Discovering Major Scale Modes

There are major scale modes for major scales that can improve your solo’s just by knowing about them and where they are. They can be used as a base scale like the major scale.

A mode is simply a scale within a scale. If you start on the second note of a major scale and play to the next octave you will have played the dorian mode of that scale.

Now that you know what a mode is let’s get started.

Each mode has a slightly different color or feel to it.

The Major Scale Modes

Below are the C scale notes with their modes.



Major Scale Modes Formulas

The scale or mode formula that I will put at the bottom of these pages is a way of making a scale or mode from a major scale. You must compare a mode to the major scale and apply the formula.

Let me show you, if you wanted a G dorian scale you would do it like this.

This is the formula for a Dorian mode 1-2-♭3-4-5-6-♭7.

Building Modes

To make a G dorian scale we look at the G major scale

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Major Scale Formula

1 2 3♭ 4 5 6 7♭ Dorian Formula

The 3 would be a B♭ and the 7 would be an F. Got it?

This is a tool for making scales and modes easier to relate to something.

You could think of the dorian mode as a major scale with a lowered 3rd and 7th. This can make it easier for some of us to remember if we know the major scales.

Remembering Modes

This way of remembering will work for some scales or modes but not for others because there are too many differences in the two scales.

I’ll list all the modes even though some are only used rarely or by advanced Jazz players.

Each of these will link to a page about a particular mode in the major scale. They will go in order like the list up above.

Major Scale Modes

The Ionian Mode

This mode is the major scale. You may already know about the major scale but this is one of the modes.

The Major Scale – Ionian Mode

The Dorian Mode

The Dorian mode gets quite a bit of use. It’s a mellow sounding minor mode. It can be blended with the pentatonic and blues scales.

Dorian Mode

The Phrygian Mode

This scale mode has a Spanish Flamenco sound however the three chord from the major scale does not get used as a tonal center for many songs. If you wanted an E minor tonal center you would work in the keys of G and D.

Phrygian Mode

The Lydian Mode

The Lydian mode is based on the 4th note of the major scale. It’s a good choice for improvising over the I and IV Chords. It has a bright kind of sound.

Lydian Mode

The Mixolydian Mode

This scale has a bluesy major sound unlike the pentatonic and blues scales which tend to have more of a minor sound. This can vary with different players too.

Eric Clapton has been know to use the Mixolydian Mode

Mixolydian Mode

The Aeolian Mode

This scale has been covered but it is a mode so let’s look at it again. It’s a fairly useful scale.

Aeolian Mode – AKA – The Natural Minor Scale

The Locrian Mode

This scale can be useful for a dominant chord lick. It’s an extension of the dominant chord.

Locrian Mode