The Moods Of The Modes

When studying various types of scales or "Modes", one thing to keep in mind is that every scale type has it's own "flavor" or "mood". When I was first began studying scales many years ago, I found myself falling into a trap that many guitarists fall into: learning many different finger patterns on the fretboard without really LISTENING to the sound of each individual scale. I find that with many players, it's very easy to overlook this essential aspect of understanding WHY the study of different scales is so important. When studying any scale, you should focus on these key elements:

- What are the names of the notes that are in the scale? (Musical Alphabet)

- How do I find the notes of the scale on the fretboard? (Fretboard Knowledge)

- Can I play the notes of the scale across all 6 strings? (Position Playing)

- Can I play the notes of the scale on a single string? (Linear Playing)

- What type of chord is associated with the Root Note of this scale? (Major, Minor, etc.)

- What types of chord progressions can I use this scale with?

- Can I build this scale type in all 12 Keys?

- Can I name the intervals used to construct this scale?

- What styles of music use the sound of this scale?

- Who are some great players that I can listen to who are known for using this scale in their music?

- What are some examples of great songs that I can study that make use of this scale?

- Can I improvise my own melodies with this scale?

- Can I compose a riff or a chord progression using the sound of this scale?

A little while back in my post "From Scales To Music", I mentioned that many years ago I began to put together a list of songs that I use with my private students to illustrate the unique sound of each scale type that they are studying. To this day, every time I come across a song with a riff or a solo that really illustrates the unique "sound" or "flavor" of a particular scale, I'll add it to my list. In this post I'd like to give some more specific examples that focus on the unique sound of four different scales or "Modes", which are the Dorian Mode, the Phrygian Mode, the Lydian Mode, and the Mixolydian Mode.

Let's begin with the Dorian Mode. This mode is built using the following pattern of intervals:

Root - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step

When compared to a Major Scale, the interval formula for the Dorian Mode is:

Root - 2nd - b3rd- 4th - 5th - 6th - b7th - Root

The sound of the Dorian Mode is associated with a Minor Chord (Root - b3rd - 5th) or a Minor 7th Chord (Root - b3rd - 5th - b7th)

The "mood" of this mode is fairly dark, but it also has a very jazzy or bluesy quality. Some of my favorite examples of the Dorian sound include:

"Oye Como Va" by Santana (A Dorian)

"Evil Ways" by Santana, (G Dorian)

"Another Brick In The Wall (Part Two)" by Pink Floyd (D Dorian)

The verse from "Moondance" by Van Morrison (A Dorian)

The verse from "Breathe" by Pink Floyd (E Dorian)

The solo section of "Light My Fire" by the Doors (A Dorian)

The main riff from "From The Beginning" by Emerson Lake and Palmer (A Dorian)

The verse from "No Quarter" by Led Zeppelin (D Dorian)

The main riff from "Mary Jane's Last Dance" by Tom Petty (A Dorian)

The verses from "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" by The Beatles (A Dorian and D Dorian)

These songs are all great examples of the Dorian SOUND, and really proves my point that mastering a scale is all about how you use that scale to create great music. The whole point is to solidify in your mind that the Dorian Mode is more than just a finger pattern or group of notes on the fretboard - it's a specific type of SOUND that can be used to create melodies, riffs, and progressions.

Now let's look at the Phrygian Mode. This mode is built using the following pattern of intervals:

Root - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step

 

When compared to a Major Scale, the interval formula for the Phrygian Mode is:

Root - b2nd - b3rd- 4th - 5th - b6th - b7th - Root

The sound of the Phrygian Mode is associated with a Minor Chord (Root - b3rd - 5th) or a Minor 7th Chord (Root - b3rd - 5th - b7th)

The "mood" of this mode is VERY dark, and is often used by "heavier" bands. Melodies, riffs, and progressions that are built from the Phrygian Mode tend to have a very ominous sound. Some of my favorite examples of the Phrygian sound include:

 

"Sober" by Tool (D Phrygian)

"Prison Song" by System Of A Down (C Phrygian)

The main riff from "Harvester Of Sorrow" by Metallica (E Phrygian)

The intro from "This Love" by Pantera (F# Phrygian)

The main riff from "Over The Mountain" by Ozzy (G# Phrygian)

The verse from "The Wizard" by Black Sabbath (A Phrygian)

The intro from "Space Oddity" by David Bowie (E Phrygian)

These songs are all great examples of the Phrygian SOUND. As you can see from this list, the overall "flavor" of this scale is very dark, but recognizing that this scale has a different "mood" is exactly what this post is all about!
 

