General Question

Steve_A's avatar

Can you explain modes to me?

Asked by Steve_A (5125points) April 27th, 2010

I was told that the modes are just the major scale with the notes of that major scale with notes rearranged like C major(Ionian) start C end on C.

Then if I wanted to play Dorian of C major I would start on D and on D.And so on…..That is all fine and dandy if that is it, seems pretty simple.

But am I the only one who sees that you still play the SAME notes as the C major scale so why does it matter what mode if the notes are the same??

I was told the only real way to notice modes or “moods” as he put it was to play certain chords of the key in order really hear Dorian or Ionian etc…

So can anyone explain this more to me which is the right way to think of this?

I personally believe in the latter to fully hear and utilize modes you need to have instruments enhancing certain chords/notes to better hear the mode.

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9 Answers

sleepdoc's avatar

I am not sure if you are just learning this in the setting of theory or improvisation. Modes have to do with what your tonic (root) is. For the C major scale C is the root. And when you play the scale it is a major scale. So your chord structure is built on C as the root in the Ionian mode. If D is the root and you are in the minor (dorian) mode then your chord structure is built off the root D and the mode is minor. You can see that although the notes in the scale are the same your chords are different. C major = C,E,G and D minor = D, F A. Does that help?

Steve_A's avatar

@sleepdoc I see but can’t I still get D minor from a C major scale too?

or you mean that I start with a D minor chord to make it sound Dorian?

sleepdoc's avatar

The notes are the same for both scales meaning C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C. But if you take root , 3rd, 5th. You get different chords. When people write music the use the notes of the chords preferentially. So the 5th of the Dorian mode (A in this case) will be used frequently. Whereas the A in the Ionian mode would be the 6th and would clash lots with harmonics.

Steve_A's avatar

@sleepdoc I think I get it more , that makes sense thank you. :)

bobbinhood's avatar

@sleepdoc Did I misunderstand you, or did you just say that the notes are the same for the C major scale and the D minor scale?

sleepdoc's avatar

Sorry I meant the Dorian mode scale which in this case would start on D. Thanks for the correction.

28lorelei's avatar

For ANY major scale:
Ionian starts on scale degree 1,
Dorian starts on scale degree 2,
Phrygian starts on scale degree 3,
Lydian starts on scale degree 4,
Mixolydian starts on scale degree 5,
Aeolian starts on scale degree 6 (note: same pitches as natural relative minor scale),
Locrian starts on scale degree 7,
then it’s back to Ionian :)

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