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Modes of the Major Scale

by Dan Palladino

The major scale, or Ionian mode, is made up of whole steps and half steps that occur in a specific order:

C D E F G A B C
  w w ½ w w w ½

If we start on the note "D", and play the major scale until we hit the next "D", we are playing a MODE of the major scale; specifically, it's the Dorian mode. Try it.

D E F G A B C D

If we play from "E" to "E", we get the Phrygian mode. It sounds kind of Spanish, doesn't it?

E F G A B C D E

Playing from "F" to "F" gives us the Lydian mode. It sounds like the major scale, but with a raised 4th.

F G A B C D E F

Play from "G" to "G". That's the Mixo-lydian mode. It's like a major scale with a lowered 7th.

G A B C D E F G

Next, is "A" to "A". That's the Aeolian mode, or Natural Minor scale.

A B C D E F G A

Last, is the Locrian mode; from "B" to "B".

B C D E F G A B

There! Now you know what the modes of the major scale are. They're just scales, aren't they?

Merely knowing what these scales are won't help you very much. You need to learn what to do with them. After all, scales are just a collection of notes--they're not music. If you'd like to learn what to do with these little devils, read "Why Learn Modes?" on the next page.


© 2003 Dan Palladino
Reproduction is prohibited without prior written permission.
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