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a question of the modes, and chords they imply underneath

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Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 48
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hopefully this isnt too crazy of a question,

now the modes are as following,

Ionian 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Dorian 1 2 3b 4 5 6 7b
Phyrgian 1 2b 3b 6b 7b
Lydian 1 2 3 4# 5 6 7
Mixolydian 1 2 3 4 5 6 7b
Aeolian 1 2 3b 4 5 6b 7b
Locrian 1 2b 3b 4 5b 6b 7b

i had learned that the modes are or can represent these chords
locrian=m7b5 ( half diminished )

okay okay, so with that said of the modes, dont they change whatever intervals to suit the chords like maj7-ionian etc etc that are played underneath or overtop? with this said, it makes me question how the chords stated to which mode above why they are what they are since,

Ionian 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 = could equal maj7
Dorian 1 2 3b 4 5 6 7b = m7
Phyrgian 1 2b 3b 6b 7b = sus7b9
Lydian 1 2 3 4# 5 6 7 = maj7 #11
Mixolydian 1 2 3 4 5 6 7b = 7
Aeolian 1 2 3b 4 5 6b 7b = m7b13
Locrian 1 2b 3b 4 5b 6b 7b = halfdim. b9

this seems to make more sense harmonically, some are the same, but some have changed to suit that specfic mode entirely, with all the alterations
is the first set of chords stated, just a dulled down version of this, and should i pay more attention to these new changes and chords when playing modally?

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 4921

Well, modes don't "imply" chords - modes are melodic tools, and chords are harmonic ones.

So what your chord lists really boil down to is a list of chords that don't have any conflicts with each particular mode. As such, there are always going to be other chords (in fact, a LOT of other chords) that will also work. For example, take your Phrygian mode... which is 1-b2-b3-4-5-b6-b7. Your first chord list shows a m7, which works because it overlays the scale without any conflicts: 1-b2-b3-4-5-b6-b7. Your second list shows sus7b9, and that works too: 1-b2-b3-4-5-b6-b7. But it's also going to work over a simply minor triad, a minor(addb9), a simple sus chord, etc.

And that's just considering chords with the same root. If you're in C Phrygian, your scale is C-Db-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb, which means it's also going to fit nicely with chords like Bbm, Eb major, Fm, G half diminished, and so on (and on and on).

It's best not to overthink the modes. Guitarists tend to obsess over them like they're some kind of holy grail of music... when really they're just scales with a different structure. In general you want your scale to fit the chords and vice-versa, but including deliberate clashes for flavor - like the b3/b5/b7 in a blues scale against a major chord does - can work well too.

Whatever you decide to do with them, be sure NOT to "change modes" with each chord change - modal flavor depends on establishing a tonal center. If you keep changing the center, you can't have strong one... and that means you're spending too much time thinking about the scales and chords, and not enough time actually creating a good melody!

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