Modes



Now it's time to move on to the seven modes of the major scale. Below is a C major scale. All the scale degrees have been numbered.

C D E F G A B C 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Here are the names that are used for each degree of the major scale.

C = Ionian, D = Dorian, E = Phrygian, F = Lydian, G = Mixolydian, A = Aeolian, B = Locrian, C = Ionian.

The C major scale usually starts and ends on the C note, as shown above. If the C major scale started and ended on the D note, it would be called D dorian.

D dorian: D E F G A B C D

The D dorian is not a D major scale. (The key of D major has two sharps.) It is actually a C major scale, only this time it starts and ends on the scale's second degree.

Now let's say we we started and ended on the E note, it would then be called E phrygian.

E phrygian: E F G A B C D E

E phrygian is not an E major scale. (The key of E has four sharps.) It is a C major scale, starting and ending on the scale's third degree. Each mode starts and ends on the scale degree that corresponds with it's modal name. The C major scale in it's common form, starting and ending on the C note, is also called the C ionian mode.

Now let's see how we can use these things when it comes time to improvise. A major scale can be used to improvise over any of the chords within it's key. If a major scale is played over it's sixth chord, that major scale would then become aeolian. If we played a major scale over it's fifth chord, then all of a sudden were playing in mixolydian, and so on and so forth. The same major scale will produce a different sound over each chord. So what we have within the major scale are seven different sounding scales that we can use for improvising.

Just as an example, a G major scale, F major scale, or a C major scale can be used to improvise over an A minor triad or A power chord. Each one of these scales will sound different over the A minor chord. If the G major scale is used, it would be called A dorian, because A minor is the second chord from the key of G. If the F major scale is used, it would be then called A phrygian, because A minor is the III chord in the key of F major. If the C major scale is used, we would call it A aoelian, because A minor is the sixth chord in the key of C major. Once you get familiar with the sound of each mode, you'll then choose the one that has the sound your looking for. The dorian, phrygian and aeolian are used most often in rock and metal.

All scale examples on this site, are all in the key of A for the sake of simplicity, it's up to you to move them around in different keys. If you look carefully at the fingering patterns for each scale , you will see that a pentatonic scale fits inside each pattern. The major pentatonic fits inside the Ionian (major scale) , and the minor pentatonic fits inside the Aeolian (relative minor scale). Please note that the same five patterns are used for each mode, only the roots have been changed.




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