Modes in music explained

It looks like something out of this world, right? Well, we will show you that these and other names are, in reality, very simple subjects and easy to understand and practice. They appear in the context of music modes or Greek modes. But what are them? Music modes are nothing more than 7 different models for the natural major scale. Take the natural major scale. It corresponds to the first mode, the so-called Ionian mode. Okay, you already know a music mode!

modes in music explained

We already know what the Ionian mode is:. Observed sequence: tone -tone-semitone-tone-tone-tone-semitone. The next mode is the so-called Dorian mode. It is nothing more than the same major scale that we are working on, but starting from the D note. Here is the Dorian mode in the key of C :. Tip: It is the minor scale with the major sixth.

Mode (music)

People generally start to get confused here and find this study boring. Precisely because we built the Dorian scale using the notes of the C major scale. The tone-semitone, etc. We started from the second degree. This is why there is a difference in the shape. Having understood that, we can find a practical application. In the study of chords of a key, we show the chords that are part of the C major tonality.

We can conclude that the tonality of this song is C major, even though the C chord has never appeared in the song so far, not a new concept! So, if we want to improvise a solo on top of this song, we will use the C major scale.

But, since the song is around D minor, our solo could start with the D note instead of the C note to give a more characteristic ambience, right? This is where the D Dorian comes in! Moral of the story: we are using the D Dorian scale for our solo, because the chord is D minor, but the key is C.

Or we can just say that the key is D Dorian. Now we are going to use the C major scale starting from the E note. The sequence will look like this:.

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This is called the Phrygian mode. The practical use is exactly the same as the previous example, but thinking of E minor instead of D minor. If we wanted to solo in E minor in a song that had the tonality of C major, we would use the scale of E Phrygian.

The next mode is the Lydian mode. It starts with the fourth degree of the major scale. Just to recap, we are using the C scale as an example, so the fourth degree is F before the third degree was E, and so on. Greek modes can be constructed from any major scale, we are only showing the C scale here. Tip: It is the major scale with the augmented 4th.

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The fifth mode is the Mixolydian mode. On the C major scale, the fifth degree is G. See the scale of G mixolydian below:.Modein musicany of several ways of ordering the notes of a scale according to the intervals they form with the tonicthus providing a theoretical framework for the melody. A mode is the vocabulary of a melody; it specifies which notes can be used and indicates which have special importance.

Of these, there are two principal notes: the final, on which the melody ends, and the dominantwhich is the secondary centre. The modes of Greek antiquity were placed by theorists in orderly fashion within a larger context.


Although the modes were a series of seven-note diatonic scales i. Except in late antiquity, the notes were always arranged in a descending order, the basic tetrachord consisting of two whole tones and one semitone: E—D—C—B. The Dorian mode was taken as a basis for the construction of the larger system. In contrast to the two inner tetrachords, which were separated by a whole tone, each outer tetrachord was linked with the neighbouring inner one by a shared note:.

This two-octave row, or disdiapason, was called the Greater Perfect System. It was analyzed as consisting of seven overlapping scales, or octave speciescalled harmoniaicharacterized by the different positions of their semitones.

They were termed as follows semitones shown by unspaced letters :. Although the names of the harmoniai were identical with those of the Greek modes, the harmoniai were instead projections of the modal patterns into the more extensive Greater Perfect System. The modes proper were termed tonoitheir essence being their interval pattern. On the kithara or lyra the two basic plucked stringed instruments of ancient Greece the tonoi were produced either by the basic tuning or by the raising or lowering of one or more of the strings by a semitone.

Greek theory distinguished three different genera of tetrachords, producing an additional variety of modes. The previously described tetrachord two descending whole tones plus one semitone was called diatonic. There were also chromatic and enharmonic genera. The two tones bounding the tetrachord were fixed and always formed a perfect fourth; the two inner tones were movable. Also prominent in Greek music was the concept of ethoswhich ascribed certain ethical characteristics to the different modes.

modes in music explained

The Dorian mode was preferred because of its strong and virile character; the Phrygian mode was ecstatic and emotional, the Lydian mode intimate and lascivious.

In the Republic Plato stressed the educational values of the Dorian mode and warned against the softening influence of the Lydian ode. The nomoi represented modes in that they were characterized by distinctive melodic formulas suited to different song types.

The performers were free to improvise within the boundaries of those modal formulas. Ancient Hebrew music followed well-established modal patterns. According to Abraham Zevi Idelsohna musicologist whose comparative research conducted during the early decades of the 20th century established modern understanding of the Hebrew modes.

A mode…is composed of a number of motives i. The motives have different functions.Welcome back!

