Hi I'm trying to understand modes and I've got a basic question:

if you are working with C scale (so this will be your Ionian), do you call the next one C Dorian or D dorian?

the two scales I refer to are:

C D E F G A B C (called "C Ionian" or maybe even C Major I guess?) and

C D Eb F G A Bb C ("C Dorian"??)

Hope it makes sense..

  • 2
    What do you mean, "Next one?" - it will depend on what you are trying to do.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 11:22
  • 1
    I would have thought a quick trip to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Properties_of_musical_modes would answer this. Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 12:01
  • You're right about the example you give being C dorian, but when you're keeping the root the same, "next" should consider the order of flats and sharps; in other words: Lydian - Ionian - Mixolydian - Dorian - Aeolian - Phrygian - Locrian in order from most sharp to most flat. You'll note that the pitch alterations are consistent with the "order of flats" and "order of sharps" used in key signatures around the circle of 5ths.
    – NReilingh
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 16:13

3 Answers 3


Taking C major/C Ionian as a start point, as in C D E F G A B C, the mode starting on note 2, D, using all the same notes, will be D Dorian. This is sometimes, confusingly, called 'the Dorian of C'. You , I think, are finding 'the Dorian of Bb', which will start on C, and use the notes from Bb maj/ Bb Ionian.Thus, the notes involved will be C D Eb F G A Bb C.

With modes, I feel it's more straightforward to refer back to the 'parent key'. As in, for example, C ionian- C maj. D Dorian - C maj. E Phrygian - C maj. F Lydian - C maj. G mixolydian - C maj. A Aeolian - C maj. B Locrian -C maj.Each of these modes uses exactly the same notes as each other - as in C maj.

Rather than working out the tone/semitone spacing for each mode, it's done for you if you refer back.Looking at the 8 (7, actually!) notes in an octave, spread round a circle, starting at a different point will give you a different mode.This obviously works for each and every major, just need to put in the appropriate # or b. E.g. G Dorian comes from F maj., and will have a Bb in it.


C Dorian is

C D Eb F G A Bb

D Dorian is


So D Dorian has the same notes as your C Ionian, but you are starting from a different position.

I am not sure what you mean by "Next" in the context of your question, though.


Each mode is defined by its pattern of tones and half-tones. The notes played depend on the tonic of the scale (= where you start).

If you play a C scale in Ionian mode, it means that you start on C and then follow the Ionian pattern of tones and semitones. The scale is the set of notes that you play, so the "next" one does not really mean something. If you want to stay C scale, you can start on C and play anoter mode (= another pattern of tones/half-tones).

If you want to start on the next note of the scale, keeping the same mode, start on D and keep the pattern of tones and semitones you used for the Ionian scale.

Most of the time, a piece of music tends to use only one or two modes, but can change the key (= scale, = subset of keys played) several times in the same piece.

  • Not sure about the downvote; this looks correct to me...
    – NReilingh
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 16:09
  • @NReilingh - probably because of the ambiguous 3rd para. Could mean either of two things?
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 8:21

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