Part 2:

What is a Mode?

Essentially a Mode is one peice of a larger entity that's broken out into functioning pieces. Modes along 
with the other peices together are part of one big thing or one bigger entity.

Think of your digital watch/clock. The purpose of the watch is "Time", but when you configure it, or use 
it, it is broken out into: Hours, Minutes, AM, PM, the Date, Alarm, etc..etc...

When separated out, they are many things that do one major function together... that function is Time.

When you look at the instructions for your /watch/clock you often see the term "Mode" use for the different 
areas that need to be programmed. The Modes for configuring it might be lumped like this:

Time Mode = Hours, Minutes, AM, PM
Date Mode = Day, Month, Year
Alarm Mode = On/Off, Snooze, Hours, Minutes, AM, PM

All of these are specific Modes of the one thing...Time.

All of these are broken up to manage Time on your watch/clock. You "go into each Mode" for the piece you need to deal with.

The Modes of music are very similiar in that they are part of another entity we deal with which is called a 

The Key is part of a bigger entity called: Diatonic Theory.

Like the Clock or the Watch was to Time, the Key is like to Diatonic Theory.

The Key is an important part to managing the pieces of Diatonic Theory.

Relax, Diatonic Theory isn't anywhere near as hard to understand as something like "Atomic Theory" ;)

A Key can be broken out into Intervals, Scales, Chords, Progressions, Tonal-Centers, Modes, etc...

One without the other is more or less useless.

Not knowing all of the information is like setting your alarm with no reference to what time it REALLY is. 
Or setting the Minutes correctly but the Hours wrong. The idea is, all of these things work together to 
create one functional entity.

So, while a lot of guitarist know the "Patterns of the Modes", not too many of them understand the 
Functions of the Modes in a Key, or in music in general.

Using only the Patterns is like pressing the buttons on watch watch hoping you get the right outcome.

I will show you the Diatonic Theory behind the Modes which is the most important aspect of learning what 
those "patterns" are really for and where they came from.

Hopefully I can shed some light on the subject and tie something's together for you, some important things.


Some terms:

Key = A home, a basis, a starting point, a wrapper for everything possible in Diatonic Theory. In our case 
a "Key" is the Intervals, Scales, Modes Chords, Chord Progressions, and Tonal-Centers of a Major Scale.

Intervals = The distance or spacing between two notes. The smallest spacing is a Half-step (H) and is two 
notes that are one fret away from each other.

Half-step = One Fret

The next possible spacing is a Whole-step (W) which are two notes that are two frets from each other.

Whole-step = Two frets

Larger spacings are consider groups of Whole-steps and Half-steps. More on Intervals can be found at my 
Intervals Series. More can be found at my Intervals Series.

Scales - A series or sequence of Intervals/notes that form a consistent sound from Low to High, and High to Low. Scales are made of different Interval sequences that include Whole-steps and Half-steps.

Chords - Grouping notes of a scale together and played as one to form a Harmony of three notes or more. 
From scales you can create chords. In some scales you can create a chord from each note of the scale (see 
Modes). More on building chords from scales can be found at my Chord Construction Series.

Chord Progressions - Taking some, all, or any chords built from a scale and playing them in succession or 
in any order. Essentially groups of chords are what make up songs. But a progessions "in a Key" is a group 
of chords that ALL come from the same scale. If a progression contains chords that are not from the same 
scale, the progession is considered to be "changing keys throughout the song".

Tonal-Centers - Commonly thought of as the Root note of a Chord a song starts on or ends on. Each chord 
could have it's own tonal-center, but in most cases the "Key" of the song is the tonal-center. Or, if a 
song is made of progressions from different Keys, the tonal-center can change during the song.

Modes - Modes are created by using each note within the Major scale and considering it as a Root note. Then building a scale or a chord from that note while still keeping the Intervals of the original Major scale in 
mind. Since the Major Scale has seven notes, it also has seven scales, or Modes, and can build seven 
individual chords, one from each note of the Major Scale.

Each Mode has it's own name.

Each chord will start on a different note of the Scale, or the Root of the Mode.

Each Mode will create a different chord name.

