Modes and Majors

In the Major Scale section we looked at the Major Scale and in the Modes section we looked at the different Modes of the C Major (or C Ionian) Scale. In this section we will look at how Modes relate to the Major Scale. In order to do this, let's remind ourselves of the degrees within the Major Scale

Degree I II III IV V VI VII
Name Tonic Supertonic Mediant Subdominant Dominant Submediant Leading Tone

We can use this information to construct a table for each of the 7 modes: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygain, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian.

Before we looked at the different Modes of the C Major (Ionian) Scale and the chords associated with them.

Root Mode Notes Triad 7th
C Ionian C, D, E, F, G, A, B C (C,E,G) CΔ7 (C,E,G,B)
D Dorian D, E, F, G, A, B, C Dm (D,F,A) Dm7 (D,F,A,C)
E Phrygian E, F, G, A, B, C, D Em (E,G,B) Em7 (E,G,B,D)
F Lydian F, G, A, B, C, D, E F (F,A,C) FΔ7 (F,A,C,E)
G Mixolydian G, A, B, C, D, E, F G (G,B,D) G7 (G,B,D,F)
A Aeolian A, B, C, D, E, F, G Am (A,C,E) Am7 (A,C,E,G)
B Locrian B, C, D, E, F, G, A Bø (B,D,F) Bē (B,D,F,A)

However, we are now going to look at only the modes with C as their Root. Here they are, with associated chords...

Root Mode Notes Triad 7th
C Lydian C, D, E, F#, G, A, B C (C, E, G) CΔ7 (C, E, G, B)
C Ionian C, D, E, F, G, A, B C (C, E, G) CΔ7 (C, E, G, B)
C Mixolydian C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb C (C, E, G) C7 (C, E, G, Bb)
C Dorian C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb Cm (C, Eb, G) Cm7 (C, Eb, G, Bb)
C Aeolian C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb Cm (C, Eb, G) Cm7 (C, Eb, G, Bb)
C Phrygian C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb Cm (C, Eb, G) Cm7 (C, Eb, G, Bb)
C Locrian C, Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb Cø (C,Eb,Gb) Cē (C,Eb,Gb,Bb)

The mathematicians amongst you will immediately notice a pattern, if we continue this pattern, we would modulate to a new key, like so...

Root Mode Notes Triad 7th
C Locrian C, Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb Cø (C,Eb,Gb) Cē (C,Eb,Gb,Bb)
B Lydian B, C#, D#, E#, F#, G#, A# B (B, D#, F#) BΔ7 (B, D#, F#, A#)
B Ionian B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A# B (B, D#, F#) BΔ7 (B, D#, F#, A#)

So, what about applying this to other keys, well if we use our Degrees to describe the Modes, things become clearer (and more usable)...

Mode
Degree
Lydian I II III IV# V VI VII
Ionian I II III IV V VI VII
Mixolydian I II III IV V VI VIIb
Dorian I II IIIb IV V VI VIIb
Aeolian I II IIIb IV V VIb VIIb
Phrygian I IIb IIIb IV V VIb VIIb
Locrian I IIb IIIb IV Vb VIb VIIb

Notice that the Lydian and Mixolydian are the most closely realted to the Ionian (Major Scale), whereas the Dorian and Phrygian are more closely related to the Aeolian (Minor Scale). Let's look at this relationship in more detail with a couple of examples:

Taking C Major as our Key, we can see that we can easily obtain the Lydian and Mixolydian Modes just by sharpening the F to an F# (Lydian) or flattening the B to a Bb (Mixolydian)

Mode
Degree
Lydian C D E F# G A B
Ionian C D E F G A B
Mixolydian C D E F G A Bb

To keep things fairly simples, let's have a look at the Relative Minor of C, which is A Minor (Aeolian Mode), we can just as easily obtain the Minor Modes of Dorian and Phrygian by sharpening the F to F# (Dorian) or flattening the B to a Bb (Phrygian).

Mode
Degree
Dorian A B C D E F# G
Aeolian A B C D E F G
Phrygian A Bb C D E F G

This is often the easiest path to Modal playing, as you only have to remember two changes to cover six of the seven modes.

The Locrian is a different beast altogther, being a Diminished Mode, I will cover this in a future update. In the meantime, below is the fingering I use to cycle through each mode, learning how to cycle through the modes will improve your ability to access them in your own playing. I have used dots, instead of a specific root notes, so you can apply the pattens anywhere on your fretboard. (The dots represent where to put your fingers and the lines are strings and frets).

LYDIAN (I, II, III, IV#, V, VI, VII)

|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|--•--|-----|--•--|--•--|-----|
|--•--|-----|--•--|--•--|-----|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

IONIAN (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII)

|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|--•--|-----|--•--|--•--|-----|
|--•--|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

MIXOLYDIAN (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VIIb)

|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|--•--|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|--•--|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

DORIAN (I, II, IIIb, IV, V, VI, VIIb)

|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|--•--|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|--•--|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

AEOLIAN (I, II, IIIb, IV, V, VIb, VIIb)

|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|--•--|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|--•--|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

PHRYGIAN (I, IIb, IIIb, IV, V, VIb, VIIb)

|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|--•--|
|-----|--•--|--•--|-----|--•--|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

LOCRIAN (I, IIb, IIIb, IV, Vb, VIb, VIIb)

|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
|-----|--•--|-----|--•--|-----|
|-----|--•--|--•--|-----|--•--|
|-----|--•--|--•--|-----|--•--|
|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|