The concept of modes is based on the different sounds created when music centers on different major scale degrees. This involves playing through major scale patterns across the fretboard and applying them in contexts that produce the various major and minor mode sounds.
The major scale has seven degrees, and technically any one of them can function as the tonal center, or primary pitch, of the scale. Likewise, any one of the major scale’s seven chords can function as the tonic, the primary chord in a progression. The sound and feel of the scale changes depending on which scale degree is heard as the starting point. The Greek names used to identify the seven modes of the major scale are Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian.
Understanding and applying modes correctly requires you to be familiar with other musical concepts, including:
- Building triads and harmonizing the major scale (refer to Fretboard Theory Course 6 for details)
- Chord progressions and playing by numbers (also see Fretboard Theory Course 6)
- Major scale patterns (check out Fretboard Theory Course 5)
These concepts come together to create the modal concept. If you don’t already understand these concepts individually, then the material here will be hard to follow.