Posted Oct 04, 2012 02:27 PM
First off, if you are looking into learning modes I can only assume you have at least some musical theory background and know a little about scales and the musical alphabet. This knowledge will be required to better understand this lesson. I will not be explaining how scales and the musical alphabet works or where they/it comes from, rather, I will focus entirely on the concept and origin of modes. I suggest you look into lessons on basic scales and the musical alphabet if you still do not feel confident in that area yet. No let's go!
To start, we must define what a "Mode" is. A mode is simply a variation on the major scale. When I say "variation" on the major scale, I do not mean the notes in the scale changes, but rather the note you start on does change within the scale.
There are a total of 7 modes we use (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian) which intentionally coincide with the 7 notes in the major scale.
It is much easier to understand modes in a visual way I find, rather than trying to picture it in your head by reading text so hopefully this example will help you!
We will use the C Major scale for this example: (C D E F G A B)
First off, the major scale is called Ionian and is the first mode. So in C Major we would call the sequence of notes from C to C (C D E F G A B C), C Ionian.
To get the next mode (Dorian) we simply take the next note in the C Major scale (D) and go octave to octave of that note.
So, the Dorian scale in C Major would be: (D E F G A B C D) and is called D Dorian.
You then simply continue this pattern and start on the next note of the major scale and play octave to octave (or beyond if desired of course) of that particular note. Here is what the whole C major scale would look like when broken down into modes:
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
See the pattern? Not too difficult! Notice we did not change any of the notes in C major, but we simply started at a different point within the scale at that's it. Now, you're probably wondering what the point of knowing modes is, and a lot of it has to do with chord progressions and following those chords with the "best" sounding notes. For instance, we know that C Ionian or "Major" has a very happy sound, so playing C Ionian and targeting those notes will make for a nice sound when playing over a C Major chord progression. On the other hand, if you had an A minor chord progression you would probably want to stick to playing A Aeolian, but all in all it's all about TARGET notes. If you play jazz or have studied it at all you will know the importance of this. I will cover more of chord progressions and how modes fit into certain ones specifically in a future lesson, but hopefully for now this will help get those new to modes a jump start into the world of them and will wipe away any small confusion! Hope this little lesson was somewhat helpful and keep playing! Rate, Comment, Friend me, any support is very much appreciated!