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Of course the scale pattern also changes because everything moves one step to the right. Each of the resulting scales has its music mode also called church modes and specific scale pattern. Here is a list of all of them. Some music modes are more commonly used than others, and each has its distinct sound.

Use all the music modes in the order above, starting with the note C. One last very important piece of information. Suppose we have a Blues in C — a C Mixolydian mode featuring one accidental Bb, we would still use the key signature of C major.

Because key signatures only refer to major Ionian or minor Aeolian! You write down a Blues in Db. Db has 5 flats check circle of fifths. C minor however, has no major third F which is essential for the Mixolydian mode. This is a very special case due to Blues melodicism, which will be covered in a later issue. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Yay, keep me informed! Get Uberchord App. Some modes are more commonly used than others, and each has its distinct sound. Ionian : probably the most common mode. Any Song in any major key is in Ionian mode.

Dorian : is a minor mode minor third between first and third degree. Sounds faintly jazzy.

modes in music explained

A couple of famous songs from the golden Jazz era featured the dorian mode quite prominently. It is the parallel mode to Lydian.The word mode sounds so ambiguous and lame, I prefer to use the word moodas this word accurately describes what modes really are.

Modes of the Major Scale Explained!

First of all, before you even read this, make sure you know how to play the major scale. At the very end of this article is a quick little primer on the major scale that might be of some help. Also, for convenience sake, I will be referring to the C major scale, as it is the only major scale that contains no sharps or flats. Also, remember that the chromatic scale is the scale which contains every single note, the word chromatic coming from the word chroma meaning colourso the chromatic scale contains every single colour.

Scales are simply notes, or colours taken from the chromatic scale, and added to a musical palette. There are literally hundreds of scales, and musicians like Allan Holdsworth have even made up their own. But I am getting off track here.

Now before you begin, make sure you know the major scale! I have written a guide on the major scale which you can use as a resource. This guide is in no way trying to be thorough or extensive, instead I am explaining the concept of modes in its simplest and rawest form. Because, after all, it is very simple, and the last thing I want to do is scare you off with encyclopedic jargon and walls of text. Alright, here we go.! Modes of the C Major Scale.

Now putting modes into practice is a different beast altogether, it is a tool used by jazz guitarists mainly to colour their solos based on the chord progression. Seeing as how the key of the progression is C major a guitarist could choose to simply play the C major scale C Ionian Mode over the entire progression, but if you decide to emphasis the D note instead of the C note whilst the Dm7 chord is playing and the G note while the G7 chord is playing and finally the C note while the Cmaj7 chord is playing, you would be playing the exact same C major scale throughout but you will be using three different modes of the same scale D Dorian, G Mixolydian and C Ionian over their respective chords in the progression.

This would mean that you have endless soloing moods to tap into, both major and minor by using the same scale. Notice how Frank Gambale is playing the C major throughout the song, but by emphasizing different notes of the scale he creates different moods? The intro sounds triumphant Lydianthe chorus is very major sounding Ionianand the solo is very minor and bluesy Dorian!

Above is a chart which contains the 7 modes in the key of C major.

Musical Modes Explained: The Music Theory Behind Them

From the very left we have the numbers and their corresponding mode. The formula for the major scale is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7, this is because the major scale contains 7 notes. Next to the numbers we have the notes that correspond to the numbers, the numbers are just memory devices to help us remember what notes belong in the scale. And finally on the very left we have the appropriate chords that each of the respective modes belong to.

It is best to play the modes over their respective chords. Now look at the chart again, I hope it looks less alien to you now. When you play each chord be mindful of what mode belongs to it, and what character or mood that mode embodies. If you have someone to jam with, create some chord progressions out of these chords and take turns practicing the modes to the progressions.

Here are some progressions to get you started:. For the sake of user-friendly-ness and to help you start playing straight away, I will translate those above modal progressions into the key of C major, but I encourage you to do the same for the rest of the major scales yourself!

Above is a very helpful chart I made to help you practice the modes of the C major scale. All modes also show the root C note, so you can remember how they all relate to their parent scale. Below is an example taken from the legendary zentao.The following is a list of musical scales and modes. Degrees are relative to the major scale. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. List of musical scales and modes Name Image Sound Degrees Intervals of pitch classes Lower tetrachord Upper tetrachord Use of key signature usual or unusual 15 equal temperament.

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Bebop scale Chord-scale system Heptatonic scale Jazz scale List of chord progressions List of chords List of musical intervals List of pitch intervals Arabian maqam Modes of limited transposition Symmetric scale Synthetic modes Tetrachord. Music theory lists. Musical scales list. Major Minor Chromatic.

