with diagrams for all major modes.

0
What is a mode? A mode is a formation of note steps. This is one fret on your fingerboard. Each fret is a half step. Therefore, you can assume that all e's are a half step from f, and b's a half step from c, respectively. So if you are in the key of C you will end up making a certain number of whole and half steps to reach each solid note ( D, E, F, etc.). The pattern for which these steps make a scale is called a mode. You can make these modes with any given note. You simply count the whole and half steps to each note. A whole step being from one note to another, excluting B to C, and E to F, which are half steps, as described earlier. So in general, starting at C you can go to D in a whole step, then from D to E in a whole step, From E to F in a half Step, F to G in a whole step, G to A in a whole step, A to B in a whole step, and B to C in a half step. That pattern of steps is the mode for C, or the Ioninan Mode. It looks like this for easy reference: W= whole H= half WWHWWWH = Ioninan So given this information, you can assume that from D, all you have to do is remove the first whole step and place it at the end. Like this... WHWWWHW See? The first whole step which represented C to D is now at the end because we are starting on D so that step goes at the end to maintain the seven steps in an eight note scale. These scales can be done with more than eight notes, but they will just repeat themselves, so I will leave that to you. Here are all of the Modes and their titles for easy reference: WWHWWWH = Ioninan WHWWWHW = Dorian HWWWHWW = Phrygian ( Pronounce; Fridge-E-an) WWWHWWH = Lydian (Pronounce LID-E-an) WWHWWHW = Mixolydian (Pronounce MIX-O-LID-E-AN) WHWWHWW = Aeolian (Pronounce AYE-O-LEE-AN) (this final one is rarely used, but is for the key of B) HWWHWWW = Locrian These Patterns start Ioninan in the Key of C, Dorian in the Key of D, and so on. Also, the third fret on your second string is a middle C, so if you want to attempt to construct these scales you can use that reference. The thing with rock, is that they are not always playing in the same key. Someone can play the bass part in a G, but if you are using the Mixolydian scale in any key, it will sound cool. Learning to use this to your advantage will help you bust out those facemelting solos by your favorite artists. You need to use the Key that corresponds with the piece, like the minor form if you want to do that. Otherwise you can play the same key with a different mode. Such as a G with a Locrian mode, which would be the minor mode, or the Phrygian mode, which doesn't have much connection, so it will create dissonant sounds that are more of the heavy metal genera. I hope this lesson was of value to you, and have fun practicing, make sure you do it right...

46 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    SilentDeftone
    lesismoreSG: ive heard from people that when u play a solo lets say for instance its root is E that u have to start and end on an E note to keep the E sound maintained in ur solo i didnt really understand why but i did notice that ending on the note which is root to watever ur jammin in does give it a nice feel ???
    That's a common misconception. Sure, many solos end/start on the rot note. However, it's not a requirement. Many solos don't end or start on the root note!
    NJlo: It's simple: every mode with a minor third is minor, every mode with a major third is major.
    Please learn to read, I've already covered how that is incorrect, a prime example is the Locrian mode which is diminished, neither major nor minor.
    NJlo
    It's simple: every mode with a minor third is minor, every mode with a major third is major. How do you know whats a minor or major third? just count the amount of frets: if you move up 3 frets its minor, 4 frets is major. Locrian doesn't get used too much outside jazz, but jazz is THE best way to learn improvisation. I myself recommend just about any Jamey Aebersold book (especially intermediate jazz improvisation by george bouchard)
    redwing_suck
    viciodk: i'll take deffy's information/answer into a new dimension... if you will.... the thing that makes modes the way they are is the order of strengths in each mode. i see your confusion is thinking that since, say, G ionian and D mixlydian are the exact same scale, just a different starting point.... well, let's go out from there. in this example, i'm using C ionian vs. A aeolian.... the order of strengths formula goes like so (it's also how you build chords): 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 (where 9=2, 11=4, 13=6) obviously you can have alterations to each interval, but no matter if any of the intervals are sharp or flat.... because the order of strengths stays the same, disregarding alterations to the intervals. now... Cmajor = C D E F G A B... A aeolian = A B C D E F G. what's the order of strengths have to do with anything? i'll show you: C ionian order of strengths: C E G B D F A. A aeolian order of strengths: A C E G B D F ok... when you solo, what are you really supposed to do? target the strongest, most defining notes from the scale you are playing. the root obviouly carries the most pull, followed by the 3rd, then the 5th, etc. that's where the order of strengths comes from.... it puts the most defining notes of a scale in order from strongest to weakest. from the example, the order of strengths between the two differs. the most common notes you'd play from C ionian are C E G B.... and adding in some D's, F's and A's for flavor.... for A aeolian, you'd see a lot of A's, C's and E's, with the others for flavor. so basically, my "thesis" of sorts is that the mood of the mode (teehee...) depends on it's order of strengths.
