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How to learn modes on piano, guitar or almost any instrument…

A mode is formed by simply taking the major scale and starting on any other note in the scale and playing up to the same note in the next octave. All modes derived from C-major are made up of the same notes. Since C major has no sharps or flats…none of the modes that come from it will have sharps or flats either. Since modes are based off the major scale, the first mode is the major scale. The Greeks named each step of the major scale. The first one is Ionian. Playing in different modes gives each scale a different sound, like different flavors.

Two ways to play modes:

You can learn each different mode or pattern (on guitar) or you can just play the scale or pattern that you are familiar with and just land on the certain step of the scale to make it a mode.

Tip: If you play the E minor scale but land on the “A” note, you will be playing A Dorian.


Example in C major (using notes from C major):

C – C │ Ionian (major scale)

D – D │ Dorian

E – E │ Phrygian

F – F │ Lydian

G – G │ Mixolydian

A – A │ Aeolian (Natural Minor)

B – B │ Locrian