Scale Modes

Scale Octaves built off of each degree of a scale.

                                            G Mixolydian Mode

The G Mixolydian Mode is the 5th degree of C Ionian (Major) Scale. The Mixolydian Mode has a Major 3rd Interval making it a major sounding mode. The only difference in sound between the Ionian (Major) and the Mixolydian Mode. The last note in the Major Scale the 7th (Major 7th interval) is moved down a half step to a b7 (Minor 7th Interval).

If you are doing ear training the Mixolydian Mode can easily be mistaken for the Ionian Major. Proper training helps to hear the subtle difference moving that last note down a half step. The first six notes played are same interval notes between the two scales.

Another big confusion with modes in the beginning. C Ionian (Major) and G Mixolydian are of the same key. Parallel modes are two different scales with the same tonal center, G Ionian (Major) and G Mixolydian are now two different keys. Key Signature G Major 1 sharp and D Major 2 sharps with the 1 raised 1/2 step note.

The scale diagrams below display 2 Octave fingering played starting at the 3rd Fret. They show the Interval, Note, and Finger Placement of G Mixolydian Mode. This is a quick and easy option to view with Guitar Analyzer Software. Physical practice playing these fingerings straight up ascending and down descending. Helps beginners develop their auditory intelligence along with physical dexterity muscle memory.

The next level of practice is sequences which is a repeating pattern of notes. Here is a triplets style pattern (121, 232, 343, and so on) with each group of 2 notes going up the scale. The next ascending triplet sequence is up 3 notes (123, 234, 345 and so on). Repeat the process going in a backward sequence descending from the highest note.

G Mixoydian Mode Steps

                                                   G Mixolydian Mode Intervals GMixolModeNts150x165 G Mixolydian Mode Finger Placement

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The guitar scales fret-board diagrams below show the C Ionian (Major) Mode on the guitar. The C Ionian Mode is the 1st degree to the 1st degree by octave of the C Major Scale. The Scale formula for the C Ionian (Major) Mode is (1,2,3,4,5,6,7). The key of C Major has no sharp or flat accidentals in the notes of the scale and the 1/2 steps are between E – F and B – C.

The Major 3rd interval which the 3rd note of the C Ionian (Major) Scale gives the scale it’s tonal personality of a happy up beat sound. You will probably hear the Ionian Major Scale in background music in a movies to set a happy mood in a particular movie scene. Below I am giving three guitar scales fret-board fingering diagrams of the C Ionian (Majo)r Scale on the 8th fret in three views (Interval, Notes, Finger Placement).

Try playing the notes on the guitar outlined by the guitar scales fret-board squares showing the octave to octave squares. As you are playing the note listen carefully to the sound of the C Ionian Major Scale. Related Post > Understand Major Scale Modes

C Major Scale Steps

                                            C Major Ionian - Intervals C Ionian Major - Notes C Ionian Major - Fingers

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Understanding Major Scales Modes seems to be the most confusing area of learning scales on guitar for a lot of people. Now there’s guitar scales explained in an easy to understand way. The biggest problem is how to simplify it at a level where people can grasp the order and concept. I suggest that you read my post (Interval Theory) to help prepare you for this understanding major scale modes article.

I picked the key of C Major Scale to make it clearer to understand, because there are no (b- Flats, #-Sharps) accidentals. Every scale has modes if it’s a five note scale there’s five modes, six notes – six modes. The major scales has seven notes and seven modes, The first note to the first note is Ionian Major Scale, (2nd to 2nd – Dorian Scale), (3rd to 3rd – Phrygian Scale), (4th to 4th Lydian Scale), (5th to 5th -Mixolydian Scale), (6th to 6th – Aeolian Scale or Natural Minor Scale), (7th to 7th – Locrian Scale).

At this point you must be telling yourself these names are little Greek to me and it’s because they are. How are we suppose to learn and remember these weird names? Here is a mnemonic to help remember (If Dora Plays Like Me Alls Lost).

Each mode has a Interval Formula (Table-1)

Practice guitar scales by play one octave at a time (square to square) to hear the subtle sound of each mode. Singing each note out loud while playing can help you remember how each mode sounds. There is a great piece of software for ear training that I highly recommend called EarMaster5. It helps to better refine your ability to listen and recall the interval differences of each mode.

