Many guitarists, even some who have been playing for years, still get confused with the concept and use of musical MODES.
However, there is nothing really that complicated or mysterious about MODES.
MODES are created simply by playing ANY pattern of ANY major or minor scale starting the pattern from ANY of the 7 different notes it is made up from.
However, you should always remember that MODES are NOT scales, they are MODES of either their parent MAJOR or MINOR scale.
As was pointed out in the last chapter – there are no special patterns reserved for playing any MODE.
MODES are played by using ANY MAJOR or MINOR scale pattern, be it on one string, using the CAGED or 3nps patterns or any diagonal pattern anywhere on the entire fretboard by starting the pattern on the root note of the mode you want to play.
As we already know, each MODE has its own name: IONIAN (MAJOR scale), DORIAN, PHRYGIAN, LYDIAN, MIXOLYDIAN, AEOLIAN (natural or relative MINOR scale) and LOCRIAN.
Now that you are familiar with the colour system in the FRETPAL app you might prefer to think of the MODES as consecutively:
RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, INDIGO and VIOLET modes.
Now, not only can you think of each MODE as having its own distinctive MOOD and CHARACTER, it also has its own COLOUR.
MODES are a fascinating and powerful tool for musical expression.
They can help you unlock your creativity and discover new sounds and possibilities.
MODES can help you create different MOODS and EMOTIONS in your music.
They can also help you improvise and compose your own melodies and harmonies.
MODES are fun and easy to learn.
The FRETPAL app shows you how to play all the modes of the major/minor scale using CAGED, 3nps and diagonal patterns all over the entire guitar fretboard.
MODES will open up a whole new world of musical possibilities for you!
Remember that one of the easiest ways to learn, explore and practice playing MODES is to play along with backing tracks.
There are thousands of backing track videos on the internet in any MODE, in any key and in literally any genre you like.
For example, just search for “D DORIAN jam track” – and you will find dozens of options.
For simplicity and ease of reference, you might want to stick to the MODES of C major/A minor so that you can explore every MODE pattern quickly and easily in the FRETPAL app without having to transpose.
That is: C IONIAN, D DORIAN, E PHRYGIAN, F LYDIAN, G MIXOLYDIAN, A AEOLIAN and B LOCRIAN.
However, say, for example, you want to jam along with a Gb or F# PHRYGIAN mode backing track:
Simply use any CAGED, 3nps or diagonal E PHRYGIAN pattern in the FRETPAL app and move it 2 frets (2 semitones) UP the fretboard.
What about E MIXOLYDIAN?
Use any G MIXOLYDIAN pattern in the FRETPAL app and move it 3 frets down.
It’s that easy…
Let us now look at the MODES in more detail:
IONIAN (red) MODE
The IONIAN mode is the same as the MAJOR scale, which of course starts on the 1st degree of the MAJOR scale.
The IONIAN interval pattern is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.
The IONIAN mode is the 1st MODE of the MAJOR scale, and it sounds bright, happy and majestic.
It is also the most familiar mode, since it is the same as the MAJOR scale itself.
The IONIAN mode can be used over any major chord or chord progression that does not contain any non-diatonic chords or notes (chords or notes that are not in the same key).
For example, you can use the C IONIAN mode over a C major chord, or over a chord progression that starts and ends with the tonic chord, for example: C maj-F maj-G maj-F maj-C maj.
The IONIAN mode is great for creating uplifting melodies and harmonies that convey a sense of joy and optimism.
The IONIAN mode has a distinctive sound that comes from its intervals and its characteristic notes.
The intervals are: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7, which means that it has a MAJOR 3rd, a PERFECT 5th and a MAJOR 7th.
(Remember that the 3rd note is the most important note that defines the overall quality of a CHORD or MODE).
The characteristic notes are the 4th and the 7th, which are the notes that differentiate the IONIAN mode from the 2 other MAJOR quality modes that share the same tonic.
