• Candice Alderfer

All Modes, All Notes

Updated: May 1, 2019

I am ALL about repetition. I like to write my major and minor scales every single day to keep my brain comfortable with knowing them by heart. Having my scales, especially my major scales memorized has made an incredible difference in the way Ive learned intervals, chords and modes. At the moment, I've been really focusing on getting comfortable with writing different modes. Modes are different variations of the major scale with the tonic note starting on different scale degrees.

C Ionian (Major): C (whole) D (whole) E (half) F (whole) G (whole) A (whole) B (half) C

D Dorian: D (whole) E (half) F (whole) G (whole) A (whole) B (half) C (whole) D

E Phrygian: E (half) F (whole) G ( whole) A (whole) B (half) C (whole) D (whole) E

F Lydian: F (whole) G (whole) A (whole) B (half) C (whole) D (whole) E (half) F

G Mixolydian: G (whole) A (whole) B (half) C (whole) D (whole) E (half) F (whole) G

A Aeolian(Minor): A (whole) B (half) C (whole) D (whole) E (half) F (whole) G (whole) A

B Locrian: B (half) C (whole) D (whole) E (half) F (whole) G (whole) A (whole) B

This is awesome! You can find out the scales of different modes in relation to C major. "But wait," you may be saying to yourself. "I really want to know what C Lydian is and based on example above, I can only see F lydian. So what do I do?" Well, that is a great question. I could tell you to just apply the formula for a lydian scale starting on C: whole-whole-whole-half-whole-whole-half. But if you're anything like me, counting whole and half steps requires the use of all my fingers and toes, with the added high risk of miscounting. I like to do the minimal amount of math possible, which I'm sure a lot of others can relate to. So I've learned a little trick.

We know that the Lydian mode is based off of the formula for a major scale starting on the 4th scale degree. Let's play a game I like to call, Fill in the Blank.

So we know that C lydian starts on the 4th scale degree of a major scale. "But what now?" you say. Well, I'm glad you asked! We can't just do this:

That looks a lot like a major scale. That's because it is, and that's not what we're trying to find right now. We have to fill in the blank for the ionian to know where to place the accidentals for C Lydian. This is where memorizing your scales, most IMPORTANTLY your major scales, comes in handy.

First things first, since we know the lydian scale is four scale degrees above the ionian, let's count down four letter names. "C, B, A, G." Cool! G is the ionian. What's the scale for G major? MEMORIZE YOUR SCALES PEOPLE! "G A B C D E F# G." That was pretty simple. G Major has only one sharp accidental in the major scale on F. That means we have to make F sharp for a C Lydian scale.

That means for ALL the other modes, Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and locrian, F will be the only note with a sharp accidental. Here is the rest of the blanks filled in.

Let's do one more example. Find Eb Phrygian. Here are some questions to ask yourself.


1. The third scale degree

2. Count down 3 letter notes from E. "E, D, C." C would be your answer.

3. C Major scale: C D E F G A B C.

BUT OH NO. In the C Major scale, E is natural, not Eb. What does that mean for us? What do we have to do to C in order to make E natural turn into Eb? Eb is lower by a half of a step. That means we have to lower C by a half of a step, making C into Cb. The scale would then look like this: Cb, Db, Eb, Fb, Gb, Ab, Bb.

The same also applies for if we were looking for E# Phrygian. We would need to raise C half of a step and turn C into C# to make the major scale look like this: C#, D#, E#, F#, G#, A#, B#.

That means for Eb Phrygian, ALL THE NOTES MUST BE FLAT. In regards to all the other modes, all the notes must be flat as well.

I hope that this has helped to explain modes in a better way for you to understand. Apply the same three questions I had you ask yourself before to any note or mode you are trying to find.

What is E Aeolian (minor)?

1. What scale degree is aeolian? 6.

2. What is 6 scale degrees down away from E? "E, D, C, B, A, G." G.

3. What is the G Major scale?: G A B C D E F#.

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


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