Quick question about modes

Hi I have just started learning about modes and just wanted to check something… Does the major mode ionian always start on C like if we started a G major scale mode would mode 1 ionian always start on c then dorian start on d no matter what the major scale was.

I just wanted to check i was getting this right before i carried on hope i explained myself well enough thanks.


Hi Locket,

No. The Ionian is the 1st mode, and corresponds to the major scale. So if you have a G major scale, the ionian mode is the scale itself. I.e., modes are relative to the scale you’re playing.

Take a look at www.fretful.io for some mode explorations


Sorry yes ionian is the scale itself but does the first mode always start on c even if it is the g scale we are working through.

I think it does I just wanted to make sure.


No. The first mode (Ionian for a major scale) starts on the tonic, in this case G.

The first mode of the G major scale, G Ionian, is the notes G, A, B, C, D, E, and F# - i.e. G Major.


Modes are one of the areas in music theory that some just can not grasp and get confused by so if you are new learning music theory I would say to put it on your to-do list for later.
Whatever you do, do not let it frustrate you to the point that that your practicing suffers.

To answer your question however, if I understood it properly -
The Ionian scale in any particular key is always named after the root/tonic of the scale, in other words, the terms C Major and C Ionian are just different names for the same thing, and both start on the root/tonic notes.
So both the C Major and C Ionian scales start on C and the G Major and G Ionian scales start on G.


Hey @howard

This is an extract from a talkingbass lesson this is how mark explained it

  • Mode 1G Major : C D E F# G A B
  • Mode 2A Dorian : D E F# G A B C
  • Mode 3B Phrygian : E F# G A B C D
  • Mode 4C Lydian : F# G A B C D E
  • Mode 5D Mixolydian : G A B C D E F#
  • Mode 6E Aeolian : A B C D E F# G
  • Mode 7F# Locrian : B C D E F# G A

I haven’t seen this lesson but Mark is probably explaining these in terms of something like a keyboard? Not sure why but what is listed as “mode 1” there is actually Mode 4 of the G Major scale, Lydian. Specifically the intervals described there are Lydian.


@Celticstar it not frustrating its just like a puzzle im trying to solve… If i really dont get ill just shelve it till later and hope with more info it might fit into place… Thanks for your answer.


So, if A is your major, then B is Dorian, C is Phrygian, etc…
If B is your Major, then C is your Dorian, and D is your Phrygian etc…
If C is your major, then D is your dorian, and E is your Phrygian etc…

The thing about C is it is the center Key of a piano, so all the modes are based off of C, plus C major is all natural, no sharps or flats, and when each mode is referenced from C, they are all Natural, meaning no sharps or flats.

But for any Major Key, the Modes are in that order, starting with the root of the scale. Once the Key is anything but C Major, there will be sharps and flats in the modes.

C Minor has a different order. based on your list above, Mode 6 becomes mode 1 and mode 7 becomes mode 2, and mode 1 becomes mode 3, and down the line.

Yes there is ALOT of information, and you don’t need to know it all now, but if you can grasp it, it will help you for sure.


@howard well im glad i asked the cause i would have totally misunderstood that thanks

Thanks @T_dub


I am assuming Mark is explaining this in terms of something else because I don’t understand the order those are listed like that or why, if we are discussing G Major. But what is listed as “Mode 5” there is G Ionian (by its intervals). Are you sure he is describing the modes of G Major here? There are modes of other scales as well.


Heres some more of the lesson.

A mode is simply a scale derived from another master scale like a major scale .

If we look at the notes of the C Major scale we have the following:


If we take that same set of notes but start from the second scale degree (D) we get the following set of notes:


This is the second mode of the C Major Scale and is called D Dorian. Each mode goes by a traditional Greek name.

We can continue to create scales from each degree of the C Major Scale giving us the following set:

  • Mode 1C Major : C D E F G A B
  • Mode 2D Dorian : D E F G A B C
  • Mode 3E Phrygian : E F G A B C D
  • Mode 4F Lydian : F G A B C D E
  • Mode 5G Mixolydian : G A B C D E F
  • Mode 6A Aeolian : A B C D E F G
  • Mode 7B Locrian : B C D E F G A

The Major scale also goes by the modal name Ionian and the Aeolian scale is also the same as the Natural Minor Scale .

We can apply this modal system to any key. The modes of the G Major scale would all contain the notes G A B C D E F# as follows:

  • Mode 1G Major : C D E F# G A B
  • Mode 2A Dorian : D E F# G A B C
  • Mode 3B Phrygian : E F# G A B C D
  • Mode 4C Lydian : F# G A B C D E
  • Mode 5D Mixolydian : G A B C D E F#
  • Mode 6E Aeolian : A B C D E F# G
  • Mode 7F# Locrian : B C D E F# G A

Yes, he is.

The order of notes always stays the same.
Mode 1 is the root of any key, and the notes fall in that order, per scale mode, in that order.

If C was the root, all mode roots would be natural.
If the root was B, then the C, D F G and A would be sharp.


Yes, I understand, but:

C D E F# G A B

is not mode 1 of G Major. It is Mode 4 of G Major. Right?


He is explaining HOW the modes were created, and they are created off of C major.

Each note can have a different mode based on its scale degree.
Scale degree is not an interval, it is the NUMBER that note falls in the scale
The degree that note is in the scale will be the mode that is played.

When E is the root, it gets Mode 1, F gets mode 2, G gets mode 3, etc…
E is the first degree
F is the 2nd degree
G is the 3rd degree

C is mode 4 of G major - so C is Lydian

@howard ye it confused me im not sure why hes written it like that… I put the whole lesson in because I thought i might be missing something in my explanation

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Careful, Toby… there is no C in A major, so it is C# phrygian :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


Thanks Joreg, I was rushing, but when I started counting sharps and flats, I decided to leave the notes without sharps and flats, as to not further confuse the situation.

But yes, C is not actually in A major, because that mode has C#


This seems all wrong…

As others have elaborated on, the G major scale must start on a G. If you take the notes of the G major scale and start on the C, then this is called C lydian (with the characteristic #4). And so on…

Either we don’t know the entire context of what Mark was trying to say, or it is simply a mistake.


Yeah I am pretty sure it is a mistake or Mark is explaining something in a way we’re not getting here. It’s starting on Mode 4 (Lydian) but it is labeled as Mode 1.