Modes (Major Scale)

The basics of major scale modes.

Modes (Major Scale)
2
There are 7 major modes and they're produced by using a different degree of the major scale as the tonic.

The modes are as follows: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aolian, Locrian.

Personally I find it easiest to remember them with the acronym:

I
Don't
Punch
Like
Mohammad
A
Li

I'll TAB out all the different modes of G major simply because it doesn't start too far down the neck, and it doesn't go too far up!

Ionian is your major scale; C Ionian = C major. D Ionian = D major. Below is G Ionian (major 3rd, perfect 5th, major 7th).
E|-----------------------------------------2--3--
B|-----------------------------------3--5--------
G|--------------------------2--4--5--------------
D|-----------------2--4--5-----------------------
A|--------2--3--5--------------------------------
E|--3--5-----------------------------------------
The second mode of G major is A Dorian (minor 3rd, perfect 5th, minor 7th).
E|--------------------------------------------5--
B|-----------------------------------5--7--8-----
G|--------------------------4--5--7--------------
D|-----------------4--5--7-----------------------
A|-----------5--7--------------------------------
E|--5--7--8--------------------------------------
Following this is B Phrygian. This one is a pretty similar shape to a major scale (minor 3rd, perfect 5th, minor 7th).
E|------------------------------------------------7--
B|--------------------------------------7--8--10-----
G|--------------------------------7--9---------------
D|----------------------7--9--10---------------------
A|------------7--9--10-------------------------------
E|--7--8--10-----------------------------------------
C Lydian is basically the same as B Phrygian, just starting and ending one note later (major 3rd, perfect 5th, major 7th).
E|---------------------------------------------7--8--
B|-----------------------------------7--8--10--------
G|-----------------------------7--9------------------
D|-------------------7--9--10------------------------
A|---------7--9--10----------------------------------
E|--8--10--------------------------------------------
Moving on up, D Mixolydian (major 3rd, perfect 5th, minor 7th).
E|-------------------------------------------------------10--
B|-------------------------------------------10--12--13------
G|--------------------------------9--11--12------------------
D|---------------------9--10--12-----------------------------
A|----------9--10--12----------------------------------------
E|--10--12---------------------------------------------------
The Aolian mode is better known as the relative minor. This here is E Aolian (minor 3rd, perfect 5th, minor 7th).
E|----------------------------------------------------------12--
B|----------------------------------------------12--13--15------
G|----------------------------------11--12--14------------------
D|--------------------------12--14------------------------------
A|--------------12--14--15--------------------------------------
E|--12--14--15--------------------------------------------------
In the same way Phrygian starts and ends one note before Lydian, Locrian starts and ends on note before Ionian. Without further ado, F# Locrian (minor 3rd, diminished 5th, minor 7th).
E|----------------------------------------------------------14--
B|--------------------------------------------------15--17------
G|--------------------------------------14--16--17--------------
D|--------------------------14--16--17--------------------------
A|--------------14--15--17--------------------------------------
E|--14--15--17--------------------------------------------------
Once you get your head/fingers round modes they really can be great. You can apply the shapes to any other major scale - A Aolian is the same relative minor shape scale but starting on A (C major/A minor), C Dorian is the Dorian shape but starting on C etc.

I hope this is helpful, but if there are any mistakes, issues or anything, please leave a comment.

Thanks!

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Jehannum
    These are just scale patterns. Nothing about modes or how to use them in the article.
    guitar/bass95
    Just stop with the modes lessons. The only lesson I've ever read on them is the "modes with mode dictionary" lesson, that was published in 2005, here on UG and I have not needed another lesson since, you know why? Because I have a good grasp on basic music theory. Don't go seeking for mode lessons two days after you've picked up the guitar. Learn the basics first, and you shouldn't have any problem understanding modes.