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Modes of the Major Scale

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What is a Mode?
As you start to develop playing single note lines, scales of often used as a guide for what notes will sound good over a particular chord. In practice, scales belong to a particular key (i.e. a C major scale or an Eb melodic minor scale). So, for a C major scale, you can play the notes:
  • C D E F G A B C
This collection of notes, played in this fashion, is a mode of the C major scale and is called Ionian. However, you don't necessarily have to play the notes from C to C. You could play them from D to D. In this case, the notes to play are:
  • D E F G A B C D
In this case, this scale is still comprised of notes from the C major scale, but it has a different sound because we started on D instead of C. This scale is also a mode of the C major scale and is called Dorian. So what is a mode?
  • A mode is collection of notes from a parent scale, and emphasized starting at a particular note from the parent scale.
So what are the names of the modes for the C major scale and how are they played:
  • Ionian: C D E F G A B C
  • Dorian: D E F G A B C D
  • Phrygian: E F G A B C D E
  • Lydian: F G A B C D E F
  • Mixolydian: G A B C D E F G
  • Aeolian: A B C D E F G A
  • Locrian: B C D E F G A B
In the example below, listen to each mode as its played against the characteristic chord associated with that mode. Don't worry about why a particular chord is played with that mode. Just concentrate on the sound.
Modes of the Major Scale