Modes are easier than you think. I remember when I first learned modes and not understanding what they were and how they worked. Boy was I overthinking it!

The modes were derived from ancient Greek music dating back to the Middle Ages.
Each “mode” of the major scale has a different sound but with all the same notes as the scale it is coming from. We are going to use C Major as an example.

Our first mode is the Ionian mode. Ionian is the root note of the modes which makes it the natural major scale. In our example, C is the Ionian having the same whole steps and half steps between notes.
C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C.

Easy enough right! Let’s move onto the 2nd mode: Dorian.

Dorian is the second mode of the major scale and in our case of C major this would be D. With the Dorian we are lowering the 3rd note and the 7th notes a half step. We start off with the minor scale for the first 3 notes (D – E – F). This makes our natural D major scale which has an F# as the 3rd note a D natural minor scale with our F natural as our 3rd. As we move on we go to G – A – B – C. The C our 7th is lowered a half step from the original C# in the major scale to a C natural.
D – E – F – G – A – B – C – D

Our 3rd mode is known the Phrygian which has our 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th notes being changed from the original major scale. Our third note of the C major scale is E.
E – F G – A – B – C D – E

The 4th mode is our Lydian which has the 4th as the only changed note in the scale. The fourth note instead of being lowered a half step it is actually raised a half step.  This can be easy to remember since our Lydian is our 4th mode. In the key of C our Lydian mode is F.
F – G – A – B – C – D – E – F

The 5th mode is our Mixolydian which is similar to our Lydian in that it has the 4th note lowered a half step but with the 7th added on as lowering a half step. In the key of C our

G – A – B – C – D – E – F – G

Aeolian as our 6th mode is one of the easiest because it is the natural minor scale! In the key of C our aeolian is A.
A – B – C – D – E – F – G – A

Locrian is our last and final mode but also the most complicated! It’s complicated in that it has the most changes making it nearly unrecognizable in the major scale. There are 5 note changes! The 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th notes are all lowered a half step. In the key of C our Locrian is B.
B – C D – E – F G A – B

I hope this quick lesson has helped you better understand what the modes are. They are pretty easy to understand once you grasp the concept of each mode. I have included 2 additional examples of the modes below utilizing the E Major and Ab Major scales.
E – F# – G# – A – B – C# – D# – E
F# – G# – A – B – C# – D# – E – F#
G# – A – B – C# – D# – E – F# – G#
A – B – C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A
B – C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A – B
Aeolian: C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A – B – C#
Locrian: D# – E – F# – G# – A – B – C# – D#

Ionian: Ab – Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – G – Ab
Dorian: Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb
C – Db – Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb – C
Db – Eb – F – G – Ab – B – C – Db
Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb – C – Db – Eb
Aeolian: F – G – Ab – Bb – C – Db – Eb – F
Locrian: G – Ab – Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – G

God Bless!

Holly Franklin, Basschick


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