# modes, the more I learn, the less I understand

if modes are subset of the major scale.... so the intervals are all the same, right ?

so...

• in the first picture, Aeolian mode for isntance, why can I only play these notes while the same notes are in the other modes ? it never made any sens to me, even if it's related to the root of G,and even if one start by a different degree

• why is the 2nd image showing different notes ? it looks like the scale is shifted, which is even more confusing

regards

• The question might seem ill posed to some. You are making several false assertions. This may be vexing many readers. I did not down vote the question. – ggcg Apr 1 at 20:05
• Better if you learn these with Sheets first. Like learn C-D-E-F-G-A-Bflat-C (TTsTTsT) First Rather than putting this over the fretboard. – RishiNandha Vanchi Apr 2 at 3:12
• How many score 0 questions get this many answers!? :) +1 There must be something here! :D – piiperi Reinstate Monica Apr 2 at 20:32
• The first image uses a single parent scale (G Major) and shows the 7 modes contained in that parent scale. The second image uses 7 different parent scales and shows the 7 different modes when always starting with G as the root. (In the second image: G Dorian comes from the parent scale F Maj, G Phrygian comes from the parent scale Eb Maj, G Lydian comes from the parent scale D Maj, G Mixolydian comes from the parent scale C Maj, G Aeolian comes from the parent scale Bb Maj, G Locrian comes from the parent scale Ab Maj.) – jdjazz Apr 2 at 21:51
• If you ignore modes and treat every scenario as G Maj, it sounds bad because you'll emphasize non-chord tones. For example, if you encounter the chord F#min7(b5) while soloing, you could improvise off the mode F# Locrian. This mode (F# Locrian) comes from the parent scale G Maj. But if you think about improvising in G Maj, you'll play things like G-B-D (arpeggiated). Try it out--play G-B-D over an F#min7(b5)--and I think you'll find it doesn't sound too good. – jdjazz Apr 2 at 21:54

Ah, once again the mode question, which if I might rephrase, is "if the notes are all the same, why does it sound terrible?"

There's an academic answer for this, and it's correct. But in practice I have found that guitar players--a group that typically is not strong in theory--don't get much practical benefit from that explanation. I know because I've tried and tried.

So here's my stab at the answer, which I've used successfully to shed some light on the subject for a guitar player. This is not the full explanation, there's a reason there's so many theory books on modes. But I have found that this can get you started on the right path.

--Side note: one common theme. You need to know the notes on the neck. Any answer to this question will refer to notes. If you can't look at a fret on the neck and after a couple of seconds figure out the note, you're already falling behind. ANY guitar player that says you do not need to know anything about notes is WRONG. Period. Any guitar player that argues this point, I walk away. It's a waste of time.--

Things you probably already know (if you don't, you need to before any answer of any kind will make sense), and we're talking basic western music here:

• A scale has seven notes.
• A scale has seven modes. Each starts from a different note.
• By using the thirds of a given mode starting from the root (1 3 5 7), you get a chord.
• So, a scale has seven "harmonized" chords, each backed by a mode.

Let's talk C Major:

With the four above facts, the first inclination most guitar players have is, "ok, so let's take the first mode of the major scale: Ionian. In C Major, that's just the C Major scale. C D E F G A B C.

Let's build the base chord this mode represents, using the standard "recipe" (I use that term deliberately, keep reading):

1 3 5 7, so C E G B.

Sure enough, that's a CMaj7 chord. And if you look in any book on "modes", it'll say "Ionian is appropriate for soloing over Maj7 chords". The player runs the basic Ionian shape over the Maj7 chord and it sounds good.

Then it happens...

...but all the notes in all the modes are the same. So now I know how to rip over a Maj7 chord all over the neck, because I know all seven mode patterns!

And there's the problem. The player is correct, but doesn't understand why, so inevitably crashes into the "then why does it sound terrible" problem.

The issue: guitar players know everything about PATTERNS and SHAPES. They learn them, memorize them, practice them.

But until you break away from thinking in terms of patterns and shapes, and start thinking in terms of sound, you will never be able to capitalize on modes. A pattern is not a scale. It is a useful way to remember how to play a scale. But knowing a pattern does NOT mean you know anything about the scale. It's not unusual at all to see a player know all seven mode patterns, but if you stop them and say "what note is that and why are you playing it over this chord" they won't be able to tell you.

