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Modes of the Major Scale

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by SpecialEd, Nov 2, 2002.


  1. What are the different modes of the major scale and what degree of the scale do they start on. I have some theory background, but not in this area, so i am starting from strach in this area.
     
  2. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Ionian = starts on tonic = ordinary major scale
    Dorian = starts on 2nd
    Phyrgian = starts on 3rd
    Lydian = starts on 4th
    Mixolydian = starts on 5th
    Aeolian = starts on 6th
    Locrian = starts on 7th
     
  3. Aaron

    Aaron

    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    i think it is best to learn them in this order:

    Lydian
    Ionian
    Mixolydian
    Dorian
    Aeolian
    Phyrgian
    Locrian

    You flat one note each time going down.
     
  4. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Once you know the modes like moley suggested, this is good to know because it's how you would actually apply the modes musically.

    But, from the ground up I highly recommend learning them in the sequential order. It just makes getting them in your brain more straightforward.
     
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Could not agree more! This is the way lots of music schools teach them, and I think, especially for someone just beginning to explore the sounds of the modes, this method emphasizes sound rather than its relationship to the parent major scale.

    YMMV, as Gard shows... :)
     
  6. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    ...actually, I almost agree with PoT and Pac -

    My point is that for learning the mechanics of the modes, use the "derivitave" method (i.e. learn the different modes of each key), once you have the physical aspect of the modes down, you should do the "paralell" method that PoT describes.

    The reason I teach the modes with the deriviative method is that once you learn that B Locrian is D Dorian is F Lydian is...

    ...it's much easier to navigate the fingerboard, no matter which mode you're actually using.
     
  7. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I know what you're saying, but B locrian is not D dorian, etc. It is its own scale, with its own formula. Which is why I hate the "just play a C major from D to D" approach - you never learn to construct the scale on its own.

    However, if you learn that Lydian is a major scale with a raised 4th degree, or Phrygian is a major scale with lowered 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th, you're learning to construct a scale by itself. And that, I think, is a more valuable tool.

    But I do understand your reasonings and I'm sure you understand the difference. I just don't think it's a great way to learn.....
     
  8. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Can't fault you there, Pac, but I just wondered why you chose to describe it as major with lowered 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th, rather than describing it as, say, natural minor with lowered 2nd. It's just that I think of phyrigian (and dorian, aeolian and locrian) as being a variation on the minor scale, rather than the major, being as it has more in common with the minor (in particular the minor 3rd!). I'm sure you have a good reason, just wondered what it was :)
     
  9. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    You are right, Moley. But for sake of education and the way they line up (I'll show you in a second), they're taught by the variants of the Major scale. Either way would work, but then you've got two scales to work from instead of one. The reason they were laid out in the order they were above is as follows:

    Lydian - #4
    Ionian - same as major
    Mixolydian - b7
    Dorian - b7, b3
    Aeolian - b7, b3, b6
    Phyrgian b7, b3, b6, b2
    Locrian b7, b3, b6, b2, b5

    As you see, you really just "add a flat" from Lydian mode on down (yet another reason to think of Lydian as the 'true major')


    But hey, this is just a method to learn modes. Certainly not the end-all. And just as there are a million types of people out there, there are probably a million ways to think of things. The key is to find what works for you.
     
  10. thanks for the replys they have really helped me out. I will ask later how to apply them , but for now I am going to be content to just learn them all. Chat back soon
     
  11. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Ahh, I see! That makes sense, and it looks like a good way of teaching it.
     
  12. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Jon -

    An interesting and valid point!

    But, like moley, I see the modes as "major" and "minor", I think of function.

    But - I also tend to take it one step further, and relate each mode to the chord you can build with it:

    Ionian: Major 13 (C E G B D F A)
    Dorian: Minor 7 #13 (C Eb G Bb D F A)
    Phrygian: Minor 13 b9 (C Eb G Bb Db F Ab)
    Lydian: Major 7 #11 (C E G B D F# A)
    Mixolydian: Dominant 13 (C E G Bb D F A)
    Aeolian: Minor 13 (C Eb G Bb D F Ab)
    Locrian: Minor 7 b5, b9 (C Eb Gb Bb Db F Ab)

    In a sense, I see scales more like they're chords that have the notes rearranged (of course, you could see chords as scales that have been rearranged as well...).

    Now, when I speak of the derivitave method of learning/playing modes, this is just for the physical aspect of it. I prefer to teach it as a "tool", then show how to use the "tool". I do this by also teaching the 4 primary 7th chords, then having the student play up the arpeggio form (I use 4 forms for each chord/arpeggio type, 7 for the modes) and then down the mode shape that will correspond to the arpeggio. Then reverse it: up the mode shape, down the arpeggio.