Now let's look at the Lydian Mode. This mode is built using the following pattern of intervals:

Root - Whole Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step

 
When compared to a Major Scale, the interval formula for the Lydian Mode is:

Root - 2nd - 3rd- #4th - 5th - 6th - 7th - Root

 
The sound of the Lydian Mode is associated with a Major Chord (Root - 3rd - 5th) or a Major 7th Chord (Root - 3rd - 5th - 7th)

 
The "Mood" of this mode is very bright and is quite similar in sound to the Major Scale. This particular Mode is used quite frequently in movie soundtracks because of the "uplifting" quality of the scale. Some of my favorite examples of the Lydian sound include:

 

The theme from "The Simpson's" cartoon by Danny Elfman (C Lydian)

The main riff and verse sections from "Freewill" by Rush (F Lydian)

The main melody from "Flying In A Blue Dream" by Joe Satriani (C Lydian)

The verse from "Here Comes My Girl" by Tom Petty (A Lydian)

The intro and verse sections from "Man On The Moon" by REM (C Lydian)

The main riff from "Dancing Days" by Led Zeppelin (G Lydian)

The main melody from "Answers" by Steve Vai (D Lydian)

 

These songs are all great examples of the Lydian SOUND. As you can see from this list, (especially when compared to the Phrygian list), the overall "mood" of this scale is much brighter, and the songwriters that favor this type of scale are stylistically quite different. THIS is what the study of different scales is all about: understanding WHY things sound the way they do.

 
Finally let's look at the Mixolydian Mode, which is one of my favorites. This mode is built using the following pattern of intervals:

Root - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step

 
When compared to a Major Scale, the interval formula for the Mixolydian Mode is:

Root - 2nd - 3rd- 4th - 5th - 6th - b7th - Root

The sound of the Mixolydian Mode is associated with a Major Chord (Root - 3rd - 5th) or a Dominant 7th Chord (Root - 3rd - 5th - b7th)

The "mood" of this mode is also bright and is quite similar in sound to the Major Scale, but unlike the Major Scale, the Mixolydian Mode has more of a "bluesy" or "funky" quality. This particular Mode is used just as often as the Major Scale simply because the two sounds are very similar. Some of my favorite examples of the Mixolydian sound include:
 

"Fire On The Mountain" by the Grateful Dead (B Mixolydian)

The main melody from "Norwegian Wood" by the Beatles (D Mixolydian)

The verse from "She Said She Said" by the Beatles (B Mixolydian)

The outro section from "Hey Jude" by the Beatles (F Mixolydian)

The intro riff from "Limelight" by Rush (B Mixolydian)

The signature intro riff from "Sweet Child 'O Mine" by Guns 'n' Roses (D Mixolydian)

The main riff from "Thank You" by Led Zeppelin (D Mixolydian)

The main melody and outro sections from "Mainstreet" by Bob Seger (D Mixolydian)

The intro riff from "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" by Jimi Hendrix (B Mixolydian)

The verse and chorus sections from "Let It Rain" by Eric Clapton (D Mixolydian)

The verse from "Southern Cross" by Crosby, Stills and Nash (A Mixolydian)

Once again, these songs are all great examples of the Mixolydian SOUND. The overall "mood" of this scale is much brighter, and the types of song examples associated with this type of scale are quite different from something like Dorian or Phrygian.

So, as you can see from this short outline (I could easily list 100+ songs for each of the four modes I've listed), when it comes to learning and practicing scales, your job as a student is to be able to associate each new scale that you study with REAL MUSIC! That is what playing the guitar is all about - taking each new idea that you learn and instantly applying it to some new music - Good Luck!

Nate

 
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