Comparing Modes

Difficulty: Spectrum

Now that you can calculate the PMS for any mode and understand how the work a bit there is one more stage I want to look at before we get all practical.

We're now going to look at all the modes with a TC of C and look how each mode is different, and what that means... this will explain further WHY we use each mode...

Mode

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

PMS

C Ionian

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

C Maj

C Dorian

C

D

Eb

F

G

A

Bb

Bb Maj

C Phrygian

C

Db

Eb

F

G

Ab

Bb

Ab Maj

C Lydian

C

D

E

F#

G

A

B

G Maj

C Mixolydian

C

D

E

F

G

A

Bb

F Maj

C Aeolian

C

D

Eb

F

G

Ab

Bb

Eb Maj

C Locrian

C

Db

Eb

F

Gb

Ab

Bb

Db Maj

So it looks a bit scary huh? That's just because it's all mixed up together - we're just going to have a quick look at the principles involved here, making it easy we look at each mode in depth.

First thing to notice: scales are not that different from each other! Mixo and Lydian only change one note! Changing notes is a potent tool and in order to see best what is going on I'm going to change the way we look at the chart and look at it a bit more mathematically - but don't let that put you off... it's actually easier. Trust me, I'm a used car salesman.

So in the following chart I'm going to show you each mode with the notes transformed into degrees, which means comparing a note to what it would have been in the major scale. Huh?

If we look at Dorian - the first note that is different is Eb - and in C Major the III degree of the scale is E. So we would call that a b3 (flat 3rd) because the original note has been lowered (flattened) a semitone.

Because we have done it in C it makes it pretty obvious which notes have been charged right? Well here it is:

Mode

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

PMS

Ionian

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

-

Dorian

1

2

b3

4

5

6

b7

Down M2

Phrygian

1

b2

b3

4

5

b6

b7

Up m6

Lydian

1

2

3

#4

5

6

7

Up P5

Mixolydian

1

2

3

4

5

6

b7

Up P4

Aeolian

1

2

b3

4

5

b6

b7

Up m3

Locrian

1

b2

b3

4

b5

b6

b7

Up m2

In this series on Modes we're going to be looking at each one by itself and checking out it's characteristics but there are some basic concepts to get here first. Note too that I have changed the PMS column to show the interval to get from TC to PMS for those that understand intervals (check out Practical Music Theory if you don't!)

Look in the III column. Some of may already know that the 3rd of a chord or scale determines if a chord or scale is Major or minor (not sure about that? revise please!) and here you can see clearly that the minor modes are Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolian and Locrian. Locrian get's put it's own box, more on that when we look at it more closely.

That leaves us with three Major modes: Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian. Worth noting too how similar they are.

The VII degree is important too, you can see that it is altered in every mode but Ionian and Lydian. In it's most pure form it is a Dominant sound - a Dominant 7 chord (play D then D7 and hear the dominant sound in context). Minor chords generally want to have a b7 or the sound pretty spooky - there is such a chord (called a minMaj7) but it does not occur 'naturally' in the major scale.

Take a look at the chart. Think about it, look for patterns. Check out the order that notes are changed in.

Can you see how the minor scales are getting altered more and more? Dorian had a b3 and b7. Aeolian adds a b6. The Phrygian adds a b2.

We're nearly ready to get practical now... ;)

Major Scale Modes

- LESSON STEPS -

Grades

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