The Modes Explained

modes explained

Written By Paulo from DoReMiStudios.com.au

Modes are scales that allow you to improvise over different types of chords. They are particularly useful to improvise over chord progressions that include chromatic chords (i.e. chords that do not belong to the key of the progression). You create a set of modes by starting a scale on a note other than the root and then continue to ascend for an octave.

C Major Modes Explained

Below is the C major scale (2 octaves). The major scale is also known as the Ionian mode. Each of the modes has a corresponding diatonic chord that has the same root note. So, C Ionian mode is used to improvise over chord CMaj7. This chord is made up of the notes C, E, G and B (The 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th degrees of the C Ionian Mode).

modes explained

Now play the C major scale starting from note D all the way up to the next note D an octave higher as shown below. This creates the D Dorian mode. D Dorian mode is used to improvise over chord Dm7. This chord is made up of the notes D, F, A and C (The 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th degrees of the D Dorian Mode).

modes explained

Below are the remaining modes we derive from the C Major scale highlighted in yellow:

E Phrygian (use this mode to improvise over chord Em7)

modes explained

F Lydian (use this mode to improvise over chord FMaj7)

modes explained

G Myxolydian (use this mode to improvise over chord G7)

modes explained

A Aeolian (use this mode to improvise over chord Am7)

modes explained

B Locrian (use this mode to improvise over chord Bm7b5)

modes explained

D Major Modes Explained

The concept you have just learned above applies to all other major scales. Below are all the modes based in the key of D major. As before (for ease of understanding), the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Myxolydian, Aeolin and Locrian modes are highlighted in yellow.

D Ionian (or D major scale – 2 octaves) (use this mode to improvise over chord DMaj7)

modes explained

E Dorian (use this mode to improvise over chord Em7)

modes explained

F# Phrygian (use this mode to improvise over chord F#m7)

modes explained

G Lydian (use this mode to improvise over chord GMaj7)

modes explained

A Myxolydian (use this mode to improvise over chord A7)

modes explained

B Aeolian (use this mode to improvise over chord Bm7)

modes explained

C# Locrian (use this mode to improvise over chord C#m7b5)

modes explained

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2 Responses to The Modes Explained

  1. Liz Frias says:

    Great article. Very clear explanation. Thank you.

  2. SuperElectric says:

    All Klingon to me.

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