7 Types Of Diatonic Modes

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7 Types Of Diatonic Modes

Diatonic Modes are modes, in music, is a step wise composition of the seven “natural” pitches (scale degrees) producing an octave without modifying the established pattern of a key or mode—in particular, the major and minor scales.

We’ve already seen in the basics of diatonic modes that the major scale is a mode of the minor scale and that the minor scale is a mode of the major scale: Lonian mode, Dorian Mode, Phrygian Mode, Lydian Mode, Mixolydian Mode, Aeolian Mode, Locrian Mode.

In general, the major scale is taken to be primary when talking about the diatonic modes, and when we talk about “the modes,” we are almost always talking about these scales — diatonic scales: the major scale and its modes, which include the natural minor scale.

There are 7 notes in the diatonic scale and so there are 7 diatonic modes. Unlike the pentatonic scale modes, diatonic modes each have their own Greek name, and those names are usually how we refer to the modes when we are thinking modally.

Again, we will have audio examples for each mode in the same format:

  1. A scale/mode played up and down.
  2. Chords from that scale played in order  (in triad form).
  3. An improvisation excerpt, this time over the C drone note.

The key we’ll be using is C Major and all of the improvisation excerpts will be played over C drone note.

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Ionian Mode

The first mode is the normal Major scale. This is called the Ionian mode. In C, its notes are: C, D, E, F, G, A, B.

It consists of a:

Root, Major 2nd, Major 3rd, Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th, Major 6th, Major 7th

This mode has a happy, melodic, consonant sound. We have already examined this scale/mode in the previous sections. In the improvisation excerpt we will play this mode over C drone note so we will use C Ionian mode, you could just say regular C major scale.

Ionian mode audio example in C : here

Dorian Mode

The 2nd mode of the Major scale is the Dorian mode. It starts on the 2nd note of the Major scale. The Dorian mode is a minor mode (though it is not “the minor scale”) since its 3rd is minor and not major (this is how scales are divided between major and minor in general).

In D, its notes are: D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

It has a:

Root, Major 2nd, minor 3rd, Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th, Major 6th, minor 7th

How did we get this intervals? Easy, just for this mode let’s do a quick recap.

D Dorian is relative to C Major scale because, as we can see, they share the same notes but have different tonal centers. Since we know the notes in C Major, we know them in D Dorian as well, and it’s easy to figure out the intervals from there:

D is the Root E is the Major 2nd up from D F is the minor 3rd up from D G is the Perfect 4th up from D A is the Perfect 5th up from D B is the Major 6th up from D C is the minor 7th up from D

Another way to get to this interval structure without the tonal center, is to take the major scale formula:

TTSTTTS
— and re-orient it like we did with the notes. Since this mode starts on the 2nd

note of the Major scale, we start on 2nd ‘T’ (bolded). So the scale formula for Dorian mode is:

TSTTTST
Now we just start from the Root (which could be any note) and continue from there:

R – T – M2 – S – m3 – T – P4 – T – P5 – T – M6 – S – m7 – T – R (O)

The Dorian mode is darker than the Ionian mode because of the minor 3rd, but it sounds a little brighter than the minor scale because of the Major 6th. It is a common scale in jazz and especially blues. Make sure to consult the Scale Comparison Charts afterwards to look for these differences.

Now, like with the pentatonic modes, we will play this mode in parallel since our drone note is C. That means that we will play C Dorian mode over C in the improvisation excerpt.

First we need to figure out the notes in C Dorian, which is super easy because we can just apply its Dorian scale formula or its interval structure, both of which we’re familiar with:

C – T – D – S – Eb – T – F – T – G – T – A – S – Bb – T – C (O)

Can you explain why we used b’s to write out these notes and not #’s?

Dorian mode audio example in C : here

Again, listen to the effect of each note over the drone note. Notice which notes are stable and safe sounding and which ones are more dissonant providing tension, and how that tension is released to a stable note.

