# What's the difference....

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Lady Jayde, Jul 23, 2002.

Jul 17, 2002
Florida
What is the difference between modes and scales.. all i hear is modes are scales and scales are modes.. but i'm lost..

I know my major and some of the minor scales.. but i've never seen them refered to as modes.. Please help me...

2. ### BIg O

Apr 3, 2002
In addition to a number of threads here in General Instruction, and the practice room article on the entry page of TB by Adam Rodriguez, there are some succinct and comprehensive explanations at Lucas Pickford's site.

3. ### stephanie

Nov 14, 2000
Scranton, PA
Modes are found inside the scales, they are scales, so-to-speak, of themselves, but they are formed from scales.

Probably confused ya there, I have trouble explaining things, so here's an example:

Take your C Major Scale. Your modes of that scale would be:

C Ionian
D Dorian
E Phrygian
F Lydian
G Mixolydian
A Aoelian
B Locrian

As you can see, each mode is formed from the steps of the C Major Scale. Your Ionian mode is your major scale, and is built from the 1st step of the scale. Then you get to D Dorian, which is built from the 2nd step of the scale. The notes in D Dorian are: D E F G A B C D. As you can see, these are all the notes in your C Major scale. All the modes of the C Major scale I listed above will have the notes in the C Major scale.

Hope this helps some
Stephanie

Jul 17, 2002
Florida
I think i understood that... so there are no sharps or flats in the scales.. it is just where they start and end in each layout.... (i think i just lost myself)

5. ### thrash_jazz

Jan 11, 2002
Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
Not exactly... There are no sharps or flats in the key of C major, which is why C major is often used as an example.

As Stephanie said, modes are formed from their parent scales (although they're easier to learn if you think of them separately from the parent scales).

As an example of how a mode relates to a parent scale, consider that F# is the 2nd note in the E major scale. From Stephanie's post, you can see that Dorian mode refers to the 2nd in the scale. Thus, F# Dorian contains the same notes as E major, BUT it starts on an F#.

Once again though - if you're really serious about learning the modes, DON'T learn them in terms of the parent scales - learn them all separately (in terms of intervals and/or steps, the same way you learned major and minor scales)

Good luck!

6. ### LiquidMidnight

Dec 25, 2000
Kind of, though there might be sharps and flats if the parent scale has them. What Stephanie is basically saying is, you take the pure major scale. The one you are probaly familiar with. For the most part, you start and end on the root of the scale. In this case, if we are in the key of C, it would be C. But you can play starting and ending on a D, but using all of the notes that are in the C major scale. It's basically, the C scale, though it starts and ends on a D. That is called the D Dorian mode. Then you go up and start and end on E, that's Phyrgian. You'll notice that each mode, even though it uses the same notes as the parent scale, it has it's own "sound" and "vibe". The phygrian mode is going to have a more classical, or Mexican sound to it.

Looking back on this post, I've probaly explained it in a very choppy manner, but I hope you might have gotten something out it.

7. ### 6-stringerGuest

Feb 5, 2000
Roanoke,VA
Buy a book called "The Bass Grimore". It's an easy to understand explaination of modes, and it's full of exorcises that will help you get going. It's available @ Barnes & Noble. Check it out.

8. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
Actually, modes are not "formed from" the major scales; they exist as scales in their own right, and have for some time. They can be derived from the major scales, in the sense that you can use the major scale to help you figure out what notes are in some of the modes. Also, they're used in songs that are in major keys--e.g., you can pretty often find a use for D dorian in a C major song.

But I think it's a mistake to think of modes as having some necessary connection with major keys, 'cause they don't. There is a lot of music that's just plain modal, where the mode *is* the key, or rather the tonal center. That is, you can have a song that is best described as being in D dorian, *not* C major. Some folk music is like this, and so is some rock.

That's why IMO thrash jazz's recommendation to learn the modes independently is right on the money.

9. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY
10. ### Chris AChemo sucks!

Feb 25, 2000
Manchester NH
Go ahead and copy me up here, and I'll stick it to the top of the forum. Can you copy it and keep it in your forum, too?

Chris A.

11. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY
Can and will do. And remember, this thread is a work in progress, so if anyone finds any pertinent theory links that they feel need to be added, my PM box is always open.

12. ### bizzaro

Aug 21, 2000
Vermont
Maybe this will help. In scales the notes change according to the scale you are using, but the intervals remain constant. IE Major - Minor - Seventh etc. The intervals will always be the same no matter what scale you use. With modes the notes are constant and the intervals change because you start on a different note within the mode's scale depending on the mode. Dorian, lydian etc. Dorian is whole - half - whole - whole - whole - half - whole. Dorian Mode in G would be A - B - C - D - E - F# - G - A. Compare that to G Major and you have same notes, but you begin and end on the note A with for the Dorian Mode. And the interval will move according to the mode.

