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On the Internet, there is a lot of confusion about modes, in particular when related to guitar scales. The best way to deal with modes is simply to consider them as scales. We all know the major scale, that is built with the following structure: R-W-W-H-W-W-W-H (root, 2 whole steps, 1 half-step, 3 whole steps, 1 half-step). Each mode has its own specific structure, and then has its specific sound. For example, the lydian mode is a scale built with the following structure: R-W-W-W-H-W-W-H (root, 3 whole steps, 1 half-step, 2 whole-steps). The difference from the major scale is the third step, that in Lydian is a whole-step instead of an half-step.
Here's an example with the C root:
C Major Scale: C D E F G A B
C Lydian scale C D E F# G A B
So what's the deal with modes? It turns out that there is a relationship among modes, and it's possible to generate modes (read "scales") starting from just 3 main scales: the major scale, the harmonic minor scale, and the melodic minor scale. If we create a sequence of notes using the notes of the main scale (whether major, harmonic or melodic minor), but starting from a different note each time, we obtain different structures. These are called modes. In particular:
|Major Scale||C D E F G A B C|
|Dorian Mode||D E F G A B C D|
|Phrygian Mode||E F G A B C D|
|Lydian Mode||F G A B C D E F|
|Mixolydian Mode||G A B C D E F G|
|Aeolian Mode||A B C D E F G A|
|Locrian Mode||B C D E F G A B|
As you can see, in each scale/mode, there are always the same 7 notes, that belongs to the C major scales, but we have 7 different sounds and structures because we start from a different root, thus the whole-steps and half-steps combination is unique for each mode.
From a scale, we can generate a number of chords, following the rules of chords construction. For example, from the C major scale, we obtain 3 major chords (C, G and F), 3 minors (E, A, D) and one half-diminished (B). We can assemble these chords to create chord progressions, such as the classic I, IV V. But we can do the same operation with any other scale we like, instead of the major scale, and we'll get different colors and mood. This will be the topic of a future post, for the moment you just have to know that to each mode correspond a specific set of chords and then a unique sound (as the tool above shows you).
Modes Chart of the Major Scale
The Ionian mode is another name for the Major Scale, its mood is something like happiness and joy.
The Dorian mode is different from the Ionian mode because this scale has the minor 3rd, and the minor seventh (b3, b7). Its sound is minor and it's one of the most used scale over min 7th chords.
The Phrygian mode has the third, the sixth and the second minor (b2, b3, b6). Its sound is dark and "arabic"
The Lydian mode is almost similar to the ionic mode, apart the fourth that in this case is raised by one half-step (#4). Its sound is major and it's used over maj 7th chords.
The Mixolydian mode is similar to the Ionic mode, apart the seventh that is minor (b7). It's used over dominant 7th chords
The Aeolian mode is another name for the Minor Scale: it's the relative natural minor scale and sounds well over minor chords
The Locrian mode has a particular sound, it fits well on half-diminished chords. It has all the degree minor and the 5th diminished
|Super Locrian bb7||1||b2||b3||b4||b5||b6||bb7|
The 7 Modes of the Harmonic Minor Scale
The Aeolian Maj7 mode (also called Ipoionian 6b mode) is very close to the natural Minor Scale, apart the seventh that here is major
The Dorian 2b 5b mode (also called Locrian #6 mode) is quite similar to the Dorian mode from the Major Scale, except for the second and fifth that here are lowered by one half-step (b2,b5)
The Ionian Augmented mode (#5) is similar to the Ionian Mode, in this case the fifth is augmented (#5)
The Lydian Minor mode, also called Dorian #4 mode, has the fourth raised by one half step, and the third and seventh minor (b3, b7)
The Phrygian Dominant mode, also called Mixolydian 6b 9b mode, is the mode that characterizes the Flamenco Spanish Guitar sound
The Aeolian Harmonic mode, also called Lydian #2 mode, is close to the Lydian mode from the Major Scale, except the second that here is raised by one half-step
The Super Locrian bb7, also called Super Locrian Diminished or Altered bb7 has all the degree lowered by one half-step, apart the seventh that is diminished (bb7)
Modes Chart of the Melodic Minor Scale
The Melodic Minor mode, also called Ipoionian Mode, has the third minor but the seventh major. It's a minor scale
The Dorian b2 mode is quite similar to the Dorian Mode of the Major Scale, it has the second minor (b2). It's a minor scale
The Lydian Augmented Mode is similar to the Lydian Mode, it has also the fifth augmented. This mode has the third major, so it is a major scale.
The Lydian Dominant (also called Lydian b7 mode or Mixolydian #4 mode) has the particular characteristic to have the third major and the fourh augmented.
The Mixolydian b6 Mode is also called Hindu scale. Observing the first, third, fifth e seventh of this scale, it seems related to a dominant 7 chord.
The Aeolian b5 mode, also called Locrian #2 mode, is related to the min7/b5 chord.
The Super Locrian Mode sounds particulary well over altered dominant seventh chords.
Hope you found useful this interactive modes chart. We have just scratched the surface of the world of modes for guitar. Mastering modes open up a new world of musical options and creativity. Here below you find some links that will help you deepen your modes understanding.
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