The most popular scales are:
1. major
2. natural minor (aka aeolian, 6 mode of major).

What was it about this mode that stood out compared to all the others. Is there a reasoning for this, or is it just a "fluke" that it's the most used mode of them all?

  • 3
    You're right about major in Western music now, but probably incorrect that the natural minor is 'the most popular'. Where did that information come from? Or did you mean 'in comparison to the other six modes'? Because Dorian is popular, and Mixolydian used in many pop songs.
    – Tim
    Mar 4 '18 at 18:36
  • 3
    Definitely in need of a citation. If you're talking about music globally and historically, it might even be pentatonic scales that are the most popular. Mar 4 '18 at 19:41
  • @DavidVogel - I'd say the OP is talking about diatonic scales.
    – Stinkfoot
    Mar 4 '18 at 21:12
  • 1
    I'd strongly suspect that the harmonic minor or the melodic minor are the most popular versions of the minor scale. Based on the music I've listened to, the natural minor already has a modal, folk-like feel to it due to the rarer types of music I find it in and its continuous lack of a leading tone.
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 4 '18 at 21:14

As the others have commented, you need to prove the natural minor is the most popular: AFAIK, it most certainly is not:

  • The melodic minor and harmonic minor were developed because of limitations in the natural minor scale - particularly its lack of the leading tone - Major 7th.
  • In jazz parlance, plain vanilla minor means Dorian, not Aeolian. (Natural Minor).
  • You will be hard pressed to find any significant works in recent musical history that are built primarily around Aeolian mode. If you have some, please cite them.

or is it just a "fluke" that it's the most used mode of them all?

That idea is incorrect: Musicians and composers use constructs that work and sound good. It's not a matter of chance.