Modes in Western music. Dorian Phrygian Lydian Mixolydian. Hypodorian Hypophrygian Hypolydian Hypomixolydian. Categories : Musical scales Music theory lists Music theory. Hidden categories: Articles with hAudio microformats. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Help Learn to edit Community portal Recent changes Upload file. Download as PDF Printable version. Acoustic scale on C. Aeolian mode or natural minor scale.

Aeolian on C. Algerian scale on C. Altered scale or Super Locrian scale. Altered scale on C. Augmented scale on C. Bebop dominant scale on C.

Blues scale on C.The term modes in music describes the scales which dominated European music for over 1, years up until and continued to be heavily influential for another years after that. They originated in ancient Greece where modes were named after different regions — this is why all the modes still have Greek names to this day. Modes can be understood with reference to the white notes on a pianowhich broadly correspond to the scale calculated scientifically in the 4th century BC by Pythagoras and the Greek thinkers of his time.

Dorian mode. Now, if we play a scale using the white notes, but this time starting on C and ending on the C above it then we are playing the Ionian Mode. Ionian Mode. Can you also hear how the sound of the Ionian Mode is very different to the Dorian mode? The early Christian Church were heavily influenced by the Greeks and adopted modes as a basis for its music.

Have a listen to this piece of plainchant called Ubi Caritaswhich is based upon a mode:. The use of modes developed and by the 5th century four modes were adopted, called the Authentic Modes. Three Additional Authentic Modes Henricus Glareanusa Swiss monk produced a book called Dodecachordan in in which he highlighted the subsequent addition of two more authentic modes Aeolian and Ionian.

Subsequently, another authentic mode Locrian mode was added towards the end of the 18th century, bringing the total to seven authentic modes: IX. When studying the music theory of modes and their use in music we tend to focus on the seven authentic modes outlined above — the six authentic modes highlighted by Glareanus with the addition of a seventh mode, the Locrian mode.

During the papacy of Pope Gregory four more modes were added called Plagal modes. Each plagal mode is developed from a related authentic mode. For example, the Hypodorian mode is linked to the Dorian mode. As with authentic modes, there were originally 4 plagal modes in the 5th century, but 2 more were added by Glareanus and a 7th by the end of the 18th century.

The above diagram shows the full list of fourteen music modes seven authentic modes and seven plagal modes. Final — this is the note shaded in red on the diagram on which the melody usually ends and is the note upon which the mode is based.

Cofinal — this note shaded in green is an alternative resting point of the melody. Whilst it is helpful to learn about modes by using the white notes on a keyboard it is really important to understand that the difference in modes is not based on what white note it starts on, but is based on the intervals of the scale.

This means that we can transpose the modes and play them starting on any note as long as we keep the intervals between the notes the same.

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The starting note is differentbut the intervals between the notes of the mode remain the same. The dominance of music modes faded away as harmonised music using the major and minor scales developed.

The Ionian mode has remained as the major scalewhilst the Aeolian mode has remained as the minor scale. However, composers throughout the years have still turned to the modes when composing.

Folk songs often use modes. Classical composers such as Vaughan Williams have also used modes. Modes are still used in by composers in contemporary music styles such as jazz. Try following these steps to compose a piece of modal music:. I hope you have found this music theory lesson on modes helpful. Here is a useful music theory worksheet for you to download giving a summary of the music modes: Music Modes Summary Music Theory Worksheet.

He is a music teacher, examiner, composer and pianist with over twenty years experience in music education. Read More. Understanding Music.From their meaning to their history in Western music, here's an easy guide to modes. The modes were named after various regions, perhaps to represent the people who lived there, because Greek musical theorists were philosophers too, and associated the arts with aspects of morality.

Some of them are major modes, some are minor, and some are ambiguous. Some modes are sadder or holier than others.

It is the modern major scale. It is composed of natural notes beginning on C. Ionian mode. The Dorian mode is very similar to the modern natural minor scale. The only difference is in the sixth note, which is a major sixth above the first note, rather than a minor sixth. Dorian mode. The Phrygian is the third mode. It is also very similar to the modern natural minor scale.

The only difference is in the second note, which is a minor second not a major. The Phrygian dominant is also known as the Spanish gypsy scale, because it resembles the scales found in flamenco music. Phyrigian mode. The Lydian mode has just one note changed from the Ionian, a major scale, but with the fourth note from the bottom sharpened to give a slightly unsettling sound.

Lydian mode.

Music Modes: How to Enrich Your Songs with Modal Color

Music that employs the Lydian mode includes Chopin 's Mazurka No. The single tone that differentiates this scale from the major scale is its seventh note, which is a flattened seventh rather than a major seventh. Locrian mode. There are passages in the Locrian mode in works by Rachmaninovfor example the Prelude in B minor, op. See more Latest features.

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