Monday, November 12, 2012

A Mode Mnemonic

Remembering all seven of the church modes can be a challenge.  I remember them by using a mnemonic.  I've heard many different ones over the years.  This is my favorite:
The 7 Church Modes

I've Developed Perfectly Logical Modal Associations. Listen!
  1. I've = Ionian (Major)
  2. Developed = Dorian
  3. Perfectly = Phrygian
  4. Logical = Lydian
  5. Modal = Mixolydian
  6. Associations = Aeolian (Natural Minor)
  7. Listen = Locrian
I also like this one: "I Don't Play Loud Music About Love"

Now the way to remember the notes in a mode is that the interval between the half steps on the white keys on the piano are the same: B>C; E>F first, and second, which note the mode starts on.  If you remember those two things, you have all the intervals of the modes!

C = Ionian (C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C)
D = Dorian (D,E,F,G,A,B,C,D)
E = Phrygian (E,F,G,A,B,C,D,E)
F = Lydian (F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F)
G = Mixolydian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G)
A = Aeolian (A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A)
B = Locrian (B,C,D,E,F,G,A,B)

Another way to remember the modes is to use all white notes, memorize sound then transpose to different keynotes.   For example:

In the Ionian Mode, the half step interval is between the 3rd and the 4th notes and the 7th and 8th notes.  That one is easy to remember because it is the "major" scale.  The intervals are R,W,W,H,W,W,W,H

In the Dorian Mode, the half step interval is between the 2nd and 3rd and the 6th and 7th notes.  It has a "minor" like sound.  The intervals are R,W,H,W,W,W,H,W


  • The key to using the modes, or being able to hear them in compositions, is to practice/drill the scales until you "get them in your ear", until they are part of the monkey brain - the same place that stores all of your other musical references.  
  • Go through the music you already know and try to pick out the modes.  Set those aside and categorize them in terms of which mode they belong to.  As you develop your modal "ear", you will soon be able to know immediately which tune is in which mode.
  • I recommend practicing the modes every day in addition to scales, arpeggios, chords and bowing/picking patterns.

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