Mode (music) - Modern


See also: Properties of musical modes

Although many of the names of modes in modern music theory are the same as names used by the ancient Greeks for their harmoniai, they do not represent the same sequences of intervals found even in the diatonic genus of the Greek octave species. In the modern western conception, a mode encompasses the same set of diatonic intervals as the major scale. However, a different "tonic" (central tone) is used, resulting in a different sequence of whole and half steps above it.

By definition, all major scales use the same interval sequence T-T-s-T-T-T-s, where "s" means a semitone and "T" means a whole tone (two semitones). From the modal point of view, this interval sequence is called the Ionian or Major mode. It is one of the seven modern modes—seven because only seven diatonic notes can be used as the tonic. Taking any major scale, a new scale is obtained by taking a different degree of the major scale as the tonic. With this method, from each major scale it is possible to generate six other scales or modes, each characterized by a different interval sequence:

Mode Tonic relative
to major scale
Interval sequence Example
Ionian I T-T-s-T-T-T-s C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C
Dorian II T-s-T-T-T-s-T D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D
Phrygian III s-T-T-T-s-T-T E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E
Lydian IV T-T-T-s-T-T-s F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F
Mixolydian V T-T-s-T-T-s-T G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G
Aeolian VI T-s-T-T-s-T-T A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A
Locrian VII s-T-T-s-T-T-T B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B

For the sake of simplicity, the examples shown above are formed by natural notes (also called "white-notes", as they can be played using the white keys of a piano keyboard). However, any transposition of each of these scales is a valid example of the corresponding mode. In other words, transposition preserves mode.

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