That is, the LYDIAN mode is also a MAJOR mode but has a sharpened (raised) 4th instead of a natural 4th, and the MIXOLYDIAN mode is also a MAJOR mode but has a flattened (lowered) 7th instead of a natural 7th.
Therefore, the natural 4 and 7 are the notes that give the IONIAN mode its unique FLAVOUR and IDENTITY as compared to the LYDIAN and MIXOLYDIAN modes.
To make the most of the IONIAN mode, you should emphasize these characteristic notes in your melodies and chords.
For example, you can use them as landing points, passing tones, or extensions.
The IONIAN mode is a wonderful tool for musical expression and creativity.
It can help you create beautiful and inspiring music that will touch your listeners’ hearts and souls.
Try it out for yourself and see what you can come up with!
Some famous songs that use the IONIAN mode are:
ERIC JOHNSON – CLIFFS OF DOVER (G IONIAN)
TOM PETTY – FREE FALLIN’ (F IONIAN)
OZZY OSBOURNE – CRAZY TRAIN (1st half of chorus) (A IONIAN)
AEROSMITH – CRAZY (A Ionian)
STEVE VAI – LIBERTY (E IONIAN)
THE BEATLES – LET IT BE (C IONIAN)
ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND – RAMBLIN’ MAN (Ab IONIAN)
DORIAN (orange) MODE
The DORIAN mode starts on the 2nd degree of the MAJOR scale.
It has a MINOR tonality but with a raised 6th degree (when compared to the AEOLIAN mode, or the natural or relative MINOR scale).
The DORIAN mode can sound dark and mysterious, but also cool and jazzy depending on how you use it.
The DORIAN interval pattern is 1-2-b3-4-5-6-b7.
The DORIAN mode is one of the most versatile and expressive modes in music.
It has a dark, mysterious, and adventurous sound that can be used in many genres and styles.
Here is how the DORIAN mode works, and how to use it:
The DORIAN mode has two distinctive features that give it its unique sound: a minor 3rd and a major 6th.
The MINOR 3rd makes it sound minor, but the MAJOR 6th adds a bright and colourful twist.
This combination creates a lot of harmonic possibilities and melodic interest.
You can use the DORIAN mode in many situations, but here are some common ones:
– Over MINOR chords that have a “natural” or MAJOR 6th added.
For example, Dm6, Dm13, Am6, Am13, etc.
– Over DOMINANT 7th chords that have a flat 9th or a sharp 9th added. For example, G7b9, G7#9, C7b9, C7#9, etc.
– Over MINOR 7th chords that have a natural 9th or a sharp 11th added. For example, Dm7(9), Dm7(#11), Am7(9), Am7(#11), etc.
– Over any chord progression that is in the key of the DORIAN mode.
For example, Dm7-G7-Cmaj7 is in C major, but also in D DORIAN.
The DORIAN mode is a great way to spice up your music and add some flavour and emotion.
It can sound sad, cool, funky, jazzy, or even exotic depending on how you use it.
Experiment with different chords and melodies and see what you can create with this amazing mode!
Some famous songs that use the DORIAN mode are:
SOUNDGARDEN – LOUD LOVE (E DORIAN)
SIMON & GARFUNKEL – SCARBOROUGH FAIR (E DORIAN)
CHRIS ISAAC – WICKED GAME (B DORIAN)
JIMI HENDRIX – PURPLE HAZE (E DORIAN)
SANTANA – EVIL WAYS (G DORIAN)
AC/DC – BACK IN BLACK (E DORIAN)
AC/DC – HELLS BELLS (A DORIAN)
STEVE VAI – BAD HORSIE (C DORIAN/C BLUES)
PINK FLOYD – ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL (D DORIAN)
AMERICA – HORSE WITH NO NAME (E DORIAN)
BLACK SABBATH – PLANET CARAVAN (E DORIAN)
BRYAN ADAMS – RUN TO YOU (F# DORIAN)
CREAM – CROSSROADS (A DORIAN)
NIRVANA – HEART SHAPED BOX (Ab DORIAN)
PHRYGIAN (yellow) MODE
The PHRYGIAN mode starts on the 3rd degree of the MAJOR scale.
