The Modes

SUNDAY, October 6, 2019

Ionian (major)…

Ionian is the most traditional mode. Simply play a major scale in any key. Ionian is 1 2 3 4 5 6 maj7 8.  There is no change from major, one changes from Mixolydian.

Mixolydian (Mixolydian major)…

Mixolydian is the dominant mode. The numbering of all other modes is based on Mixolydian.  The simplest way to play Mixolydian is just to know it. But if you don’t know it, start with Ionian (major) and lower maj7 to 7. Mixolydian is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. .  For instance, Mixolydian in the key of G is G A B C D E F G. That is a G major scale with maj7 lowered to 7. One change from major or just play Mixolydian.

Lydian…

Lydian is the fantasy mode. Simply play Ionian (major) and raise 4 to #4. Lydian is 1 2 3 #4 5 6 maj7 8. For instance, Lydian in the key of F is F G A B C D E F. That is an F major scale with one change from major, two changes from Mixolydian.

Dorian…

Dorian is minor with a slightly exotic sound. Simply play Ionian (major). Lower 3 to b3 and lower maj7 to 7.  Dorian is 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7 8.  For instance, Dorian in the key of D is D E F F G A B C D. That is a D minor scale with two changes from major, one change from Mixolydian.

Aeolian (natural minor)…

Aeolian is the most traditional minor scale. Simply play Ionian (major), then lower 3 to b3, lower 6 to b6 and lower maj7 to 7. Aeolian is 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7 8.  For instance, Aeolian in the key of A is A B C D E F G A. That is an A major scale with three changes from major, two changes from Mixolydian.

Phrygian (dark minor)…

Phrygian is a bit eerie sounding. Simply play Ionian (major), then lower with 2 to b2, lower 3 to b3,  lower 6 to b6 and lower maj7 to 7. Phrygian is 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 7 8. For instance, Phrygian in the key of E is E F G A B C D E. That is an E major scale with four changes from major, three changes from Mixolydian.

Locrian (unique)…

Locrian is the darkest sounding mode. Simply play Ionian (major), then lower 2 to b2, lower 3 to b3,  lower 5 to b5, lower 6 to b6 and lower maj7 to 7. For instance, Locrian in the key of B is B C D E F G A B. That is a B major scale with five changes from major, four changes from Mixolydian.

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2 thoughts on “The Modes

    1. Michael, modes are scales, and any chord that can be made from notes in that scale can be considered “part of the mode”. But based only on the chord we can’t say what mode it belongs to. For instance, a C maj7 chord is the first chord in Ionian and also the 4th chord in Lydian. But because each of the modes as used today has the same notes, just in a different order, there are always to maj7 chords in every mode. They just move around. For instance, a maj7 is the 3rd and 7th chords in Dorian.

      There are also chords that are part of no mode. For instance, a dim7 chord does not exist in a mode.

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