Skip main navigation

Ionian modes

Ionian modes
9.2
Ionian Modes: the Ionian scale is just the major scale and a mode is just a scale rooted in a different part of the scale. Let’s go through them. They’ve got names which I’d like you to know. Let’s do it for C. Obviously it’s true for all the other scales.
31.7
C Ionian: C major - do, re, me, fa, sol, la, te, do. All the white notes. Now let’s do all the white notes based on D. As you know, that’s called D Dorian. If you were to think of it relative to D major it’s the flat third and the flat seventh. Let’s keep going and give the names.
54.8
E to E: it’s called E Phrygian.
59.2
F to F: it’s called F Lydian.
63.3
G to G: it’s called G Mixolydian.
68
A to A: it’s called A Aeolian.
73.1
B to B: it’s called B Locrian. The point is that the intervals between the notes in those scales are different - that’s why you get different scales. This you might find a little bit hard at first. You might need to go over this bit again. What about if we base these scales all on C? C Ionian is all the white notes based on C. But what about C Dorian? How do you get C Dorian? Well, remember how you got D Dorian? You got D Dorian from the C scale. In other words, if you took D as the root and went down a tone, that’s the scale from which it’s derived and it’s rooted on D.
117.2
So if we want C Dorian what we do is we go down a tone. We get the scale of B flat major. We root it on C and that gives us C Dorian. Notice relative to the major scale you flatten the third and you flatten the seventh. What you really need to know quickly is - if I say F Dorian, you get the scale for E flat major rooted on F. If I were to say - I don’t know - E Dorian, you go down to D, take D major and you root it on D.
157.3
So it’s that same principle of knowing what the interval is that you have to go up or down to get the “parent” scale really - we can think of it as the parent scale - then we’re rooting it elsewhere.
170.2
So Phrygian: E Phrygian. How did we get E Phrygian? We took the parent scale C and we went up a major third. How do we get C Phrygian? We go backwards - in other words we take C and we go down a major third - that’s the difference. Or if you like, you take A flat and you go up a major third and that takes you to C - that’s A flat major rooted on C. I hope you get the idea.
198.9
F Lydian: how do we get F Lydian? What’s the parent scale? We went down a fourth to get C. How do we get C Lydian? We go down a fourth to get G. So G - which is all the white notes plus an F sharp - rooted on C. That’s C Lydian. It’s probably easier to go the other way now. G Mixolydian - how do we get G Mixolydian? We go up a fourth to get to C and that’s the parent scale. How do we get C Mixolydian? We go up a fourth and that’s the parent scale. So it’s F major rooted on C. Of course, we recognise that straightaway as the standard scale for C7 - the seventh scale.
246
A Aeolian - we get the parent scale by going up a minor third. C Aeolian - we get the parent scale by going up a minor third. You get E flat major which when we root it on C gives us that. Finally, B Locrian we get the parent scale by going up a semitone. So C Locrian we get the parent scale by going up a semitone. So we go to D flat major and we root it on C. OK, you may need to do that a few times to get the hang of it. What you really need to know is the interval you have to go up or down to get the parent scale.
288.4
Dorian: down a tone, that’s the parent scale and then you root it on the second degree.
295.6
Phrygian: you go down a major third - and so on. When are these scales used? When are they signalled by chords? Well, the Ioanian is clearly signalled by C major7.
316.8
The Dorian, as we know, is the minor scale of jazz and it’s what you get when you flatten the third and you flatten the seventh. So C Dorian is the scale that goes with C minor7.
332
Now we get a difficult one: C Phrygian - what is that? Well if you have a look at it - just look at the notes which make it up - those notes. Well first of all it’s a minor seventh, but it’s also got D flat in - which we will usually think of as a minor ninth, a minor second, if you like - and A flat, which is a minor thirteenth, or minor sixth, if you like. To give that chord it’s kind of unambiguous name would be C minor seventh flat nine flat thirteen. First of all, I can’t write it in Sibelius - I don’t know how to do it - it doesn’t exist.
376.4
I don’t know how to create a new chord symbol.
382.7
It very rarely occurs. I don’t think I can think of any tune that has that in, but I’m ure somewhere there must be a tune that has those notes in the chord. It’s kind of slightly exceptional - the Phrygian mode - whereas the Lydian mode is really important - really important - because of the sharpened eleventh - or the sharpened fourth, if you like. Now the way - we’ll be looking at this a bit more when we come to talk about chords - the way I like to think of it is that you sharpen the fourth, or sharpen the eleventh, and it’s an alternative for a major scale.
423.5
Now majors (major sevenths), as I’ve said, are so strong that there’s not much you can do with it really without changing its character. But you can Lydianise it - you can sharpen the eleventh, sharpen the fourth. If you like to think of it in terms of what the notes are in there - there’s a D triad in there - so you can think of it as … We’ll discuss that more a bit later on. We know about the Mixolydian. It’s just the seventh scale.
452.7
The Aeolian, again, doesn’t crop up much but it it were to have a name: C minor7 with a flat thirteen. I think I’ve seen one tune with that in.
468.1
But the Locrian is an important one because it’s our half diminished, and - so it’s minor third, minor fifth (flattened third, flattened fifth), minor seventh (flattened seventh) and, in addition, it’s got a flattened ninth and it’s got a flattened thirteenth. This is the standard chord - the standard chord for that scale - the standard scale, if you like, for that chord - C half diminished.
509.6
So the Locrian is important. Obviously we know the Dorian’s important - it’s the basis of modal jazz, really. Phrygian tends to be less used. Lydian - I like the idea of Lydianising the major seventh. Mixolydian, as I say, is our old friend the seventh and Aeolian is a sort of minor scale that, again, very rarely crops up. So Phrygian and Aeolian tend to be a little bit exceptional. OK, those are the Ionian modes.

We look at the seven Ionian modes, where a mode is just a scale rooted in a different part of the major or Ionian scale.

You can download the chart for “Ionian Modes” in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

This article is from the free online

Learn Jazz Piano: Advanced and Solo Playing

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education