It has a dark and exotic MINOR sound with a flattened (lowered) 2nd.
The PHRYGIAN interval pattern is 1-b2-b3-4-5-b6-b7.
What makes it really stand out is that flat 2nd, which creates a lot of tension and drama.
The PHRYGIAN mode is very common in flamenco music, middle eastern music, metal music, and even some jazz and classical music.
You can use it to create a dark and mysterious mood, or to add some spice and contrast to your melodies.
Some examples of songs that use the PHRYGIAN mode are:
METALLICA – WHEREVER I MAY ROAM (E PHRYGIAN)
METALLICA – CREEPING DEATH (E PHRYGIAN)
MEGADETH – SYMPHONY OF DESTRUCTION (main riff/verse) (E PHRYGIAN)
DEEP PURPLE – PERFECT STRANGERS (verse part 2 and bridge) (A PHRYGIAN)
DEEP PURPLE – SMOKE ON THE WATER (chorus) (G PHRYGIAN)
SCORPIONS – SAILS OF CHARON (B PHRYGIAN)
JEFFERSON AIRPLANE – WHITE RABBIT (F# PHRYGIAN – first half)
SLAYER – SEASONS IN THE ABYSS (Eb PHRYGIAN/Eb LOCRIAN)
ALICE IN CHAINS – WOULD (verse) (F PHRYGIAN)
THE PRODIGY – GIRLS (G# PHRYGIAN)
DREAM THEATER – AS I AM (C PHRYGIAN/C LOCRIAN)
LYDIAN (green) MODE
The LYDIAN mode starts on the 4th degree of the MAJOR scale.
The LYDIAN interval pattern is 1-2-3-#4-5-6-7.
The LYDIAN mode is one of the most beautiful and inspiring modes in music.
It has a bright and uplifting sound that can create a sense of wonder and joy.
The LYDIAN mode is built from the 4th degree of the major scale, which means it has a raised (sharpened) 4th compared to the major scale.
This gives it a distinctive and exotic flavour that can be used to spice up your melodies and harmonies.
The LYDIAN mode is often used in genres like jazz, fusion, progressive rock, and film music.
The LYDIAN mode can be played over any major chord, especially major 7th chords.
The LYDIAN mode is a great way to expand your musical vocabulary and express your creativity.
Some examples of songs that use the LYDIAN mode are:
JOE SATRIANI – FLYING IN A BLUE DREAM (C LYDIAN)
FLEETWOOD MAC – DREAMS (F LYDIAN)
PEARL JAM – OCEANS (C LYDIAN)
JON GOMM – PASSION FLOWER (Eb LYDIAN)
DIMMU BORGIR – ARCANE LIFEFORCE MYSTERIA (first 2 minutes) (E LYDIAN)
MIXOLYDIAN (BLUE) MODE
The MIXOLYDIAN mode starts on the 5th degree of the MAJOR scale.
It has a dominant MAJOR sound with a flattened (lowered) 7th.
The MIXOLYDIAN interval pattern is 1-2-3-4-5-6-b7.
The MIXOLYDIAN mode has a distinctive sound that is often used in jazz, blues, rock and folk music.
The flattened 7th gives the MIXOLYDIAN mode a slightly melancholic feel, but also a creates a bit of tension and excitement.
The flattened 7th is also called the dominant seventh, because it creates a dominant chord when played with the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the mode.
A DOMINANT chord is a chord that wants to resolve to the tonic chord (the first chord of the major scale).
For example, in C major, the dominant chord is G7 (G-B-D-F) and it wants to resolve to the C major chord (C-E-G).
The MIXOLYDIAN mode is often used to create dominant melodies over dominant chords.
A dominant melody is a melody that emphasizes the dominant 7th note and creates a sense of movement and direction.
For example, in jazz and blues music, you can use the G MIXOLYDIAN mode to improvise over a G7 chord or a G7 ‘DOMINANT” blues progression (G7-C7-D7).
The MIXOLYDIAN mode is a versatile and expressive mode that can add colour and interest to your music.
