Modes of the Major Scale

A Mode is a type of scale created by establishing a new tonic within a preexisting scale.

  • The C Major scale has these notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B ,C.
  • The Tonic in the C Major scale is C.
  • If we establish a new tonic on one of the notes other than C, for instance D, we now have a Mode.
  • The new mode on D has these notes: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D.
  • This is the Dorian mode.
  • New modes may be created the same way on the other notes of the Major scale.

The Modes of the C Major scale:

  • Ionian/Major Scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
  • Dorian: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D
  • Phrygian: E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E
  • Lydian: F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F
  • Mixolydian: G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G
  • Aeolian/Natural minor scale: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A
  • Locrian: B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B

Notice that the Ionian mode is the same as the Major scale. The Aeolian mode is also the same as the Natural minor scale. The Locrian mode is used less often because it has a diminished fifth instead of a perfect fifth for its fifth scale degree and therefore has a less stable sound.

Each mode has its own unique sound even though they all have the same notes as their "parent" scale, the Major scale.