Music Theory – An Introduction to Modes

There are fairly a couple of misconceptions about modes and the way they work. A lot of the confusion comes from the phrase “mode” itself, because it implies extra of a reference to a different scale than an precise scale in its personal proper. We have all heard, or learn, and half understood, that modes are primarily based on this or that scale (normally the main scale), and that each one you have to do is play from a sure diploma (word) up or down the size one octave to the identical word and also you get the mode in query. And, after all, while you tried it, you did not hear any distinction so that you gave up!

The issue with this over-simplification (although technically it’s true) is that it overlooks a very powerful facet of modes and probably of music itself: context! If you’re enjoying over a C drone or C main chord development, and your ear hears C main, you’ll be able to play E Phrygian or F Lydian (two modes “primarily based” on the C main scale) till you are blue within the face, however you may by no means hear something however a C main sound (see Ex. 1)! Context is every little thing: in the event you play, over that very same C drone, a C Lydian or C Phrygian scale (mode) then you definately positively will hear a change and a special taste(see Ex. 2). Generally the flavour change is slight and typically it is radical! Ex.1: C Main, E Phrygian, F Lydian over a C drone: The C main sound is unbroken although E phrygian and F Lydian are being performed

Ex 2: C Phrygian, C Mixolydian, and C Lydian over a C drone: It’s best to hear three distinct flavors

Static versus Altering Harmonies

On this article we cannot be coping with modes within the context of jazz or altering harmonies. We’ll be concentrating on static or “modal” harmonies. Which means although there could also be multiple chord, the concord, or mode, or key middle will keep the identical (or within the case of a drone: impartial).

The rationale for that is that in non-modal jazz there’s normally a fast succession of chords and altering key facilities, and modes on this context simply fly by, making it tough to really feel or hear any form of taste or get any form of appreciation of the mode. Plus modes on this conventional jazz context are sometimes only a technique of enjoying the fitting notes (enjoying in) or enjoying “fallacious” notes( enjoying dissonant or purposely enjoying “fallacious” notes) over a given chord.

By taking our time and enjoying over static modal harmonies, or only a drone, we’ll be capable to hear and finally acknowledge the totally different flavors of every mode.

Scale or Mode?

I will not be making any distinction between scale and mode as a result of they’re nearly the identical factor. For all intents and functions: any mode can be a scale (kind of just like the particle/wave duality of sunshine ); and any scale might be thought of a mode of one other associated scale. For the second, the aim is to try to simplify issues and reduce away a number of the jargon.

A Few Fundamentals

Ideally, this text’s intention is to be a « no nonsense » strategy to modes, with out there being an excessive amount of technical stuff or principle. And whereas the try was made to try to make it as simple as attainable, there are, after all, a sure variety of primary belongings you in all probability have to know.

To play the scales (modes) which are given right here in E, you want know nothing apart from the place the notes are discovered in your instrument. However if you wish to transpose them to different keys (one thing you must study to do) you may have to know one thing about intervals, or a minimum of know the distinction between a half-step and a whole-step. For the reason that modes we’ll be coping with are associated to the main scale, it is a good suggestion to learn the way a significant scale is constructed, in the event you do not already know.

The Formulation for a Main Scale is as Follows:

Ascending: Root (any word) + WS + WS + HS + WS + WS + WS + HS (and you must find yourself an octave above the beginning word)

WS = whole-step, HS = half-step (for a guitarist or bassist, HS = 1 fret, WS = 2 frets)

In case you observe this method you may get a significant scale. A serious scale has the next intervals inside it (all associated to the foundation):

Between root and second word: Main 2nd

Between root and third word: Main third

Between root and fourth word: Excellent 4th

Between root and fifth word: Excellent fifth

Between root and sixth word: Main sixth

Between root and seventh word: Main seventh

In the important thing of C Main : C D E F G A B C

In the important thing of E Main : E F#G# A B C# D# E

Once I discuss how every of the modes differs from the main scale I will be making reference to those intervals.

When you perceive these intervals and the way modes are constructed, you must then be capable to transpose these scales, to another key (tonal middle). Or, after all, in the event you’re a bassist or guitarist you could possibly simply take the simple method out and transfer the fingerings up or down the neck. However this may not allow you to in the long term.