Let’s next look further into the scale formulas to help differentiate the relationships of scale modes. Every mode has the interval (3 – Major 3rd) or (b3 – Minor 3rd). The Ionian, Lydian, Mixolydian are Major Modes because of the (Major 3rd) interval. They are from the (1st, 4th & 5th notes) of the major scale. The blues progression roman numerals ( I, IV, V) come from the degrees of these major modes.

Major is suppose to be a happy emotional up sound. The minor modes (b3) are Dorian Scale, Phrygian Scale, Aeolian Scale or (Natural Minor). They are from the (2nd, 3rd & 6th notes – ii, iii, vi) of the major scale. The Aeolian Mode (vi degree) is the natural minor scale. The minor is suppose to give a dark sad emotional sound. The Locrian (7th note – vii) is the diminished mode because of the (b3 – Minor 3rd ) and (b5 – Diminished 5th). The Locrian Mode is suppose to give an evil edgy dissonant sound.

When you are ear training there are distinct interval sounds that help you narrow down which mode, like Phrygian and Locrian both have a (b2 – Minor 2nd) and to further distinct those apart is the (b5 – Diminished 5th) and (5 – Perfect 5th). Ionian and Mixolydian can sound the same and you have to hear the subtle difference between the (b7Minor 7th) and the (7 – Major 7th). The Lydian has a (3 -Major 3rd) and (#4 – Augmented 4th) which is the same as a (b5 – Diminished 5th confusing) this differentiates it from the Ionians (4 – Perfect 4th).

As your ear training gets better you’ll start to develop the ability to hear and pick out the modes from melodies and even chord progression in songs. As a final note and to rap things up some people have natural abilities to hear better than others. We all can achieve whatever we want with dedicated training, hard work and practice. Don’t compare yourself to others if they can and you can’t. This comes down to belief systems. If you think you can or can’t your right and there is no one else to change your mind but you.


C Major Mode Chart


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The guitar fret-board scales diagram below display the E Phrygian Scale Mode. The Phrygian Scale Mode is the 3rd degree of Major Scale (Ionian Mode). The scale formula for the Phrygian mode is(1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7). The Phrygian Scale Mode is a minor mode because of the (1 b3, 5) triad intervals that are notes of the the E minor chord within the scale.

The interval that uniquely differentiates the phrygian scale mode from the other modes is the minor 2nd interval (b2). The minor 2nd interval is only 1/2 step higher from Phrygian root note. The only other scale mode in the major scale with a minor 2nd interval is the 7th degree Locrian scale mode. It has a diminished 5th interval (b5) while the Phrygian scale mode has a perfect 5th interval (5).

This scale has a dark sound and if you heard the phrygian scale mode in background music in a movie it might be a scene leading up to some kind of dramatic action. The guitar fret-board scales diagrams show the intervals, notes and finger placement for a 2 octave range on the E note on the 12th Fret. Try playing the scale on your guitar and listen carefully to the notes and try to hear the distinct intervals.

Related Posts > Understanding Major Scale Modes

                                          E Phrygian Scale Mode - Intervals E Phrygian Scale Mode - Notes E Phrygian Scale Mode - Fingers

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The guitar scales fret-board diagrams shown below display the D Dorian Scale Mode. The Dorian Scale Mode is the 2nd degree of the Major Scale (Ionian Mode). In playing scales on guitar the big confusion of understanding major scale modes is that people think your playing in another scale. It is the same scale of the major scale but your start note is the second note of the major scale and ends in the second note of the next octave. The D Dorian for example is still the C Major Scale. The root note is outlined by the note in the square of the guitar scales fretboard diagrams.

The scale formula of the Dorian Scale is (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7). The minor 3rd (b3) of the scale makes it a minor sounding scale. The only difference between Dorian Scale and The Natural Minor Scale (Aeolian Mode) is the raised Major 6 (6th) from a Minor 6 (b6).

The Dorian Scale has unique tonal personality which reminds me of the background music in a western movie like a cowboy riding off in the sunset. The guitar fret-board fingering diagrams below show the intervals, notes, and finger placement for 2 octave fingerings. Practice these fingering and carefully listen to the sound while you play the notes and really hear what the Dorian Scale sounds like. Related Post > Understand Major Scale Modes


D Dorian Formula


                                        D Dorian Scale - Intervals D Dorian Scale - Notes D Dorian Scale - Fingers

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