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Learning The 7 Modes
By Scott Morris - 06/11/2010 - 07:08 PM EDT

In my last article I explained the major scale formula which I taught to you in the key of C for the reason that in the key of C, all the notes played are "natural notes" which means there are no sharps (#) or flats (b) which makes one less thing to have to worry about memorizing when first learning about scales, modes and their formulas.

In this lesson article, I'd like to introduce you to the 7 modes of C major scale.

Many students fear learning the modes because of their difficult sounding names, like Ionian, Dorian, Phyrgian, etc...

I always tell my students not to worry, that the names of these modes are actually harder to pronounce than they are to play!

Many teachers make their explanations hard to understand to keep you coming back and paying for lessons.

Learning modes can be very easy. It all depends on who's showing you.

what is a mode?

I'll simplify that answer for you.

A mode is basically considered a scale. For example, there are 7 "different" notes inside of the major scale (8 notes all together if you include counting the octave).

An "octave" is the same note played at a higher pitch.

Let's look at C major scale for a quick review.


C major scale (also known as the "Ionian mode" is the first mode played in C major, which
starts with the tonic note C and ends with the octave note

For each of the 7 "different" notes that are played in C major scale, each note when played from it's tonic note to it's octave, provides a new mode (scale).

For example, the next mode which is D Dorian (the 2nd mode of C major scale), which begins on the tonic note D and ends on the note D octave.

Here are the notes played in the D Dorian Mode.


The 3rd mode "E Phyrgian" starts on the tonic note E and ends on the note E octave.



All of the 7 modes are played this way. They all start and end on the same note.

Because the formulas change in whole steps and half steps that create each mode, each formula is different which makes some modes major and other modes minor.

For an example, here is a breakdown of each mode in C major scale.

C Ionian Mode = Major (The Major Scale)

D Dorian Mode = Minor

E Phrygian Mode = Minor

F Lydian Mode = Major

G Mixolydian Mode = Major

A Aeolian Mode = Minor (The Relative Minor)

B Locrian = Minor (may also be considered diminished)

Learning the modes is surely on of the most valuable tools for all musician's. It will help you learn master your instrument and how create your own melodies and harmonies so that you can create and write parts to harmonize with other players.

This is a major help in the studio for all songwriters, especially those who plan on becoming a studio musician and plan on using studio charts like the "Nashville Number System"

By learning the 7 modes, you'll also have learned 77 new scales (modes) that you can apply to your playing.

There are 11 different notes on the bass guitar.
12, if you include counting the octave.
An octave is the same note at a higher pitch.

Any note that is sharp (#) or flat (b) can have 2 names.

Here are the names of the notes starting on the string E.

In this diagram, the frets are shown on top and the notes shown

0   1   2     3    4    5    6    7  8   9    10   11    12


E,  F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D,  D#/Eb, E


Or when learned or played in alphabetical order when starting on the

A string, the notes are as follows:


0    1    2  3   4     5    6    7  8    9    10   11    12


A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G,  G#/Ab,  A

For each of the 11 notes on the bass guitar, there are 7 modes.

That gives you 77 different modes (scales).

Try playing the modes in different keys.

For example, to play the 7 modes in D major, just move up 2 frets (or a whole step) from C and begin on the note D.

Then you'll be playing the 7 Modes of D major.

To play the 7 modes in the key of A major, simply move down 3 frets (or a whole step and a half) and begin on the note A.

To make learning easier for you, I have provided you with the 7 modes of C major, D major and A major which I have transcribed for you in tablature.

Click here! to learn the 7 modes in tablature

I hope this information has been helpful.

Stay tuned for the next article that I'll be sharing with you on how to create harmonies using the 7 modes.

Scott Morris - CEO - You Can Play Guitar

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