Necessary Factors:

The mode examples: All through this text I’ve used E because the tonal middle. The explanations for doing so are twofold:

1. It is essential to get away from the important thing of C and the robust associations and confusion of the modes on this Key (particularly for keyboardists). We regularly see the diatonic modes of C main listed one after the opposite in diagrams. And once we play them so as (beginning with C main), we have already acquired the C main sound in our head and so we do not hear the mode being performed, simply extra of C Main! Due to this fact the essential ingredient for every mode, context, is misplaced.

2. By placing the examples in E, I am hoping that will probably be simpler for Guitarists and Bassists to make use of their low E string as a drone whereas they play the scales/modes on prime of it (It will not make any distinction to keyboardists). This may come in useful when no different drone supply is accessible.

The Progressions: As said above, every little thing is dependent upon context, and Rhythm, particularly harmonic rhythm (an oft uncared for subject) performs a vital function in musical context. These progressions must be performed in such a method (rhythmically) that there will probably be little question in regards to the tonal middle. This does not essentially imply beginning on the I chord (although that is typically the case), however you must always really feel the tonal middle (on this case E) and may at all times hear this tonal middle as being the ultimate resting place of the piece/improvisation, even in the event you select “not” to finish on the I chord (Tonic).

Bass Drone : The chord progressions given right here can (and may) all be performed with, on this case, an E bass/drone on the underside. So if, for instance, I say in E Lydian, a typical development is E – F# – E, you also needs to strive it as E – F#/E (F# with an E within the bass) – E. It is even preferable at this stage to play it like that because it gives you even a stronger feeling for the flavour of the mode, and gives you new concepts for chords with totally different bass notes apart from their roots.

About Chords In a Given Scale/Mode: This is essential as a result of you have to know which chords are native (diatonic) to which mode so you do not play any chords which are exterior the size. I will not be going into how these chords are derived for the second as a result of it entails a little bit extra principle than I’ve house for on this article. I will be coping with this theme at a latter time. For the second, strive transposing the given chord development examples into different keys.


On this first half we’ll be coping with three of the diatonic modes: Phrygian, Lydian, and Mixolydian. “Diatonic” simply implies that they share the identical notes because the Main scale (which can be thought of a mode: Ionian). I counsel taking your time with every mode earlier than leaping on to the following one. An excessive amount of info kills info! When you begin to really feel comfy with them you’ll be able to combine them up and play one after the opposite to get a sense for every of them.

I additionally strongly counsel recording your self (or another person) enjoying the totally different modes, and see in the event you can inform which mode is being performed again…listening to is essential!


Phrygian is likely one of the scales that differs probably the most from the essential main scale. For the second you need not know that Phrygia was a kingdom of Anatolia or different fascinating historic stuff. It needs to be talked about, nonetheless, that Phrygian is the third mode (of the main scale; beginning on the third scale diploma of a significant scale). Although I’ve stated it is necessary to see every mode as a separate entity, you will need to keep in mind that these diatonic modes are associated to one another.

The Phrygian mode has the next method: 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, when in comparison with the beginning pitch’s main scale (e.g. E Phrygian in comparison with E main). It has a minor triad (chord) as its tonic (although cadences will typically finish on a significant chord…, extra on that under).

So E Phrygian is: E F G A B C D E (associated to C Main)

Examine with E Main: E F# G# A B C# D# E

What you must attempt to hear, and consider, is that the attribute word (or interval) of Phrygian is particularly the b2 (on this case, F) but additionally the b7 (D) and b3 (G, which makes it a “minor” mode). Attempt to get that sound in your ear. The b2 b3 b7 Phrygian taste is sort of straightforward to acknowledge. You may say it sounds spanish, or medieval, or gypsy, oriental…no matter! The factor is, you’ve got heard this sound earlier than, you acknowledge it and now you must attempt to acknowledge it each time you hear it and due to this fact see it for what it’s: Phrygian.

Mess around with the size till it turns into acquainted. Maintain a low E drone going as you improvise with it, or attempt to discover melodies. Then strive going out and in of it by enjoying E main for a short time after which E Phrygian. Hear and “really feel” how they differ…that is essential. It’s good to get this sound into your ear and your musical vocabulary.

Progressions in E Phrygian

An essential factor to notice about Phrygian progressions is that they typically finish (cadence) or begin on a significant chord/triad. Since this main triad is not within the mode itself (b3 turns into pure 3), in the event you’re soloing you might need to change that word, and this momentarily offers you one other scale (a harmonic minor scale or what some folks name a Phrygian dominant scale or Spanish gypsy scale). I will not go into this scale right here, nevertheless it’s a pleasant one to mess around with (typically heard in flamenco/Spanish model music).