To illustrate: let's take C Ionian again. C D E F G A B C. Although this is Ionian, all seven mode are in there. So, you should be able to play any of those modes over a C Major chord and it should sound correct...right?

At a basic level...wrong. Not every note in that scale will sound straightforwardly "good" over the "recipe" of a C Major chord.

But how can that be? It's a C Major chord. I'm playing the C Major scale.

True, but consider the "recipe" of the chord (again, thirds from the root of the mode):

C E G B

Any of these notes will sound fine over this chord. They are the "chord tones" you always hear players talk about. As a general rule, if the note is in the chord, you won't get fired for playing it. So in any mode pattern, you just need to find these notes and play them, and you're ok. This feeds the notion that you can just play any of these notes in any mode over the chord and you're fine. But...

...what notes are left? D F A. There is a TON of analysis you could do on this, but for now, just consider those three notes. They are the 2 4 6 of the mode (which depending on the context, are often referred to as the 9 11 13, basically indicating that these are notes to be "added" to a chord, they are not part of the base chord. There's more to it, but at this point, it can be useful to think of it this way).

For now, we're going to refer to these as the "tensions" of the scale/mode.

--Side note: this is why you may have run into the confusing statement that "a mode is not just the same scale starting from a different root, each mode is a different scale" It's because the "chord tones" and the "tensions" are different in each mode.--

Back to tensions: these notes are not in the base harmonized chord, and when played over or added to that chord, create a sonic quality, or "tension" that somehow complements...or does not complement...the chord.

The best way to try it: record yourself slowly arpeggiating the chord, picking each note nice and clean and letting them all ring. Get at least a minute of yourself doing this.

Now, play it back, and play each "tension" over it. Pick the note, and let it ring. Use different registers (meaning the same note but lower/higher on the neck). You'll probably think, "the D sounds ok but it needs to go somewhere. The F, yeah that kind of works sort of in a more uncertain way but again sounds like it needs to go somewhere or do something, the A...hmm. That's tougher. Not sure what's going on there but it doesn't sound so good." And interestingly, depending on what register of the note you're playing, it can sound better or worse, even though it's the same note.

It's like you took the recipe for whipped cream and threw other ingredients into it. Some of them enhance it and you end up with whipped cream ++. Other times it's like you're throwing dirt into it.

Going back to the problem of "guitar players know patterns", consider what will happen if you try to play the sixth "pattern", or mode, of the major scale (Aeolian) over that C Major chord; the root of it is A. Because of where your fingers are used to playing that pattern, you're probably going to be playing that A note all the time. It's how you learned the pattern; start from the root A (a tough note choice to start improvising over a C Major 7 chord with), play the pattern all the way to the top (another A, this one probably sounding particularly awful since you'll probably hang on it), and so on.

This same example pans out to any of the other modes. Take the second mode of C Major, Dorian. D E F G A B C (D). Use the recipe to get the chord: D F A C (that's a Dmin7). Record it the same way, play each tension over it at different registers (E G B, again note the chord tones and tensions of this mode are different than Ionian). How's it sound, particularly that B? If you go to the sixth mode from the root (in this case you'll get Locrian, which has a root of B), how's that sound? Probably terrible.

And there you have it. All the notes are in the key. But you sound awful. It's because you aren't demonstrating an understanding of how a given ingredient interacts with the underlying recipe, which is about SOUND, not patterns.

I have seen books, and heard teachers, say "when improvising, avoid the 4(11) and the 6(13)". I have literally seen them called "avoid notes".

I think that's nonsense. Alan Holdsworth certainly doesn't seem to avoid any notes at all no matter what he's playing. But he gets away with it because he is EXTREMELY aware of the underlying chord he is playing over, and that's where we all want to be. I'm a huge fan of the 4(11) over min7 chords. That's just my ear though. But, knowing that, I can use it anywhere on the neck over a given min7 chord.

I once heard George Lynch say, "I find it really hard to play a bad note anymore." It sounds arrogant, but I have a lot of respect for Lynch, and thought carefully about what he meant, and realized he's basically saying what I just said in all those paragraphs above; if you LISTEN and don't just run through patterns, you eventually develop the near-unconscious ability to know what notes will not work, or at least, if you play one, how to resolve it so it sounds like it was all part of the plan.

One interesting thing about modes, is that as an improviser, you struggle to understand them, if you stick with it you eventually get it, you realize it's all about "recipes" (or that frustrating-to-beginner term "intervals"), and how to appropriately enhance recipes by adding or subtracting ingredients (meaning notes, or even other chords).

