Modes Explained

A description of each mode and how it is formed using the minor or major scale.

31
Modes Explained.
C Ionian:     C D E F G A B C
D Dorian:     D E F G A B C D
E Phrygian:   E F G A B C D E
F Lydian:     F G A B C D E F
G Mixolydian: G A B C D E F G
A Aeolian:    A B C D E F G A
B Locrian:    B C D E F G A B
Ionian: The Ionian mode is just the major scale. So you take the root and follow this pattern to produce the notes of the major scale: Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone. So, for the C major scale it would be C D E F G A B C. Dorian: The Dorian mode is a minor scale with an added lift. THe D minor scale would be D E F G A Bb C. However, you raise the sixth note of the minor scale to produce the Dorian mode. So the D Dorian scale is D E F G A B C. Phrygian: The Phrygian mode also resembles a minor scale, but unlike the Dorian mode it has a different altered note. The second note of the Minor scale is lowered a half step to produce the Phrygian mode for that root note. E minor: E F# G A B C D. E Phrygian: E F G A B C D. Lydian: The Lydian mode resembles the major scale this time but with an altered note (like every mode but two in here). The F major scale is F G A Bb C D E F. The F Lydian mode is F G A B C D E. The difference is the raised fourth pitch. So, you raise the fourth note in the major scale one half step to get the Lydian mode for that root. Mixolydian: The Mixolydian mode also resembles the major scale but, again, another altered note. This time the altered note is the seventh note. When switching to Mixolydian, you lower the seventh note of the scale one half step. The G major scale is G A B C D E F# G while the G Mixolydian scale is G A B C D E F G. Aeolian: The Aeolian scale is another name for the Minor scale, just as the Ionian is another name for the major scale. The A minor scale is A B C D E F G A while the A Aeolian scale is, you guessed it, the same thing! But, when you look at the notes for the C major scale and the A minor scale and you noticed that they contain the same notes, you ask how can one sound sad and the other happy. Well, it's just the placement of the notes. Locrian: The seventh and final mode is Locrian. Wow, we made it this far already, not bad. But, anyways, the Locrian mode is the "ugly duckling" of all of the modes because of its unusual construction. The Locrian mode is a minor scale with a lowered second and a lowered fifth. So, the B minor scale is B C# D E F# G A B while the B Locrian mode is B C D E F G A B! Mode Charts:
Legend:
0 - Root Note
1 - index
2 - middle
3 - ring
4 - pinkie
Note: Sixth String Root.
Ionian: MAJOR SCALE.

Dorian:
|---|-0-|---|-3-|-4-|
|---|-1-|---|-3-|-4-|
|-1-|-2-|---|-4-|---|
|-1-|-2-|---|-0-|---|
|---|-1-|---|-3-|---|
|---|-0-|---|-3-|-4-|

Phrygian:
|-0-|-2-|---|-4-|
|-1-|-2-|---|-4-|
|-1-|---|-3-|---|
|-1-|---|-0-|-4-|
|-1-|---|-3-|-4-|
|-0-|-2-|---|-4-|

Lydian:
|-1-|-0-|---|-4-|
|-1-|-2-|---|-4-|
|-1-|---|-3-|---|
|-1-|---|-3-|-0-|
|-1-|---|-3-|-4-|
|---|-0-|---|-4-|

Mixolydian:
|---|-0-|---|---|---|
|---|-1-|---|-3-|-4-|
|-1-|---|-3-|-4-|---|
|-1-|-2-|---|-0-|---|
|-1-|-2-|---|-4-|---|
|---|-0-|---|-4-|---|

Aeolian: MINOR SCALE.

Locrian:
|-0-|---|---|---|
|---|-2-|---|-4-|
|-1-|---|-3-|-4-|
|-1-|---|-0-|-4-|
|-1-|-2-|---|-4-|
|-0-|-2-|---|-4-|

