Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (2023)

musical theory

Michael Hahn·July 6, 2018·10 minute read

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (1)

Fundamentals of music theory.

This lesson is step 6/8 of a LANDR lesson plan.Click hereto start from the beginning or just keep reading.

Why should you learn musical modes?

Good question. Even though you know it will be worth it, the thought of sitting down and memorizingmusical scalesit's not anyone's idea of ​​a creative flow.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (2)

Unlimited mastering and distribution, 1,200 royalty-free samples, 30+ plugins, and much more.Get everything LANDR has to offer with LANDR Studio.

musical theoryis one of the most common obstacles for self-taught musicians and producers.

But the truth is that all you need to expand your tonal palette is a little practical understanding ofmusic modes.

If you need to break out of a creative rut, modes are the easiest alternative to your old major scale.

This article will show you how to build, and remember, each musical mode, what they sound like, and ways to explore them further.

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Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (3)

Peggy explains the basics of the minor scale, also known as the Aeolian mode.

What are music modes?

Musical modes are a type of scale with distinct melodic characteristics. The 7 modes, Ionian, Doric, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian, come from the oldest forms of Western music.

before we knowthe mathsto divide the octave into 12 equal tones, we had to content ourselves with an imperfect system. Mods were the solution.

Instead of one all-purpose scale that can be transposed into different keys, there were 7 modes, each with its own structure.

(Video) Demonstrating All 7 Modes in Parallel [MODAL MUSIC THEORY]

In ancient music, modes were used the same way we use keys now.

In ancient music, modes were used the same way we use keys now.

Today, modal music refers to pieces of music in which modes are used structurally and harmonically instead of the traditional functional harmony.

How modes help with composition

If you've been writing a lot using the vanilla major and minor scales, your next song could benefit from a little modal flavor!

Each mode has its own unique color and mood. Their melodic signatures can bring a lot of drama and freshness to your sound.

They are also not difficult to learn. Once you start experimenting with the modes, you'll recognize the many sounds and colors they have to offer.

How to build the modes

The sound of the modes comes from their unique constructions. So what are they and how can you remember them?

The modes have an order. Ironically, you can use the mnemonicUEDnoPAGarticularlyUEI likeMETROodesAND UEhello to remember!

There are 7 modes in music:

  1. ionian
  2. dorio
  3. Phrygian
  4. Lydia
  5. Mixolidio
  6. wind
  7. locrian

If you've been writing a lot using the vanilla major and minor scales, your next song could benefit from a little modal flavor!

I'll build each mode from the C major scale and provide an example from music history to help you understand the potential of each mode in your own composition.

1. Ionian mode

Let's start with the major scale. It is equivalent to the first mode: Ionian.

Since your “key” won't change as you move through the modes, you can play each mode using the C major scale formula.

If you need a quick refresher on armor, use ourcircle of fifths guideas a quick reminder.

As you can see, C major has no sharps or flats, just the white keys on the keyboard. So:C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (4)

Since all notes are essentially the same, we'll have to play each mode over the corresponding one.diatonic chordto hear its quality.

2. Modo Dorian

For Dorian, write the C major scale, but instead of stopping at the octave (C), write the next scale degree as if you were continuing on the octave (D).

If we remove the C we started with, we now have an 8 note scale from D1-D2. This is the second mode :D Dorian.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (5)

Notice how close it is to the D minor scale.

It is similar, but with some very important differences. The sixth grade is natural, but the seventh grade is flat.

This is what sets the Dorian mode apart from other minor scales and gives it a special quality.

Here is a song based on Dorian mode. Listen for the natural sixth sound in the initial figures of the guitar and in the vocal melody:

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (6)

3. Cold mode

Now write the next note on the scale. If you remove the D, you have another 8 note scale from E1-E2. This is the third way: And Phrygian.

It is similar to minor, but is immediately distinguished by the flatted second degree of the scale.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (7)

(Video) 1 Song, 7 Modes–Modes of the Major Scale Explained! Modal Jazz, Fusion, Church Modes, Folk.

The characteristic minor second interval has a recognizable sound. The second chord in the opening progression of Radiohead's "Pyramid Song" is based on the Phrygian flat second:

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (8)

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Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (9)

4. Lydian mode

Lydian is the fourth mode. If you write the next note in the scale, you get F Lydian.

We liked it so much that we made a whole piece.Lydia.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (10)

Sonic Youth's "Bull in the Heather" features the Lydian raised fourth degree prominently in the guitar melody in the verse:

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5. Mixolydium mode

Mixolydian is the fifth mode. If you continue with the method of writing the next scale degree and removing the first, you get G Mixolydian.

