The Modes In Order Of Descending Brightness

Basic guide on how to play the modes of the major scale in order of descending brightness.

2
This lesson is for anyone having trouble learning the modes of the Major Scale, or just wanting to learn how to enhance their playing. A good majority of the people, including some people that read this, have learned the different modes through the most common way, vertically, in the order of: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. This never made to much sense to me, as the fingering can seem all over the place. This lesson will teach the way I taught myself the different modes. If you are looking for a certain mode, press Ctrl+F and type in the mode name. First things first, every scale we go over will be shown in the key of C. Please remember that you can move these patterns anywhere on the fretboard to change the key. The C Major Scale is C D E F G A B. C is the root note or first, D is the second, E is the third, and so on, so forth. The first scale I'll show you is the Ionian Mode, which is the Major Scale. For the key of C, this would be C D E F G A B, as stated before. In it's most basic form, this would look like:
 C  D   E  F  G   A  B  C   D  E  F   G  A   B  C
|--------------------------------------------7--8--|
|-------------------------------------8--10--------|
|---------------------------7--9--10---------------|
|-----------------7--9--10-------------------------|
|-------7--8--10-----------------------------------|
|8--10---------------------------------------------|
The pattern for the Ionian Mode is:
 _ _ _ _ _ _ 
| |O|O|O| |O|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|     + - root note
|+|O| | |O|+|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| | |O|O| | |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|O|O|+|O|O| |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
The next mode we'll go over is the Mixolydian Mode, the fifth mode vertically. The only difference between the Mixolydian Mode and the Ionian Mode is that the Mixolydian has a flatted 7th. In the key of C, this would change the scale from C D E F G A B to C D E F G A Bb. This is played as:
C  D   E  F  G   A  Bb C   D  E  F   G  A   Bb C 
|--------------------------------------------6--8--|
|-------------------------------------8--10--------|
|---------------------------7--9--10---------------|
|-----------------7--8--10-------------------------|
|-------7--8--10-----------------------------------|
|8--10---------------------------------------------|
The pattern for the Mixolydian Mode is:
 _ _ _ _ _ _ 
| | | | | |O|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| |O|O|O| | |       + - root note
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|+|O|O| |O|+| 
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| | | |O| | |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|O|O|+|O|O| |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
Next up is the Dorian Mode, the 2nd mode vertically. The Dorian Mode is the Mixolydian Mode with an additional flatted 3rd. The notes for the C Dorian Mode are C D Eb F G A Bb. This can played as:
  C   D  Eb F  G     A  Bb C  D   E  F  G   A   Bb C
|---------------------------------------------6--8--|
|--------------------------------------8--10--------|
|----------------------------7--8--10---------------|
|------------------7--8--10-------------------------|
|-------6--8--10------------------------------------|
|8--10----------------------------------------------|
Dorian Pattern:
 _ _ _ _ _ _ 
| |O| | | |O|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| | |O|O| | |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|+|O|O|O|O|+| 
|_|_|_|_|_|_|        + - root note
| | | | | | |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|O|O|+|O|O| |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
The next mode we're gonna go over is the Aeolian Mode, the sixth mode vertically. This is also known as the Natural Minor Scale. The Aeolian Mode has an additional flatted 6th. This would change C Dorian, C D Eb F G A Bb, to C D Eb F G Ab Bb. This would look like:
  C  D   Eb F  G   Ab Bb C   D  Eb F   G  Ab Bb C
|-------------------------------------------6--8--|
|-------------------------------------8--9--------|
|---------------------------7--8--10--------------|
|-----------------6--8--10------------------------|
|-------6--8--10----------------------------------|
|8--10--------------------------------------------|
The pattern for the Aeolian Mode is:
 _ _ _ _ _ _
| |O|O| | |O|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| | | |O| | |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|+|O|O|O|O|+|    + - root note
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| | | | |O| |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|O|O|+|O| | |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
The next mode is the Phrygian Mode, the third mode vertically. This mode has an additional flatted 2nd. This changes the C Aeolian Mode from C D Eb F G Ab Bb to C Db Eb F G Ab Bb. This looks like:
 C  Db Eb F  G   Ab Bb C   Db Eb F   G  Ab Bb C 
|------------------------------------------6--8--|
|------------------------------------8--9--------|
|--------------------------6--8--10--------------|
|----------------6--8--10------------------------|
|------6--8--10----------------------------------|
|8--9--------------------------------------------|
The scale pattern for this is:
 _ _ _ _ _ _
| |O|O|O| |O|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| | | | | | |
|_|_|_|_|_|_| 
|+|O|O|O|O|+|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|O| | | |O| |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| |O|+|O| | | 
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
Next up is the Locrian Mode. The Locrian Mode is the seventh mode vertically, and it adds an additional flatted 7th. The C Phrygian would change from C Db Eb F G Ab Bb to C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb. This can be played as:
 C   Db Eb F Gb Ab  Bb C  Db Eb  F  Gb Ab Bb C 
|-----------------------------------------6--8--|
|-----------------------------------7--9--------|