    SRVGuitarFreak
    Also, another way to remeber your modes is this. IF you play from the root note you have a major (Ionian), right? Well, start one note in the scale higher, the 2nd. If you play from there, and end one note higher, you have Dorian Mode. Go up one more note in the scale and end one note higher, you have the phyrgian! it's that easy, just count up how high you want to start and play from there and you have differnt modes. P.s Pick up a copy of fretboard logic I and II. The best book u'll find for explaning modes and scales i think.
    viciodk
    redwing_suck and SilentDeftone: Thanks so far, that explained a lot So what you say, is that there don't have to be a specific order of the notes (in distinction to the order of the chords in a chord progression?), but some notes are stronger than other and therefore those notes should be played the most. When it comes to building a chord progression, there are many rules: http://www.vicio.dk/chords/ (from the book Everything about guitar scales by Wilbur M. Savidge) And I guess, that was what confused me. But I still have a few questions (one them might be a bit offtopic but they are all about song writing) 1. Do there really not have to be some kind of order of the notes? (Except that some notes are stronger than other). Or any rules about starting note, end note for every 4th note if the tempo is 4/4? Does this apply to every scale as well, also to the minor scale, pentatonic scale etc.? 2. Let's say we have a chord progression that goes C Am F G. Will it then be a good idea to play notes that depends on the currently played chords? So when the C chord is being played, maybe we play C E G E, and over the A min chord, we play A C E C etc. 3. I tried looking at the chords for some different songs. And it seems that they kind of create their own rules Like, how can a chord progression contain the chords E Esus2 F#sus2 C#m Am ?: |-0-0-2-4-0----| |-0-0-2-4-1----| |-1-2-4- 6-2----| |-2-2-4-6-2----| |-2-0-2-4-0----| |-0- 0-2---..| It seems like the song is in E major, but then the C note of the A minor chords don't fit in the E major scale.
    lesismoreSG
    ive heard from people that when u play a solo lets say for instance its root is E that u have to start and end on an E note to keep the E sound maintained in ur solo i didnt really understand why but i did notice that ending on the note which is root to watever ur jammin in does give it a nice feel ???
    MATTTHEMOP
    [These Patterns start Ioninan in the Key of C, Dorian in the Key of D, and so on.] sorry, but wot do u mean by that? please excuse me, i havent been learning music theory very long at all.
    toastter
    tenatively the most basic concept of a mode is this. Assume that you are using the C scale. You can apply the concepts of the C scale to more than just the key of C. C's progression works out like this: WWHWWWH so if you are in the key of D and you want to use Ionian mode you can change the mode from regular Dorian, to ionian like this...apply the pattern. D E F G A B C D W H W W W H W Regular Dorian mode D E F#G A B C#D W W H W W W H Ionian mode in D
    shredding_soon2
    well at least i finally got the name of the mode i was forgetting earlier (Locrian), but i did like the layout with the W's and the H's that helped out a great deal and most of the rest of the comments were actually very helpful. Thank You Silent Deftone
    comma
    I've heard this all before in other forums... There is a great book out that puts this stuff into context. Get it if you're tired of going in circles and can't make hide or hair of your modes. The BEAD Method of Fretboard Mastery!
    comma
    I've heard this all before in other forums... There is a great book that puts this stuff into context. Get it if you're tired of going in circles and can't make hide or hair of your modes. The BEAD Method of Fretboard Mastery!
    himurakenshin
    please stop making lessons about modes if your not going to say anything new which has not already been covered before. everyone just tells how to construct modes, and then thats pretty much it. constructing modes is the easiest part about modes.
    comma
    I've heard this all before in other forums... There is a great book out that puts this stuff into context. Get it if you're tired of going in circles and can't make hide or hair of your modes. The BEAD Method of Fretboard Mastery!
    rhcpcure2826
    erm- i thought that the ONLY minor mode is Aeolian? and i guess this lesson isnt so helpful after all, if youre misleading people- i myself havent read it, however.
    SilentDeftone
    No, Dorian and Phrygian are minor modes as well as Aeolian. Aeolian is commonly referred to as the natural minor scale. The requirements for a minor mode are having scale degrees 1 b3 5. I haven't seen a lesson that totally explains modes yet on this site?
    Geldof the Grey
    all complete bollocks. The whole thing was explained from the wrong angle in my opinion, and although my knowledge of modes is minimal, I can see the holes in your explanation. **
    SilentDeftone
    that last paragraph does not make sense to me at all. are you telling me that if im playing in G Ionian i can play any Mixolydian scale along with it? cause that is completly wrong. if i even play my bass in G ionian (the key of G) and then in G mixolydian my F and F# are gonna eventually clash unless i am very carful.