Typical Chords:

Simply as there are attribute notes or intervals in every mode, there are additionally attribute chords and chord progressions in every mode. In Phrygian the attribute chord is, after all, the main flat II (F main chord in E Phrygian) and in addition the minor flat VII (D minor in E Phrygian). To a lesser extent the main flat III (G main in E Phrygian) and the minor IV (A minor in E Phrygian) are additionally fairly attribute when utilized in the identical development.

Some typical progressions in E Phrygian are:

  • A min – G – F – E(min or normally Maj)
  • E(min or normally Maj) – F(maj7) – E(min or normally Maj)
  • Dmin – E(min or normally Maj)
    Items in Phrygian:

    • Pink Floyd – “Set the Controls for the Coronary heart of the Solar”
    • The “Ben-Hur Theme” (the melody is in Phrygian whereas the chords go out and in of Phrygian)
    • Lots of Flamenco/spanish music (although, as said earlier than, the cadences on the main Tonic (I chord) alter the size and due to this fact it isn’t a pure Phrygian)
    • Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir”: The top Development (G min to A) is a typical Phrygian development
    • Jefferson Airplane – “White Rabbit” (in E Phrygian apart from the fleeting Bb chord)
    • Björk- “Hunter” (with main Tonic) and “I’ve seen all of it”
    • Large Assault – “Future Proof” (with main Tonic)


    The Lydian scale solely differs from a significant scale by one word, however this word is so attribute of Lydian’s taste that it makes all of the distinction. This taste, and distinction, comes from the #4. In a significant scale the 4th is an ideal 4th from the tonic, and due to this fact the introduction of the #4, although not radical in itself, offers a brand new taste to the size, remodeling it from a traditional Main to Lydian.

    E Lydian: E F# G# A# B C# D# E (that is plenty of sharps and is relative to B main)

    Examine with E Main: E F# G# A B C# D# E (word the A pure)

    As with Phrygian, mess around with this mode and attempt to get it into your ear. It is fascinating and helpful to alternate it with E main. It’s good to hear the distinction that the #4 makes. Get a Low E drone occurring and alternate between the 2. After some time strive the E Phrygian too.

    Progressions in Lydian:

    Progressions in Lydian are additionally very attribute of the Lydian sound. Many individuals have tried describing this sound with phrases like “ethereal” “magical” or “wondrous” and so on. and so on., and all cinema composers have used it to those ends, however the very best factor, as soon as once more, is to listen to it and make the connection for your self.

    Typical Chords

    The attribute chords of Lydian are those that include the #4. These embrace: the main II chord (F# main in E Lydian) and to a lesser extent the min VII (D# min in E Lydian) and the V maj7 chord (Bmaj7 in E Lydian).

    Some Typical Development in E Lydian:

    • E – F# – E (as talked about above, strive protecting the E within the bass over all chords)
    • Emaj7 #11 vamp
    • E – Bmaj7 – E
    • E – D#m(7) – E

    Items in Lydian:

    • “Maria” and plenty of different items from “West Aspect Story”
    • Sting – “Once we dance”: has a really clear instance within the melody of main going to Lydian
    • Led Zeppelin – “Dancing Days”: the opening riff is Lydian (After that it is in Phrygian till the A serious chord)
    • John Williams – E.T. theme and numerous different film moments and themes
    • The Simpsons TV Theme


    Mixolydian is the fifth diatonic mode, and just like the Lydian mode, solely differs from the Main scale by one word. This word (b7 – D pure in E) can be enough to provide a robust attribute taste to the Mixolydian sound. This Mixolydian sound has a really Renaissance or Celtic taste to it. It’s because it was/is prevalent in these types. Additionally Indian music, makes use of this scale very often (because it does quite a few others) and due to this fact it is attainable to get an Indian raga sort taste out of it (particularly in the event you omit the 2nd (F# in E) and the sixth (C# in E).

    E Mixolydian: E F# G# A B C# D E (associated to A serious)

    Examine with E Main: E F# G# A B C# D# E

    As soon as once more, get an E drone going and mess around with the size. Strive giving it a celtic or renaissance sort rhythm to see if are you able to hear the connection. The attribute notes listed below are the main third (G#) and above all of the flat 7 (D).

    Typical Chords:

    The attribute chords of Mixolydian are people who embrace the b7. These are: the flat VII chord (D main in E Mixolydian) and the minor V (B min(7) in E Mixolydian).