Mixolydian has some "blues scale" characteristics due to the flatted seventh.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (12)

Listen to the sitar/vocal melody of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood":

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (13)

6. Wind mode

Wind is the sixth mode. Continuing up the ladder, you'll get A Eolian.

It is also called a natural minor, because it is a minor scale without the raised 6th degree or the melodic or harmonic minor 7th degree.

Aeolian is the standard minor sound in pop music, so it can be found throughout music history.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (14)

"Losing My Religion" by R.E.M. use wind mode.

(Video) Piano Kids - Learn and play numbers | count 1-50 with the frogs

Since we are so used to natural minor, it can be more difficult to choose characteristic modal intervals. In this case, listen to the quality ofcome to wake up.

When it is smaller, we are in Aeolian.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (15)

7. Locrian mode

Locrian is the seventh mode. It's used much less frequently than the other modes, so there aren't many examples.

But that doesn't mean the methods you've already used in the rest of this article aren't worth exploring on your own.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (16)

The major scale: how to find any mode

you just learned themain scale methodmode construction. Now you can build any mode as long as you know your number when ordering.

Simply count back to the major major scale to determine the structure of the mode.

Simply count back to the major major scale to determine the structure of the mode.

For example, what about the wind? Wind is the sixth mode. What major scale is the E 6th degree?

That's right, it's G. So E Aeolian is simply the 8-note scale that starts and ends on E with the same formula as G-Major.

Once again, keeping an eye on key signatures is essential when working with modes. Hecircle of fifthsis a great partner tool for modally writing.

Once you understand the major scale method of getting the modes, you'll start to see patterns.

This is where the other method of remembering modes comes into play...

scale formulas

As you've probably noticed, the modes share many similarities with the major or minor scale.

If you know if a mode is generallylargerosmaller, you can simply remember which tones were changed in the model.

This is the "scale formula" method of remembering the modes.

Here are formulas for church manners.

  • Ionian – Major (no note changes)
  • Dorian - minor + augmented sixth, depressed seventh
  • Phrygian - Minor + 2nd gradient, 6th gradient, 7th gradient
  • Lydian – Major + 4th elevated
  • Mixolydian - Major + lower seventh
  • Aeolian - minor + lowered 6th, lowered 7th

For example, let's say we want to play A Lydian. We remember that Lydian is a "major" mode, so we start with the scale formula for A Major: F#, C#, G#.

We know that Lydian contains the raised fourth degree of the scale, so we can simply add D# to our "key" to create the mode.

Now that you know the scale formula method, try transposing each mode to C and playing them over the corresponding C major or minor chord.

This will help you understand what makes each mode different.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (17)

Of these two methods, you might think that the scale formula method is much faster and easier. But the main scale method will come in handy later when you're exploring more advanced modes.

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Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (18)

(Video) The 7 Levels of Jazz Harmony

How to make your own modal music

If you've played the modes, you're probably starting to get an idea of ​​what they sound like.

In practice, think of modes as colors on a spectrum from dark to light.

In practice, think of modes as colors on a spectrum from dark to light.

To generalize:

  • Modes with lower scale degrees are darker.
  • Modes with higher scale degrees can be considered brighter.

It's an easy shortcut to finding where the modes fit in your composition. Need an even darker sound than the smallest? Phrygian can be useful.

Looking for something especially bright and heightened? Lydian may be your best option.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (19)

You can find your own kinesthetic connections to the modes as you learn them - there are no right or wrong answers here!

Good date:

If you have followed closely and listened carefully to the examples, you may have noticed that some of the songs you have heard contain the characteristic intervals of the modes in the melody, while others use them in harmony.

Need an even darker sound than the smallest? Phrygian can be useful.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (20)

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You can build chords with modesas we have done beforewith the major and minor scales... but that's a story for another day! Stay tuned…

mode selector

Modes can be game changers for your compositions.

Major scale modes are everywhere in the history of music. Once you recognize your sounds, you'll start hearing them on all your favorite tracks.

They are also a gateway to other methods. Once you've mastered church manners, your ears will itch for new colors and moods.

If you know these methods for creating and remembering modes, go ahead and try them all! Because no composition toolbox is too big.

Music modes: How to enrich your songs with modal colors (21)

Michael Hahn is an engineer and producer atautomatic landingand a member of the indie rock trio Slight.