|-------------------------6--8--10--------------|
|---------------6--8--10------------------------|
|------6--8--9----------------------------------|
|8--9-------------------------------------------|
This scale pattern looks like:
 _ _ _ _ _ _
| |O|O|O| |O|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| | | | |O| |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|+|O|O|O| |+|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|O|O| | |O| |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| | |+|O| | |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
Now, if we continue to descend, something strange happens. The next note that is flatted is the root note, or 1st. When this happens, all the flats come off, and it goes back to the Ionian Mode again. To create the last mode, the Lydian Mode, the 4th is raised, or sharpened. The Lydian Mode is the basically the Ionian Mode with a raised 4th. So, B Lydian would be B Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb. This looks like:
  B  Db Eb F  Gb Ab Bb B  Db Eb F  Gb Ab Bb B 
|---------------------------------------6--7--|
|------------------------------6--7--9--------|
|------------------------6--8-----------------|
|---------------6--8--9-----------------------|
|------6--8--9--------------------------------|
|7--9-----------------------------------------|
The scale pattern for the Lydian Mode looks like:
 _ _ _ _ _ _
| |O|O|O|O| |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|+| | | |O|+|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| |O|O|O| |O|
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
|O|O|+| |O| |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
| | | | | | |
|_|_|_|_|_|_|
Remember that these patterns can be moved anywhere on the fretboard to change the key of the scale.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    hoody.hoody
    Good summary of creating the modes. I tkink there're some little mistakes: If you have a locrican scale with flatted root note, it's really the lydian scale, not tha ionan mode. And with describing the lydian mode, it's better to write Cb Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb than B Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb B.
    RawalKhan-
    I agree with hoody.hoody.. its called 'diatonic'. Meaning you're following the formula.. good job btw
    negativcreep187
    hoody.hoody wrote: Good summary of creating the modes. I tkink there're some little mistakes: If you have a locrican scale with flatted root note, it's really the lydian scale, not tha ionan mode. And with describing the lydian mode, it's better to write Cb Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb than B Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb B.
    your probably right, but im pretty sure that theres no "Cb", its a B. just like "Fb" is really an E.
    Surfmad
    Very good, BUT! how do we know where and in what context we can apply the appropriate scale....
    Tokageko
    Couldn't the problem of the "flatted first" be solved by moving the lydian scale to the top of the list? I mean, it's the only scale that has a raised note. Coming down one from there to Ionic would make sense, right?
    mikeegx
    negativcreep187 wrote: hoody.hoody wrote: Good summary of creating the modes. I tkink there're some little mistakes: If you have a locrican scale with flatted root note, it's really the lydian scale, not tha ionan mode. And with describing the lydian mode, it's better to write Cb Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb than B Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb B. your probably right, but im pretty sure that theres no "Cb", its a B. just like "Fb" is really an E.
    Cb and Fb do exist. Since these are diatonic scales, each note within the scale should be assigned a different letter, Cb and B are enharmonic, just as Fb and E. Either way, good job on this.
    negativcreep187
    Tokageko wrote: Couldn't the problem of the "flatted first" be solved by moving the lydian scale to the top of the list? I mean, it's the only scale that has a raised note. Coming down one from there to Ionic would make sense, right?
    good thinking, I honestly didn't think of that. I just figured that I'd start with the Ionian Mode cus it's the Major Scale.
    negativcreep187
    mikeegx wrote: negativcreep187 wrote: hoody.hoody wrote: Good summary of creating the modes. I tkink there're some little mistakes: If you have a locrican scale with flatted root note, it's really the lydian scale, not tha ionan mode. And with describing the lydian mode, it's better to write Cb Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb than B Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb B. your probably right, but im pretty sure that theres no "Cb", its a B. just like "Fb" is really an E. Cb and Fb do exist. Since these are diatonic scales, each note within the scale should be assigned a different letter, Cb and B are enharmonic, just as Fb and E. Either way, good job on this.
    so the first time i read your comment, i just ignored it cus i had no idea what you were talking about. however, i recently stumbled upon something about the enharmonic scale and realized that you are completely correct. the standard guitar is set up so that B and Cb are the same, E and Fb are the same, D# and Eb are the same, etc. In order to properly use the enharmonic scale, i think that you may need a special guitar, similar to enharmonic keyboards being destinct from regular keyboards. but to be completely honest, im still not 100% on this topic, so i could be wrong. or maybe not. isnt it such a mind **** how something as simple as sound can be so complex?
    Anders88
    champion lesson man, good job it was nice and easy to understand the way u set it out. i'm kinda new to learning scales but this makes perfect sence now. nice one
    jslavguitar
    This bears a striking resemblance to topics covered in Richard Lloyd's Column "The Alchemical Guitarist." Have you ever studied any of his stuff?
    slowlybilly
    Yea, I'm pretty sure you that this lesson has the same title, and covers the same info as Richard Lloyd's Column....That's a little odd.