Modes Explained - How To Apply In A Solo

An explanation of modes and the formulas for modes - Major Scale modes, Harmonic Minor Modes and Melodic Minor Modes.

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Today I shall try to explain Modes. They are a very interesting aspect to music - played in the right place and they can sound very impressive. For this lesson it is imperative to understand the basis of music theory such as construction of Major and Minor scales. At the end of the lesson I will tab out a short self composed solo for a few of the modes For starters: A Mode basically means when you rearrange a scale like the Major scale, Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor. For instance if you were to rearrange the A Major scale and start it on the 4th note; a D, you would have D Lydian Mode. Another name for the Major scale is the Ionian Mode and another name for the Aeolian mode is the Natural Minor mode. Anyway here is a list of the Modes of the Major scale. I will use scale formulas here instead of the actual notes so that you can apply it to any key.
I Ionian (major)mode:           1,2,3, 4,5,6, 7,8  
II Dorian mode:                 1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7,8
III Phrygian mode:              1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,8
IV Lydian mode:                 1,2,3,#4,5,6,7,8
V Mixolydian mode:              1,2,3,4,5,6,b7,8
VI Aeolian (Natural Minor)mode: 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7,8
VII Locrian mode:               1,b2,b3,4,b5,b6,b7,8
An easy way to think of soloing with modes is that if you think that the chord tones of the chord of, say A major for example are A, C#, E and normally you can solo with A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G#; if you use one of modes that play over an A major chord - as an A major chord contains the steps 1,3,5 - such as the Lydian mode you are changing one of the chord tones from D to D# (the #4)you can produce a whole new sound. This mode is often used in Jazz. You can also use the Harmonic Minor scale to produce some other interesting modes;
I Harmonic Minor:             1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7,8
II Locrian Natural 6th:       1,b2,b3,4,b5,6,b7,8 - notice the natural 6th compared
 to the b6 in the Major scale Locrian mode.
III Ionian #5:                1,2,3,4,#5,6,7,8
IV Romanian Minor:            1,2,b3,#4,5,6,b7,8
V Spanish Gypsy:              1,b2,3,4,5,b6,b7,8
VI Lydian #2:                 1,#2,3,#4,5,6,7,8
VII Super Locrian Diminished: 1,b2,b3,4,b5,b6,bb7 Notice the bb7. This basically 
means to flatten it 2 semitones or by one tone.
Also the Melodic Minor Ascending scale has modes of its own. There is no need to use the descending Melodic Minor because its the same as the Natural Minor scale.
I Melodic Minor: 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7,8
II Dorian b2: 1,b2,b3,4,5,6,b7,8
III Lydian Augmented: 1,2,3,#4,#5,6,7,8
IV Lydian Dominant: 1,2,3,#4,5,6,b7,8
V Mixolydian b6: 1,2,3,4,5,b6,b7
VI Locrian Natural 2nd: 1,2,b3,4,b5,b6,b7,8
VII Super Locrian: 1,b2,b3,b4,b5,b6,b7,8
Here is a very short solo tabbed out over some chords :
  A                     A                            Am
   
  A Ionian Mode         A Lydian Mode                A Phrygian Mode  
e|-17---16-14----------|----------------17-------17-|-------------12p10p8---|
B|------------17-15-14-|-15-16-17-17b19----17b19----|-10-11-13-15---------11|
G|---------------------|----------------------------|-----------------------|
D|---------------------|----------------------------|-----------------------|
A|---------------------|----------------------------|-----------------------|
E|---------------------|----------------------------|-----------------------|
  A                        A
 
  A Spanish Gypsy mode     A Spanish Gypsy Mode
e|-------9-10-12----13----|-15----13----12----10----|
B|-10-11---------10----10-|----10----10----10----10-|
G|------------------------|-------------------------|
D|------------------------|-------------------------|
A|------------------------|-------------------------|
E|------------------------|-------------------------|

9 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    illyria
    really don't understand those numbers pall. how do scale formulas work?
    piszczel
    illyria wrote: really don't understand those numbers pall. how do scale formulas work?
    Everything refers to the major scale. Major scale is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7, so then you can form other scales from it.
    diego0047
    I Like the Dorian & Lydian Modes, Locrian sounds pretty Dark & Synister, I also like it...
    racingboyy321
    illyria wrote: really don't understand those numbers pall. how do scale formulas work?
    Well say we're in A major. The A major scale is A B C# D E F# G# A. None of the notes are changed so its the same as 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. If you change a note, say sharpen the 4 in the case of Lydian mode it become A B C# D# E F# G# A because 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 8
    rockingamer2
    Would have been a lot better if you had explained how important the harmony behind the solo is very important in modal soloing.
    countrychris01
    shouldnt you be teaching what chords tehse should be used over? You have shown me a bunch of scales, but not which chords these work over...Where is the chord harmonization which is the point of playing modally?
    Nix-Man70
    countrychris01 wrote : shouldnt you be teaching what chords tehse should be used over? You have shown me a bunch of scales, but not which chords these work over...Where is the chord harmonization which is the point of playing modally?
    You form the chords from the scale. In an A-major you have these chords: Amaj7 - Bm7 - C#m7 - Dmaj7 - E7 - F#m7 - G#m7b5 Then say you were to use an A Mixolydian scale the chords would be like this: A7 - Bm7 - C#m7b5 - D7 - Em7 - F#m7 - Gmaj7 You see the difference in the chords follows the differences in the scales. And the only difference between A-major scale and A-Mixolydian scale is the seventh note. I hope I cleared some stuff out for you Good luck!
    nrgze13
    If I am in the key of a mode, say C Dorian or Locrian or something, and I wanted to construct arpeggios from the notes of the scale (similar to how in C major you can use C major, d minor, e minor, F Major, G Major, a minor, and b diminished scales,) how would I go about taking the notes of the the aforementioned C Dorian or Locrian scale and basing arpeggios on them?