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Phrygian Mode

The third mode is the Phrygian mode. It starts on the 3rd note of the Major scale. It is a minor mode (because of the minor 3rd), though again it is not the natural minor scale. In E, its notes are: E, F, G, A, B, C, D.

It has a:

Root, Major 2nd, Major 3rd, Augmented 4th (Tritone), Perfect 5th, Major 6th, Major 7th

The Phrygian mode is dark sounding and due to its minor 2nd, is very exotic sounding. The minor 2nd note is just a half-step above the Root, so this note adds a lot of dissonance because it naturally wants to resolve to the nearest tonic (the Root). This mode is used in some jazz, metal, as well as Latin and Indian- influenced music.

In the audio example we use C Phrygian over the C drone note. The notes in C Phrygian are:

C (R) – Db (m2) – Eb (m3) – F (P4) – G (P5) – Ab (m6) – Bb (m7)

Phrygian mode audio example in C : here

Root, minor 2nd, minor 3rd, Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th, minor 6th, minor 7th.

Lydian Mode

The fourth mode is the Lydian mode. It starts on the 4th note of the Major scale. This is a major scale because it’s 3rd is major, and its notes in F are: F, G, A, B, C, D, E.

It has a:

Root, Major 2nd, Major 3rd, Augmented 4th (Tritone), Perfect 5th, Major 6th, Major 7th

The Lydian mode is a very pleasant sounding mode — similar to the major scale (it differs from it only by one note: the Tritone), only slightly more exotic. There is a subtle dissonance in this mode, though it is a major mode, and so it tends to sound rather complex, even sophisticated. It is widely used in jazz in place of a major scale and over certain jazz chords.

Since we’ll be using C Lydian mode to play over the C drone note, we’ll need the notes of the C Lydian scale:

C (R) – D (M2) – E (M3) – F# (Aug4) – G (P5) – A (M6) – B (M7)

Lydian mode audio example in C : here

 

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Mixolydian Mode

The fifth mode is the Mixolydian mode. It starts on the 5th note of the Major scale. It is a major mode and its notes in G are: G, A, B, C, D, E, F.

It consists of a:

Root, Major 2nd, Major 3rd, Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th, Major 6th, minor 7th

The Mixolydian mode is a great blues scale and has a round, stable sound. Like with the Lydian mode, the only difference to the Major scale is one note — the minor 7th.

In the audio example we will use C Mixolydian to play over C note. Its notes are:

C (R) – D (M2) – E (M3) – F (P4) – G (P5) – A (M6) – Bb (m7)

Mixolydian mode audio example in C : here

 

Aeolian Mode

The sixth mode is the Aeolian mode. This is the Natural minor scale. In A, its notes are: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

It has a : Root, Major 2nd, minor 3rd, Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th, minor 6th, minor 7th

The Aeolian mode is quite dark, even sad sounding, though it is not altogether dissonant, and it is widely used in virtually all types of music. We have examined this scale in the minor scale section.

In the improvisation excerpt we will use C Aeolian mode, or C Natural minor scale. Its notes are:

C (R) – D (M2) – Eb (m3) – F (P4) – G (P5) – Ab (m6) – Bb (m7)

Aeolian mode audio example in C : here

 

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Locrian mode

The seventh and the final mode is the Locrian mode. It starts on the 7th note of the Major scale. In the case of C Major, it starts on B; so in B, its notes are: B, C, D, E, F, G, A.

It contains a:

Root, minor 2nd, minor 3rd, Perfect 4th, diminished 5th (Tritone), minor 6th, minor 7th

This mode is strange, and rarely used. It is a minor scale, but both its 2nd and 5th notes are flat. It is the only diatonic mode without a Perfect 5th, the Locrian mode thus is highly unstable. Historically, this scale was avoided altogether. Its sound is heavy, dissonant and unstable.

We’ll be using C Locrian in the improvisation excerpt over the C drone note. The notes in C Locrian are:

C (R) – Db (m2) – Eb (m3) – F (P4) – Gb (dim5) – Ab (m6) – Bb (m7)

Locrian mode audio example in C : here

 

 

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