A music mode is any scale derived from one of several different primary scales, an example of this would be the major scale but several other scales also have their own set of modes like the melodic minor scale. As an example: a notated C major scale is C D E F G A B C, but if we start the scale on the second degree, which is D, and finish on the D one octave higher, we will have created a D Dorian scale, the second mode of the major scale. Likewise if we start on the fifth degree, which is G, and finish on the G one octave higher we will have created a G Mixolydian scale, the fifth mode of the major scale. This process is continued on each of the seven scale tones which gives us the seven different major scale modes. A major scale is actually the first mode and is given the name of Ionian. Below you will find a complete major scale modal reference.
Remember, it's the chord you are playing behind the scale that accentuates the mode's unique sound, playing a mode's scale pattern over and over will not really do it justice. As an example: if you were to play a C Lydian scale pattern, you will only somewhat hear the sharpened fourth degree. Now play some chords behind the scale like and alternating C5 to C(♭5) and you will hear the real tone of the mode. This is because the C(♭5) chord uses a sharp fourth/flat fifth degree which accentuates the overall Lydian sound.
Major Scale Modes
Click on a modes name and you will be taken to that modes page which has scale patterns, formulas and sound samples. Click on the "View" link beside a chords name to visit that chords page which has different chord voicings, formulas and sound samples.
|Number/name||Formula||Notation||Harmonized triads||Harmonized tetrads|
- *Ionian is the major scale's modal name
- **Aeolian is the natural minor's modal name. Aeolian is also a major scale's relative minor
- Remember, you don't have to learn five scale patterns for each mode, all you need to know is the relative major key and play one of the five major scale patterns in that key. For instance: if you want to play a G mixolydian scale (which is the fifth mode of the major/Ionian scale) over a G7 chord, you would track back five scale degrees to find the relative major, G > F > E > D > C and play a C major scale over the G7 chord which is exactly the same as playing a G mixolydian scale, you just need to accentuate the ♭7 when improvising or writing.