How Modes Work

Jason Allen
A free video tutorial from Jason Allen
Ph.D / Ableton Certified Trainer
4.5 instructor rating • 110 courses • 191,948 students

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Music Theory for Electronic Music COMPLETE: Parts 1, 2, & 3

Electronic music theory, digital music theory, and dance music theory. Learn music theory with ableton live and more!

12:33:23 of on-demand video • Updated November 2020

  • By the end of this course, you will have improved your tracks by understanding how to build chords and melodies that work together.
  • Understand and apply minor chords
  • Use the circle of fifths to generate new ideas for your own tracks
  • Work within minor keys to write compelling melodies and basslines
  • The Piano Roll editor
  • Octaves
  • Using Octaves in Bass Lines
  • The Black Keys (not the band!)
  • Finding C and Middle C
  • The Perfect 5th
  • Finding Fifths
  • Being "in key"
  • The pattern of a key
  • Moveable Patterns
  • The major and minor third
  • Building triads
  • Chord progressions
  • What is diatonic?
  • Finding all the chords in a key
  • Using roman numerals
  • Inversions
  • 7th chords
  • Maj7 and minor 7th chords
  • Dominant 7th chords
  • Blues and the 7th chord
  • Analysis: Shame On Me (Avicii)
  • Minor scales
  • Relative keys
  • Minor diatonic chord progressions
  • Analysis: Ghosts N Stuff (Deadmau5)
  • Changing keys in your track
  • Analysis: Get Luck (Daft Punk)
  • 9th and 13th chords
  • Suspended Chords
  • Writing melodies for chord progressions
  • Writing chord progressions for melodies
  • Bass lines
  • Analysis: Windowlicker (Aphex Twin)
  • Modes
  • How modes work
  • Producing with Modes
  • Pentatonic Scales
  • Chromatic Mediants
  • Creating music with music theory
  • Exotic scales
English [Auto] OK what are modes modes are scales. There are a bunch of different kinds of scales. They kind of come in a pack. There are seven modes that we use. There is an order to them. There is a sequence of them. You can use them however you want some of them are popular in different styles of music some of them give us kind of a Brazilian sound some of them give us kind of an Eastern sound. Some of them give us like jazz blues sound but at the end of the day they are a sequence of scales that we use to make melodies riffs. And to some extent harmonies. So how modes work. There's two ways to think about modes. When you're looking at them we can look at them in relation to major minor scales like I was just talking about and there are alterations to them. Let's take for example this one called Lydian. We're going to go over Lydian Mode more in a minute. I just want to kind of use it as an example to explain how it would work. So Lydian is actually the one I did just in the previous video where this note is one higher. This is called Lydian the Lydian mode. You could also say a Lydian scale. What we've done here is we've taken a major scale and we raised the fourth scale degree right. That's all we've really done. So we're going to look at these in two different ways. That's one way. The first way is looking at either a major or minor scale and all of the modes are a type of major or a type of minor. So this one Lydian is a type of major scale. Other ones are types of minor scales. They all can be related to a major or a minor scale. So. So that's the first way we're going to look at its closest major or minor scale. So if it's a majors type mode we'll look at the major scale and then we'll see how what we need to do to alter the major scale to get it into that mode. In this case we just need to raise the fourth scale degree and we get into a Lydian mode. All right. But there's another way to learn another way to look at it is by just moving the root. And this is where things get a little hairy at first. If I explain this right then this is an easier way to understand modes but it's kind of hard to explain. So let me try. Let's see if we can end up on that same scale. So all we really need is a raised fourth Here's what we're going to do. There's an order to the modes. They go in in order this one that we're looking at is the fourth one in a series. So just trust me on that we're going to look at the whole series in a minute. So this is the fourth one. So what that means we can do. If I take a C major scale I'm going to ask you see for example I go up to the fourth note because it's the fourth one. Now going to do this I'm going to treat that as the root of my scale but I'm not going to change any notes. So stick with me here. What that means is that I'm going to do a C major scale but instead of going from C to see I'm going to do a C major scale but go from F to f. So let's keep going up the C major scale. I get to an F let's get rid of this and that. OK so now I have only white notes here right. So that means we're still using a C major scale but I'm treating F as the root of the scale instead of C. So all the notes of C are another way to think about that is the key signature of C but using F as the root. So I'm using the wrong route with this scale that actually makes a mode because Check it out. Remember our pattern for a major scale the whole step whole step half step that needs to be right there. So if this was a major scale that would be down the rest would be the same but it's not. It's right there in this thing that we just made which means that fourth scale degree is raised which means it's a Lydian mode. Let's do another one. Let's go back. Words came back to my C major scale. Let's make another one. Let's build the second one. The second one in the series is called Dorian. So what I need to do for Dorian is I'm going to use a C major scale. I'm going to go but I'm going to go from d to d. Now I have a dorian scale because I have all the notes of C Major but I'm going to go from two to two. And because this is the second one in the sequence it's a dorian scale. So this pattern of modes there's one based on C there's one based on on based on either based on f. But if I change my starting point I could say let's do a D major scale. Now I'm on a D major scale. So now if I make a Lydian scale using the D major scale is my starting point. I'm going to make a G Lydian scale. K we're going to do this over and over as we go through each mode. So if that didn't quite make sense I think it a lot. And once you see it in action a couple of times. So the thing I remember from this lesson is all modes can be tied back to either a major or minor scale. It's kind of their closest brother so to speak. So that Lydian when we looked at its closest brother is a major scale that Dorian when we looked at its closest brother as a minor scale. They can go back to major minor scale and we can alter that scale to get the mode if we want. Second thing to remember is any mode can be found by just shifting the root of another key. Or another way to put that would be use a major scale but put the wrong key signature on it and you'll end up with a mode. If you do it right that doesn't mean you can just like slap any key signature on any scale and end up with something that sounds interesting. Not true. So we're going to look at more as we go into them. Before that though let's take a little stroll through the history of Millet's because it's kind of interesting.