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Scale Theory: Part 4

Scale Construction – Part 4 Modes from three scales

And this concludes our scale theory series: how to create 21 completely unique modes from our basic parent scales (major, melodic minor, harmonic minor) If you don’t read music (“notes” on the staff) and if you’ve never encountered any music theory in the past, this is a good place to start. Go slow, read on and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

In the course of this scale theory article series about scale construction, you’ll find music theory info about the major scale, how to read key signatures, modes and more…

Ready for 21 modes? Go!

Jump to a page:

Scale Construction 1: The Formula
Scale Construction 2: Building All the Keys (Signatures)
Scale Construction 3: Intro to Modes
Scale Construction 4: 21 Most Common Modes [You’re Here]

Generalities

  • Scale Formulas: using scale degrees to show how a scale is built in comparison to the major scale. For instance, the major scale is simply 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. We alter the notes with flats (b) or sharps (#) to completely describe how another scale is built. For instance, a scale with a “flat 7” is written using this formula: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7.

Scale Theory: 21 Modes

As explained in the previous installment, we can build 7 modes upon a parent scale of 7 notes.

In this article, I’ll simply list 21 modes… 7 modes of C major (C D E F G A B), 7 modes of C melodic minor (C D Eb F G A B) and 7 modes of C harmonic minor (C D Eb F G Ab B).

General Advice: Most modes of major and melodic minor are in common use. I’ve already created some other pages about the main “dominant” sounds using these modes… good to read. 😉
(the links are within the body of this scale theory page)

 

Scale Theory: Modes from the Major Scale

This is repeated from the previous page, just so you can have all the material handy in once place. (-:

Mode 1: C Ionian (aka major scale)
Formula: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
C major chord. The foundation of it all.

Mode 2: D Dorian (aka Dorian minor)
Formula: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
Implies a Dm7 chord. Often used in jazz. It’s the iim7 chord.

Mode 3: E Phrygian
Formula: 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
This is like a Em7 chord with a b9. Often used over E7sus4(b9)

Mode 4: F Lydian
Formula: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
Same as a major scale with #4. (Think of F major with a “B natural”)

Mode 5: G Mixolydian (aka dominant)
Formula: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
Same as a major scale with b7. Implies a G7. Bluesy-ish. It’s the V7 chord.
The is the dominant sound.

Mode 6: A Aeolian (aka Natural Minor)
Formula: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
The simplest “most stable” type of minor tonality. Sounds like Am7.

Mode 7: B Locrian
Formula: 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
Bm7(5) chord sounding. A very “odd” mode.

To further understand these modes, please see also the chords “up to the 13th” on the “Chord Construction – Part 4” page…

 

Scale Theory: Modes from the Melodic Minor Scale

Please remember that the C melodic minor scale is built like this:
C D Eb F G A B (or 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7)

 

Mode 1: C Melodic Minor
Formula: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
Our “parent scale” here.

Mode 2: D Dorian b2
Formula: 1 b2 b3 4 5 6 b7
Implies a Dm7(b9) chord. Kind of odd.

Mode 3: Eb Lydian Augmented
Formula: 1 2 3 #4 #5 6 7
A “hyper” major-sounding scale. Think Eb major with A and B natural.

Mode 4: F Lydian Dominant
Formula: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 b7
Same as Mixolydian but with #4. It’s F7(#11) (Think F7 with “B natural”)
The is the Dom7(#11) sound.

Mode 5: G Mixolydian b6
Formula: 1 2 3 4 5 b6 b7
Same as Mixolydian but with b6. It’s G7(b13). (Think G7 with an “Eb”)
The is the Dom7(b13) sound.

Mode 6: A Locrian “Natural 2”
Formula: 1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
The most straight-forward m7(b5) (half-diminished) sound.

Mode 7: B Super Locrian (aka altered scale)
Formula: 1 b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 b7
Very “odd” and “tense” mode. Very useful on altered dominants.
The is the Dom7(alt) sound.

To further understand these modes, please see also the chords “up to the 13th” on the “Chord Construction – Part 4” page…

 

Scale Theory: Modes from the Harmonic Minor Scale

Please remember that the C harmonic minor scale is built like this:
C D Eb F G Ab B (or 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7)

 

Mode 1: C Harmonic Minor
Formula: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
Our “parent scale” here.

Mode 2: D Locrian “Natural 6″(
Formula: 1 b2 b3 4 b5 6 b7
Not much used.

Mode 3: Eb Ionian Augmented
Formula: 1 2 3 4 #5 6 7
Think major scale with raised fifth. Not much used.

Mode 4: F Dorian #4
Formula: 1 2 b3 #4 5 6 b7
Uncommon but useable. Creates a Fm7(#11) sound.

Mode 5: G Mixolydian “b9 b6” (aka Phrygian Major)
Formula: 1 b2 3 4 5 b6 b7
Called “harmonic minor of destination”. Used alot on altered dominants.
The is the Dom7(b13, b9) sound.

Mode 6: Ab Lydian #9
Formula: 1 #2 3 #4 5 6 7
A crazy, uncommon, type of major mode!

Mode 7: B Altered Dominant bb7
Formula: 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 bb7
Too odd to be true! Ouchy.

To further understand these modes, please see also the chords “up to the 13th” on the “Chord Construction – Part 4” page…

 

Scale Theory: Modes Conclusion

And… that’s a wrap up! Please keep in mind that even if all the modes can look cool “on the page” (or on this website) it’s always a matter of how much you can use, hear and apply them with taste… Go back often to the method for practice modes I’ve outlined in “Part 3 – Intro to Modes” of this scale theory articles series.

Don’t allow yourself to get too excited with theory! Take a step back and examine everything with your ears. It’s not because you understand something intellectually that you’re automatically granted to make beautiful music with it right away. Practice, listen, explore!

Jump to a page:

Scale Construction 1: The Formula
Scale Construction 2: Building All the Keys (Signatures)
Scale Construction 3: Intro to Modes
Scale Construction 4: 21 Most Common Modes [You’re Here]

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