@Michael Hahn

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What is a modal characteristics in music? ›

In the modern musical world, we use the term modal music to describe music that uses modes to create the harmonic structure of a piece of music, rather than traditional harmony.

What is a modal tune? ›

Modal tunes are unique in that they tend to spend a significant amount of time on one chord before switching to the next chord. Many other tunes in jazz have a faster harmonic rhythm, moving more quickly between chords.

Can you mix modes in a song? ›

-A common way to mix modes is to borrow notes from a minor key, while in major, or vice versa. This can often result in BORROWED CHORDS. -The HARMONIC MINOR (raised 7) and MELODIC minor ( raised 6 and 7) is fairly common.

How do you use modes in songwriting? ›

A mode is a different way of playing a scale – it uses exactly the same notes but starts in a different place. For example, we'd usually play the C major scale starting on C. We'd go up, playing each note in the scale until we hit C again.

How can you tell if a song is modal? ›

Modal songs can be written in any mode (not just major and minor), so for example it can be in the key of D Dorian. In Modal Harmony, chords DO NOT have a function, so in a sense: all chords are equal. A chord DOES NOT need to resolve to any other chord.

What are the 7 modes feelings? ›

Today, the modes retain their original Greek names: the Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian.

What type of modal should I use? ›

Should is an auxiliary verb - a modal auxiliary verb. We use should mainly to: give advice or make recommendations.

What are modal progressions? ›

Modal chord progressions use the same harmonic structure as their parent major scale. Each mode has its own tonic chord rooted on its related degree of the parent scale. Chord progressions can be built around each mode to reaffirm their tonic or "home".

Is modal music more advanced than tonal? ›

Modal music is less sophisticated than tonal music, modal music is in fact based on a scale and uses the notes of that scale without any particular complications. Within a given scale (or mode) the notes are all the same, they have no particular roles.

What is the least used mode in music? ›

The Locrian Mode is perhaps the least used mode in today's music. This is because it has a flat fifth pitch making the first chord a diminished chord. In C Major this mode begins on B and the notes of that first chord are B, D and F.

What dB should songs be mixed at? ›

I recommend mixing at -23 dB LUFS, or having your peaks be between -18dB and -3dB. This will allow the mastering engineer the opportunity to process your song, without having to resort to turning it down.

What is the most popular mode in music? ›

Ionian: probably the most common mode. Any Song in any major key is in Ionian mode. Dorian: is a minor mode (minor third between first and third degree).

What chords to use with modes? ›

Major chords follow the formula 1-3-5-7. Both Ionian and Lydian modes contain these notes; therefore either mode can be used. Minor chords follow the formula 1-b3-5-b7. Dorian, phrygian, and aeolian all contain that formula, therefore any one of them can be played.

What are the 7 modes in order? ›

The seven main categories of mode have been part of musical notation since the middle ages. So, the list goes: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian.

What is the difference between mode and modal? ›

What is the Difference Between the Mode and the Modal Interval? The modal interval is determined for ranges of numbers, while the mode is derived for individual numbers. For example, assume the following set of numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 13, 13, 13, 18, 22, 22.

How do I know if a song suits my voice? ›

When you try out songs from different genres, and/or different styles within those genres, you will notice that certain songs are more comfortable right off the bat. When you record yourself, see if it sounds right to you. Examine the style of that song: that's the style that fits best with your natural voice.

What is the opposite of modal music? ›

Tonal music is based around the chord progression. Modal music is organized around melody.

What are the 8 core feelings? ›

They are hurt, loneliness, sadness, anger, fear, shame, guilt, and gladness. Most of the 8 emotions seem negative, but like with most things, there are two sides to each of them and even emotions like anger, fear, and guilt have a gift.

What are the 4 complex emotions? ›

Complex emotions, such as grief, regret, and jealousy, have highly variable appearances and compositions. Basic emotions, which include sadness, anger, fear, disgust, contempt, joy, and surprise, are so-called because they are associated with universally recognizable facial expressions (see image).

What is the strongest modal? ›

The stronger the modal, the stronger the possibility. Must is so strong that it is almost forcing something to happen. On the opposite end, can, could, and might are all equally weak and show a lack of commitment or confidence. Strongest logical possibility = most probable (but still not guaranteed) must.

What is the rule for modal? ›

Modal verbs are always directly before the main verb in simple sentences except when asking questions. Always use the infinitive of the main verb without the "to," for example, if you want to boast to someone about how many pushups you can do, you could say, "I can do the entire pushup routine in 5 minutes."