It can sound happy or sad, calm or energetic, depending on how you use it.
Some examples of songs that use the MIXOLYDIAN mode are:
LYNYRD SKYNYRD – SWEET HOME ALABAMA (D MIXOLYDIAN)
GUNS N’ ROSES – SWEET CHILD O’ MINE (verse) (Db MIXOLYDIAN)
STEVE MORSE – HIGHLAND WEDDING (D IONIAN, A MIXOLYDIAN)
JOHN PETRUCCI – GLASGOW KISS (E MIXOLYDIAN)
JOE SATRIANI – SUMMER SONG (A MIXOLYDIAN)
THE ROLLING STONES – SATISFACTION (E MIXOLYDIAN)
AC/DC – THUNDERSTRUCK (E MIXOLYDIAN)
MASSIVE ATTACK – TEARDROP (A MIXOLYDIAN; A DORIAN on the darker phrases)
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL – FORTUNATE SON (G MIXOLYDIAN)
NEIL YOUNG- CINNAMON GIRL (D MIXOLYDIAN)
STEVE EARL – COPPERHEAD ROAD (D MIXOLYDIAN)
IRON MAIDEN – THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST (D MIXOLYDIAN)
FREE – ALL RIGHT NOW (A MIXOLYDIAN)
AC/DC – THUNDERSTRUCK (B MIXOLYDIAN – Intro lead)
AEOLIAN (indigo) MODE
The AEOLIAN mode is the same as the “natural” or “relative” MINOR scale, starting on the 6th degree of the MAJOR scale.
It has a sad and melancholic MINOR sound.
The AEOLIAN interval pattern is 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7.
The AEOLIAN mode can be used in many musical genres and contexts, such as rock, metal, jazz, blues, pop, classical, and more.
It can create a contrast with the major scale or other modes, or it can be the main tonality of a song or a section.
The characteristic notes are the 2nd and 6th, which are the notes that differentiate the AEOLIAN mode from the 2 other MINOR quality modes that share the same tonic.
For example, the PHRYGIAN mode has a flattened 2nd instead of a natural 2nd, and the DORIAN mode has a “natural” or major 6th instead of a flattened 6th.
Therefore, the natural 2nd and the flattened 6th are the notes that give the AEOLIAN mode its unique FLAVOUR and IDENTITY.
Some of the most famous songs that use the AEOLIAN mode are “Stairway to heaven” by Led Zeppelin, “Nothing else matters” by Metallica, “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.
These songs show how the AEOLIAN mode can create different moods and emotions depending on the chords, melodies, rhythms, and lyrics.
The AEOLIAN mode like all the other modes is a great mode to learn and explore if you want to expand your musical vocabulary and creativity.
All the MODES can help you write more interesting and expressive songs and freely improvise over different chord progressions.
Some examples of songs that use the AEOLIAN mode are:
JIMI HENDRIX – ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER (C AEOLIAN)
R.E.M. – LOSING MY RELIGION (A AEOLIAN)
GUNS N’ ROSES – NIGHTRAIN (Ab AEOLIAN)
GUNS N’ ROSES – SWEET CHILD O’ MINE (2nd half to end solo) (Eb AEOLIAN)
IRON MAIDEN – THE TROOPER (E AEOLIAN)
DIO – HOLY DIVER (C AEOLIAN)
GARY MOORE – OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY (E AEOLIAN, then F# AEOLAIN)
LED ZEPPELIN – STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN (end section and solo) (A AEOLIAN)
JUDAS PRIEST – BREAKING THE LAW (A AEOLIAN)
BLACK SABBATH – CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE (C# AEOLIAN)
OZZY OSBOURNE – CRAZY TRAIN (intro and verse) (F# AEOLIAN)
THE ROLLING STONES – GIMME SHELTER (C# AEOLIAN)
THIN LIZZY – EMERALD (Ab AEOLIAN)
NIRVANA – SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT (F AEOLIAN)
KISS – I WAS MADE FOR LOVIN’ YOU (E AEOLIAN)
LOCRIAN ( violet) MODE
The LOCRIAN mode starts on the 7th degree of the MAJOR scale.
