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Modes In Series

Justinguitar.com on Scales

So we have touched a little on why you might use modes. Now before we start getting into the nitty gritty I want to explain the two different ways of looking at modes. It should help you understand how they are used and get you familiar with the names and how they get them.

The two views are called series and parallel, and it is very important that you understand the differences in perspective, they are both valid and used at different times. We're going to start by looking at modes in series

One thing that you probably already know about modes is that they have the same notes as the major scale. Some people think of them as a major scale but starting on a different note... that is not quite right but will do for now (the correct term would be the major scale with tonal centre other than the Parent Major Scale root note)...

Modes in series

A series of modes shows all the modes that come from one major scale. Lets use that to introduce the names of the modes and look at all the modes that come from the C Major Scale.

Mode
I
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
I
C Ionian
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D Dorian
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
E Phrygian
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F Lydian
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G Mixolydian
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A Aeolian
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
B Locrian
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
B

 

OK, now please don't freak out! The names are all scary and all that doesn't make a lot of sense yet, but stay with me and let me explain...

The first thing that you need to understand is that the root note of the mode is usually the Tonal Centre (NOT the Parent Major Scale, except in the case of Ionian of course... you did know that the Major Scale and the Ionian Mode are the same thing didn't you?).

The order of the modes always stays the same, and it's well worth remembering the order of them, so here they are as a list and also a pronunciation guide (just cos I have heard some really funny ways that people say them over the years, thought I would help you not make that mistake!).

Ionian (pronounced: I-own-ee-an)
Dorian (pronounced: door-ee-an)
Phrygian (pronounced: fridge-ee-an)
Lydian (pronounced: Lid-ee-an)
Mixolydian (pronounced: mixo-lid-ee-an)
Aeolian (pronounced: Ay-oh-lee-an)
Locrian (pronounced: lock-ree-an, US sometimes say, low-cree-an)

Memorise the order of the modes. Say them over and over, then try saying them in order backwards! This will really test you!

Some people like to use mnemonics to help them remember the order. The only problem with this method is that there are two modes that start with L (Lydian and Locrian) so you just have to remember that Locrian is the last one... So some of the ones I have cropped from the forum are:

I Don't Particularly Like Modes A Lot (thanks McFiddle)
I Don't Play Like MAL (thanks Bootstrap)
I Don't Punch Like Muhammad A Li (thanks dulcet banshee)

But of course you could make up your own.

The order of the modes stays the same for any key. For example here are the Modes in series that come from the A Major Scale.

Mode
I
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
I
A Ionian
A
B
C#
D
E
F#
G#
A
B Dorian
B
C#
D
E
F#
G#
A
B
C# Phrygian
C#
D
E
F#
G#
A
B
C
D Lydian
D
E
F#
G#
A
B
C#
D
E Mixolydian
E
F#
G#
A
B
C#
D
E
F# Aeolian
F#
G#
A
B
C#
D
E
F#
G# Locrian
G#
A
B
C#
D
E
F#
G#

 

Notice first of all that the order of the modes stays the same when you look at modes as a series and that the notes are always the Major Scale notes.

Revision: There are chords that can be formed by looking at the notes from a major scale called the diatonic sequence. Remember that you can play the major scale over any of the chords in that sequence, some notes will sound better than others over each chord, so you would just adapt your note choice by what sounds good, right?

But if we stop on a chord and stay on it, the notes that would sound good over that chord would be set, and at that point you could say that you were playing using a mode.

For example, you could play the A Major Scale over the chord sequence A, F#min, D and E and it would all sound cool. You would change your choice of melody notes depending on the chord that was being played.

If it stayed on the D chord for 16 bars then the most important notes (the home notes) would be very different than if the progression stayed on an A Chord.

This is in essence what modal playing is all about.

Modes help you by guiding you to the good notes on any given chord. I often think of modes as helping fill in the notes between arpeggio tones, but more on that later.

Modes and Major and Minor

Each mode is either Major or Minor - and they follow the chords in the diatonic series... lets take a look at that. We are going to look more at how that comes about in the next installment, when we look at modes in Parable and compare then to major scales...

Degree
Triad
Quadad
Mode
Mode quality
I
Maj
Maj 7
Ionian
Major
II
min
min 7
Dorian
Minor
III
min
min 7
Phrygian
Minor
IV
Maj
Maj 7
Lydian
Major
V
Maj
7
Mixolydian
Major
VI
min
min 7
Aeolian
Minor
VII
dim
min 7 b5
Locrian
Diminished

 

Have a go at getting your head around this and then we're into the serious stuff, looking at why modes work the way they do - Modes In Parallel...

 

Lesson ID: SC-505