Modes are inversions of a particular series of notes. In music, notes are grouped into patterns called scales that are used commonly in songwriting. Major scales have 7 unique notes in them and thus have 7 modes. The key of C Major contains the following 7 notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. The first mode is called the Ionian mode. It will start with the note that the scale is named after. The second mode will contain all of the same notes but start on D and look like this: D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. The second mode is named Dorian. The third mode in the key of C Major would then naturally start on the E and look like this: E, F, G, A, B, C, D. The third mode is named Phrygian. The fourth mode beginning on F will follow the same pattern and is called Lydian. The fifth mode is called Mixolydian, the sixth mode is Aeolian, and the seventh mode is Locrian. Despite the seven modes, there are only two modes that are used in standard written music. Those two modes are Ionian and Aeolian, but they are more commonly referred to as Major and Minor respectively. So what are the other modes for? Each mode provides a unique pattern from all of the other patterns when played from the starting tone and ending on the same note an octave above. The major scale, in the Ionian mode, is built with a series of intervals in this pattern: Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step. The second mode, or Dorian mode, will look like this: Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half, Whole. Each time the scale is inverted, you will find that they are indeed a unique pattern of Whole steps and half steps. For this reason each inversion (mode) of the scale will sound different from one another. Beginners may find it difficult to discern one from another at first but with proper training the difference will become very clear. The aural experience of one mode to the next is quite different to the trained ear. As mentioned earlier, most music is written and analyzed as either Major or Minor. It is clear however that composers of pop music, classical, and jazz music will use all of the available modes for their unique functions and sounds. I think you will want to concentrate on your Major and Minor scales in all keys before learning the modes, but learn the modes too. You’ll have fun doing so. Check out this easy to use guide on scales and modes. Click Here.