59 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    metallica100
    I hear ya, man! Bin tryin to make my Lydians sound 'baroque' for weeks!I was doin the same thing, thought I knew my stuff all along - silly me! It never made sense to me that you could get a different feel by playing the same scale starting on a different note. They outta delete all the incorrect info on the lessons on this site or sumthin. Too many good folk bein misled
    now i understand everything i was actualy wondering why my phrygian moder didnt sound like it does in the wherever i may roam but then i found out he actualy uses phrygian dominant wich is a mode of harmonic minor.
    w8 these are the same but just showing them in comparison to other scales. WHY DOESNT MY PHRYGIAN SOUND EXOTIC!!!!!
    im so ****ing dum...
    fishergirl106
    Chairoi wrote: Spanner: Mantiscabinet, you have got one dodgy theory book. If you play a melodic minor formula up you must keep to the same formula to say you played it downwards. Say like you play a major sacle from root to root, you cant just decide to play a completely different scale such as the harmonic minor scale, and say you played a major scale back down. When you play a scale you must stick to a certain "permutation" of notes, if you do not then you are either playing chromatic or just out of key. If you play the scale the way the two of you pointed out you are playing one scale one way and the other the other way, aka two completely different scales. I play allthose instruments aswell, are you any good on saxophone? [POSTED: 09 April 2005 - 09:51]| Spanner is right, why would you change the key of the scale, just to play it in reverse, that's silly...
    lol for the melodic minor scale, you are actually supposed to play it with the 6th and 7th raised ascending, and then the natural minor scale descending. try actually playing it that way, and see how it sounds, instead of just thinking you're right lol.
    yoshison
    good lesson, but i think it would've been easier to understand if it had been more in terms of scale degrees.
    irishRW
    metallica100 wrote: OK now i get it i used to play them without altering ne notes and i was wondering why my phrygian mode didn't sound "exotic"
    I hear ya, man! Bin tryin to make my Lydians sound 'baroque' for weeks!I was doin the same thing, thought I knew my stuff all along - silly me! It never made sense to me that you could get a different feel by playing the same scale starting on a different note. They outta delete all the incorrect info on the lessons on this site or sumthin. Too many good folk bein misled
    metallica100
    hear ya, man! Bin tryin to make my Lydians sound 'baroque' for weeks!I was doin the same thing, thought I knew my stuff all along - silly me! It never made sense to me that you could get a different feel by playing the same scale starting on a different note. They outta delete all the incorrect info on the lessons on this site or sumthin. Too many good folk bein misled
    u r right though other lessons leave u thinking that the C Dorian mode is D E F G A B C D which is actualy D dorian
    metallica100
    OK now i get it i used to play them without altering ne notes and i was wondering why my phrygian mode didn't sound "exotic"
    Inf1n1tY.
    lol it was like i had tomatoes on my eyes. now i finally know how to connect and complete my mode-scales arround the neck. improvising is also much easier now. can only recommed this lesson 5 stars
    cap'nkirk
    one thing i've never totally understood is which mode to play, if i'm in the key of C, and i wanna play the mixolydian, I'd play it starting on G?
    guitarjunky89
    so if your in any key ("A, B, C...") Then do all the notes stay in whole note form. Or is that just in this piticular key?
    drukqs
    I was always lead to believe that Locrian was a Diminished Scale not minor =(
    metallica100
    w8 these are the same but just showing them in comparison to other scales. WHY DOESNT MY PHRYGIAN SOUND EXOTIC!!!!!
    ♣LakeBodom♣
    TaongGumigitara wrote: What? I thought the D Minor scale is D E F G A B C# D, not D E F G A Bb C D. Because: ..\S/ S=semitone
    No, Thats some sort of screwed up Phrygian scale
    conor-figgy
    Mantiscabinet wrote: Spanner: No they are not asheroth, if you play a scale, you keep to a certain set of notes (or a permutation as our mathematicians would say), you obviously just read a tab and they played it like that, if you continue to play the melodic minor, you must stick to the formula for melodic minor. No, asheroth is correct. I play piano, guitar, and saxophone. Every melodic minor has a raised 6th and 7th on the way up, but is a natural minor on the way down. Buy any theory book, and it'll tell you this.
    Yeah he's right. Good point asheroth.
    drunkonshadows7
    Mate i had trouble understanding the modes until now, i didn't realise they were as simple as this! You were a big help man, cheers! =D
    KiddKrow
    A great example for applying this info would be A7x-"So Far Away" Check it out !!
    PoopChute
    oh to add to that question im also talking about learning the mode pattern throughout the fretboard
    PoopChute
    so imma a noob at guitar and theory so forgive me if i sound retarded but if you learn any one mode through different root notes would you be crossing over and following the pattern of a different mode. (ie if you learned Dorian mode root A-F# or somethig would you be playing say the aeolian mode at one point). If so that would mean that the scale mode would have a couple different names right.
