Lessons > Scale Theory > Modes - Part 1

Modes - Part 1

Modes are a group of scales derived from one particular scale. Usually when people refer to modes they are talking about modes of the major scale. Below is the C major scale:

  T   T   S   T   T   T   S  
C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C

As you can see the C major scale has the interval pattern tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. The major scale can also be called the Ionian mode.

The other six modes are produced by staying within the major scale but by starting on a different note (changing the root note).

For example: Below you will see the C major written out twice end-to-end. If we start on D we can see that the interval pattern goes tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone, tone. This is known as the Dorian mode.

  T   T   S   T   T   T   S   T   T   S   T   T   T   S  
C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C

The interval patterns of all the modes of the major scale are written out below:

Ionian T T S T T T S            
Dorian   T S T T T S T          
Phrygian     S T T T S T T        
Lydian       T T T S T T S      
Mixolydian         T T S T T S T    
Aeolian           T S T T S T T  
Locrian             S T T S T T T

You may notice the Aeolian mode is the same as the natural minor scale. Which is also the same as moving through the major scale starting on the 6th degree.

The last thing you need to know about modes is how to use them in different keys. Take the Dorian mode for example (T S T T T S T). In the above example it is in the key of D. If we change it to the key of E we would have the notes E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D, E.

Note - it is important to distinguish a change in modes from a change in key. For help with this consult the example below:

These are in the same key but are from two different modes.

C Ionian C D E F G A B C
C Aeolian C D D# F G G# A# C

These are in the same mode but are in different keys.

A Aeolian A B C D E F G A
E Aeolian E F# G A B C D E