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Fig.1. Modes of 1 Octave.

-A Mode is a Complete Section of a Scale containing all the notes of the scale and like a scale it Repeats. Lets start at the beginning and refresh your understanding.


-The Basic Concept Of Modes-

The number of Modes of a scale is determined by the number of notes within the scale (each note represents a Mode).
For example lets break this simple idea down to its most simplified form:
Take A – B as a simple Two Note Progression.
This Progression has two Modes.
1. A-B
2. B-A

Note how 1. starts on the 1st degree of the progression (A), and 2. starts on the 2nd degree (B).

-As another simplified example lets look at a Three Note Progression.
Take A-B-C
There are three Modes in this progression:
1. A-B-C
2. B-C-A
3. C-A-B
Each Mode starts on the next degree of the progression and cycles through.

 -Look at the previous example this way.
If the three notes repeated in the same way the musical scale does you would have the following:
A-B-C-A-B-C-A-B-C etc.
If you start on any degree and complete the progression (or cycle) you have only the three A-B-C, B-C-A or C-A-B.

-Apply the Basic Concept to the Diatonic Scale-

-This same basic concept applies to musical scales. Lets first look at the Diatonic Scale with its seven notes.

-The Diatonic Major Scale is the one we are all familiar with as the Seven Note Progression most of us learned in school that goes:

 Do – Re – Mi – Fa – Sol – La – Si – Do

 -Because there are seven notes (degrees) to the Diatonic Scale, there are seven Modes with each degree representing a Mode:

 1. Do – Re – Mi – Fa – Sol – La – Si

2. Re – Mi – Fa – Sol – La – Si – Do

3. Mi – Fa – Sol – La – Si – Do – Re

4. Fa – Sol – La – Si – Do – Re – Mi

5. Sol – La – Si – Do – Re – Mi – Fa

6. La – Si – Do – Re – Mi – Fa – Sol

7. Si – Do – Re – Mi – Fa – Sol – La

 -Name of the Modes-

-Each Mode 1-7 is named:

The trick to remembering them is: If Dora Plays Like Me All’s Lost.

-Note: The Ionian Mode is the Diatonic (Do-Re-Mi) scale we are familiar with.

 -The Mystery Behind Modes Revealed-

-The purpose of a mode is to produce a certain feeling or emotion to the song.

-Each mode produces it own unique characteristic emotional feeling.

-The Practical Application Of Modes-

-The repetitive nature of the fretboard is used to exploit the modes at different positions on the fretboard.

-Each Mode can be played, starting on its Root note, in a different fret position on the fretboard.  This effectively creates Shapes.

-These Shapes can be linked together up and down the fretboard effectively linking the Octaves of the Mode together.

-The different Modes can also be played in the same fret position but on a different string.

-These applications become the basis for Soloing and Riffs.

-More on this later.


-Mode Type & associated Chord Type-

– The Modes of the major scale are either Major, Minor or Diminished. This is determined by its note’s relationship to it’s Root.

-Each Mode Type is associated with a similar Chord Type. It is either Major, Minor or Diminished.
This stands to reason as the Chord Type is built from the notes within the given Mode.
For example: the minor Chord Type has a flat 3rd in its modal scale.
The flat 3rd is what characterizes any Minor chord & also the minor sound of the Mode.

-The Major sound is generally Up-Beat and Happy whereas the Minor sound is more Dramatic or Sad. The Diminished sound is
rarely used because it doesn’t Resolve. That is to say, it just kinda hangs there leaving the listener waiting for an end.
(Similar to stopping mid sentence).

-The Chord Types of the Major Diatonic Scale are as Follows:

-Intervals Between each Mode-

-Intervals are used to determine the Tones (Notes) of the Mode. Intervals also determine the Tonic Root Chord (based on the Chord Type) and its supporting Chords.