    Vaul96
    Difference between the A Aoelian and the A minor is that there would be a G#. 7th notes are raised in minor sclaes, that's why theres a different sound to the Aoelin. If you an exteremely excellent demonstration of how you can go through all the modes in about 20seconds look at Joe Satriani!!!
    Chairoi
    o.O thought "modes" followed the pattern as in the phrygian would actually be a Bb scale with a root note of C... because of the formula alteration... Then again thats why i came to this lesson :S
    abkdeg
    bro, ithink it would be better if you only used one chord in your lesson.(c for example the easiest) to avoid confusion. at 1st i was confused, but anyway GREAT!...u did a gerat job-yves miclat,
    Laine-Seraphim
    Nice one, All I'll say is that you should've written down their tonic chords, this would've reinforced their tonality, and the reason why the Locrian mode is so unstable. Good one though!
    cap'nkirk
    ok, i think i get this... one question though... to figure out which mode to play in a given key, you'd use the ionian mode or the major scale to move up? like, if i was playing in c major, the mixolydian root would be G? or am i way off?
    TaongGumigitara
    What? I thought the D Minor scale is D E F G A B C# D, not D E F G A Bb C D. Because: ..\S/ S=semitone
    Spanner
    Just use which evr you find comfortable, here are the fingers I would use for each "0" on each mode. Ionian - start with your middle Dorian - start with your index Phyrigan - start with your index Lydian - start with your middle Mixolydian - start with your middle Aeolian - start with your index Locrian - start with your index I find these most comfortable. Lets take two modes starting on different fingers for example (Aeolian and Lydian) Aeolian - This mode requires me to play three notes on the root string four frets in legnth. And to put it in simple words, your going to run out of fingers to play the last note if you start on any other finger (unless your super stretchy) Lydian - If you apply the index starting method as stated above to this mode, you are not going to have any free fingers left to play the "1" note on the A string (the third note in the scale). Make sense? if not feel free to e mail me @ sabbath@vodafone.ie
    Spanner
    Yeah the second one you wrote is the correct D minor formula, the "S" probably meant slide.
    asheroth
    Taong: the first scale you mentioned is the D melodic minor scale, and the second scale is the D natural minor scale. Natural minor has the same notes as its relative major (F major in this case, hence the Bb) and melodic minor is the same as natural minor, but with a raised 6th and 7th on the way up (these are removed on the way back down, for some unknown reason). Hopefully most people can make sense of that
    lowededwookie
    Could you explain the root note just a little more? You explain the fingering like so: 0 - Root Note 1 - index 2 - middle 3 - ring 4 - pinkie so is the root note like held down by the thumb or not held down at all? Sorry, just a newbie question.
    Corwinoid
    Nice job, definitely want to see the follow up. Would be nice to see something on the degrees of importance to each mode.
    Spanner
    No they are not asheroth, if you play a scale, you keep to a certain set of notes (or a permutation as our mathematicians would say), you obviously just read a tab and they played it like that, if you continue to play the melodic minor, you must stick to the formula for melodic minor.
    difitzio
    so am I right in saying If you want to play A dorian you just take that shape above and start with the root on the 5th fret of the low E string..... if I want to play E phrygian I play that shape starting on the open E string???
    Chairoi
    Spanner: Mantiscabinet, you have got one dodgy theory book. If you play a melodic minor formula up you must keep to the same formula to say you played it downwards. Say like you play a major sacle from root to root, you cant just decide to play a completely different scale such as the harmonic minor scale, and say you played a major scale back down. When you play a scale you must stick to a certain "permutation" of notes, if you do not then you are either playing chromatic or just out of key. If you play the scale the way the two of you pointed out you are playing one scale one way and the other the other way, aka two completely different scales. I play allthose instruments aswell, are you any good on saxophone? [POSTED: 09 April 2005 - 09:51]| Spanner is right, why would you change the key of the scale, just to play it in reverse, that's silly...
    asheroth
    *sigh* I'm right. Any music teacher will tell you I'm right. But it doesn't matter anyways, as I was merely pointing out that D E F G A Bb C D is D natural minor, ie. tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone, tone, and D E F G A B C# D is D melodic minor, ie. natural minor with #6 and #7. It is true that the downward part of melodic minor is seldom used, but you write it as natural minor on the way down if you're notating it. That's just the way it is. difitzio - Yeah, that's it. You just move the shape around like you do with pentatonics or major scales. Easy.