And then one day...you understand why Alan Holdsworth says, "I don't think in terms of scales, or modes, or any of that anymore. I just think about intervals."

Modes are a path to that understanding, and because they group and harmonize notes/chords in distinct ways, they are useful as compositional vehicles and so on.

But the patterns themselves mean nothing. That's just another guy at the jam sessions that sounds like a guitar god...until somebody starts playing a chord. It's the chord tones and tensions that a given mode represents, that makes them different and ultimately, is all that matters.

• "each backed by a mode" hooooooo a light bulb suddently lit in my brain... – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 5 at 9:28
• man this answer should be the most voted since it clearly "cures" THE problem of misunderstanding modes on a guitar (while the other answers are pretty cool and the whole page should be considered an answer, this is all so interesting to read you all) – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 5 at 9:40
• Great perspective into the random nonsense guitarist mindset. Did I get this right: the reason why they play that stuff isnâ€™t entirely about not understanding what tonic means, or the incorrect assumption that having the right pattern guarantees good music, the problem is more like, they have no idea at all what any of the notes are that theyâ€™re playing, in absolute or relative sense. Select a pattern and activate autopilot? When autopilot is engaged, notes come out like uncontrolled involuntary contractions... ?? Can this even be true. Patternitis syndrome, how is it cured? – piiperi Reinstate Monica Apr 6 at 23:35
• It is how guitar players are taught. Guitar players and instructional guitar theory books almost exclusively teach in terms of patterns and shapes. It earns money because there is a lot of immediate gratification to ripping through phrygian dominant. But yes, it's a fact: the vast majority of guitar players, in terms of sonics, literally have no idea what they are doing. I know 30-year players that don't know the notes of the neck. It is why this question is so common. "Hendrix didn't have no theory so I don't need any either" has ruined half a century of guitar players. – Tim Consolazio Apr 7 at 14:18
• To be fair, over time, many guitar players learn that "this pattern sounds good over that chord...this one doesn't." You can go a long way on this sort of thing, but it still goes back to listening. Guitar players generally learn "fingers before brain." They play patterns fast to sound like Yngwie and Vai. But if you actually study Yngwie and Vai, you know these guys have very deep theory and sonic awareness. It's why, in an ocean of players that can break the sonic speed barrier with their fingers, so few "shredders" are deemed great. They have the sonic awareness AND the technical ability. – Tim Consolazio Apr 7 at 14:29

If scales mean to you an ordered set of notes from which you randomly select notes when soloing, forget all of that completely. When you play in a key, there is a thing called the home note, the tonic. Do you know what tonic means? Do you know what it feels like when a melody and the backing chords return back home to C, in a song that's in the key of C major? Tonic is your reference point, origin, zero-point, home base, perspective.

Modes are different harmonic feelings produced by different intervals around a tonic. Different intervals relative to the tonic. The difference between modes is similar to the difference between a major and minor key. You do understand the difference between a song that's in A minor, versus one that's in C major, right? Even though the A minor and C major scales contain all the same notes - the white keys of the piano - you understand the difference, right? You know at least one song that's in C major and ends in a C major chord, and you know a song that's in A minor and gets its conclusion in an A minor chord? In C major, the tonic is C. In A minor, the tonic is A.

When you "use" a mode, it means that you construct your melody and harmony so that the appropriate tonic is felt by the listener. If you claim that your song is in A minor, but if the listeners feel strongly that the tonic is actually C, then you failed in your attempt at making a song in A minor. Making music in a mode or key is not a matter of declaration, it is entirely possible to end up creating some other modal feeling than what you tried. For example, if you select a guitar scale diagram and select notes from it randomly. The scale diagram will not place your song or your solo in a mode, it has to be you who makes that happen. If you say that you only use notes from the fretboard diagram titled "A dorian", it guarantees nothing about the modal feeling you actually create.

There are many questions about the same thing, but new questions keep getting posted. Here's one of my answers: What are modes in the real world?

I'll copy-paste examples of Lydian and Dorian modes from another answer https://music.stackexchange.com/a/88298/51766

Remember. Both examples use all the same notes, only a different tonic!

Here is a small etude in A lydian, (constructed with guitar chords), with the open A string as a pedal tone, fixing the sense of home note to A. The scale has the same notes as the E major scale, but the tonic is not E.

If we take the same notes, but move the pedal tone from A down to F#, we get an F# dorian sound. The pedal tone moves the tonic i.e. home note. (the sense of tonic is somewhat subjective, but I'd claim that most people will say the pedal tone here is the tonic)

• thanks, really simple and good explanation – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 5 at 9:01
• (apart from the tonic note) chords seem to be build from A major scale harmonization, right ? then why not do the same with F# or any other degree ? – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 5 at 9:05

Modes are NOT a subset of the major scale they exist in their own right. In any key one can find an example of each of the 7 diatonic modes that are in that key and they are related to the major scale of that key by simply playing major scale on a different starting note of the scale. I call it a shift. The order of the intervals is different within each mode but you are still playing the consecutive notes on the major scale in order. The 7 diatonic modes, their relation to the Major scale and the intervals in them are below. w = whole, h = half

Starting on 1 (Do) is Ionian mode (w - w - h) - w - (w - w - h)

Starting on 2 (Re) is Dorian mode (w - h - w) - w - (w - h - w)

Starting on 3 (Mi) is Phrygian mode (h - w - w) - w - (h - w - w)

Starting on 4 (Fa) is Lydian mode (w - w - w) - h - (w - w - h)

Starting on 5 (Sol) is Mixolydian mode (w - w - h) - w - (w - h - w)

Starting on 6 (Sol) is Aeolian mode (w - h - w) - w - (h - w - w)

Starting on 7 (Ti) is Locrean mode (h - w - w) - h - (w - w - w)

Notice that the sequence of {w, h} are all shifted by taking the front interval and putting it in the back.

For example in the Key of C maj, The C major scale is the Ionian mode. The Dorian mode starting on D is in the same key, no accidentals. The relative minor is A, etc. You asked the question why do the two scales (mode) show different notes, they actually do NOT show different notes. There are no changes in notes, just the order that they are played in.

ADDED: What you are seeing the diagrams is the "geometry" of the scales or modes in a single position on the guitar. This is a very guitar centric way of looking at the information. For example, the F# Locrean mode can be played in the same position as the E minor (open string position) simply by starting on the second fret rather than the open E string. It's all the same notes, just different fingering.

• Rick Beato (and others) precisely says "Modes are a subset of a scale" and he does not appear to be an amateur; it feels like everyone interprets things and regurgitate them into a youtube video, hence the confusion...I guess – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 1 at 19:56
• Just because someone on YouTube said doesn't make it true. But you need to understand the history of music to understand my statements and as music evolved into what it is today it may look like Modes are a subset of a scale. But in reality each mode has its own identity. Other music theory resources state that ALL MODES ARE SCALES, but not all scales are modes. This is not the same thing as saying that a mode is a subset of a scale (which is not true). The notes (C, E, A) are a subset of C maj but they are not a mode. – ggcg Apr 1 at 20:01
• @fdsfdsfdsfds, I'm guessing you don't like my answer to your question. That's okay. – ggcg Apr 1 at 20:02
• it's not about liking or not, I read each explanation and try to compile what everyone says ... I see your point, each mode is indeed shifted (rotated) to the left – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 5 at 9:19
• I'm still trying to understand "modes are a subset of a scale" I've never seen this statement in a music theory text. – ggcg Apr 5 at 10:36

You are not required to learn/master ALL modes at once, not yet to master all shapes of a mode all over the fretboard from day one. I find all those diagrams pretty useless if not backed with real knowledge.

Prerequisite question: do you like modal music, or the work of musicians that make use of modality in their music? If it is the case, you have to specifically inspect what they are doing.

Start with one mode, e.g. dorian, and compare how it differs both harmonically and melodically from a mode (of the same root!) you already know.

Compare for instance A natural minor (aka A Aeolian) to a Dorian:

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1

A  B  C  D  E  F# G  A

Cool, dorian differs by one note, the sixth. You can now take an Am scale box/fingering system you know, and play the raised sixth degree. Find the most convenient one in terms of stretching!

Congrats, you can now solo in dorian mode!

What about chords that make the dorian sound? One of the most common flavours is the i/IV vamp, Am/D in this case. Depending on the music style, you can play extensions such as Am7 and D7/9. Exercise, work out chord shapes for that - hint, 5x555x is a nice fretboard spot to start looking around.

How do I know that D had to be major, instead of minor like in "regular" A natural minor? Well D minor is made of D - F - A, but dorian has F#, 2+2.

Another vamp is i / ii, like in the long interlude of "Light my fire", in this case Am and Bm. In aeolian you would have had the way more tense Bdim.

You can have modal passages in a piece that has more conventional tonal sections. Stairway to Heaven is a brilliant example on how to use dorian to brighten up the mood of a song - I am referring to the "..and it makes wonder" part, compared to the aeolian coda with the solo, or the chromatically descendent intro.

Other approaches may be to add some colour notes to a fitting pentatonic, e.g.

• dorian: corresponding minor pentatonic + #6;
• phrygian: corresponding minor pentatonic + b2;
• myxolydian: corresponding major pentatonic + b7...
• lydian: corresponding major pentatonic + #4...

Final couple of considerations:

• modal music relies more on vamps and pedals, i.e. on few chord changes. This is said to establish the mode. The more chord changes, the more tension, the more back-to-the-parent-sc..ahem, the more tonal the music becomes;

• as said, compare modes to modes of the same root, not to the "parent" scale. It doesn't help much, as the other answer already suggested.

Once again, you are not required to learn modes for the sake of it, if you cannot use them in you everyday playing. Try different angles until you reach the ah-ha! moment, good luck!

• You could put even more emphasis to the tonic. IMO, the first half of this answer still leaves the door partly open for the common misconception that a list of notes or a fingering chart would automagically create a modal feeling. What prevents the OP from emphasizing the wrong notes at the wrong time and placing the tonic in the wrong place? If I understood correctly, it's the lack of feel for the tonic that's blocking progress. "All of these charts have the same notes?" Modifying an existing non-modal song might work better, which I think is what you're explaining in the latter part. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Apr 2 at 19:54
• I am completely lost with this explanation, since it does not fit with Monica's explanation...or cant make the link... also if a mode differs by one or more intervals, then how come in a one major scale we get all different modes ? I feel each explanation tells something else – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 5 at 9:17
• @piiperiReinstateMonica that applies to major/minor as well ^^ randomly fiddling over the scale pattern does not prevent you to play the wrong notes (that's why pentatonics are more forgiving than heptatonic scales), but that's something I take for granted when making music! – moonwave99 Apr 5 at 15:44

The first image is showing the modes that fit within the scale of G Major, broken out into sections of the fretboard. This is kind of a weird way to look at it, to me, because all of those modes fit into every one of those diagrams, they just center on different tones in that scale.

The second image is showing the different modes of G. Ionian is the first degree/Major scale, so itâ€™s the same notes as the previous imageâ€™s diagrams. Each of the following G modes uses the notes from scales of corresponding degrees. For instance G Dorian, or the second degree mode, uses the notes of F Major scale, as G is the second degree of F. Likewise G Mixolydian, the fifth degree mode, uses the notes from C Major scale, as G is the fifth degree of C. Etcetera.

• yeah I feel it like borrowed chords, as if each local pattern in the first image was borrowed from a more complete mode – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 5 at 9:42

The previous answers all contain accurate and useful information but I would like to answer your bullet point questions more specifically in the hopes that it will help you further:

in the first picture, Aeolian mode for isntance, why can I only play these notes while the same notes are in the other modes ? it never made any sens to me, even if it's related to the root of G,and even if one start by a different degree

Who says you canâ€™t? All of this first series of diagrams contain the exact same notes. They are just played in different positions. You can play E aeolian in any of the above fingering patterns, The important thing to remember is to play in the tonality of E aeolian as mentioned in the first answer.

why is the 2nd image showing different notes ? it looks like the scale is shifted, which is even more confusing

They are not different notes, they are the same notes played in a different position with different starting and ending notes.

One other thing, the second series of color coded diagrams while having some useful information is completely wrong in the way it names the scale notes on the left hand side. It is absurd and amateurish to write accidentals only as sharps.

Examples:

G Dorian G A Bb(NOT A#) C D E F

G Aeolian G A Bb(NOT A#) C D Eb(NOT D#) F

All modes are based on a key signature and should be spelled properly.

G Dorian is based on the F major scale with one flat, Bb

G Aeolian is based on the Bb scale with two flats, Bb and Eb.

• ok it sheds more light about the diagrams, thanks – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 5 at 9:46

There are some great points here in these answers but I wanted to add one more.

My first reaction looking at your included images is basically the same as yours. It's hard for me to make any sense out of it at all. If you don't already know what Aeolian is, then you can't learn it from looking at that. What is missing is the mode and what the root note is.

So my unsolicited advice is first learn what a mode really is, by itself, outside of any instrument. Start with one mode and learn its scale pattern. And by scale I mean a series of whole and half steps.

For example, Aeolian. I'm going to start on A for example purposes but it can be applied to any root note. You can have E Aoelian, Bb Aeolian, etc. It can begin on any of the 12 tones.

A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A

A-B: whole step

B-C: half step

C-D: whole step

D-E: whole step

E-F: half step

F-G: whole step

G-A: whole step

Once you understand that then begin to play it on an instrument. What we're talking about here is practice, scales practice and I just felt the entire internet shudder.

Once you can play Aeolian on A (or in your case you might want E) then try it from another root, say if you started on E then learn it on A or D.

As others have said, modes are 100% not a subset of major minor. It's the reverse actually and major minor evolved from modes. But for both modes and major minor, in the 12 tone system (all the notes in an octave) any of the modes can begin on any of the keys and their pattern is built out from there. That is why there are 12 major keys and 12 minor keys. There are also 12 Aoelian keys, and 12 Ionian keys and 12 Dorian keys and 12 for each mode. They are simply patterns that can begin on any of the 12 notes.

This is also why so many of the notes are common. Yeah, they're literally all the same notes just organized in different ways and only some sets of notes being used at one time.

Wow this answer got out of hand. Hope this helps.

• ok thanks for the explanation, fun fact, I can't find the live video of that guy talking about subsets anymore – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 5 at 9:25

The two charts you posted are just two sides of the same coin. All the modes and key signatures are diatonic structures of seven tones separated by perfect fifths (FCGDAEB) which can be transposed, and any tone can be selected as a tonic. But that isn't easy to understand so people give shorthand descriptions like: "modes are subsets of a scale." But the shorthand description can also become confusing in practice.

A more practical way to start thinking about modes is the relationship of tonal degrees and modal degrees.

Tonal degrees are the 1st scale degree called the tonic, the 4th a perfect fourth above the tonic, and the 5th a perfect fifth above the tonic.

Modal degrees are the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th scales degrees. Those degrees are variously major and minor seconds, thirds, sixths, and sevenths above the tonic.

The important point of de-mystification is the tonal degrees don't change. They are the tonal foundation. The modal degrees do change, and their various qualities or major and minor determine the mode.

Now for a chart...

Tonal Degrees 1            4    5            1

Major scale   C    D    E  F    G    A    b  C
|            |    |            |
Mixolydian    C    D    E  F    G    A  Bb   C
|            |    |            |
Dorian        C    D  Eb   F    G    A  Bb   C
|            |    |            |
Aeolian       C    D  Eb   F    G  Ab   Bb   C
|            |    |            |
Phrygian      C  Db   Eb   F    G  Ab   Bb   C

The different degrees are separated by whole and half steps. I tried to visually represent that with even spacing between letters, 4 spaces for a whole step, 2 spaces for a half step.

Notice that the tonal degrees don't change position, but the modal degrees do.

Notice that the modal degrees change one at a time, cumulatively as you move through the modes. Also, notice that the changing modal letters move in a pattern of descending fifths. It isn't haphazard. It's very regular.

For the sake of simplicity I skipped the Lydian and Locrian modes. They both fit into the pattern of degrees changing regularly by perfect fifths, but they involve changing the tonal degrees!

So, think about the solid tonal foundation degrees and the variable modal degrees and you should get a better understanding.

• not sure about this, I mean all modes are shifted to the left from its predecessor (cfr ggcg answer), so why would 1 4 5 not move ? – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 5 at 9:45
• If you want to think of the modes as shifting through the major scale, the relative relationships of 1, 4, 5 don't change. C Major: C, F, G. Compare that relatively to D Dorian: D, G, A, E Phrygian: E, A, B, etc. In each of those modes (excluding Lydian and Locrian) the tonal degrees 1, 4, 5 don't move relative each tonic. The tones are a perfect fourth and fifth above the tonic. The point is to learn the relative intervals of the modes. – Michael Curtis Apr 6 at 15:37
• I guess that's why they are called perfect ? – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 8 at 11:07
• indeed they remain unshofted en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mode_(music) – fdsfdsfdsfds Apr 8 at 11:11
• Yes, and yes. 'Perfect' is applied to the tonal degrees and major/minor to the modal degrees (keep in mind the 2nd degree supertonic is sometimes lumped in with tonal degrees.) – Michael Curtis Apr 8 at 12:38