    Example:

    C7, 3rd position - up: G Bb C E G Bb C; down: D C Bb A G F E D C Bb A G

    The fingerings I use are "stretch" fingerings, the arpeggio starts with the first finger on G on the E string, the mode shape that is played would correspond to the G Dorian mode of F major - but it becomes apparant how that mode relates to a chord, and not just a minor 7th one at that.

    I hope I 'splained that well....
     
  13. that makes a lot of sense Gard and you just answered my other question of how to apply this stuff. I think for my own style of learning I am going to take John's arrangment and incorrporate you methods of thinking and relating stuff to chords. I think that it might take a little longer but in the end i think that I will learn more out of it.
     
  14. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    ...now if only I could play something worth hearing with all this stuff I've got crammed in my pea-brain...




    :p
     
  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    You and me both, Gard ole boy.
     
  16. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars

    ;)
     
  17. leanne

    leanne

    May 29, 2002
    Rochester, NY
    Originally posted by Pacman

    I know what you're saying, but B locrian is not D dorian, etc. It is its own scale, with its own formula. Which is why I hate the "just play a C major from D to D" approach - you never learn to construct the scale on its own.

    However, if you learn that Lydian is a major scale with a raised 4th degree, or Phrygian is a major scale with lowered 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th, you're learning to construct a scale by itself. And that, I think, is a more valuable tool.


    Oooh, seeing the modes that way (Lydian is #4, etc) was very important for me to be able to start really understanding this stuff. Then I could really see the scale and I looked at them in a different order, flatting one note each time...which made me understand what I was hearing. Then I could look at it like this, which is what I was totally missing:

    If I think of it like the scale is there to get you from note to note in the chord, and the different modes give different flavors, then it makes more sense. A major chord - 1, 3, 5, 7... Lydian's 1, 3, 5, and 7 are the same notes as Ionian's 1, 3, 5, and 7. The 4 isn't in the chord, and they're still the same general type, so that raised 4 is kind of adding the flavor in-between. The Mixolydian mode has a flat 7 which does affect the chord, and that makes it the dominant type instead of major.

    Hopefully that is right. This is the part that I needed to grasp it all better overall. It took me a while to put the modes and the chord types together. So maybe this might help if it makes sense to anyone else. Please correct me if I'm wrong about anything.

    :)
     
  18. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    leanne -

    By jove, I believe you've got it!

    (PLEASE don't start singing "The Rain In Spain", ok? :eek: )

    I think Pac & I are actually very close on how we view this subject. The differences are more semantic than they are tangible.

    I tend to look at chords, as you do, but I take them to their furtherest extensions, instead of just to the 7th. One reason is all of the minor modes (Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian/Natural Minor) will build a minor 7 chord, but only Dorian will build a minor 7 #13; two of the major modes will support a major 7 chord (Ionian, Lydian), but only Lydian will support major 7 #11

    Each mode has a very specific sound to it, and the same is said for each of the chords it relates to.

    Where really putting things together will come is when you are looking at progressions.

    Dm7 - G13 - Cmaj9 can be seen as three independant chords, or as a series of links in a chain:

    Dm7 = D F A C
    G 13 = G B D F A C E (but all you really need are B D F E to get the idea across! Whole 'nother post there! :eek: ;) )
    Cmaj9 = C E G B D

    Now you can look at that Dm7 as being supported by three different modes (Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian), and you can see the Cmaj9 as being supported by two modes (Ionian, Lydian), but the G 13 is only available to one of the diatonic modes - Mixolydian.

    When you understand the derivative method of modes, you will see that there is a "line" of modes that is a fairly straight line:

    D Dorian - G Mixolydian - C Ionian

    Guess what? Each of these modes has the same "parent" scale: C major! The trick lies in being able to resolve ideas to the proper tonic, while using the same scale/mode shapes physically.

    Of course, if you want to - for either asthetic or logical reasons ("I like the sound of Phrygian over the Dm7 here", or "I don't want to play that boring plain old major scale over the Cmaj9, I want a Lydian tonality"), then there is no rule that says you can't do whatever you want (play C Locrian over a Cmaj7 chord? Sure, I've actually heard that work! Of course, it was played with great conviction by the soloist!).

    If it sounds good, it IS!

    :D
     
  19. you guys are the greatest
     
  20. lump

    lump

    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    FWIW, I prefer Gard's approach, although most of what I play involves diatonic harmony. I think it's easy to get too wrapped around the axle over the extensions. To me, the most important part is being able to look at that progression and not be blinded by the fact the extensions are written out. It looks scary, but it's still just ii-V-I in C. Sure, it's helpful to know you could play phrygian over the Dm7, but I think it's more valuable to be able to quickly identify the key center and use that as your foundation to work from. If you want to go outside from there, knock yourself out and throw in an Eb, knowing why you're doing it. But in a pinch, I would just play Dorian-Mix-Ionian. :)

    Then again, maybe that's why Jon is playing for the AF, and I'm not...;)