Scales And Their Modes

author: RawalKhan- date: 07/24/2009 category: guitar scales and modes
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Table of Contents - 1. Introduction 2.1 The Minor Scales (all in general) 2.2 Natural Minor Scale 2.3 Harmonic Minor 2.4 Melodic Minor (ascending and descending) 3. Modes (all in general) 3.1 Modes of the Major Scale 3.2 Modes of the Harmonic Minor Scale 3.3 Modes of the Melodic Minor Scale 4. Conclusion

1 - Introduction

Right, so this is my fourth lesson on UG, I'm hoping to make this the best one so far.. because from what I have seen scales and modes are a challenge for some people. My guitar teacher was impressed upon me when I was learning the modes in the sense that, I came up with a different way to approach them and as a result I had a much better understanding of them than most people would have when FIRST studying them. In this lesson I'm going to share my experience with everyone else and hope that it works for you. Anyway, I'm going to quickly go through a very basic scale in case you do not know about it. It is the major scale which in the key of C, it's all natural notes (pretty much like the white notes on a piano or keyboard). It goes CDEFGAB. Pretty easy to understand. Now for the minor scales which are explained in the next section.

2.1 The Minor Scales

The minor scales are known for their sad tone and complexity. The ones that are most commonly used are the natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor (also known as the jazz scale), dorian and phrygian modes (dorian and phrygian are two modes, more on them later). They usually work well around minor chords (obviously), dorian mode works well around m7th chords and harmonic minor sounds good with augmented and diminished chords, for example if you're playing a harmonic minor progression in the key of A, and you're doing a straightforward I IV V, then you will play A minor D minor and E BUT.. to make it sound better you can make the D minor a minor 7th and add a 7th tone to the E chord as well. (you don't need to know all this, it's additional info) 2.2 The Natural Minor The natural minor is looked upon as the relative minor of C major, which means it has all the natural notes of the C major scale but it's root note is A, hence "A" minor scale. So your minor scale is ABCDEFG. Has a sad tone. Here is a diagram of the scale over two octaves - KEY - O Root Note
      o other notes

2.3 The Harmonic Minor Now this is the interesting one. This scale has a very nice middle-eastern/classical/eerie vibe to it. It's my personal favourite scale. A normal minor scale consists of the flatted third, sixth and seventh. In the harmonic minor you raise the seventh tone of the scale. So in A harmonic minor you will have a G# instead of G unlike the normal A Aeolian (natural minor) scale. So you have ABCDEFG#. Here's a diagram of the scale over two octaves -
2.4 The Melodic Minor (ascending and descending) Also known as the jazz minor, this is the one that isn't used very often, it isn't as exotic as harmonic minor and I'm not a very big fan of this scale but, here's the deal with this one. When you're playing the ascending melodic minor, you raise the flatted 6th and 7th back to what it was. So in the key of A the ascending melodic minor would be ABCDEF#G#. It still has the flatted third which gives it a minor feel. BUT. There's a catch, when the melodic minor is descending you flatten the sixth and seventh back to what it was and as a result you get the descending A natural minor in this case. The reason for why this is so.. I don't know (wow that rhymes). There must be some history behind it. Anyway.. here's the scale over two octaves - Melodic Minor Ascending
I needn't have to show you the other pattern, you'd probably know it by now.

3. Modes

Finally getting on to the modes, now this is where people get confused. In my opinion the hardest part of the modes is learning the stupid names, cause lets face it memorising gives you a headache. The reason why others find it a challenge is because they remember the scales according to the notes that have been flatted or sharpened when the real key is to just start from a different key and keep the notes the same. Lets move on to the modes of the major scale. 3.1 Modes of the Major Scale Here are the names of the modes C - Ionian D - Dorian E - Phrygian F - Lydian G - Mixolydian A - Aeolian B - Locrian Each of these modes are represented by a specific root note, now the thing about these modes is.. when represented by THAT particular root note all the other notes in the scale are natural notes. What I mean by that is.. looking back at what I said earlier, instead of remembering the dorian scale as a D major with a sharp this or a flat that.. just keep in mind that the Dorian Scale is like the C major scale (because it has all natural notes) BUT its root note is D. So your D dorian scale would be DEFGABC. Same with the other modes.. lets take E phrygian for example.. it would be EFGABCD. I'll leave you on your own to find the patterns for the scales.. in fact, it would be a good idea to make up some triplet runs once you've found the patterns. A good site from where you can find these patterns would be 3.2 Modes of the Harmonic Minor Scale Ok, so now you must be wondering. If the modes of the major scale revolve around natural notes then which key should I be in when playing the harmonic minor. Simple. A harmonic minor. The reason being.. it has only one sharp. It makes things more simple. So here are the names of the scales and their order -
1. A Harmonic Minor - A B C D E F G# A     (Aeolian #7)

2. Locrian #6       - B C D E F G# A B     

3. Ionian #5        - C D E F G# A B C     (Harmonic Major)

4. Dorian #4        - D E F G# A B C D 

5. Phrygian #3      - E F G# A B C D E     (Phrygian Dominant)

6. Lydian #2        - F G# A B C D E F 

7. Mixolydian #1    - G# A B C D E F G#    (Diminished)
3.3 Modes of the Melodic Minor Scale These are a bit different and very uncommon but its still useful if you know them. We start in the key of A just like last time. Here are the modes in order -
1. A Melodic Minor - A B C D E F# G# A     (Jazz Minor Scale)

2. Dorian b2       - B C D E F# G# A B     (Phrygian #6)

3. Lydian Augmented- C D E F# G# A B C     (Lydian #5)

4. Lydian Dominant - D E F# G# A B C D     (Mixolydian #4)

5. Mixolydian b6   - E F# G# A B C D E     (Aeolian #3)

6. Locrian #2      - F# G# A B C D E F#    (Aeolian b5)

7. Super Locrian   - G# A B C D E F# G#    (Altered Scale)
These modes are a bit different in the sense that they do not revolve around the root note. They are given names according to the sharps and flats in the scale.

4. Conclusion

In conclusion these modes are there as an addition to your knowledge of music theory and playing around with them is fun, because you might find a scale you love to play around with, and you'll find out for yourself which chords it goes well with and everything. I hope you've enjoyed reading this lesson, and hope that you get something out of this.
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