Modes Part 6 - the chords associated with the modes

I closed Part 4 with this:

We therefore now move on to considering modes and modal music in a harmonic setting.

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Modes and their Chords

To move towards understanding, hearing and using modes harmonically and melodically, we need to build a catalogue of chords that are associated with each.

This topic does not need to deviate towards chord construction. Suffice it to say that for any given major scale as a start point, there is a process called harmonising the major scale. THis builds the chords within a key by taking each note of the major scale in turn, using them as a starting root, stacking a total of three notes from the major scale by counting in thirds and so forming triads. Harmonising the major scale gives the sequence of chord types:
Major, minor, minor, Major, Major, minor, diminished.

Knowing the chords of given major scales can help us know the chords associated with the modes. Okay. But which major scale do we use for each mode?

That is where it can be helpful to look at the Parent Major Scale of each of these C-rooted modes in parallel. As this is the first mention of Parent Major Scale in this exploration, that concept needs a little introduction.

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Parent Major Scales

At the very start of our journey we saw modes in series. The C Major scale was the start point. There followed a succession of modes, in series, called D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian and B Locrian.

The amazing – although sometimes confusing and sometimes irrelevant – fact about all of those modes is they all share the exact same seven notes. Without exception. In other words, they all share the same Parent Major Scale. They all have C major as their Parent Major Scale. Sometimes called PMS.

The C major scale is the ‘parent’ of C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian etc.

The chords of C major are C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am and Bdim respectively. In turn, those are also the chords of each of the modes derived in series from the C major scale - albeit with the chords occupying different positions. When viewing the modes sequentially in series, the major scale notes move along one place, therefore so do the chords rooted on those notes.

C Ionian chords

D DOrian chords

E Phrygian chords

F Lydian chords

G Mixolydian chords

A Aeolian chords

B Locrian chords

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Back to the modes in parallel of our study – all having root note C. Clearly (I hope), C major is the Parent Major Scale of C Ionian. What of the other modes? What are their Parent Major Scales? How can we quickly find them?

There are several ways and I am going to refer back to the 12-colour circle of fifths and the seven-sector frames used earlier.

As at the very outset, the start is C Ionian, clockwise to C Lydian and its solitary sharp, then anticlockwise in succession to all other modes with their assortment of flats.

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The C Ionian Mode

Parent Major Scale = C Major

C Ionian

There is something useful to see and use here. This is a crucial point to understand the power of the circle of fifths as a tool to discern the Parent Major Scale of a mode.

C is the Parent Major Scale of the C Ionian mode and its root note can be found in the second sector of the frame when taken clockwise.

For emphasis:
The note in the second sector of the seven-sector frame shows the root note Parent Major Scale.

This holds true for all the modes here.

Let us now run through all seven modes with their seven-sector frames to identify the Parent Major Scales.

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The C Ionian Mode

C Ionian

Use the seven-sector frame to find what we need.

The Parent Major Scale of C Ionian = C Major (from the second sector clockwise).

The notes of C Ionian and the C major scale are (of course) an exact match.

Note that C is the 1st note of the C major scale and that the Ionian mode is conventionally referred to as the 1st mode.

The chords associated with C Ionian are essentially the chords of C major:

C Ionian chords

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The C Lydian Mode

C Lydian

Use the seven-sector frame to find what we need.

The Parent Major Scale of C Lydian = G Major (G is the note in the second sector clockwise).

G Major scale:

G major scale

The notes of C Lydian and the G major scale are an exact match.

Note that C is the 4th note of the G major scale here and that the Lydian mode is conventionally referred to as the 4th mode.

The chords associated with C Lydian are the chords of G Major, albeit reordered to have the C-root chord as the tonic chord.

chords G Major

becomes

chords C Lydian

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The C Mixolydian Mode

C Mixolydian

Use the seven-sector frame to find what we need.

The Parent Major Scale of C Mixolydian = F Major (F is the note in the second sector clockwise).

F Major scale

The notes of C Mixolydian and the F major scale are an exact match.

Note that C is the 5th note of the F major scale here and that the Mixolydian mode is conventionally referred to as the 5th mode.

The chords of C Mixolydian are a reordering of the chords of F major.

chords F Major

becomes

chords C Mixolydian

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The C Dorian Mode

C Dorian

Use the seven-sector frame to find what we need.

The Parent Major Scale of C Dorian = Bb Major (Bb is the note in the second sector clockwise).

Bb major scale

The notes of C Dorian and Bb major are an exact match.

Note that C is the 2nd note of the Bb major scale here and that the Dorian mode is conventionally referred to as the 2nd mode.

The chords of Bb major give us the chords of C Dorian when rearranged to start with the C-root chord.

chords Bb Major

becomes

chords C Dorian

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The C Aeolian (natural minor) Mode

C Aeolian

Use the seven-sector frame to find what we need.

The Parent Major Scale of C Aeolian = Eb Major (Eb is the note in the second sector clockwise).

Eb Major scale

The notes of C Aeolian and Eb major are an exact match.

Note that C is the 6th note of the Eb major scale here and that the Aeolian mode is conventionally referred to as the 6th mode.

By shifting the positions of the chords of Eb major, we have the chords of C Aeolian.

chords Eb Major

becomes

chords C Aeolian

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The C Phrygian Mode

C Phrygian

Use the seven-sector frame to find what we need.

The Parent Major Scale of C Phrygian = Ab Major (Ab is the note in the second sector clockwise).

Ab Major scale

The notes of C Phrygian and the Ab major scale are an exact match.

Note that C is the 3rd note of the Ab major scale here and that the Phrygian mode is conventionally referred to as the 3rd mode.

Again, taking the chords of the Parent Major Scale we have the chords of the mode.

chords Ab Major

becomes

chords C Phrygian

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The C Locrian Mode

C Locrian

Use the seven-sector frame to find what we need.

The Parent Major Scale of C Locrian = Db Major (Db is the note in the second sector clockwise).

Db Major scale

The notes of C Locrian and the Db major scale are an exact match.

Note that C is the 7th note of the Db major scale here and that the Locrian mode is conventionally referred to as the 7th mode.

The chords of C Locrian can be seen, once more, with a simple reordering of the chords of its Parent Major Scale.

chords Db Major

chords C Locrian

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In summary, in one reference post, bringing all seven modes and their associated chords together, along with their Roman numeral designations, we have:

chords C Ionian .

chords C Lydian .

chords C Mixolydian .

chords C Dorian .

chords C Aeolian .

chords C Phrygian .

chords C Locrian .

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We now have seven chords, seven diatonic chords, for each of the seven modes we are exploring.

Great.

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It has been quite a journey to here.

Maybe it is time to get on with making some darn music eh!

Okay - we will do just that in our next instalment.

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Very well presented once more, in nice digestible chunks. Love the modes stacked at the end as an easy reference. Not sure why I missed this starting but as usual a great read, to refresh the grey matter theory.

Thank you !

:sunglasses:

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Hi Richard,
Oh, this is really great explained, I would have loved to read this when I started with Justin…maybe I’ll post a picture someday (in the LL) of the “schematic” of what I wrote then :see_no_evil:…it’s correct, but,well just for me probably…
This stuff will make people very happy if they make the jump to this, :sunglasses:
And because of a different way of explanation, this refresher course is easier for me to read…
Greetings…

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I thought the same :smile:… thanks for bringing it up… it’s busy in the community, then you sometimes miss something, especially if you also gotta play guitar in between :grimacing:

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