Modes are a fundamental concept in music theory. They form the basis of many musical styles, from ancient folk music to modern pop and rock. Understanding how modes work can help you write more interesting and complex melodies, harmonies and chord progressions.

What are Modes?

Modes are scales that are derived from the major scale. They have been used for centuries in Western music, and there are seven modes in total. Each mode has a unique sound due to the different intervals between its notes.

The Seven Modes

The Ionian mode is simply the major scale we all know and love. The other six modes differ from the major scale by altering one or more of its intervals.

How Do Modes Work?

Each mode has a unique set of intervals that give it its distinctive sound. For example, the Dorian mode has a minor third interval between its first and third notes, while the Lydian mode has an augmented fourth interval between its fourth and fifth notes.

To play a mode, you simply start on a different note of the major scale than you would for the Ionian mode (the major scale). For example, to play the Dorian mode, you start on the second note of the C major scale (D), and play all seven notes up to D again.

Using Modes in Composition

Modes can add variety and interest to your compositions by giving them a unique flavor or mood. For example, the Phrygian mode has a dark and mysterious sound, while the Lydian mode has a dreamy and ethereal quality.

You can use modes in your melodies, harmonies, and chord progressions. For example, you could use the Dorian mode to create a minor-key melody with a unique sound. Or you could use the Mixolydian mode to create a bluesy chord progression.


Modes are an important aspect of music theory that can help you create more interesting and complex compositions. By understanding how they work and how to use them in your music, you can add variety and interest to your compositions. So why not experiment with modes today and see where they take you?