Talking About Modes

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around modes and I get confused when I start to describe them to myself. I’m curious about the right way to describe notes.

For example, Let’s talk about E dorian.

Starting on E. The next note is F#.
What do I call that? The second or the third? It’s the second of E dorian but actually derived from the D Major scale where it’s the third. I want to learn the right way to think about these notes and relationships when learning about modes? Anybody want to drop some knowledge?


Yes, it the second mode of the D major scale, the F# is a major 2nd because it is relative to the E and is a whole step, the G is a half step and thus a minor third.


The E major scale is E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#

If you’re using Dorian mode (Flattened 3rd and 7th) it would be E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D

Hope that helps.


You’d always start at 1 (whether it is ionian, dorian, mixolydian etc). There are schemes like this to be found on the internet that describe the intervals and relationships in tabular form:

Scale Formula Steps Comment(s)
Ionian 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 W-W-H-W-W-W-H
Dorian 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 W-H-W-W-W-H-W
Phrygian 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 H-W-W-W-H-W-W
Lydian 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 W-W-W-H-W-W-H
Mixolydian 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 W-W-H-W-W-H-W
Aeolian 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 W-H-W-W-H-W-W = natural minor
Locrian 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 H-W-W-H-W-W-W

There’s a course on True Fire that won’t break the bank. Stu Hamm Fretboard Fitness. It talks about modes and he does two-octave scales on these modes. High Recommend. I think it’s like 30.00 for the course just checked and its on sale for 16.69. If you interested in modes, check it out. just trying to help.


Your Good ,Bad Ass Bass Gal. :+1: :+1:


This is exactly what I was talking about. I’ve started down this path of learning modes and wanted to make sure that I was learning/thinking about it correctly. This is immensely helpful. Thanks!


@mezatron there’s also some good conversation about modes in this thread.


It is nice to understand where the modes came from and how they were formed. it was a HUGE A-Ha moment for me to finaly realize what I read several times, but did not fully understand until I saw a video on it, and was told that the modes are all based off the C major scale. The C major scale is the only scale that plays all natural notes. (only septontic standard scale, there may be others that I don’t know about)

C major is — C-D-E-F-G-A-B

D dorian is all the natural notes of the C major scale starting on D as the root note. - D-E-F-G-A-B-C

E Phrygian all the notes starting on E - E-F-G-A-B-C-D

F Lydian all the notes starting on F - F-G-A-B-C-D-E

G Mixilydian all the notes starting on G - G-A-B-C-D-E-F

A Aeolian all the notes starting on A - A-B-C-D-E-F-G

B Locrain all the notes starting on B - B-C-D-E-F-G-A

This gives you the scales and the shapes, if you learn the shapes of the scale mode, you can always double check the accidentals by playing the shape and checking which notes you play.

I will say for 100% fact, that moment that I understood the MODES and the way they were derived from the C major scale, was a HUGE A-HA moment for me in my early music theory studies.
It really helped to know why the notes in certain modes get sharpened or flattened out. It was to play the natural notes in progression starting at a different root note.

When you move the scales modes around and start on different roots, but play that mode’s intervals or shape, you get accidentals in scale.

And of course, each mode can do this, starting on its root of origian, like D - Dorian, played its scale intervals - Shape on a different root note, you get different accidentals, and different ones on E as the root and F as the root, etc…

It is the same for the Major scale, which is the first one usually taught, I think for the fact it is easier to Sartre to learn without the accidentals.
Major scales
D-E-F# G-A-B-C#
E-F#-G# A-B-C#-D#
F-G-A-bB C-D-E
G-A-B C-D-E-F#
A-B-C# D-E-F#-G#
B-C#-D# E-F#-G#-A#

I don’t have all the modes memorized, and right now, if I wanted to know one, I would play the shape over the fretboard, starting on the root note that I wanted to know, and figure it out.
It is great to know all of this stuff eventually, but I am not there yet, This is close to the limit to what I have studied so far, that i retain without referring to the fretboard or notes (class written notes, not the notes on the fretboard. lol)

It is my goal to know all the scales, modes and such, but I am still early in my studies.


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Yeah, it’s about 1000x easier to visualize the modes on a piano keyboard than anywhere else. They are immediately obvious there and not obvious at all elsewhere.

C Ionian? All the white keys starting at C. D Dorian? All the white keys starting at D. etc.


HaHa, I didn’t realize that. I know it all comes from piano, but I never studied piano, so I didn’t realize that it was that much easier to visualize and it could simply be translated by saying the white keys over the black keys.

it really is fascinating all the way around.


Take a look into a tool I’m developing. It’ll help you visualize the stuff on the bass and piano.


Of course, GREAT tool.
I did not know you added piano.
I was just checking it out.
Curious, is there a reason why you don’t have the piano keys play a note?
Is that on the to do list? or just something you are leaving off?


It’s there almost from the beginning :stuck_out_tongue:

There are lot of rough edges yet. That’s one of them. I’ll get to it eventually


Hahaha, guess I was not paying attention to the bottom of the screen as much. :crazy_face:

I am in no way complaining, and I know you are working hard to make this the best, most complete tool out there, I was just asking if it was something you have not added yet, or if you chose to leave it out for a specific reason.

As always, AWESOME work, this is so freaking cool.


Keep in mind that the modes are not limited to their natural scales (IE: D Dorian, E Phyrgian, etc.). Each of the modes can be used in any scale. That’s why it’s important to learn the intervals of each mode.

Dorian: Flattened 3rd and 7th
Phrygian: Flattened 2nd, 3rd, and 7th
Lydian: Sharpened 4th
Mixilydian: Flattened 7th
Aolian: Flattened 3rd, 6th, and 7th (same as minor scale)
Locrian: Flattened 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th


Yep, @PamPurrs, I said it somewhere in there.

And yes, knowing the modes by the intervals is the best way to go about it. If I think about them, I can recite them, just have to think about them a little before i could write it down.


We think alike Toby @T_dub


:+1: :+1:


Yeah, and still these are all modes of the MAJOR scale…

There are also modes of the (melodic) MINOR scale, and they have even fancier names, such as lydian dominant mode or super locrian mode (what a cool name :grin:). So, another rabbit hole, but, I guess, mostly for those interested in the intricacies of jazz… :smile: