Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'd like for someone to explain the 7 modes derived from the C major scale.

share|improve this question
The word you are looking for is "modes", not "scales". – user1044 Oct 2 '12 at 4:59
up vote 7 down vote accepted

The seven Modes are named thusly. If you start with C, they are spelled as follows:

Ionian (1), or the Major scale: C D E F G A B C

Dorian (2), D E F G A B C D

Phrygian (3) E F G A B C D E

Lydian (4) F G A B C D E F

Mixolydian (5) G A B C D E F G (which is the most common mode for rock and roll)

Aeolian (6), or the Natural Minor scale: A B C D E F G A

Locrian (7) B C D E F G A B

A thorough explanation of how they are all used can be found in the Wikipedia entry entitled "Mode (music)".

My music theory teacher in college always drew the distinction between key and mode. His point was that there is not, properly speaking such a thing as a C major key or a C minor key. He said that key refers to the central pitch, or the root note, only. From the root note, or key, you build a scale or mode. So he would refer to what we call the C major key as "the key of C in the Ionian mode" and what we refer to as the C minor key as "the key of C in the Aeolian mode."

share|improve this answer
So, my next question. What's the difference between a mode and a scale? – BBking Oct 2 '12 at 10:13
It's worth noting, as the Wikipedia article Wheat mentioned does, that there are modes beyond the seven formed by starting at different points in C major. Some of these come from folk or cultural traditions (e.g. Hava Nagila is in a mode called Freygish) while others are more theoretical (e.g. the Bohlen-Pierce scale). OK, perhaps it wasn't worth noting the theoretical ones ;-) – dumbledad Oct 2 '12 at 18:02

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.