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Modes and Scale Patterns

Question by Al

I was recently looking at the Bigger Picture modes lesson.

With the scale across the six strings I found out that is where Ionian, Dorian come from. I did not know it was all in one key.

My question is when you're going through the scale from maj to minor... 1..2..3..4... starting on the tone you run the same wwhwwwh pattern, are you supposed to get a different sound from that because to me it still sounds like the major scale. Just want to clear this up thanks..al.


Hey Al, this is all about a tonal center which is defined by the context in which you play the scale.

If you play the C major (Ionian) scale, it will sound like C major.

If you play D Dorian straight after, it will still probably sound like C major, because your brain is still thinking in the context of that parent C major scale.

However, if you play a D minor chord before you start playing D Dorian, or even better play D Dorian over a D minor backing track, you will hear Dorian.

Playing over that same D minor chord, if you played C Ionian again it would still sound like Dorian, because the D minor chord in the background defines the context in which C major is being used.

D minor is the ii (Dorian) chord, so playing any of these related mode patterns over that chord will sound like Dorian...

C Ionian
D Dorian
E Phrygian
F Lydian
G Mixolydian
A Aeolian
B Locrian

Remember, we're only using the mode names to reference their patterns and their relationship to the mode you're actually playing (D Dorian). If you play G Mixolydian over D minor, for example, you are NOT playing Mixolydian, you are just playing a pattern you associate with G Mixolydian.

D Dorian is just the C major scale "starting" on its 2nd degree (note) and the ii chord (or even just a bass note on the root of that chord) puts it into context.

Eventually, you will probably just see the above as C major - the parent diatonic key, and a D minor root chord will tell you that Dorian will be the dominant mode within that C major scale.

What's more important is how you use the notes of C major in the context of one of its related modes.

I'll be adding to the guitar modes series in the future to help clear things up.

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Scale sounds
By: u2dam

Thanks, Fretjam- Guess I have been blazing through these major scales forever..and it sounds the same..but can see the possible sound difference...once I slow down the scale....

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