This is the Interval relationship (whole-steps and half-steps) of a Major Scale from any given Root note: 

This is each note of the C Major Scale from Root to Root: C D E F G A B C

This is the Interval relationship (whole-steps and half-steps) of the C Major scale: C w D w E h F w G w A 
w B h C

Each note in the Major Scale also has it's own Scale which is a Mode of the Major Scale. Since there is 
seven notes, there will be seven Root notes, seven scales, seven scale names, and seven basic chords that 
can be created.

Here's the basic Major and Minor chords that can be built from each note of the C Major Scale:

C Ionian = CDEFGABC = C Major
D Dorian = DEFGABCD = D Minor
E Phrygian = EFGABCDE = E Minor
F Lydian = FGABCDEF = F Major
G Mixolydian = GABCDEFG = G Major
A Aeolean = ABCDEFGA = A Minor
B Locrian = BCDEFGAB = B Minor b5
C Ionian = CDEFGABC = C Major

All of these terms in this section will be described, and used, in detail as you read on.


Part 3:

When dealing with a Major Scale, it's Modes, and it's Chords you end up creating a "Key". The "Key" is used to explain the tonalities of a Major Scale, the sequence of Intervals of a Major Scale, and the Harmonies within the Major Scale as it relates to the chords the harmonies create within the Major Scale...or the Key.

Most of the examples and concepts will be based in the Key of C Major...or derived from the C Major Scale.

But they could be moved/transposed or created from any Major Scale you wish. In other words...the most 
common, and simplest, piece of a Key are the Intervals of a Major scale.

The Major Scale is series or sequence of Intervals. The Major Scale's Intervals will NEVER change on you. You can get an in-depth understanding of Intervals from my Intervals Series.

The Interval structure, and Interval Names for a Major Scale are:

Root <whole-step> 2/9 <whole-step> M3 <half-step> 4/11 <whole-step> 5 <whole-step> 6/13 <whole-step> M7 
<half-step> Root.

Once you get back to the Root, the sequence has started over. So, a Major Scale only has seven notes in it. Then those notes start over again.

This is a sequence or cycle of Intervals that is constant, and never changes regardless of the Root note of 
the Major Scale. The note names change between different Major scales, but the Interval structure never 
does. The Interval structure is static.

The Intervals of a Major Scale are commonly written out from Root to Root in Whole-steps and Half-steps 
like this:


So, let's look at a couple of Major Scales, or Keys, and see this common Interval sequence in ALL of them.

The Key of C Major:

C w D w E h F w G w A w B h C

The Key of G Major:

G w A w B h C w D w E w F# h G

The Key of D Major:

D w E w F# h G w A w B w C# h D

The Key of F# Major:

F# w G# w A# h B w C# w D# w E# h F#

Hopefully you can see that ANY of the Major Scales, or Keys, ALL have the same WWHWWWH Interval sequence.

This is a basic but is a very powerful, and necessary, concept that is needed to fully understand the 
functions of music in general and especially Modes and the Major Scale, or Key, they relate to.

To reiterate, if you play any Note and then play the Interval sequence of W-W-H-W-W-W-H, you will have the Major Scale with the Name of your starting note:

Root is G + the W-W-H-W-W-W-H sequence from G = the G Major Scale
Root is F + the W-W-H-W-W-W-H sequence from F = the F Major Scale
Root is C + the W-W-H-W-W-W-H sequence from C = the C Major Scale

Now you know the Interval sequence of a Major Scale/Key and how to create the scale/Key from a Root using the sequence.


Part 4:

In my Intervals and my Chord Construstion Series we saw that you build chords by using every other note of a given scale.

You can continue this "every other note" process by building a chord from each note of a Major Scale.

Since there is seven notes in a Major Scale, building a chord from each note can give you 7 possible chords 
within the Major Scale. A chord for each note.

This process consists of thinking of each note within the Major Scale as a new Root Note. Now you can build chords starting at each Root using the Intervals of the original Major Scale and starting from that note's 
place in the Major Scale. I'll show you examples shortly.

Using the "every other note concept" from my Chord Construstion Series, As with building any chord from a scale, every other note ends up being the 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13 Intervals/note of a two octave scale.

