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Lesson 18: Modes

Each degree of a scale has its own scale. Each of those scales use the same key signature as the scale from which their root is taken.

For example, each note in the key of G major has its own scale. That gives us seven scales that all have the same key signature as G major, they just start and end on a different note.

These seven scales are referred to as modes.

Below is a table that shows the seven modes and the scale degree from which they start.

 Scale Degree Mode 1 Ionian 2 Dorian 3 Phrygian 4 Lydian 5 Mixolydian 6 Aeolian 7 Locrian

This second table shows the modes in the key of G.
 Mode Notes of the Mode G Ionian G A B C D E F G A Dorian A B C D E F G A B Phrygian B C D E F G A B C Lydian C D E F G A B C D Mixolydian D E F G A B C D E Aeolian E F G A B C D E F Locrian F G A B C D E F As you should be able to tell, if you play an A dorian mode you are simply playing a G major scale, starting and ending on A. If you play a B phrygian mode you are still playing a G major scale but starting and ending on a B. See the pattern? The easiest way to remember your modes is by memorizing which scale step is associated with which mode.

Here's the process:

1. You want to play an F locrian mode.

2. You know that locrian is built off the 7th scale degree.

3. Next you ask yourself "Which key is F the 7th of?" Answer: G major

4. Now you know that to play an F locrian mode, you would play a G major scale but focus on F as the tonic.

Knowing your modes (or how to at least figure them out) is important as a soloist. Someone may ask you to use a lydian mode over a certain chord, or you may see a piece of music which suggests that a certain mode be used when improvising. The main thing I want to stress here is that by knowing your major scales, you already can play your modes. You just have to memorize which mode is associated with which scale degree, then go from there.

Exercise #1:

Study the first 5 examples, then complete the following exercises.

D is the 2nd scale degree of: C major

F is the 5th scale degree of: B major

B is the 4th scale degree of: F major

A is the 2nd scale degree of: G major

F is the 3rd scale degree of: D major

C is the 6th scale degree of:

B is the 7th scale degree of:

D is the 6th scale degree of:

A is the 2nd scale degree of:

A is the 3rd scale degree of:

B is the 6th scale degree of:

E is the 7th scale degree of:

D is the 6th scale degree of:

D is the 2nd scale degree of:

A is the 4th scale degree of:

A is the 3rd scale degree of:

B is the 6th scale degree of:

E is the 2nd scale degree of:

A is the 6th scale degree of:

D is the 5th scale degree of:

A is the 5th scale degree of:

C is the 3rd scale degree of:

B is the 5th scale degree of:

D is the 7th scale degree of:

E is the 2nd scale degree of:

E is the 3rd scale degree of:

B is the 7th scale degree of:

A is the 7th scale degree of:

D is the 6th scale degree of:

D is the 4th scale degree of:

A is the 4th scale degree of:

D is the 3rd scale degree of:

Bb is the 2nd scale degree of:

E is the 3rd scale degree of:

A is the 7th scale degree of:

F is the 5th scale degree of:

A is the 6th scale degree of:

D is the 4th scale degree of:

A is the 5th scale degree of:

D is the 5th scale degree of:

B is the 2nd scale degree of:

E is the 3rd scale degree of:

B is the 7th scale degree of:

F is the 4th scale degree of:

Exercise #2:

Construct the following modes. Write down the key that the mode is associated with.

I've done the first mode as an example:

G Lydian: (D major) G A B C D E F G

C Dorian:

F Dorian:

B Lydian:

E Ionian:

A Mixolydian:

D Aeolian:

C Phrygian:

G Locrian:

F Mixolydian:

B Mixolydian:

E Locrian:

A Ionian:

D Phrygian:

G Mixolydian:

C Dorian:

F Aeolian:

B Phrygian:

E Dorian:

B Locrian:

Final Note on Modes

The information I've given you on modes is primarily for soloing. However, just as these modes share the key signatures of major keys, they also have their own chord progressions using the chords from major keys. I'm not going to get into that (although you should be able to figure out that information with what you now know), as it is used primarily as compositional material. However, I do encourage you to investigate it further on your own.