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Thread: Modes of the diatonic scale?

  1. #1
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Modes of the diatonic scale?

    Just trying to wrap my head around this. Seems it should be simple but I feel I am missing something.
    So our diatonic scale would be, W W H W W W H, correct? Then repeat. The scale would be the root you start on? The mode would be where you start in the wwhwwwh progression?
    So Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian, would always be named at the same starting point in the W W H W W W H irregardless of what scale you are playing? Be it A B C etc? Have I confused some terms perhaps?
    So, if we are in the G Scale and start on the first W note of W W H W W W H it would be G Ionian? But if we start on the fifth note it would be, G A B C D E F#, G Mixolydian?
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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    No. Almost. All except for the naming. The Mixolydian mode of G you would call D mixolydian. The Dorian mode of G would be called A Dorian.

    D Mixolydian is D E F# G A B C.

    A Dorian is A B C D E F# G

    All the same notes as the G Ionian.

    A good way to learn it is how the modes deviate from the ionian or major scale.

    In the key of G the modes are:

    G is ionian (major)
    A is dorian with flatted 3rd and 7th degrees (relative to A major)
    B id phrygian with flatted 2nd 3rd 6th and 7ths (relative to B major)
    C is Lydian with sharp 4th degree (relative to C major)
    D is mixolyidian with flatted 7th relative to D major
    E is Aeolian with flatted 3rd 6th and 7th
    F# is Locrian with flatted 2nd 3rd 5th 6th and 7th (compared to F#major)

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    So it isn’t just starting at a different point but also flattening some notes? I didn’t read that in what I stumbled on online. I thought it was just as simple as starting on a different note. I need to write this all down to figure it out. Help me remember. So as you wrote I G the flattening of some of the notes in each mode will it be the same notes flattens in other scales? For instance in Cmajor would the Dorian still be flattened 3rd and 7th? And that would be a D Dorian?
    Thanks!
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    The following is from my comment on the previous threads on modes:

    There are four ways of seeing them. One is to see them as a major scale with a different starting point, like a G scale starting and ending on D. That is how they are normally taught. It was never helpful to me. The second is to look at them as a major scale with an alteration. For example mixolydian is a major scale with a flat 7th note or aeolian(minor) is a major scale with flatted 3, 6 and 7th notes. The third is similar to the previous one except to see some as altered major scales and some as altered minor scales. The fourth is to see them as scales with different orders of whole and half steps. Major is wwhwwwh, minor is whwwhww, mixolydian is wwhwwhw and so forth. Each approach is correct. One may be easier to understand or use for any particular person.

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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    I'm sorry, but I don't find that at all easy to learn or particularly useful. You're only playing the same 7 notes.

    And its a bit interesting that arpeggios don't have different names when you start on a non root note. Perhaps those are undiscovered submodes

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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    There are seven of what are called "church" modes. These are called that because they were named and developed by medieval monks. There are other modes. A mode is another name for a scale. The pentatonic scale is a mode. So are the blues scales. Klezmer musicians use their own set of modes(or scales) with different names. Those musicians will talk about klezmer modes.

    Part of the problem with learning modes is that people try to swallow the whole thing all in one bite. And they get hung up on the terminology. It is all Greek to me. It is better to learn and understand one scale at a time as you need them, preferably in the context of some songs or tunes.

    People do not make such a big deal learning the minor scale. The minor scale is another mode besides the major scale. But if you say the word mode or use the Greek names they get confused and freak out. If you approach the other modes similarly to playing in a minor scale, one at a time as you encounter them in songs they are not any more complicated than the minor scale. You probably will never use all of them. Just learn the ones that help you.

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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    This doesn’t work for all of the modes, but one thing that helps me remember some of the more common ones, is that you “lose sharps” in the key signature as you go from Ionian (major) to Mixolydian (a little more minor feeling) to Dorian (more minor feeling) to Aolian (the actual relative minor).

    So, A Ionian is 3 sharps in the key sig, A Mixolydian is two (the key signature of D), A Dorian is one (G key sig) and A Aolian is none (also know on as A minor, and the key sig is C, the relative minor of A).

    This drives my classically trained musician wife absolutely bonkers, and it ABSOLUTELY doesn’t work for other modes, but when you’re in a jam and someone says “this is D mixolydian” it’s an easy way to remember how many sharps/flats you’re dealing with. Learn your circle of fifths if you don’t know it already, these four modes happen to be “next to each other” on it.

    I probably mangled that and it’s really really not how to think of modes properly - the original post is better. But it helps me with those four modes in a jam, and I like the characterization of them going from more major to more minor too.

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    The other way is to listen. Songs in modes.

    Scarborough fair. - Dorian.
    Eleanor rigby - Dorian
    Clocks - Coldplay - mixolydian.

    I think modes are somewhat overrated and over used and overthought snd over taught.

    But there’s a start.

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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    I may never remember it all but it helps me think about music more and see relations. I need to dig out my guitar grimoire book and the ohmson book for mandolin. I love arpeggios and think it is funny they don’t have names but a I’m very glad they don’t!
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    So it isn’t just starting at a different point but also flattening some notes? I didn’t read that in what I stumbled on online. I thought it was just as simple as starting on a different note. I need to write this all down to figure it out. Help me remember. So as you wrote I G the flattening of some of the notes in each mode will it be the same notes flattens in other scales? For instance in Cmajor would the Dorian still be flattened 3rd and 7th? And that would be a D Dorian?
    Thanks!

    Yes! And no.

    Lets stay on C. So playing the D Dorian scale is just playing the C scale, no sharps or flats, starting from D. But...D MAJOR has two sharps, F# and C#, which are the 3rd and 7th degrees of the D scale. So we say that D Dorian has a minor (flatted) 3rd and a Flatted 7th. BTW, if you don’t know, any scale with a flatted 3rd is a minor scale (unless it also has a flatted 5th). So Dorian is a type of minor scale.

    Another way to remember this is to learn the harmonized scales.

    BUT! ...if you don’t already know that the key of D major has 2 sharps, you are putting the cart before the horse. If so, learn the circle of 4ths before messing with modes.
    Last edited by lowtone2; Jul-31-2021 at 8:47pm.

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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    Here is a copy of a comment I dropped in another forum about the modes and how to understand them:

    "The best way to really understand the modes is to play them all in the same key center, so we’ll use the note "C", then you can compare the differences in sound with the other modes. The formulas for the modes are-

    Ionian(Major)- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 – Major
    Dorian- 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 – Minor
    Phrygian- 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 – Minor
    Lydian- 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 – Major
    Mixolydian- 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 – Dominant
    Aeolian(Minor)- 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 – Minor
    Locrian- 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 – Half-diminished (Can be used like a dominant)

    So basically to hear the differences, play a C major scale(CDEFGABC) anywhere on the neck, and then when you want to change the scale to a different mode, make the changes shown in the formulas above^. So to go from C Major to C Lydian you just change the 4 to a #4, raise the 4th up a half step so its C D E F# G A B C. Now you’re playing lydian! Or if you see a “b” like in mixolydian(1 2 3 4 5 6 b7), just lower the 7th note of the scale by a half step, C D E F G A Bb C.

    Then if you want to try the minor modes, just change your background chord to a C minor chord.
    Its as easy as that! This will really help you HEAR the differences as opposed to just SEEING the differences in moving patterns around and someone telling you that the scale you are playing is Lydian or something.

    Modes aren’t super important though, the important thing is to hear the intervals and to learn how all 12 notes sound over a major, minor, and dominant chord(The 3 basic qualities of any given harmony). So like a C7#5(C E G# Bb) or Cm6(C Eb G A), and things like that. The harmony and the flavor that each note has and really understand the SOUND of all the different notes is the important part."


    So I know that most websites and people teach the modes like

    C Ionian
    D Dorian
    E Phrygian
    F Lydian
    G Mixolydian
    A Aeolian
    B Locrian

    And they say that all off those modes use the notes of the C Major scale. This is true and its the easiest, fastest way to show guitar players what the modees factually are, but this explanation provides very little context and absolutely no harmonic understanding of the modes.

    The most important part of learning the modes is to play each mode using the exact same root note, that way you can actually hear the effect that each specific note change has on familiar scales/sounds like the Ionian(Major scale) & Aeolian(Minor scale) modes.

    If this is confusing to anyone, please feel free to ask question. I hope this helps!

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    I think I am starting to wrap my head around this. I need to take a few notes and see where it leads me before I know for sure but it is time to sleep so on the morning I’ll dig in more.

    I have the feeling something is starting to make sense like I’m almost there so I might be trying to hard.
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    So it isn’t just starting at a different point but also flattening some notes? I didn’t read that in what I stumbled on online. I thought it was just as simple as starting on a different note. I need to write this all down to figure it out. Help me remember. So as you wrote I G the flattening of some of the notes in each mode will it be the same notes flattens in other scales? For instance in Cmajor would the Dorian still be flattened 3rd and 7th? And that would be a D Dorian?
    Thanks!
    John, no, you are getting it a bit confused. You can find the modes by starting with any major scale and playing the same exact notes of that scale, but starting and ending on a different note. So if you take the notes of a C major scale, start on D note and end on D note to play D Dorian, you are making the ROOT note D - it’s the same notes of the C major scale but it’s no longer in the “key” of C major, it has now become D Dorian. D Dorian is the RELATIVE Dorian scale to C major, because they share the same notes.

    Now, compare the notes of D Dorian to the key of D Major … D Dorian would be the PARALLEL Dorian mode to D Major, because they have the same root, D. There is where you see the flatted notes of the Dorian, parallel to D major, not relative to C major.

    To better understand the modes, and the difference between relative scales and parallel scales, it is helpful to study the major and natural minor scales. Check out this article for example: http://www.markgunter.net/cool_stuff...ale-lesson-six
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    @Mark Gunter I suspected something like this last night when I made my reply above but the cold meds had me kind of sleepy and it was too late to think. This makes sense now Thanks for the explanation!

    I have e bit more thinking to do and some experimenting playing scales. I saw the post in the thread about memorizing songs but my theory is sadly incomplete. So I am studying more to learn more. And I like studying this so that helps.
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    Mark that is an excellent article.

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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?


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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    Quote Originally Posted by sirus1987 View Post
    Here is a copy of a comment I dropped in another forum about the modes and how to understand them:

    "The best way to really understand the modes is to play them all in the same key center, so we’ll use the note "C", then you can compare the differences in sound with the other modes.
    This is the way to do it! There are many other facts and correlations that are pretty cool, but don't help as much in just learning how to do it.
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    This is the way to do it! There are many other facts and correlations that are pretty cool, but don't help as much in just learning how to do it.
    It’s like this for me too (at the moment). I tend to see modes geographically, so a mode centre is actually on the fretboard with tones or colours in certain directions and distances.
    To learn how each mode sounds I keep to one major key and ‘see’ all the different diatonic note patterns on the fretboard, and I ‘forget’ the diatonic root, concentrating on the mode root and it’s neighbourhood -the double stops and chords of the 1,4,5 of the mode.

    Often while playing, it’s the transition between two modes of two different keys that you’ll be considering. This would be outside the diatonic, as MarkG is describing where you’re adding a flat or sharp or two or more. In this case it’s keeping the root centre but shifting the other notes around it. I think people who are more notation literate tend to read, play and think like this, along with chromatic instrument players.

    And there are other ways to see modes...

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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    In the interest of just being factual, Simon, each of the modes is diatonic. A diatonic scale or mode uses the seven notes plus octave and maintains the tone/semitone pattern, as found in the major scale for example, where the eight note pattern no matter how it is “rotated” so to speak - no matter which note is chosen as tonic or root - the pattern is maintained, so that there are precisely two half step intervals, and no more than a whole step between any other notes.