    Typical progressions in E Mixolydian:

    • E – D – E (like earlier than, strive protecting an E within the bass always)
    • E – Bmin(7) – E

    Items in Mixolydian:

    • Holst – “The Planets” – “Jupiter”: The well-known theme beginning at measure 108
    • Merely Purple – “Holding Again the Years”
    • Numerous Renaissance and Celtic Items
    • Sting – Intro to “I Was Introduced To My Senses”
    • Beatles – “Tomorrow By no means Is aware of” (not all notes are used so it may be argued that it isn’t actually mixolydian)
    • Beatles -” Bought To Get You Into My Life” (The A bit)
    • Beatles – “Norwegian Wooden” (A bit)
    • Spinal Faucet Film – “Stonehenge” part: the melody performed on the mandolin ­čśë
    • Michael Jackson – “Do not Cease ‘until You Get Sufficient”
    • Jimi Hendrix – “Third Stone from the Solar”: the primary melody is in E mixolydian


The modes offered listed below are simply 3 out of the 7 diatonic modes. Two of the opposite 4 ought to already be acquainted to you. They’re: Ionian, which is nothing kind of than the main scale; and Aeolian, which is the minor (pure) scale. This leaves: Dorian, which is similar to the pure minor scale, and Locrian, which might be one of many least used scales/modes in music (besides possibly to solo over sure chords) .

For the second, you must consider these three modes, and be sure to study and listen to them effectively earlier than transferring on to different stuff. Similar to with different elements of music, you have to construct robust foundations. Studying too many scales at a time will solely make sure that you play none effectively.

Attempt to keep in mind that each mode has it is distinctive taste. And it is normally only one or two notes (intervals) that create that particular taste. It is these notes that you must attempt to acknowledge. For instance, in the event you take heed to Sting’s « once we dance »; at first it simply seems like a primary major-scale sound, however then he sings that #4 and every little thing simply modifications. Simply that one word offers the entire music a special really feel and taste. And that is essential: every mode has a special spice or taste to it, and so they typically affect our feelings. Film composers know that effectively, and have been utilizing altering modes to play with or heighten our feelings for the reason that starting of cinema.

In case you resolve to leap forward and have a look at different modes, do not forget about context! It is good to know what scale every mode is derived from, however keep in mind that in the event you’re enjoying mode X (that’s associated to or derived from mode Y) that you need to be listening to an X tonality (strive a drone on X), and never Y. In case you’re listening to Y because the tonal middle whereas attempting to play mode X, then you definately’re simply losing your time.

As said earlier than, listening and recognizing are essential. File your self enjoying totally different modes and see in the event you can inform which one is being performed and the place the attribute notes are. Additionally, a great way of seeing when you’ve got understood one thing is to attempt to clarify it to others. So go and discover somebody affected person (ideally a musician) and see in the event you can educate them what you’ve got discovered.

Trending Merchandise

Add to compare
HP EliteBook 820 G2 – PC port├ítil – 12.5 pulg – (Core i5-5200U / 2.20 GHz, 8GB RAM, SSD 128GB SSD, WiFi, Windows 10, Teclado QWERTY) Modelo Muy r├ípido (Reacondicionado)
Add to compare
Add to compare
PRIXTON Flex Pro – Ordenador Port├ítil Pantalla T├íctil 11’6ÔÇŁ, Windows 10 Pro actualizable a Windows 11 Pro, Procesador Intel Celeron N4020, 4GB RAM / 64GB, Teclado en Espa├▒ol
Add to compare
Add to compare
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go – Ordenador port├ítil de 12.4″ (Intel Core i5-1035G1, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, Intel Graphics, Windows 10) Platino – Teclado QWERTY Espa├▒ol
Add to compare
Add to compare
HP Chromebook 14a-na1012ns – Ordenador Port├ítil de 14″ Full HD (Intel Celeron N4500, 8GB RAM, 128GB eMMC, UHD Graphics, Chrome OS) Plata – Teclado QWERTY Espa├▒ol
Add to compare
Add to compare
ASUS F1400E/F1400EA – Ordenador Port├ítil de 14″ Full HD (Intel Core i7-1165G7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Iris Xe Graphics, Windows 11 Home) Color Gris – Teclado QWERTY espa├▒ol
Add to compare
Add to compare
ALLDOCUBE GTBook 15 Port├ítil, 15.6 Pulgadas FHD IPS 1920×1080, Intel Celeron N5100, 12GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 2.4+5GHz WiFi, BT 5.0, Tipo-C, USB 3.0, HDMI, Windows 11, Gris
Add to compare

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Register New Account
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart