My guitar teacher - in my short student days - told me that each mode, in order to be expressed, have to be played over a certain chord.

That chord can either come from a second guitar, or from one guitar, if you play the chord right before you play the melody.

Ionian - Play Major or Major7
Dorian - Minor or Minor7
Phrygian - Minor or Minor7
Lydian - Major or Major7
Mixolydian - Dom7
Aeolian - Minor or Minor7
Lydian - Minor7b5

But then i watched this video:

But on 1:19, he says that If you play the major scale, your chord progression is this: C Major G Major A Minor F Major

Then on 1:50 he says that if you play the Mixolydian mode, these are the chords available to us:

C Major Bb Major F Major

So how do you know the chord available to you for each chord?

One more question, is this concept called 'Modal Harmonies'?

  • "told me that each mode, in order to be expressed, have to be played over a certain chord." But the more interesting issue is whether anybody listening to the song even cares whether a particular mode is "expressed" or not. IMO, at least 99% of them won't even know what "expressing a mode" means. – user19146 Jul 27 '18 at 0:52
  • You can look at (and hear) all this a completely different way - which is the way I personally actually hear it. The song isn't in some mode with a funny greek name, it's just in plain old F major. BUT - the tonic chords are on the BACK BEATS of the bar, not on the main beats. And why does Rock put important stuff on the back beats? Well, that's what makes it Rock, and not Mozart. – user19146 Jul 27 '18 at 1:02
  • All chords (listed above) belong to all modes (listed above). – ggcg Jul 27 '18 at 18:34

To try to simplify with an answer- Each mode has a parent key. Let's take C Dorian as a first example. Its parent key is Bb. All the notes found in C Dorian are also in Bb major. So it should come as no surprise that all the chords that fitted with something in Bb, as long as it doesn't modulate, will fit over notes from a song in C Dorian.

Let's take G Mixolydian. Parent key C major. All the chords from C major ( C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bo and their respective 7ths) will fit to parts of a piece in G Mix.

One more: C# Aeolian. Parent key, E major. Thus all the chords from E major will be suitable for use in a C# Aeolian piece. E, F#m, G#m, A, B, C#m, D#o.

See my answer to your other question for a bit more info.


Both of these points are correct, but based on different ideas.

In your first example (from your guitar teacher) you are naming chords which work with the modes from the same root note, e.g. C Ionian works with C Major or C Major7. This works because each note contained in the chord is also contained in the mode. There are also more chord extensions which could colour the chord further and still fit, e.g. C Lydian works with C Major7 #11.

In the second example the chap in the video is naming chords which start on different notes in the mode, so rather than only mentioning chords which have C as a root note, the options are opened up to chords which start on any note within the mode. The full range of triads built from C Mixolydian are:








and you could add 7ths to get:








All of these chords comprise entirely of notes from the C Mixolydian mode.

You could also think of the rule numerically (I7, iim, iiidim, etc) and apply it to any Mixolydian mode.

Furthermore, you can relate the rule to other modes, e.g. in the example given you would represent D Aeolian, E Locrian, F Ionian, G Dorian, A Phrygian, Bb Lydian.


I will give my opinionated answer based on roughly 15 years of guitar playing which is personal experience and not rules or anything. Take it for what it is.

For most part I just consider everything from a major key perspective. Thus modes are basically useless. Additionally if you learn major scale in position style on neck, you will start on different notes. I feel modes are heavily related to this position method.

I find I only get a mode feeling if I play notes directly above and below the mode tonic then pause on tonic. Or as your teacher said their is some harmony like a chord, or even a single note drone in background.

But really I view it all as a major key. So d Dorian is just c major to me. A Ionian, c major. A minor pentatonic c major. D minor pentatoni, c major. A major pentatonic, c major. They are all constructed from c major.

Now some keys may share these subsets and then those keys are related or just share a common notes a lot. But I think most significant sound forces will be phenomena from the underlying major keys intervals.

And now that's what is important, intervals. Not just random intervals like only playing sixths. Buy ddiatonic intervals so that you stay in a key. What role and sound does the fifth play? The sixth? The forth? Etc.

Then you can view some more interesting stuff that doesn't fit a key but is close with substitutions. Also circle of fifths can be used to view modulation and key changes.

Note this is a bit more composed approach. It might be in wieldy for improve. Some times playing a relative minor over a major key might sound interesting, not too significant and is somethimg to play on spot that works out.

That's my take on it. Black bla school of music might disagree and id love to learn more on it but that's what I've taken from it all.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Doktor Mayhem Jul 27 '18 at 13:26
  • Ummm...I came by after all that happened, so...sorry? RE: failing to attack your arguments...I think that modes are an established way of looking at chords/music theory, so the burden of proof lies with you that "modes are useless". I'm sorry that you've been "attacked", but saying modes are useless and then claiming that another person needs to justify claiming otherwise is kind of like saying that because you like football better, baseball is useless, and then getting defensive when people point out the lineage and popularity of baseball. – John Doe Jul 27 '18 at 18:02

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