Understanding Scale Modes

A Mode is a type of scale created by establishing a new tonic within a preexisting scale. To create a mode establish a new tonic on one of the notes other than root.  Using modes in creating a melody will influence the mood and emotion of the music.

Ionian Mode

This mode starts on the 1st note of the major scale.  So in fact this is the major scale.

Ionian Mode Scale

Mood: Happy, bright, triumphant.

Scale Type: Major

Dorian Mode

This is the most widely used mode after the major. You can play it by starting on second note of the scale.  In the key of C this would be D.

Scale Dorian Mode

Mood: Tense, dark

Scale Type::Minor

Phrygian Mode

This mode begins on the 3rd note of the major scale.  It has a very sad sound and is heard in lots of Spanish, Hebrew, and Gypsy music. It is the only mode that begins with a half-step. Composers use this mode when they want their music to sound Oriental.

Scale Phrygian Mode

Mood: Confused, unsure, Exotic

Scale Type::Minor

Lydian Mode

This mode begins on the 4th note of the major scale.  This mode sounds close to the major scale. However It has an odd-sounding 4th note. This mode is a major scale with a sharp 4.

scale Lydian Mode

Mood: Dreamy, Spacey

Scale Type::Major

Mixolydian Mode

To play this mode start on the 5th note of the major scale. This also sounds like the major scale, but it has a dominate flat 7th tone. It’s used a lot in rock and roll and jazz music. It is a major scale with a flat 7th note.

scale Mixolydian Mode

Mood: Smooth, in control, Bluesy

Scale Type::Major

Aeolian Mode

This mode starts on the 6th note of the major scale  Just like its name, this mode begins on A. This is also called the natural minor scale. It is a major scale with a flat 3 – 6 – 7.

scale Aeolian Mode

Mood: Sneaky, scary, sly, almost mysterious

Scale Type::Minor

Locrian Mode

This more starts on the 7th note of the scale.  This mode sounds so strange it is almost never used. You can forget this one. It rarely ever used. It is a major scale with a flat 2 – 3 – 5 – 6 – 7.

scale Locrian Mode

Mood: Evil, horrifying, pitch black dark

Scale Type::Diminish Minor

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