Church Modes

This is an attempt to explain the 'Church Modes' and how all 7 modes are really one large mode.

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Ultimate Guitar
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The 'Church Modes' are scales that are generally used to write songs or simply play around with. The names of each of the 7 scales that I am about to try to explain to you and teach you are: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. The Ionian and Aeolian are also the Major and minor scales, respectively. The origins of the 'Church Modes' are from various ancient civilizations like: Aeolia (Aeolian mode), Ionia (Ionian mode), Doris (Dorian mode). A mode can simply be thought of as a set of 7 notes. Each mode is an inversion -starts and ends on a different note of the 7 notes- of the Ionian mode (Ionian scale). We will use the most common major key to learn these modes in. the C major mode is the most common key to learn the modes in.
C major- C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C (octave)
The inversions of this key -set of notes- make up the modes. For example the modes start with the key (Ionian mode or Major scale) and just rotate which note they start and end on, like this:
C major (Ionian mode)- C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C (octave)
D Dorian (second mode)- D, E, F, G, A, B, C, and D (octave)
E Phrygian (third mode)- E, F, G, A, B, C, D, and E (octave)
F Lydian (fourth mode)- F, G, A, B, C, D, E, and F (octave)
G Mixolydian (fifth mode)- G, A, B, C, D, E, F, and G (octave)
A minor (Aeolian mode)- A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and A (octave)
B Locrian (seventh mode)- B, C, D, E, F, G, A, and B (octave)
Here are the scales tabbed out: C Ionian (Major) mode:
e|------------------------------------------10-12-13-|
B|---------------------------------10-12-13----------|
G|-------------------------9-10-12-------------------|
D|-----------------9-10-12---------------------------|
A|---------8-10-12-----------------------------------|
E|-8-10-12-------------------------------------------|
D Dorian mode:
e|----------------------------------------------12-13-15-|
B|-------------------------------------12-13-15----------|
G|----------------------------10-12-14-------------------|
D|-------------------10-12-14----------------------------|
A|----------10-12-14-------------------------------------|
E|-10-12-13----------------------------------------------|
  • It is very important that you play the "-10-12-14-" pattern using your index, middle, and pinky fingers: index for 10, middle for 12, and pinky for 14. The use of these fingers allow you to play scales in a more efficient way. This arrangement of your fingers also increases your ability to stretch your fingers further apart which can be a vital asset to becoming a "guitar god". E Phrygian mode:
    e|----------------------------------------------13-15-17-|
    B|-------------------------------------13-15-17----------|
    G|----------------------------12-14-16-------------------|
    D|-------------------12-14-15----------------------------|
    A|----------12-14-15-------------------------------------|
    E|-12-13-15----------------------------------------------|
    F Lydian mode:
    e|--------------------------------3-5-7-|
    B|--------------------------3-5-6-------|
    G|--------------------2-4-5-------------|
    D|--------------2-3-5-------------------|
    A|-------2-3-5--------------------------|
    E|-1-3-5--------------------------------|
  • F Lydian mode can also be played at the 13th fret (the octave of the 1st fret) G Mixolydian mode:
    e|-------------------------------5-7-8-|
    B|-------------------------5-6-8-------|
    G|-------------------4-5-7-------------|
    D|-------------3-5-7-------------------|
    A|-------3-5-7-------------------------|
    E|-3-5-7-------------------------------|
  • G Mixolydian mode can also be played at the 15th fret (the octave of the 3rd fret) A Aeolian (minor) mode:
    e|--------------------------------7-8-10-|
    B|-------------------------6-8-10--------|
    G|-------------------5-7-9---------------|
    D|-------------5-7-9---------------------|
    A|-------5-7-8---------------------------|
    E|-5-7-8---------------------------------|
  • A Aeolian mode can also be played at the 17th fret (octave of the 5th fret) B Locrian mode:
    e|-------------------------------------8-10-12-|
    B|-----------------------------8-10-12---------|
    G|----------------------7-9-10-----------------|
    D|---------------7-9-10------------------------|
    A|--------7-8-10-------------------------------|
    E|-7-8-10--------------------------------------|
  • B Locrian mode can also be played at the 19th fret (the octave of the 7th fret) As you can see each mode starts on the second note of the previous mode, if you think of them in order. Each scale is like a link in a chain; each link is connected to two other links and all 7 links make one big circle of links (scales). Therefore all 7 scales are connected to each other. The reason each of these 7 scales are called modes is very simple. When you see Carlos Santana playing Europa you can tell he is playing the intro of the song using the Mixolydian mode (using the way I tabbed the scales). In reality Carlos Santana is using the G Phrygian mode. The reason he is using the Phrygian mode and not the Mixolydian mode is simply because you determine the mode you are in by the note in the key that you emphasize. Carlos Santana emphasizes the Phrygian note G in the key of D# major. Emphasizing a particular note can cause the sound of a scale to sound certain ways. Carlos makes his song Europa sound bluesy with a Spanish flavor sound to it because of emphasizing the Phrygian note in the key he chose to play in. I hope this helps. If you have any questions or complaints please contact me through my email. Enjoy!
  • 18 comments sorted by best / new / date

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      Jlambertguitar
      so before guitars wer made guitar people was at war? look at them now ther all happy in ther scales they dont fight anymore lmao !
      Bluesrocker5150
      Echoplex wrote: um, "aeolian" comes from the name of the greek god of wind, not from a civilization
      Yes, and actually all the modes are named after greek tribes that used that specific mode. TS was at least on the right track though.
      qoody
      Nevermind my first question... Cminor is relative to D#(Eb) so it naturally has a G Phrygian. Basically modes are all about emphasizing particular note of the scale? Did I get it right?
      qoody
      Europe by Santana is in Cm what does G Phrygian has to do with it? Could you please explain?
      ricky6str
      I find it ironic that my students keep telling me it all sounds Greek to them... to which I reply you're right.
      jaydhellboi
      i've been practicing sweep arp. all the time... 'coz it's easier for me to identify the pattern of all the chord progressions... and i'm moving on to alternate picking tech. and i dunno how to connect the chord progression using alternate picking.. i think they use this for alternate picking.. is it?
      liam177lewis
      Aeolus was not GOD of winds, he was the KEEPER of winds. its right there in the odyssey, gees...
      InTheFlesh!
      The emphasis on the fact that it is comprised of the same notes starting on each different degree would have been much clearer if you didn't shift positions in each tab. Otherwise, solid.
      reaper2751
      InTheFlesh! wrote: The emphasis on the fact that it is comprised of the same notes starting on each different degree would have been much clearer if you didn't shift positions in each tab. Otherwise, solid.
      I was just keeping it in the key of C major (or otherwise known as C Ionian). That was why they shifted position.
      tarantulus
      from wikipedia: Aeolia may mean: * Another name for Aeolis in Anatolia. * An older name for Thessaly before the Greek Dark Ages. Both are so-named because Thessaly was held to be the earlier homeland of the Aeolian people, but during the Dorian Invasion they fled across the Aegean Sea to Anatolia and founded Aeolis there.
      Echoplex
      um, "aeolian" comes from the name of the greek god of wind, not from a civilization