By doing this you'll be able to see which Modes are Major and which Modes are Minor, which Modes create maj7 chords, which Modes create m7 chords, and which Modes create dominant 7 chords.


Part 5:

I'm sorry to say, but unless you have a killer ear and sensiblity right out of the box, you need to take 
the time to understand this chord to scale relationship. It will be the best thing you can do in 
understanding what is probably the MOST confusing bit of theory a guitarist learns...Modes.

It's only confusing because most guitarists learn the patterns without the, here's the theory.

Below are the basic Major and Minor triads\chords build from a Major Scale and it's Modes, and the Mode Names.

I'll show them from the C Major Scale...the Key of C...chords build from the C Major Scale...or the Chords of the Key of C...

The notes of the C Major Scale, or the Key of C are: C D E F G A B C

Traids/Basic Chords:


You can see we used each note of the scale as a Root. Then starting with each note as a Root, we used every other note (the 1, 3 and 5) to come up with these basic triads/chords, like so:

C Ionian = CDEFGABC = 1,3,5 from this scale is CEG = C Major
D Dorian = DEFGABCD = 1,3,5 from this scale is DFA = D Minor
E Phrygian = EFGABCDE = 1,3,5 from this scale is EGB = E Minor
F Lydian = FGABCDEF = 1,3,5 from this scale is FAC = F Major
G Mixolydian = GABCDEFG = 1,3,5 from this scale is GBD = G Major
A Aeolean = ABCDEFGA = 1,3,5 from this scale is ACE = A Minor
B Locrian = BCDEFGAB = 1,3,5 from this scale is BDF = B Minor b5
C Ionian = CDEFGABC = 1,3,5 from this scale is CEG = C Major

Commonly each of the scale steps or chords are give a Roman Numeral and are commonly listed like this:

I = C
ii = Dm
iii = Em
IV = F
V = G
vi = Am
vii = Bmb5
I = C

The Roman Numerals are commonly used to show "scale steps", as it relates to a Major Scale: C = I, D = II, E = III, F = IV, G = V, A = VI, B = VII, C = I again.

You can see from the basic Triads that some Modes create Major chords, and some Modes create Minor chords.

The upper and lower case Roman Numeral or "scale step" tells you whether a chord built from the step or 
degree of the Major Scale will end up being a Major or Minor chord.

Upper case = Major, and lower case = Minor.

More on the Roman Numerals in a bit.


Part 6:

Since this Interval sequence of the Major Scale never changes you can also look at those basic Triads/Chord we built from the C Major Scale in Part 5 as being static, constant, or consistant. Since the Interval sequence never changes this also clues us into the fact that the Triad/Chord sequence will NEVER change in a Major Key, because they are built from the consistant Interval structure of the Major Scale.

This is where the "I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii-I sequence comes from, the constants of the Scale they are built 

Let's look at a couple of Keys and see that this sequence of chords built from the Scale/Key is the same 
regardless of the Root of the Key.

The chords in the Key of C Major:

C - Dm - Em - F - G - Am - Bmb5 - C

The chords in the Key of G Major:

G - Am - Bm - C - D - Em - F#mb5 - G

The chords in the Key of D Major:

D - Em - F#m - G - A - Bm - C#mb5 - D

The chords in the Key of F# Major:

F# - G#m - A#m - B - C# - D#m - E#mb5 - F#

So you can see that the Name of the notes of each chord are based on the notes of the particular Major 
Scale, and that the WWHWWWH sequence is constant, and that the Triads/chords of ANY Major scale will ALWAYS be:

Major - Minor - Minor - Major - Major - Minor - Minor b5 - and Major again.

Then the sequence would start all over again since the Notes aren't changing.

Since the sequence of Intervals and Chords of a Key never change you can also see that the Mode Names and how they are placed and tied to a Key never changes either.

This is the sequence of the Mode Names within a Key:

Ionian-Dorian-Phrygian-Lydian-Mixolydian-Aeolean-Locrian-Ionian again to complete the sequence.

So, as we saw with the Major Scale Intervals and Chord sequence, the Mode Names will also be in a a 
consistant order when dealing with a Key. Meaning Ionian will ALWAYS be the first Mode of a Major Key, Dorian will ALWAYS be the second Mode of a Major Key, Phrygian will ALWAYS be the thrid Mode of a Major Key, and so on.


Part 7:

Can you see how understanding "Keys" can relate to a very big picture, which relates to a very big peice of 
the puzzle?

This idea of Intervals, Scales, Keys, Chords, Harmonies, Modes, what's contained in Diatonic 

These are each parts of Diatonic Theory, and as you can see each point is important to understanding the 
function of most of the Music we listen to or will play.

And, no point is more important than any other point.

This is why I will always stress learning Keys and chords BEFORE a guitarist starts playing 

You'll see by knowing these things, these constants, these commonalities, you can lay the ground work for 
learning how Modes function. And, you can also see that without this information that Modes are NOTHING but fretboard pattern that few people ever get past and move on to using them for music as opposed to nothing but patterns.


Part 8:

The Roman Numerals are used the write out progressions that are Key Related, but not related to any key in particular. IOW...say you've written a song are going to present to a singer...but you have no idea what 
the singers range is, or if the key you've written it in will be the best key to get the singer sounding their best. And, let's say you also need to have basic chord charts for everyone in the band to follow along.

Let's say this is our chord progression and you wrote it in the key of C Major:

||: C F | Am Em | Dm G :||

Ok, now you play it together and it's to low or to high for the singer. Well, you are going to need to 
change the key to fit the voice. So, now EVERYONE has to rewrite their chart to reflect a new key, and it 
may take trying a few keys to find one the singer is good with.

All this rewriting takes time, and depending on how long the chart could take a long time with all 
the rewriting, double checking, and doing it all over again if needed.

Here's a simpler (and common) way people deal with this:

They write out the original chord chart in Roman Numerals and fit those, the Root notes of the chords, to 
the Key that is decided on.

So, if you look at the chord progressions we had (in the key of C Major):

||: C F | Am Em | Dm G :||

You can write it in Roman Numerals like this:

||: I IV | vi iii | ii V :||

Hopefully that makes sense when looking at the Roman Numerals I listed in Part 5. So, if you changed the 
key to G Major (G A B C D E F# G) you just plug in the correct/new Roots and play them as Major or Minor depending on the Upper and Lower lettering and you've changed the key on the fly with nobody needing to rewrite anything. So, in the Key of G your progression would be:

||: G C | Em Bm | Am D :||

These are VERY common practices that you'll encounter as you delve into Keys, Modes, etc...and they are all part of what's called "Diatonic Theory". Look that term up and you'll start running into these things and more.


Part 9:

Let's take things one step further...let's build the chords of a Key to the "7" type chord out of a 
key...these will be 4 note chords as opposed to the three note triads we looked at before. They will be 
built with the 1, 3, 5, and 7 notes of each modes. This is where the true harmonies of the modes/keys 
really the key of C again:

Imaj7 = Cmaj7
iim7 = Dm7
iiim7 = Em7
IVmaj7 = Fmaj7
V7 = G7
vim7 = Am7
viim7b5 = Bm7b5

Ok, can you see I double up the lower case minor lettering and still stated the "m" after it. This could be 
written without the "m", such as ii7 and it would still be a m7. Or it could also be, and is very commonly 
written as, IIm7...upper case II being the second note/interval of the scale and the m7 signifying the 
"minor 7". There's really a number of ways this can be written so it's worth understanding as you will run 
into it based on however the person who wrote the chart presents it, and it will be something you pickup by 
looking at other Mode and Key resources/material.

So, those chords could be written as:

Imaj7 = Cmaj7
ii7 = Dm7
iii7 = Em7
IVmaj7 = Fmaj7
V7 = G7
vi7 = Am7
vii7b5 = Bm7b5

Or, they could be written as:

Imaj7 = Cmaj7
iim7 = Dm7
iiim7 = Em7
IVmaj7 = Fmaj7
V7 = G7
vim7 = Am7
viim7b5 = Bm7b5

Or, they could be written as:

Imaj7 = Cmaj7
IIm7 = Dm7
IIIm7 = Em7
IVmaj7 = Fmaj7
V7 = G7
VIm7 = Am7
VIIm7b5 = Bm7b5

Hopefully that all makes sense.

And, now we also know the "7" type chords of a Key also. And this will also be static/constant/consistant 
between Keys.


Part 10:

Ok, so what does all this mean when playing??? This is the cool part really! Try this exercise.

1. Play the notes of the C Major Scale from Root to Root:


2. NOW, play these chords (Harmonies) of the C Major Scale:

C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bmb5, C

Can you hear that it sounds exactly like the C Major Scale, except with chords?

3. Now take it one step further with the four note chords:

Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7, G7, Am7, Bm7b5, Cmaj7

Can you hear these are bigger chords, colors, harmonies that still represent the Major Scale?

4. Now, let's play each mode from Root to Root and you'll be able to hear each mode carry you through the Major Scale just like the chords did, but with single notes:

EFGABCDE = E Phrygian
GABCDEFG = G Mixolydian
ABCDEFGA = A Aeolean
BCDEFGAB = B Locrian

The Root note of each mode is the focus point, or the tonal center, of each mode. So, you hear the Root 
notes climbing up the Major Scale. This is why it sounds like it's related to the function of the Major 

Pretty cool, huh?

Don't be fooled by the Mode Names. A lot of people think that just because they have these puzzling names they have to be THE piece to the Musical Puzzle. The names have NOTHING to do with's the Intervals, Chords, and Harmonies that have EVERYTHING to do with it. Forget the names, they are only used for memorizing and communicating to others. The names themselves hold no secret to the mysteries we know as Music.


Part 11:

How about USING the modes?

Once you understand the things already discussed you can do a two things, neither is wrong and neither is 
the only way to do it, but in practice and in playing you use both quite frequently...

When people play "in a Key", all the chords, all the harmonies, all the notes really come from one 
scale...the Major scale of the Key.

So when solo'ing, as long as the chord progression stays in one Key, you can think of it as one scale you 
are playing everything out of. This is a very simple concept. Nothing wrong with keeping it simple either. 
Here's a chord progression in the key of C Major with the "one scale" solution:


||: Cmaj7 Am7 | Dm7 G7 :||

Play C Ionian ( the C Major Scale) for the whole progression.


Some people try and take that concept and make it deeper, more of a "concept". Some people like to take 
each chord and make sure they are playing the appropriate "Mode" for that chord.

For instanse here's the same progression using the "Mode for each chord" solution:

||:   Cmaj7      Am7        |    Dm7         G7       :||
     C Ionian   A Aeolean    D Dorian   G Mixolydian

While this is really slicing it and dicing it, isn't it really the same as the simple concept?

All of those chords come from the key of C Major, and all of those modes are nothing more than the notes of the C Major Scale.

And in addition, if you only play those four Modes from their Root notes in that will 
practically "hear" the chord changes going by without any chords playing underneath.

Even though we've spelled out a specific mode for a specific chord...they are all really just the C Major scale landing on notes "that sound right" while the chords are moving/changing.

This is why I say neither is the right way or the wrong way. I encourage you to experiment looking at it boths ways as you will start to see how they are the same thing from different perspectives. And, it will 
also help you communicate things to yourself and see things from a broader sense, as either way isn't 

One way is just simpler, but really no different from the more indepth way.

Another way to look at it is, even when you are play one scale over a chord progression within a 
ARE automatically playing modes as your melody/licks/riffs follow the chords.


Part 12:

Another ways modes are used is modal music. Like when you are asked to play over one chord or a one note backing for a while. This would be similar to music that contains "drones" or "one chord vamps". This is where the true light of a mode shines.

Lets say you are ask to play over a Dm7 chord for a whole tune, you're just asked to "improvise over that 

What do you play?

Well, you would play a scale, or a Mode that fits over a Dm7 chord, or one that actually BUILDS a Dm7 

There's a couple of ways to figure this out:

1. One way is, you could find all the Major keys that contain a Dm7 chord, and experiment with those keys. The Key's of C, Bb, and F come to mind as they each have a Dm7 chord within their Key. This can be time consuming but is a great practice technique to burn these concepts into the old noggin.

2. Another way is, you can look at ALL the Modes that BUILD a m7 chord. Remember these could be Dorian, Phrygian, Aeolean, Locrian, right? Then you can experiment with each of those starting with D as your Root. So, you'd try D Dorian, D Phrygian, D Aeolean, or D Locrian.

3. Or, I guess you could even interchange those Modes ideas in #2 if you wanted. Since it's a one chord 
vamp, there is no other chord is involved to dictate the key you're in, or which one of those Minor 
sounding modes to use. So, play one one those Minor Modes from D, then change to another, then another one. Experiment!

This is also true for playing over a straight Major chord for a long time. Say you need to play over a G Major chord vamp. You could find all the keys that contain a G Major chord (the Keys of G, D, C come to mind), or you could experiment with each of the modes with G as their Root that BUILDS a G Major chord (G Ionian, G Lydian, G Mixolydian). 

Experiment with those three until something "clicks".

This experimentation would alos hold true for a Gmaj7 vamp. You'd find all the Keys that contain a Gmaj7 
chord. The Keys of G and D come to mind as the Gmaj7 could be the Imaj7 chord of G, or the IVmaj7 chord of the Key of D.

Got it?

By knowing about the chords, you can jump right in with some scale ideas, some basic things to try.

So, please experiment with these concepts as that knowledge is some of the most common tools people use for improvising.


Let's say ALL you are given to play over is a straight E Note droning with a rhythm background. This is nothing but and E note, not an E Major chord, and an E Minor chord, just an E Note.

What do you play?

Well the first thing you would find out is whether that note is Major or Minor...Ummm...

It's one note, you don't have ANY harmony to go by telling whether to even think Major or Minor. And like in the last example, you don't have any other chords involved to dictate what key you might be in.

What the heck would you do here???

All you know is it's got to be "some sort of E Scale/Mode".

Since we are talking Modes here...

You can experiment with ALL Modes until you "stumble or fall" on something that starts to work for you. Once you find THAT, you have discovered the true meaning of Modal Music. You will KNOW when you got something that works, the mode, the intervals, will jump right out at you.

Try it. Record yourself a track with a beat and a droning E note, then go to town play each mode with E as the Root and discover the Mode/Modes. It a great exercise.

When you find the Mode, the notes, the Intervals, etc...the Mode will 'speak' on it's own. You'll hear it, 
and it will be something that others hear too. It will be a direction, given the one note backing and sense 
of placement. 

This IS what a mode's in the right mode, the right frame of thinking, it sound right, etc...

This is why I say the names of the modes mean nothing, because when you hit the "right mode" you are going to know it, you'll be able to play endlessly it will just keep on working...regardless of the name.

Here's an example of me using an E Lydian scale/mode against an E drone. You can HEAR this mode speak. It 
creates the atmosphere all on it's own and it could go for hours.

E Lydian

And actually, if you remember...the Lydian Mode creates a Major chord, a maj7 chord actually. But, in this 
clip you'll HEAR that it's used in a very "Minor sounding" way.


Part 13:

Now that you have the Key/scale/chord/mode relationship together, I'm going to continue on with some 
applications of Modes and ways people deal with "key changes" and playing over the "changes", etc...

I would also encourage you to stop by my lessons website and read the Intervals and Chord Construction 

Those lessons won't completely deal with modes and keys, but they are the tools/fundamentals you NEED 
before diving into this "next step" type theory...especially as it related to chord building using a scale 
or a Mode.

The lessons will give you the understanding, the lingo, you will need to peruse what Modes are and how they are used.

Also, look up the term "Diatonic Theory" on the Internet, as opposed to just "Modes" this is what you need 
to learn as you're working out the "Mode fingerings" on the fretboard.

What I've explained here is not EVERYTHING about modes either. Just learn your Diatonic Theory and you'll start grasping more, and you'll be able to comprehend a lot of the material in books and on the Internet much easier.

Just by knowing how to play/finger the Modes doesn't necessarily mean you know what Modes are or how to use them.

You need to understand the interworkings of the Modes before truly being able to use them. And 
unless you can do it right out of the box, you'll run into a very common "rut" that guitarist fall into 
when they can play all these scales, but have no idea how to use them.