Scales / Modes

A „7 modes in major“ scales is a scale within a major or minor Key.

In every key we have 7 chords whose levels always remain the same
I’ll make a little example here to make it a little clearer:

Listing of all Levels / modes in the key of C:

note step chord scale
C. I. major Ionian (major)
D. II minor Dorian
E. III minor Phrygian
F. IV major Lydian
G V. major Mixolydian
A. VI minor Aeolian (minor)
H VII Minor b5 Locrian

The Intervals the individual steps / modes :

scale Intervals
C. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
D. 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7
E. 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7
F. 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7
G 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7
A. 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7
H 1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7

We play all stepls exactly like this from beginning to the end. Like: C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, B minor B5, then that sounds for and „normal“.

Normal because we are used to this sequence. If there were times assumed, purely theoretically, a parallel universe which had been using different „levels“ for centuries, then our logical sequence for these living beings might sound strange. : P

The only thing I’ve done now I took the first degree, which is in the C major key -> C. is and looked in the second column to see whether this level should be major or minor.
Then the same with the 2nd stage. Here it’s D and the chord has to be minor, and so on.

If I changed the major or minor of the different degrees, something would sound very strange to our ears.

Here is an example where I play major instead of minor on the 2nd level. On the 5th degree minor instead of major and on the 7th degree major instead of minor (b5).

You can’t say exactly what sounds strange, but something sounds wrong. However, if we stick to the levels and adjust the „notes“ depending on the key, then it always sounds correct.

There are ways to eg. to play a major although it does not belongs there
however, we stay here with the 7 modes in major and therefore on the easy path.

A complete list of all keys and their steps (so that you don’t have to calculate them yourself) can be found here: All keys

Examples of scales in steps

Each of these levels also has its own scale. If you look closely at the list above, you will see that there are scales in the right column. You always have to use the scale that is intended for the chord in its degree.

To put it simply, when it comes to scales, major is not always major. But why is that so?

The Ionian scale (step 1) is the „Major Scale „which we all know. However, we can only apply this scale to step 1.

In this example we take the song ‚Flying in a Blue Dream‘ by ‚Joe Satriani‘. Here he plays C major and then next D major (actually D major with C bass, but that doesn’t matter now).

If you look again at the top of the table, you will see that D should actually be a minor chord. But it is not. That means he has taken other „steps“, the only question is which one?

There is only one case where two major chords come in a row; in the 4. and 5th step.

So Satriani has the same 4. and 5th degree played, simply in the key of G (and not in C like our examples). So you would have to play C Lydian or D Mixolydian over it.

Just give it a try and play C Lydian about this backing track. And then tried the same thing again, but this time with C Ionian . You will see (or hear) that something is wrong.

7 Modes in Major Scales on the Guitar

Here are all the scales and fingerings for the guitar. Once ‚Spread‘, this means that you have to spread your fingers so that you can grab it that way. The ‚Close‘ scales are a little closer together so you don’t have to tear your fingers apart too much. 🙂

There are also two different starting positions. Once with the root note on the low E string and once on the A string.

It’s best to learn both patterns. Either spread or close, so that at best you always have a way out, no matter where you are on the fingerboard.

Levels in C I. II III IV V. VI VII
Scales C Ionian D Dorian E Phrygian F Lydian G Mixolydian A Aeolian H Locrian

Here all the scales on the root of C

stages I level in C II St. in A # III St. in G # IV St. in G V St. in F VI St. in D # VII St. in C #
Scales C Ionian C Dorian C Phrygian C Lydian C Mixolydian C Aeolian C Locrian

The same notes, but different scale?

All basic tones are listed here. A normal C Ionian scale over 2 octaves.

  • Red = Ionian
  • Green = Doric
  • Blue = Phrygian
  • Yellow = Lydian
  • Orange = Mixolydian etc.

As you can see, it’s always the same notes. No matter if C Ionian, D Dorian or G Mixolydian. This means that it is not absolutely important that you also play a C Ionian scale above a C major (1st step).
In theory, you could also play F Lydian or G Mixolydian over it, but they’re still the same notes, but with a different starting note.

The only reason why you should play the 1st step as ionian, the 2. Dorian and the 3. Phrygian and so is, that you always know exactly where the root note is.
If you play a C major chord as the first step and play F Lydian over it, everything is theoretically correct. They are exactly the same notes.
However, if you stay on the root note of the F Lydian scale (which is the note F), then this is an Avoid note and does not sound good.

But if you play C Ionian over it and stay on the root note, then you have resolved perfectly.

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