Modes of the Major Scale
In this article I will take you through how modes are formed from the major scale and what these modes are. The various modes of the major scale are commonly used when improvising guitar solos in many contemporary styles such as jazz, fusion and a lot of rock music.
Lets use the C Major scale as our example and look at how to form the modes based on this scale.
The notes of the C Major Scale are as follows:
C D E F G A B C
In this scale, the note C is our root note. That is it is the first note in the scale and it is also the note that will often sound most like it is at home when using the scale. For example, when forming phrases from the major scale, if a phrase ends on the root note it often sounds like the phrase has come to some sort of conclusion in its sound.
You can form seven modes from the major scale by using the same set of notes as the major scale, but starting each of the modes on a different note of the scale, and considering this different note to be the root of the scale.
The first mode is called the Ionian mode and is actually the same as the major scale itself as it is formed by starting the major scale from the existing root.
We can then form the Dorian mode by starting the notes of the major scale from the second degree of the scale.
In C major, we could form the Dorian mode by using the notes of C major, but starting the Scale on D and treating D as the root of the scale.
We can then form a separate mode from each degree of the scale.
You can see how each of the 7 modes that are related to the C Major scale are formed as follows:
You can read more about some of these specific modes as well as see patterns to play them on the guitar at our articles that are devoted to specific scales.
Probably the most used of these modes are:
The Ionian Mode (also known simple as the Major Scale) – See our Major Scale article.
The Aeolian Mode (also known as the natural minor scale). – The chords formed from this scale are the basis of many rock chord progressions and the scale is often used to form rock guitar solos. You can read about this scale in our article on the Natural Minor Scale.
The Dorian mode is the most commonly used scale in jazz and fusion to play over a minor chord. The scale is also the blusiest sounding scale of the modes mentioned here. You can read more about this scale in our article on the Dorian Mode (Coming Soon).
The Mixolydian scale is the most commonly used scale to solo over a dominant chord in jazz based styles. Read more about this mode in our article on the Mixolydian Mode (Coming Soon).