    I know you know this jof1029, but just to be clear. If you're playing in G Ionian (the key of G) then you can play D Mixolydian along with it.
    jof1029
    yeah, im glad im right. its cause ive learned it all from you silentdeftone or at least youve helped me a lot. so i suggest to anyone really looking to learn modes to go to the musicians talk forum. people there really know their stuff, and can help you learn in leaps and bounds if you actually read.
    shifto
    I knew a bit about modes but this has made it really clear, thanks!
    jof1029
    that last paragraph does not make sense to me at all. are you telling me that if im playing in G Ionian i can play any Mixolydian scale along with it? cause that is completly wrong. if i even play my bass in G ionian (the key of G) and then in G mixolydian my F and F# are gonna eventually clash unless i am very carful. or did i just read it wrong? cause thats what it sounds like you are saying, and its wrong.
    SilentDeftone
    Such as a G with a Locrian mode, which would be the minor mode, or the Phrygian mode, which doesn't have much connection, so it will create dissonant sounds that are more of the heavy metal genera
    You really don't know what you're talking about, do you? jof is right, the F# and F WILL clash. Bad lesson, 2 stars at best. For all you wanting to learn modes PROPERLY, feel free to PM me or visit Musician Talk. By the way, Locrian is diminished (half diminished if you want to go into 7ths) because of the b5, not minor.
    rhcpcure2826
    so, silentdeftone, any mode whose 1st, 3rd, and 5th degree in relation to the root note of the scale makes a minor chord is called a minor mode? that formula seems to work...
    Haagse
    SilentDeftone ? =) Can you tell me what diminshed and all taht means? Beacause I'm norwegian, and we have no direct translation for that =)
    SilentDeftone
    The defining characteristic of a diminished chord is the b5. There are a few different types of diminished chords: Diminished Triad: 1 b3 b5 Fully Diminished 7th: 1 b3 b5 bb7 Half Diminished 7th: 1 b3 b5 b7 (also written as min7b5) The word diminished basically means 'lowered'.
    viciodk
    SilentDeftone: If you're playing in G Ionian (the key of G) then you can play D Mixolydian along with it.
    I have read soo many articles about modes but I really don't get the most important part: How do I use them? G Ionian ..= G A B C D E F# G D Mixolydian = D E F# G A B C D The two modes contain the same notes. So what is the idea to play in D Mixolydian instead of G Ionian? I guess the notes have to be played in some order like 1-4-5-1...? Maybe you can tell me more about this? How do I find out if the best mode would be G Ionian, D Mixolydian or any of the other modes?
    SilentDeftone
    You use them to create different sounds. It's completely based on tonal center and the intervals from that note. Each mode has defining characteristics that separate it from the other modes. Ionian: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 the major scale - is happy and cheerful. Dorian: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 1 is used for rock n roll and is the "happy minor" scale Phrygian: 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 1 the b2 gives it an exotic flavor Lydian: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 1 The #4 can be used to create some beautiful tension. I think this is used in jazz quite often, and is one of redwing's favorite modes Mixolydian: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 1 supposedly good for funk with the b7 Aeolian: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 1 natural minor. 'Nuff said. Locrian: 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 1 diminished mode, kind of slinky feel. Used for jazz. All of those scale degrees are in relation to the major scale's intervals. Now you should see why this lesson was so incomplete. There really is no "best mode", it's really all in what feeling you want to convey with your notes. And no, there is no set order. 1-4-5 is a chord progression used in 12-bar blues, generally notated as I7-IV7-V7 (all dominant 7th chords). The progression is as follows: I7 IV7 I7 I7 IV7 IV7 I7 I7 V7 IV7 I7 V7. The last V7 chord will lead to the I7 chord, because it contains the 7th degree of the Imaj7 chord, which leads towards the I strongly.
    SilentDeftone
    xxgenocide98xx: Silent deftone maybe you could write an article that fully explains modes because I'm actually learning them for school credit (woo woo) and I could use some help because the friend that has been teaching me is relatively busy. Since you know alot about the stuff, write a nice informative article (or series?) that explains modes all the way
    I just submitted a lesson on Chords in Keys, I'll get cracking on a modes one eventually. Hopefully by November I'll have a decent draft in the Columns forum.
    hen
    so thats wat the w's and h's mean...boy im stupid
    xxgenocide98xx
    Silent deftone maybe you could write an article that fully explains modes because I'm actually learning them for school credit (woo woo) and I could use some help because the friend that has been teaching me is relatively busy. Since you know alot about the stuff, write a nice informative article (or series?) that explains modes all the way
    punkrocklove999
    i dont really understand modes much, but for some reason this helped a tiny bit just with basic stuff. still could add more. good article though
    d_music_man
    I get it!!!.. great leoon i think. that little part about moving the steps. i know a fair amount of theory but for some reason the modes wouldn't click, now they do :cheers: