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Musical Modes: The Easy Way

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Undestanding Modes

When trying to figure out what Scale to play when some asks you to "play G Phrygian" all you have to do is play a Major Scale that starts on a different note. For example:


Phrygian

Phrygian III has the Melodic Interval of 3. That is, it starts on the Major 3rd note in the Major Scale. Hence the II after the name. If we drop down 4 half steps (a Major 3rd) from G we land on Eb. So G Phrygian III would be an Eb Major Scale that starts on G.


Eb Major Scale:

Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


G Phrygian III Scale:


G Ab Bb C D Eb F G

1 2b 3b 4 5 6b 7b 8


Mixolydian

The same goes for other Modes. Let's take Mixolydian V. Since it starts on the 5th of the Major Scale, when we drop down 7 half steps (a Major 5th) we end up on C. So G Mixolydian is a C Major Scale starts on G:


C Major Scale:

C D E F G A B C

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


G Mixolydian V:


G A B C D E F G

1 2 3 4 5 6 7b 8


Lydian

The Lydian scale is the IV Mode. That is, it is just a Major Scale that starts on the 4th instead of the Root. In order to know what notes are in G Lydian, drop down 5 half steps (a Major 4th), D in the G Major Scale. When we start on D and form a Major Scale, then play that scale starting on the G, then we have G Lydian. Simple, eh?

D Major Scale:


D E F# G A B C# D

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


G Lydian IV Scale:


G A B C# D E F# G 1 2 3 4# 5 6 7 8


Dorian

Dorian II can be fun too. For our example, G Dorian II is an F Major Scale starting on G. A II would be lowered by 2 half steps, resulting in F Major:


F Major Scale:


F G A Bb C D E F

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Rearranged as G Dorian looks like this:

G Dorian II:


G A Bb C D E F G

1 2 3b 4 5 6 7b 8

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