Any Help??

Apr 13, 2001
berkeley, ca
ok, so THAT is what "modal jazz" would be? it's a tune written in the "key of a mode"...cool. i've been wondering what exactly it was. (for a while, i kinda thought it would be just all diatonic stuff...)

i think it's odd using the terminology "modes of c major" (for example). it seems that a specific "major or minor" key is seperate from the usage of modes.

the description of the parent scale being major is unsatisfying to me because "the modes of c major" contain the notes of c major (obviously), but is given a different name.

the concept of "major" or "minor" was introduced long after the modal system, right? late baroque period (bach, etc.) was when this system (along with notation as we use it now) was developed, right? ie-modes far predate the "parent scales."

i understand that nowadays, saying that "the parent scale is C major..." is the easiest way of communicating modes, but it just seems kinda odd to me.

...well, i'm not doing a very great job at communicating my confusion. hopefully you understand what i see and what i don't quite understand. of course, it's mainly a semantics thing and not a life-or-death situation, and i'd assume most will dismiss my quandary as irrelevant. so any information or feedback would be appreciated.

14. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
See, no offense, but this is why I think the whole modes of the major scale approach is potentially misleading. When you say "Dorian mode in G," what do you mean? What you've listed is actually *A* dorian, which is a scale unto itself and can be its own tonality as well, besides being usable within the harmony of C major. In other words, A dorian does not have to "live" within the confines of G major.

"Dorian mode in G" could also be taken to refer to G dorian, but that would be G A Bb C D E F G. Since a mode is a scale and a scale is a mode, you can't determine what the specific notes are in a mode unless you give the starting point--e.g. E phrygian or D mixolydian.

15. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
Yeah, modal jazz ... "So What" on "Kind of Blue" is the most obvious example I can think of. 8 bars in D dorian, 4 bars in Eb dorian, and 4 bars in D dorian. If you stick too closely to the parent scale idea, you could mistakenly think that because D dorian is the "2nd mode of C major," the true starting key of "So What" somehow might be C major. Which would make no sense.

But as Chris and others have eloquently explained elsewhere, the parent scale concept does have value in the sense that in many settings it can explain and give context to the various modes and scales used. I mean, if you hit an Am7 in the middle of a song, you need to know, for example, if what's going on overall is more C majory, or E minory, or F majory, or what have you.

Maybe a possible source of confusion is that a major scale is not the same thing as a major key. The key defines the tonal center and "flavor" of a musical passage or piece. A scale is just a sequence of notes at specified intervals from a specified starting point. A major scale can be defined as the set of notes that are diatonic in a given major key, starting and ending on the root. To me, the idea of modes existing within a *scale* is not useful, but the idea of modes being used within a given *key* (and remember, the major scale itself is just another mode, the ionian) is useful.

Apr 13, 2001
berkeley, ca
gotcha.

yeah, i use that knowledge on a regular basis. i know how to apply diatonic (or modal) chords. (it's the non-diatonic stuff that i suck at!)

good job explaining it.

but i'm still not quite satisfied...it's just that i don't think i got what my confusion is across well. and i can't really explain it now.

can anyone validate/invalidate this:

the concept of "major" or "minor" was introduced long after the modal system, right? late baroque period (bach, etc.) was when this system (along with notation as we use it now) was developed, right? ie-modes far predate the "parent scales."

17. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY
But see, the problem here is still that we have to deal with the Chicken-Egg issue again: "Major" and "minor" can be called "Ionian" and "Aeolian", as they were as much as part of the modal system as any other modes.

As far as when "Major" and "minor" took over, it's hard to say. The Baroque period was certainly the time when FUNCTIONAL harmony in major and minor became a well regulated machine, but the roots of that can still be found back in the 16th century masses of Palestrina and his contemporaries.

But as far as the original question, it's like asking the following: The three words "EAT, ATE, and TEA" all contain the same three letters. Which of them is the real meaning of these three letters?

Answer: It depends on what you're trying to say, and in what context. However, they are all related to a "parent concept", which is they all have to do with food.

18. ### bizzaro

Aug 21, 2000
Vermont
Thank you Richard for correcting my error. I guess I should have put it differently..IE Dorian mode useing the notes from the G major scale would be A-B-C-D-E-F#-G-A.

So then truly G Dorian would be G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F-G?
This is a question. Thanks

I think one of the reasons Modes are so easily misunderstood is the way they are presented using the Major scale and starting on different notes cause it is so easy to see and relate to in that way.

19. ### Phil SmithMr Sumisu 2 U

May 30, 2000
Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
That's 16 bars of Dmin7(dorian), 8 bars of Ebmin7(dorian) and 8 bars of Dmin7(dorian).

20. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY

Correct. Dorian in any key has half-steps between scale degrees 2-3 and 6-7, with the rest being made up of whole steps.