Mode Construction | Ionian Mode (1 of 7)

Modes can be defined as a group of different scales with their own unique pattern of whole steps and half steps and overall tonal characteristics.

The seven modes which will be discussed in this video series are the Ionian mode, the Dorian mode, the Phrygian mode, the Lydian mode, the Mixolydian mode, the Aeolian mode, and the Locrian mode.

As you might be able to tell, these names were derived from the scales used in the Ancient Greek musical traditions.  Although some of the names have stuck, the construction and overall characteristic of many of the modern modes are in fact different from those of the ancient Greeks. Rather,  the arrangement of the modes which we use today were first developed in the Medieval Period.

Though all seven modes have since survived, the two scales which are now referred to as the Major and minor scales are the only two which have maintained ubiquity.

Ionian Mode

The first mode that we are going to discuss in this video series is the Ionian mode. Ionian is simply another name for the common Major scale.

For instance, the notes of the C Ionian mode are the same as those of the C Major scale.


Likewise, the notes of the G Ionian mode are the same as the G Major scale.


Modes can also be characterized by their unique pattern of whole steps and half steps.

Seeing how the Ionian mode is just another name for the Major scale, the order of steps which produces an Ionian mode above any given note is the same as those of a Major scale.


By following this pattern of steps you will be able to figure out what the Ionian mode above any note is.

As mentioned earlier, the remaining six modes can be derived from the notes of a Major scale. In other words, each scale degree of a Major scale can be considered the tonic, or first scale degree, of a different mode.

For example, a C Major scale played from the second scale degree, D, to the note D one octave above is called a D Dorian mode.


The third scale degree of a C Major scale is the note E. Playing each note in the key of C Major from the note E until the next E one octave above is called an E Phyrgian mode.


Throughout this series we will learn exactly which mode comes from which scale degree.