Owing to the consecutive minor 3rd intervals between the tonic and the 3rd, and the 3rd and the 5th, the LOCRIAN mode has a tense and unstable sound which is neither fully MAJOR or MINOR in quality.
The LOCRIAN interval pattern is 1-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7.
If you are looking for a way to spice up your music with some exotic and mysterious sounds, look no further than the LOCRIAN mode.
The LOCRIAN mode is built on the 7th degree of the major scale, and it has a flat 2nd, a flat 3rd, a flat 5th, a flat 6th, and a flat 7th.
That means it has five intervals that are different from the major scale, more than any other mode…
The LOCRIAN mode sounds good over diminished chords, (1-b3-b5) and m7b5 chords (1-b3-b5-b7).
You can also use it over MINOR chords with a flat 2nd or a flat 5th, such as Cm(b2) or Cm(b5).
The LOCRIAN mode creates a lot of tension and instability, so it is perfect for creating suspense, drama or even horror in your music.
You can also use it to add some contrast and variety to your melodies and harmonies, as long as you resolve the tension to a more stable MODE or CHORD.
The LOCRIAN mode is not very commonly used in popular music, but you can find some examples of it in genres like jazz, metal, and classical music.
Some examples of songs that use the LOCRIAN mode are:
RUSH – YYZ (intro) (C LOCRIAN)
SLIPKNOT – LEFT BEHIND (main riff notes) (B LOCRIAN)
METALLICA – SAD BUT TRUE (Intro) (G LOCRIAN)
METALLICA – ENTER SANDMAN (main riff is E Blues/E LOCRIAN)
JUDAS PRIEST – PAINKILLER (main riff notes) (E LOCRIAN)
SAXON – ATTILA THE HUN (main riff notes) (Bb LOCRIAN)
WHEN TO USE MODES
Since MODES have a different pattern of intervals to the MAJOR or MINOR scales they are derived from, they can be used to create different moods, colours and atmospheres in music.
Here are some reasons and examples of when to use musical modes:
Modes help you to understand music theory better.
Learning the modes can help you analyze and appreciate how music works, especially in genres like jazz, classical, rock and metal.
For example, knowing that the IONIAN mode is the same as the MAJOR scale can help you identify the key and chords of a song.
Modes help you to write fresh and original songs.
Using the modes can give you more options and possibilities for composing melodies, harmonies and chord progressions.
For example, using the LYDIAN mode can give your song a bright and dreamy sound, while using the PHRYGIAN mode can give it a dark and exotic feel.
Modes help you to improvise over different chord progressions.
Knowing the modes can help you play along with any song or jam session, as you can match the mode to any individual chord or chord progression that is being played.
Modes help you to add variety and contrast to your music.
Using the modes can help you create different sections or parts in your songs that have different emotions and expressions.
For example, you can use the MIXOLYDIAN mode for a cheerful and upbeat chorus, but use the AEOLIAN mode for a sad and melancholic verse.
Modes are not only useful for playing over chords and harmony, but also for composing melodies and improvising solos.
By knowing how each mode sounds and feels, you can choose the best one for your musical expression.
You can also mix and match different modes to create your own unique sound.
Modes are an essential tool for any musician who wants to expand their musical vocabulary and creativity.
They can help you understand how music works and how to make it more interesting and expressive.
However, modes are not RULES or formulas that you have to follow strictly.
They are guidelines that you can use flexibly and experimentally.
The most important thing is to use your ears and your musical intuition.
However, you should remember that modes are NOT scales, they are simply different ways of playing any MAJOR or MINOR scale by changing the TONAL centre.
The FRETPAL app shows you how to play all the MODES of the MAJOR/MINOR scale.
However, it is beyond the scope of the FRETPAL manual to extensively teach you where, when and how to use them.
In the most part, that is up to yourself, your own creative talents and the type of music that you want to create.