Music Modes Explained

OK, so yesterday I wrote a post about the Modes in music. Think of the modes as being a simple loaf of bread. Now… cut that loaf into 7 separate slices, and imagine every slice being a mode.

If you combine all the slices (or modes) then you’ll realize they combine to make a whole.

Now think of the entire loaf as being the Major Scale. Still confused? Don’t be, check this out:

Music Guitar Modes and Scales

Notice how there are 7 modes, and they all ‘Connect’ together in order to create the scale.

The 7 Modes in Music are:

  • Ionian
  • (W-W-H-W-W-W-H) Ionian Mode is the same as the Major Scale. So when you hear somebody sing Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do

  • Dorian
  • (W-H-W-W-W-H-W) Dorian mode is most commonly heard in Celtic music and early American folk songs derived from Irish melodies. Songs written in Dorian mode sound somewhat sad, but not as dark as the Aoelian Scale. Notice how Dorian is the second mode, and therefore starts on the second note in the scale. As a result, it has an unsettling cadence.

  • Phrygian
  • (H-W-W-W-H-W-W) Phrygian works well with both Dorian and Aoelian, being as they are all minor scales. Its common for musicians to utilize this mode in order to create a sad feling, but not as dark as the traditional minor (Aeolian) scale.

  • Lydian
  • (W-W-W-H-W-W-H) Lydian mode is an Ionian scale but with the sharp 4th interval. Whenever you hear of ‘dream’ music or ‘flying’ music then you’re probably hearing some type of Lydian, although sometimes the whole tone scale. This is mode is used alot in jazz, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use in in you heavy metal band!

  • Mixolydian
  • (W-W-H-W-W-H-W) Mixolydian is the major scale but with the Flattened Seventh interval. You’ll hear this mode ALOT in blues playing, especially since blues constantly changes keys, and utilizes that b7th interval. play this mode up and down and recognize how it wants to move, and change keys.

  • Aoelian
  • (W-H-W-W-H-W-W) Aeolian mode the minor key. The intervals of Aeolian mode creates a very sad, dark feel. So you’re probably thinking.. Wait? There’s a major key AND a minor key? Yep! but understand that playing a C Aoelian is NOT in the same key as playing in C Major. Because think: Aoelian is the sixth scale degree, so A Aoelian is in the same key as C Ionian, because A is the sixth note a C scale (C-D-E-F-G-A)

  • Locrian
  • (H-W-W-H-W-W-W) Locrian mode is a very quirky sounding scale. It’s based off of a diminished scale, where there’s an unsettling tritone involved. To write a song, or a solo in a Locrian scale would be very strange although its been done. truth is, maybe that’s the EXACT sound you’re looking for.

    So what’s the W and H’s stand for?

    W stands for ‘Whole Step’ and H stands for ‘Half Step’. A half step in music is simply going from one note to the next. (Example: C to C# or E to F) A whole step in music is simply jumping two half steps (Example: C to D, or E to F#). So if you look at the Guitar below, then you’ll notice that the notes in music go up A-A#-B-C-C#-D-D#-E-F-F#-G-G#-A

    Applying Notes to Guitar Staff

    So the way I wrote it out above the picture is in all half steps. To make a whole step, simply skip one note.

    Thanks guy for everything.

    All my best! Tomorrow I’m writing about the Notes in Music – so look for that!

    -Walt

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    Comments

    1. Yamil

      Is there a comon way of putting them to practice on the guitar? I theres is not could you just name a few tricks of practice sessions.

    2. Yamil

      Is there a comon way of putting them to practice on the guitar? I theres is not could you just name a few tricks of practice sessions.

    3. There is no short and fast rule. Generally, I would never try to remember EVERY note within the freeboard. Simply learn only a few ‘hit’ points- and then over time you’ll begin to see the rest and fill in the blanks.

    4. There is no short and fast rule. Generally, I would never try to remember EVERY note within the freeboard. Simply learn only a few ‘hit’ points- and then over time you’ll begin to see the rest and fill in the blanks.

    5. Tony Harris

      It’s all relative. Try playing the major scale in 1st position and then play each mode in 1st position. Play g to g then a to a then b to b, etc. Remember that you are still in g major which means you have 1 sharp and it’s F. – T

    6. Tony Harris

      It’s all relative. Try playing the major scale in 1st position and then play each mode in 1st position. Play g to g then a to a then b to b, etc. Remember that you are still in g major which means you have 1 sharp and it’s F. – T

    7. tracy

      Ugh.. so many broken links… it’s making this hard. :(

    8. tracy

      Yay! Thank you! :D

    9. tracy

      Yay! Thank you! :D

    10. zeus

      i noticed that the lydian and mixolydian sections are combined on the fretboard, why is that?

    11. zeus

      i noticed that the lydian and mixolydian sections are combined on the fretboard, why is that?

    12. zeus

      i noticed that the lydian and mixolydian sections are combined on the fretboard, why is that?

    13. they’re all combined. they interlace/overlap with each other

    14. they’re all combined. they interlace/overlap with each other

    15. they’re all combined. they interlace/overlap with each other

    16. Podiosr

      i can’t understand the picture of guitar notes

    17. Podiosr

      i can’t understand the picture of guitar notes

    18. Podiosr

      i can’t understand the picture of guitar notes

    19. whats confusing you? be specific

    20. whats confusing you? be specific

    21. whats confusing you? be specific

    22. creepwolf

      Thank you this is exactly what I was looking for, explains it very well to me.

    23. Emmanuel

      thank’s for the lesson :D

    24. Pingback: Slabo Day - Theory - MyLesPaul.com

    25. Ben Grieve

      dear walt, i love this explanation & your diagrams.

      at 46 i have been learning guitar for 4 years now & doing appallingly LOL

      work, commitments etc so my lack of progress may not be TOTALLY due to my lack of skill and talent, though no doubt that has a large part to do with it LOL also dyslexic or just plain stupid, sometimes i ((painfully)) wonder, again LOL, cry, LOL ;-)))

      i just CAN’T seem to LET GO (my response to dyslexia is to be stubborn regarding things i REALLY want to do/ UNDERSTAND) of the idea that if i understand the ‘theory’ the playing will come, i.e. if i know what i’m doing, i know where i am & where i have to go to…???

      for my work & have to remember HUNDREDS of things, routes, directions, codes, names etc so how different can it be??..

      i just cannot get any one to explain it to me, THE WAY I WANT IT EXPLAINED!!!

      so for 2014 i’m going solo…

      i thought i should start at the beginning so i’ve been looking up ‘simple’ blues, which for me I HAVE TO UNDERSTAND the ‘theory’, which in my searches has brought me to THIS page, i think i might have struck a gold mine :-DDD

      ALL THAT SAID my question is what does ‘a’ stand for in the blues scale ‘construction’, i have an app that defines its ‘construction’: a – w- h – h – a – w

      all the best & thank you for your site & diagrams :-DDD

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