What modal is should not? ›

The negative forms of modal verbs are often contracted.
Contracted forms.
modal verbuncontracted negativecontracted negative
shouldshould notshouldn't /ˈʃʊdənt/
mustmust notmustn't /ˈmʌsənt/
7 more rows
Mar 1, 2023

What is a modal mixture chord? ›

Modal mixture (or borrowing) is the harmonic technique of mixing the notes from the parallel major and natural-minor modes (e.g., C major and C minor). This results in changing the chord qualities and/or melodic “color” to achieve expressive effects not available in the main scale itself.

Are modes useful in music? ›

Modes are used in many types of music; from sacred music to jazz to rock. Composers use it to add "flavor" to their compositions in order to avoid predictability. It is formed by naming a different note as the root (1st) instead of the original root of the scale.

What is the most sophisticated form of music? ›

Jazz is the world's most sophisticated form of music | CBC Radio.

Which is better mirror or tonal or tempo? ›

Tonal, for the whole experience, also carries a higher price tag than any other option on the list. If your primary interests are either affordability or cardio workouts, Mirror is your option. If you want to build muscle through strength training, then we recommend Tempo.

What is the quietest symbol in music? ›

pp, standing for pianissimo and meaning "very quiet".

What is the saddest mode in music? ›

The minor scale is the pattern in western music typically associated with sad feelings. It includes three different variations called the natural minor scale (or Aeolian mode), the melodic minor scale and the harmonic minor scale.

What is the least popular key in music? ›

A-sharp minor is likely the least used minor key in music as it is not generally considered a practical key for composition.

What dB is a mastered song? ›

The average loudness of master records for the music industry in 2022 is around -8 RMS, about -10 LUFS, with the output ceiling around -0,3 dB. However, the loudness targets can vary for different genres.

What is the best volume level for mastering? ›

The best mastering level for streaming is an integrated -14 LUFS, as it best fits the loudness normalization settings of the majority of streaming services. Although other measurements like the true peak value and other metrics need to be considered, -14 LUFS is the best mastering level when considering loudness.

Should you mix at high or low volume? ›

While it's okay to briefly listen to a mix at a louder level to hear what it sounds like cranked, you need a default volume level to call “home.” Renowned mix engineer Chris Lord-Alge agrees, recommending that you mix at a consistent volume that's quiet enough for comfortable extended listening.

How can I make my song sound better? ›

How to Make Your Music Sound Better
  1. Begin with good writing and structure. ...
  2. Know what a song that “sounds good” actually sounds like. ...
  3. Take stock of your talents. ...
  4. Collaborate. ...
  5. Be clear on the genre you're working in and its main components. ...
  6. Trust your work to the professionals. ...
  7. Keep working on your own skills.
Aug 30, 2017

How do I make my mix sound fuller? ›

How to Make Your Mix Sound Bigger
  1. EQ Up Lows and Highs. Pull up an equalizer and boost the low end ever so slightly to add a bit of richness to the bass. ...
  2. Layer Up. Adding more layers is one of the easiest ways to bring more texture and depth to your mix. ...
  3. Add Some Reverb. ...
  4. 808 Kick Drum. ...
  5. Widen Your Stereo Image.

Why do my mixes sound harsh? ›

What Causes Harsh Mixes? A mix can sound harsh when there is an excess of energy in the 1kHz to 10kHz frequency range in the context of the whole mix. Often, the root cause of harshness is poor sonic and EQ choices, such as pushing for an overly bright mix or selecting harsh synth sounds.

What mode are most rock songs in? ›

Aeolian is a mode that is widely heard across many genres such as rock, pop, latin and funk. This scale is often used over a minor chord, either triad or 7th, and gives a much more melodic tonality to the Pentatonic scale.

What scale is most music in? ›

Pentatonic (five-note) scales are used more widely than any other scale formation. In fact, Western art music is one of the few traditions in which pentatonic scales do not predominate.

What music makes you type faster? ›

The results of this of this experiment showed that fast rap produced the fastest typing speeds at 13.54 words per minute. Slow rock produced the second fastest typing speed at 12.21 words per minute.

What are the 3 most useful chords? ›

The I, IV, and V chords are the three most common and arguably the most important harmonic elements in the musical universe. Built off of the first, fourth, and fifth notes of any major or minor scale, these three chords form the basis for much of the music found in several genres.

