Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chord Theory Four! Modes!

Okay, now that you have the two basic triad formulas down, we can move to modes, and then to progressions!!
A chord progression is simply chords that sound good when played together.  Now there is a bunch of theory that tells why that is so, and I will not delve into it unless you want me to.  However, I can give a bare bones, and thats just what this lesson is all about!

So remember how all the notes were numbered in previous lessons?  To know the chords that sound good to improvise over in a certain scale, you need to make chords out of each of the scales modes.

A mode is just a scale with a different tonal center, or taking the second note of the scale and playing up the the second note an octave higher.  I'll explain more later. There are seven modes: Ionian (major scale), Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian (Minor Scale), and Locrian. Lets use C major as an example.  So the notes of C major are (C-D-E-F-G-A-B), because of the (whole step-whole step-half step-whole step-whole step-whole step pattern), but the notes of its Dorian mode are D-E-F-G-A-B-C. All it took to get that mode was taking the second note of C major, the root scale, and building a scale using the WWHWWW pattern. So the mode would be called D Dorian. 

So if you wanted to make the third mode, Phrygian, you take the second note of the last mode, Dorian.  Which is E.  So using the WWHWWW pattern starting at E, we end up with: E-F-G-A-B-C-D.

And so on and so forth.  But to save you the work, I have already written out all the modes of C major:

Ionian: C-D-E-F-G-A-B
Dorian: D-E-F-G-A-B-C
Phrygian: E-F-G-A-B-C-D
Lydian: F-G-A-B-C-D-E
Mixolydian: G-A-B-C-D-E-F
Aeolian: A-B-C-D-E-F-G
Locrian: B-C-D-E-F-G-A

Now I know what you are thinking right now, "But why would they sound different if they have the same notes, but in a different order?!"

Well when you improvise, or make chords, progressions, symphonies, whatever, intervals are key (HA FULL CIRCLE TIME).  So even though the notes are the same in C Ionian (C major) and D Dorian, the intervals from the root note are completely different and give the scale a different feel.  You can also make different chords from it, which is tomorrows lesson.

Comment, rave, rant, whatever.  Or more of last nights dinner, thats always interesting.

Cordially Yours,



  1. Good to know. I enjoy reading your posts.

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  3. This is so over my head it's ridiculous lol

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  5. man i remember doing this in piano class.. along with like cadences and stuff.

  6. Dude great post, Im learning how to play guitar. Will follow!

  7. Congrats, that's the first time someone has been able to explain this so I can understand it. I thought I was just a knot head all the while!

  8. This is some great stuff, keep it up !

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  10. This is some great info! And I would categorize my comment in rave!

  11. thanks for the info. keep it coming.

  12. Great post! Following and supportin!

  13. I'm actually considering starting to learn guitar because of this!