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The Ionian Mode

Justinguitar.com on Scales

The Ionian Mode is exactly the same as the Major scale. It is used in the same way but can be called the Ionian Mode if you are playing over a static (not changing) chord. It makes no difference if you think of it as the Major Scale or the Ionian mode. For what it's worth I just think of it as the Major Scale. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) :)

So why would anyone ever call it the Ionian Mode? Well, remember that the notes in the modes are the same as the major scale, just the TONAL CENTRE is different, so in this case, if the chord was static (not changing) I chord (the first chord of a key) then I guess you should call it the Ionian Mode. If you were playing the scale over a bunch of different chords (many chords from the same key) you would call it The Major Scale, because the TONAL CENTRE would be changing with every chord change.

Scale Equation

I
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
I
C Major
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
C Ionian
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
Modal Equation
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1

 

Common Chords associated with the Ionian Mode:
Major, Major 7, 6, Major 9, Major 6/9, sus4, sus2, add9.

Ionian Mode

Parent Major Scale (PMS)

Is the same as the tonal centre. The Ionian Mode and the Major Scale have the same notes.

Don't try and make it hard ;)

 

Note Choices
The perfect fourth interval of this scale (in this case F) can sound somewhat unstable as it often pulls to the third of the chord (in this case E). Some jazz school have people practice using the Ionian mode without playing the 4th degree at all (They call it an 'avoid note'). Personally, I quite like the sound of passing through the note, it's just stopping on it that sounds a bit horrible.

Like with all theory stuff, you MUST try it and hear it for yourself or it will never really make sense.

 

Practice

Ionian Mode

This diagram shows a Major Scale with the chord tones of the Ionian Major chord (in red). The red notes make up the TONAL CENTRE. The R showing the root of the TONAL CENTRE. The black notes make up the Ionian Mode.

The scale is of course, the Major Scale, Position 1 - which we use for all of learning about modes, so you can see clearly how the one scale gets used for each mode (it's a lot better way to learn them than having a different shape for each).

Put the scale with your first finger in the 7th fret (the note B, the VII degree of C Major) and play the whole scale over a C chord (or other chords in the Common Chords shown above). Ideally you should record yourself a backing track, jam with a friend, or use the Ionian vamp (Track 5) on Really Useful Play Along Tracks.

Listen to how well the red notes sound over the chord and that the other notes link up the red notes and add flavours...

This listening is the key to getting modes in your head and understanding how to use them. Let your ears teach you how to use the sound of the mode.

 


Lesson ID: SC-511