Monday, January 05, 2009

Learning Modes - Finding the Relative Major

In my last article on modes we discussed how you can find a given mode by playing a major scale at a given interval from the original note.

First take a look at this slightly confusing table.

ModeTonalitySteps Down1/2 Steps DownInterval Down1/2 Steps UpInterval Up
Ionian (Major)Major
0/12Unison/Octave12/0Unison/Octave
DorianMinorW2Major 2nd10Minor 7th
PhrygianMinorWW4Major 3rd8Minor 6th
LydianMajorWWH5Perfect 4th7Perfect 5th
MixolydianMajor / DomWWHW7Perfect 5th5Perfect 4th
Aeolian (Minor)MinorWWHWW9Major 6th3Minor 3rd
LocrianDiminishedWWHWWW11Major 7th1Minor 2nd
(Ionian)MajorWWHWWWH12/0Unison/Octave0/12Unison/Octave

If you look at this chart you will get a quick reference to where you will find the scale you are needing.

Lets take a example:

Say we are playing a G major chord, we have 3 mode options that might sound good with it. Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian since they are the 3 "major" tonality modes (that is the 3rd is a major 3rd in the mode). So how do we get to G Ionian, G Lydian and G Mixolydian? I always have an easier time going up an interval rather than down so in the chart above, I have converted the intervals down from the WWHWWWH pattern we talked about in the previous article to ascending intervals.
  • G Ionian = G Major, since Ionian = Major
  • G Lydian is the major scale starting a perfect 5th above the scale in question. So a perfect 5th above G is D. So G Lydian = D Major
  • G Mixolydian is the major scale starting a Perfect 4th above the note in question which is C, so G Mixolydian = C Major.
How about minor? If we are playing an F minor chord and want F dorian, F Phrygian or F Aeolian, then we find
  • A minor 7th above F is Eb. Eb Major is F dorian
  • A minor 6th above F is Db.Db Major is F Phrygian
  • A minor 3rd above F is Ab. Ab Major is F Aeolian
Now something you may have noticed is that if we are playing F minor, why don't we play an F minor scale? We actaully do!. When we play Ab major as F aeolian, we are playing F minor. Since Aeolian is the same as natural minor.

So now we can grab a mode from a given chord.
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