Talking About Modes

Yeah, the depth scales go is pretty far, and then some.


I’ll repeat some advice that I received back when I got extra excited about learning modes and pretty much all music theory. Obviously, I refused to take it but I’ve since realized that the guy had a real point. Here it goes:

You won’t get much out of learning any aspect of music theory without having fully absorbed the musical phenomena the theory is trying to describe or explain.

Feel free to ignore it, too. :wink:

As for modes, I find it most helpful to think of them as alterations of the standard major and minor scales. Well… that and Locrian. Here’s what I mean:

Ionian = major scale
Lydian = major scale with an augmented 4th
Mixolydian = major scale with a minor 7th

Aeolian = minor scale
Dorian = minor scale with a major 6th
Phrygian = minor scale with a minor 2nd

Locrian = weird sh*t no one needs

In my opinion, this approach has two advantages. On the one hand, if you already know your major and minor scales, you have to memorize very little. On the other hand, I find that the 3rd really sets the mood of the scales since it determines the type of the I chord. That “Mad world” cover by Gary Jules is a perfect illustration. It kind of sounds minor, but there’s something strange going on. A closer look reveals the consistent use of a major 6th. And that’s exactly what Dorian is.


I would add to that just in terms of the basic shape of the scales.

The first shape usually learned for the Major scale is the 2nd finger, starting on the middle finger (2nd) and and has the shape 2-3-3 (meaning 2 notes on first string, 3 notes on 2nd string and 3 notes on 3rd string, including the octave of the root)
The first shape usually learned for the Minor scale is 1st finger position (index finger) with a 3-3-2 pattern (3 notes on first string, 3 notes on 2nd string and 2 notes on the 3rd string)

Please note, before we go further, I am only talking about 2 basic Scale shapes, that are commonly taught, there are many different single octave, double octave, 2 string, 1 string, 3 string, 4 string etc…shapes, but I am only talking about these two, one for the major and one for the minor.

This said, it is easy to play the Major, Lydian, Mixalydian.
Change one note, the 4th degree for the Lydian, and change one note, the 7th degree for the Mixalydian.

And for the Minor, change one note in each to get the Dorian and Phrygian.
the 2nd for the Phrygian and 6th for the Dorian

And for the Locrian, change 2 notes from the minor scale, the 2nd and 5th.
Or you could even say it is the Phrygian with the diminished 5th. (the only one without a perfect 5th)

I am adding to what you said, but helping those that view scales in shapes more than intervals, but I am not trying to minimize the importance to learn intervals, only adding to what you said and helping those that may have trouble visualizing them without thinking of the shape.

and for the Minor scale, the shape changes


Good point. And I’ll add to this further that shapes are just scales (or chords), that is, collections of intervals. So if you know shapes and can associate a certain sound with them, you actually know the scales (or chords) and their intervals. You might not know what other people like to call them, but that’s just words. Music is sound. So no need to downplay your knowledge. :slight_smile: But at the same time, don’t underestimate the value of knowing the official names of standard musical structures. It makes communication with other musicians so much easier.


absolutely not, it is all al work in progress…

1 Like

Pretty cool stuff going on


I watched it the other day and it is worth it just for how next-level Ben Levin takes it :slight_smile:

Sammie was probably the overall best though. Locrian Surf!

Nahre was awesome as always too.


Alright, I’ll take the chance to be a buzz kill and ask: is it, really? :thinking:

Imagine you heard these half-songs without those five announcing what they tried to do while constantly tooting each other’s horns. I’d probably use a different label. I’ll give some credit to Locrian Surf, though. That was entertaining. The rest? Meh. :wink: But that’s just me - and getting a bit off topic.

In general, as a listener, with Locrian I’m having a really hard time not to snap to other modes, that is, I don’t hear the diminished chord as a I(=one). To me Locrian either sounds like something else, completely atonal, or tonal but very much off center. As a (wannabe-)composer, I’ve never felt the need to resort to Locrian to express whatever I wanted to express. Jamming in Locrian also tends to end in the adjacent Ionian.

In conclusion: at least I don’t need Locrian and I still find it weird. :wink:

To me, at least, it was very cool to listen to what they came up with :wink:

Totally fair. I was not defending Locrian in any way or form. Just thought it was ironic I read you comment right after watching that video. It made sense to share it here.

1 Like

Yeah, I took the video as mostly a gathering of skilled youtubers taking a challenge, more than as a “See? Locrian really IS useful!” kind of exercise. The diminished fifth still sounds shitty to me, wrong in not a good way.

Electroindustrial is one of my favorite genres and explores all sorts of weird stuff; I wouldn’t intentionally use Locrian even there. Yes, it sounds different and weird, but mostly it just sounds bad.


:smiley: :rofl: :joy:

1 Like

That’s a perfect sentence right there.

Locrian is reallllly great in small doses in the right places.
Like nutmeg in baking.
You’d better know what you’re doing, or everything just tastes like eggnog.