For each of the modes, is there a certain chord that goes before the targeted I or i chord? For instance, it seems in the Phrygian mode that II to i is a quite strong progression. In Ionian, obviously V to I is the strongest type of progression. I hope I'm being clear in what I'm asking.

The reason I ask is because I'm trying to do some analysis on pop music and their use of modes.

  • 4
    I think it should be your analysis of many pop songs that should answer your question. Why do it the other way around?
    – Matt L.
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 8:47

2 Answers 2


It really depends on if you want to think more tonal while using modes or modal while using modes.

Modal progressions themselves don't fall in line with the typical tonal progressions for example V-I in Ionian is tonal not modal. However, we are used to hearing music progressions that are tonal in nature so the typical V-I, IV-I, V-i, iv-i, or v-i depending on the mode will sound like a cadence even though it's a more tonal approach.

The more modal cadences use roots close to the root of the modal scale without it being the leading tone as the leading tone is the foundation of tonal ideas. So ii-I in Ionian would be a more modal cadence, but may sound odd to most. In Dorian you would use VII-i, in Phrygian you would use II-i, in Lydian you would use II-I, in Mixolydian you would use VII-I, and in Aeolian you would use VII-i. Notice how all modes but Ionian use a major chord a half step to whole step away to start the cadence back to the home note. I left out Locrian because it is rather odd and cadences are very weak in it due to the nature of the mode.


There is a tradition in modal music - at least since the sixties - to avoid the use of tritone in a chord because for our ears it would sound like a tonal cadence resolved on the tonic chord.

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