Guitar 101

Seven modes of the major scale 

The definition of modes


A mode by musical definition is essentially a specific melodic scale with its own character that varies from another scale. We can see the Ionian scale (Common major scale) as a mode, as well as the Dorian (Second Mode of Major) scale being its 'own mode'. The varying modes have their own sets of notes that make them what they are. These changes in notes between modes define the characteristic of the mode. This varying cahracteristics are what allow us to usually determine the style, genre or mood of the mode. 


The seven modes are as follows:



Ionian - Dorian (Second Mode) - Phrygian (Third Mode) - Lydian (Fourth Mode) - Mixolydian (Fifth Mode) - Aeolian (Sixth Mode) - Locrian (Seventh Mode)



It is worth understanding the Ionain scale first as it gives a solid foundation before moving on to the other modes.  A good way to memories the structure of the major scale (Ionain)  is by using some simple patterns. One that I use is remembering the spacing between the notes that form the scale. 




Whole Tone - Whole Tone - Half Tone - Whole Tone - Whole tone - Whole Tone - Half Tone



The above format is a method I use to remember scales on a piano. As admittedly I remember the scales on different instruments differently, and piano keys gave me the best understanding for the structure of scales. However the method does transpose onto the fretboard of the guitar.


I suggest watching the videos and practicing the scales over and over. I will eventually provide some background music (chord structures) that best suits the scales for improvising over. Each mode carries its own style or character which usually fits to a specific style/genre. 




- Ionian: This is the common major scale. Which is the diatonic major scale. It contains no sharp or flat notes making it sound 'pure' in character. 


- Dorian: The second mode of the major scale. It has a minor (flattened) 3rd and 7th. It is common in folk musical styles. 


- Phrygian: The third mode of the major scale. It contains minor 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th.  It is considered a natural diatonic scale and known as 'The Spanish Scale', used in spanish styles such as flamenco.


- Lydian: The fourth mode of the major scale. It contains a augmented 4th. 


- Mixolydian: The fifth mode of the major scale. It contains a minor 7th. This scale is common in rock music and other popular genres.


- Aeolian: The sixth mode of the major scale. It contains a minor 3rd, 6th and 7th. 


- Locrian: The seventh mode of the major scale. Known as the most dissonant scale. 




Please use the video below for reference to the scales and how to play them. pay close atention to the left hands finger positions as they are key to keeping good flow. (To access all videos in the playlist click on the list at the top left of the video).