    A non-diatonic scale is one that adds other chromatic notes, creating more than the natural two half step intervals … or will skip notes, creating more than a whole step between some notes. Pentatonic scales are not diatonic scales, blues scales are not diatonic scales, but the modes as discussed in this thread are diatonic scales.

    in the article I linked from my website, as regards the scales discussed in it: Both the major scale and the natural minor scale are diatonic, but the harmonic minor and melodic minor scales are not diatonic.
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    Be sure to follow Niles’ link above, as usual he has given a lot of information in a really concise format with practical comments on usage.
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    I did but sadly some of the terms go right over my head. I am googling to learn what they mean so it all makes more sense. Then maybe I can ask a. Sensible question about it. I’m trying not to go to far beyond what needs to be learned first.
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    Maybe this well help those like me who sometimes need visual aids to understand this stuff. It's a graphic I found somewhere on the web that includes modes in a Circle of 5ths chart. It helped me understand why the music I play -- mostly Irish and Scottish trad -- often has sheet music where the number of sharps doesn't mean what you might initially think it means for the key (mode).

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Modes in Circle of 5ths.png 
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ID:	195557

    For example, Irish trad music (and related music like many OldTime tunes) is generally based around the keys of D and G Major (Ionian) with their relative minors, but what that really means in practice is more often the related Dorian mode. This is probably due to the influence of the pipes, whistle, and flute with a bell (lowest) note in D, and the ease of playing tunes in G and D Major in first position on the fiddle.

    So on this chart you can see the relation of the outer keys G and D Major (Ionian) with their Dorian relatives just below and to either side in the circle -- A Dorian, E Dorian, and B Dorian, which you'll hear in many Irish traditional tunes. D Dorian is also there to the left of G, although not as common as the others.

    Now, step way down the inner line from G and you'll find D Mixolydian, another common mode for Irish tunes. Step the same way down from D and you'll see A Mixolydian, common in Scottish pipe tunes. These aren't the only modes used in Irish trad, there are a few tunes in things like F# Dorian and G Dorian, but you won't find Dorian or Mixolydian modes far from the "home" keys of D and G.

    This explains why you can't trust a key signature on Irish trad (or OldTime) sheet music like one sharp and think it's "in the key of G Major," because it could also be in the minor-sounding A Dorian or the "bright major" sound of D Mixolydian. Similarly, if you see two sharps in sheet music it might be the key of D Major, but it might also be E Dorian instead, and so on.

    One might ask why are these the only modes used in Irish trad? Why not Phrygian, Lydian, Aeolian or Locrian? Well, each folk musical culture has "a sound," and for whatever reason, the sound of say the Phrygian mode just wasn't as attractive to these players. I'm no ethnomusicologist, so someone else will have to explain this one.

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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    I know a guy who can play guitar well he starts off in a major drops to a relative minor then up to a different major that shares the relative minor somehow, magic, then back down and into the original scale. It works and I want to learn how he does it, this seems like a good path to go on for such and it is just interesting as well. Thanks for the links and pics I will dig deeper.

    I need to learn more terms and how they relate to the topics and the numbering of chords I understand some but I do not follow why some are capitals while others are not etc. I am missing some basics I need to learn to keep up.
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    Default Re: Modes of the diatonic scale?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    ....I need to learn more terms and how they relate to the topics and the numbering of chords I understand some but I do not follow why some are capitals while others are not etc. I am missing some basics I need to learn to keep up.
    Capital Roman numerals are major chords. Lower case Roman numerals are minor chords. Regular numbers are added tones like in a C7th chord or G6th.

    There are some other symbols but they are not always used consistently like a triangle for major 7th. Some people use a circle with a slash for either half diminished or diminished 7th depending on the person. Some use a minus for diminished though occasionally it is used for minor. A plus sign usually means augmented. Sometimes people abbreviate these things, like aug, dim, maj and min. Some people use capital "M" and lower case "m" for major and minor 7ths. It would be nice if there was consistency but it does not happen.

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