More Advanced Music Modes and How to Use Them

Here we will discuss some more advanced music modes. In the intermediate article we discussed how to find different modes by using major scales and starting on different scale degrees. This is great if you just need one, but what if you want a D Dorian, followed by G Dorian? Or an Eb Phrygian followed by an Eb Aeolian? Rather than work these out by hand EVERY time, wouldn't it be great if we could just have an easy formula to plug these into? Well, we can. This is where we convert all of the modes we learned, to numbered scale degrees.

We'll start with the key of C since it is the easiest way of working out sharps and flats. Let's compare a C Ionian mode to a C Dorian. We already know the Ionian since it is just the major scale. We need to find the C Dorian mode. Dorian means we'll be using the second scale degree. So what major scale has C for its second? Bb.

Bb major: Bb C D Eb F G A Bb

So now we start on C:

C Dorian: C D Eb F G A Bb C

Now let's compare this to the Ionian.

C Ionian: C D E F G A B C

C Dorian: C D Eb F G A Bb C

So if we convert these to numbers:

Ionian: R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R

Dorian: b3 b7 R

So this is the formula for a Dorian mode. This formula can be used to find the Dorian modes of ALL keys.

X Dorian: R 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 R

E Dorian: E F# G A B C# D E

And it works the same when you compare the rest of the modes to the Ionian.

C Ionian: C D E F G A B C

C Phrygian: C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C

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So here is a list of the formulas for all the modes:


Ionian: R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R

Dorian: R 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 R

Phrygian: R b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 R

Lydian: R 2 3 #4 5 6 7 R

Mixolydian: R 2 3 4 5 6 b7 R

Aeolian: R 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 R

Locrian: R b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 R


Again, these formulas can be applied to any key:


Ionian: G A B C D E F# G

Dorian: G A Bb C D E F G

Phrygian: G Ab Bb C D Eb F G

Lydian: G A B C# D E F G

Mixolydian: G A B C D E F G

Aeolian: G A Bb C D Eb F G

Locrian: G Ab Bb C Db Eb F G

How to Practice Modes

A good way to practice these on your instrument is to pick a key, and run through all of the modes for that note. Instead of like the last lesson where we ran through them progressively:

G Ionian
A Dorian
B Phrygian
C Lydian
D Mixolydian
E Aeolian
F# Locrian

this time we are going to run through them linearly:

G Ionian
G Dorian
G Phrygian
G Lydian
G Mixolydian
G Aeolian
G Locrian

These more advanced music modes are harder to get the hang of, but they are much more beneficial. Doing this will give you a MUCH better sense of what each mode is, and what they sound like. Rather than playing the same scale in different position, you're playing a different mode everytime.

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