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The Modes


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The Modes

                                                                     by Lucas Pickford


The Modes are fundamental to almost every type of music. Jazz, Rock, and pop use these parent scales all the time to make melodies and build harmonies on. A thorough understanding of them is absolutely essential to anyone interested in improvising in any of the aforementioned styles. Some people think that the Modes are complicated and mysterious. In fact, they are easy to learn and understand even for a beginner. In my opinion the Modes are best learned in two general categories, major modes and minor modes. The major modes all have a natural 3rd and 7th with the exception of Mixolydian, which has a flatted 7th

The minor modes all have a flatted 3rd and a flatted 7th.  Each mode has a very characteristic sound that sets it apart from the others. If you take just the major modes and learn them say over a one-week period, and the tackle the minor modes the next week, you’ll have them down.  My advice is to see the similarities between the Modes. Most of them only differ by one note in the whole scale. When you have the Modes down your music vocabulary goes up exponentially. The key of course is knowing where to apply them and what types of chords that they fit over. I will explain all of that very soon. For now, just get familiar with them on your instrument.

The Modes are like the ABC’s. When you have them down, there’s no limit to what you can say. 

(Major Modes in Key of C)

Ionian: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C    (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8)

Lydian: C-D-E-F#-G-A-B-C    (1 2 3 +4 5 6 7 8)

Mixolydian: C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C    (1 2 3 4 5 6 -7 8)


(Minor Modes in Key of C)

Dorian: C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb-C    (1 2 -3 4 5 6 -7 8)

Aeolian: C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C    (1 2 -3 4 5 -6 -7 8)

Phrygian: C-Db-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C    (1 -2 -3 4 5 -6 -7 8)

Locrian: C-Db-Eb-F-Gb-Ab-Bb-C     (1 -2 -3 4 -5 -6 -7 8)

Lucas Pickford can be reached by e-mail

at or stop by his web site


Come back next month where Lucas discusses The Application of Modes.




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