-The Tonic Chord is the chord to which a melody resolves. (the Home Base chord).
The Root is the Tonic Chord (and note) at the first scale degree of the modal scale. It is the tonal centre or final resolution tone.
It is key to the Feeling of a song.
The Root is represented by the Roman Numeral I , the 2nd degree Tonic II, the 3rd Degree Tonic III and so fourth (see below).
The melody will usually start and end on the Tonic Chord. The emphasis is on the Tonic Chord. The others support it.
The I – IV – V Chord combination is the most Common in popular music.

-It does not matter which key the scale is in because these intervals remain fixed and apply anywhere on the fretboard.

-The Intervals are:


-*Remember. The half step intervals are a – a# – b – c – c# – d – d# – e – f – f# – g – g# – a (each of these steps is a half note)

-Also. If we take the Lydian Mode for example, the numbering changes with Lydian I, Mixolydian II etc. but the intervals do not



-Tonic Note of each Mode-

-The tonic is the first scale degree of the diatonic scale and the tonal centre or final resolution tone.

-The tonic is often confused with the root, which is the reference note of a chord, rather than that of the scale. It is also represented with the Roman numeral I.

-The Tonic Note of each Mode is determined by the intervals.
The Tonic Note of the first Mode (I) indicates the Key and also dictates the Modal Scale with each note representing a Tonic
Note of the Modal Scale. Take C major for example:

-The other notes become the Tonic when they are used in their associated Mode.

 -Assign a Root Chord to Develop a Modal Scale-

-The Root Chord of a Mode is derived directly from its Root Note. If we expand our example taking C major, we can follow the
Intervals & Chord Types to develop the Modal Chord Scale.

– Each Modal Chord is the Tonic of its associated Mode. In the key of C, Dm is the Dorian Tonic, F is the Lydian Tonic, etc.

-In the above example “c” is the Tonic Note & “C” the Tonic Chord of the Ionian Mode.

-The other notes comprise the Modal Scale and the other chords the supporting Modal Chords.
The other notes and chords also function as Tonics of their Modes.

-Using C as the Tonic Note, follow the Intervals (w-w-h-w-w-w-h) to develop the Modal Notes: (c – d -e – f – g – a – b).
Next apply the chord type to develop the Modal Chord Scale of: (C – Dm – Em – F – G – Am – Bdim). (see above).

-This also assigns the Tonic Chord to each of the Modes should you wish to use them.
For example: the Tonic Chord of the Aeolian Mode (in the key of C) is Am (see above).
These C Aeolian chords are built from notes within Mode. Both the Modal Notes and the Tonic Chords have a minor flavour.  This is what makes the Chords and Scales harmonious when played together.

 -Use the Tonic Chord & the Modal Scale-

-From the above example, you can see that the Lydian Tonic Chord (Chord the song is centred around) is F major.
The other chords of the Modal Chord Scale are used, along with the Tonic Chord, to create the song.

-You have Creative Licence on the number and order of the other chords.
The task is to find a combination which is pleasing to the ear.

-It is important to note that the song generally begins and ends on the Tonic Chord and resolves back to it throughout the song.

-Try a few chord progressions beginning on the F Chord and using the others until you find one that appeals to your ear.
(Remember to resolve back to the F Chord).

-If you now record the progression and play the Lydian Mode of the C diatonic scale over it you will get a sense of the emotion
conveyed by the C major Lydian Mode.
Remember to start with the “f” note and to resolve back to it often throughout the progression.

-Also remember that it is the Chords that you play that make the C Lydian scale sound Lydian.
That is to say, produce the emotion or flavour of the song.
Stick to the Modal Chords (emphasizing the Tonic Chord) and play the Mode over top and you will create that flavour.

-It is important to note that if you were to simply play the Lydian scale over the C major Chord
it would sound exactly like the C Major Scale (an Ionian flavour).
The Root Chord (Tonic) in combination with the Lydian Scale give the tune it’s Lydian flavour.


Here is a website which uses flash based games to help you get a feel for the Modes and Shredding.
Click the image of Mr Fastfinger below to check it out.

Mr Fastfinger.

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