What is the 3 chord trick? ›

The three-chord trick refers to an idea in music theory where a song, phrase, or musical idea is most likely to be based on the tonic, sub-dominant, and dominant chords (I-IV-V) of the major scale. These three chords can either work as the structural basis for a song or as an accompanying melody.

Do piano players use modes? ›

Piano students who know their major scales can quickly learn to play any of the musical modes by simply memorizing how each mode compares to the major scale. In the following sections, you'll play each the musical modes on piano with a tonic note of C. You'll also learn which chord types correspond to each mode.

What order should I learn modes? ›

Here is the normal order of the major modes on guitar for review.
  • Ionian.
  • Dorian.
  • Phrygian.
  • Lydian.
  • Mixolydian.
  • Aeolian.
  • Locrian.
Apr 11, 2022

What is a mode music theory? ›

mode, in music, any of several ways of ordering the notes of a scale according to the intervals they form with the tonic, thus providing a theoretical framework for the melody. A mode is the vocabulary of a melody; it specifies which notes can be used and indicates which have special importance.

What are the characteristics of mode? ›

The mode is a statistical term that refers to the most frequently occurring number found in a set of numbers. The mode is found by collecting and organizing data in order to count the frequency of each result. The result with the highest count of occurrences is the mode of the set, also referred to as the modal value.

What are the 5 musical characteristics? ›

Melody, harmony, rhythm, and form and the expressive elements of dynamics, tempo, and timbre (tone color).

What are the 5 common musical characteristics? ›

This series introduces the six key elements of music including rhythm, texture, dynamics, pitch, form, and timbre.

What are the types of musical characteristics? ›

  • Tempo: Overall pace of the song; speed of the music. ...
  • Rhythm: In songs, words usually match the rhythm. ...
  • Pitch: High or low tones.
  • Timbre: Color of the sound. ...
  • Dynamics: Loudness or softness of the sound. ...
  • Melody: The tune. ...
  • Harmony: The blending of tones or sounds played or sung simultaneously to make up chords.

What are the four types of mode? ›

The different types of Mode are Unimodal, Bimodal, Trimodal, and Multimodal.

What are the disadvantages of mode? ›

  • The mode is not defined when there are no repeats in a data set.
  • The mode is not based on all values.
  • The mode is unstable when the data consist of a small number of values.
  • Sometimes the data has one mode, more than one mode, or no mode at all.

What are the four modes? ›

Four Modes of Environment: Immediate, Affective, Local, Global. Download Scientific Diagram.

What makes a perfect song? ›

Not only does a good song need to have great chords, melodies, and lyrics, but also should create some sort of reaction, or evoke a specific emotion. A lot of songwriters craft their music from specific events or experiences that they have had, making it very relatable to others.

What are the 7 elements of music? ›

Although the exact definition of music varies widely even in the West, music contains melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, pitch, silence, and form or structure.

Which are the 7 musical concepts? ›

  • Musical Concepts. Musical Concepts. ...
  • Duration. Beat - Music often has an underlying, recurring beat. ...
  • Melody. Sound - Sounds are produced by vibration which may be regular or irregular. ...
  • Harmony. Chords - Three or more pitches sounding simultaneously constitute a chord. ...
  • Texture. ...
  • Form. ...
  • Timbre. ...
  • Dynamics.

What are the 4 qualities of music? ›

There are four sound qualities: pitch, duration, intensity and timbre.

What is the most important element in music? ›

We might consider melody to be the single most important element within a song. In everyday language, this is the element we call 'the tune'. In technical terms, however, the melody is a series of pitches, or notes, that are organised to form a shape or pattern.

What are the 3 elements of music? ›

The Basic Elements of Music

The elements of music can be broken down into three general categories: rhythm, harmony, and melody.

What are the 8 fundamentals of music? ›

  • Basic Related Terms.
  • Rhythm:
  • Dynamics:
  • Melody:
  • Harmony:
  • Tone color:
  • Texture:

What is the color of music? ›

In the world of music, the metaphor “the color of music” has been vastly used to describe characteristics of sound such as tone quality, pitch, and timbre. Timbre can be described as a mixture of frequencies including the fundamental pitch that makes up what we hear when music is played by a particular instrument.

What are the four types of musical themes? ›

Four basic types of musical forms are distinguished in ethnomusicology: iterative, the same phrase repeated over and over; reverting, with the restatement of a phrase after a contrasting one; strophic, a larger melodic entity repeated over and over to different strophes (stanzas) of a poetic text; and progressive, in ...


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