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The modes part 1: The Ionian Mode

Rating: 1 user(s) have rated this lesson Average rating: 5.0 Posted by: leokisomma, on Feb 18,2011, in category Music Theory Views: this lesson has been read 2107 times
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This is going to be quite a long process to learn the modes and how they relate to each other, and particularly how they can be used in whatever situation you are in musically. But the first thing you will have to learn is that you can play the modes starting from whatever root you like to get a certain sound based on that root note. For example if I’m playing in C and want to play a solo sounding quite happy, I would choose a mode that sounds happy, use the note C as a root and then play various notes from that mode and if mode-hopping is possible then I’ll play from different modes to get different sounds from them.

To keep things simple, I’ll go through one mode in each lesson and make sure that I out-line how each mode is different. I’ll also be going through the modes in two orders. The first is di-tonic: this is the theory that you can get all of the modes by following the major scale and starting that scale using different roots (to all of us that don’t have music degrees this means following a certain pattern of notes, but starting in different places to change the sound you get from it, like how starting in different positions on a running track gives you different results in a race). The second order will be in parallel in the key of E: I’ll go through each mode starting with the root always being in E so that you can clearly see the differences between the modes. Be aware that you can play different modes using the same root, but you just have to be sure to follow whatever pattern you’re using.

Before I go any further I’ll tell you the name of the modes and the pattern that they make when they are arranged diatonically. They are:








It’s a good idea to learn a phrase for these modes in order to memorize them, so I’ll use a rhyme I learned off a friend. It goes like this.








After this, I’m going to take you through the first mode and how to find the notes in it all over the fret-board. This will take some getting used to for some people, but it’s worth it once you know it.


Ionian mode in C


Here is what this mode looks like and here are some important things to remember about it. Note for note it is identical to the natural major scale. It has a major third and major sixth; these are two of the notes which give this scale its characteristic sound. Remember that just like all the other modes, it extends and repeats itself. In other words the pattern carries on up and down all the way along the fret-board in the same order. Please also note that I have repeated the root note of the scale from time to time so that you know which note the scale is based on.


That is the mode in two octaves but remember that it’s all over the fret-board as long as you follow this pattern that the notes make. Now here’s the mode in one octave in the key of E.


You may find that this mode in this key sound familiar, and that’s because it’s the mode and key that the song “don’t stop believing” by Journey is in. This is a good mode to use if you want to get a warm and happy sound. In comparison with other modes it’s probably the happiest sounding out of the di-tonic modes, and is widely used to achieve mild sounding music. It blends in well with other bright sounding modes like Lydian and mixolydian, but also can be used to make a good clash with Aeolian and other sadder sounding modes if used properly. It’s almost always used as a starting point by many musicians when either learning about or teaching theory as it puts all the other modes into clear perspective when you hear them in parallel. Songs that have major thirds in them usually would be written using the Ionian mode in modern music, but remember that many other modes like mixolydian (which is used in southern rock like “sweet home Alabama”) and Lydian (used in “flying in a blue dream”) also have major thirds. You have to look closely to see what the music is putting forwards. If just the root and a major third is being expressed you could use all of the modes with major thirds, but if it uses all the notes in the major scale, then you can only use the major scale. Notes in a song can be like traffic cones for a driver, so it’s no surprise that solo sections have less notes in them to keep the options of the lead guitarist open.

I hope I’ve been able to help you guys with this and I’ll be submitting my next lesson on the modes as soon as possible. Take care and message me if you have any queries or requests for me.

The modes part 2: The Dorian mode >

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Comment posted by metalfury on Thursday, September 08, 2011 11:35 AM
This is a great series of articles that have cleared up the various modes for me. It was useful to know the 'emotions' of the modes too. Thanks for sharing - I've just printed them out for future reference.
Comment posted by leokisomma on Thursday, September 08, 2011 3:37 PM
You're very welcome, and thanks for the compliment. If you ever need any help on anything in music then let me know, and I'll do what I can to help as soon as possible.

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