An explanation of the Greek Modes

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An explanation of the Greek Modes

Postby Rusty the Scoob » Tue Nov 09, 2010 7:52 pm

I made a quickie intro to the Greek Modes by request. It's intended for those who know only the major and minor scale and want to learn about the rest of the Greek Modes. It's filmed on a bass but anyone on any instrument should get something out of it.

Here's a companion chart that I typed up that you can print out and follow along.

Intro to the Greek Modes
by Dan Crea (aka Rusty the Scoob)

There are seven different scales that we know of as the Greek Modes, including the familiar Major and Minor scales. They can be looked at in several different ways - I'm going to walk you through them in two different ways:

First - they can be looked at as Modes of one particular scale - in this case modes of C major. A mode of a scale is generally defined as starting and stopping the scale on different scale degrees than the usual tonic. In other words, we'll go through all the modes in the same Key Signature as C Major - no sharps or flats. Those of you following along on keyboard will have an especially easy time - all you have to do is play each scale on the white keys only.

This gives us:

C Major (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 Minor (Aeolian): A B C D E F G A

B Locrian: B C D E F G A B

They can also be looked at as alterations of a scale built on a given tonic. (a Tonic is just the name we give the note that the scale begins and ends on) In this case I'll use C Major as the starting point again, but this time I'll build the scales all on C as the common tonic.

I'm going to go through them in order from brightest-sounding to darkest-sounding. Each time I will subtract a sharp (#) or add a flat (b) to the key signature.

C Lydian - one sharp: C D E F# G A B C

C Major (Ionian) - no sharps or flats: C D E F G A B C

C Mixolydian - one flat: C D E F G A Bb C

C Dorian - two flats: C D Eb F G A Bb C

C Minor (Aeolian) - three flats: C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

C Phrygian - four flats: C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C

C Locrian - five flats: C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C

If you play through these, you'll see that they sound increasingly dark and evil-sounding.

Have fun!
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Re: An explanation of the Greek Modes

Postby JonnyBoy » Wed Nov 10, 2010 12:08 am

It is nice of you to take the time and archive the knowledge for beginner or older proficient guitarists that have yet to study theory. It was well demonstrated and you also have it written out to be seen that way too. Good work my friend I know this will help many people for many years. - Jboy :smile: Finally finished our new site...
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Re: An explanation of the Greek Modes

Postby Pete B. » Wed Nov 10, 2010 11:47 am

Phrygian sounds cool!
Interstingly... I don't recall ever hearing them call "Greek" Modes before.
That's cool.
Hey I have a recent interest in White Rabbit... Our daughter just caught the Johnny Dep version of Alice in Wonderland, and we picked up the DVD the other day. She thingks its about a girl named "Allison Wunderlind".
So far I'm just dabbling in the available online Tabs... Gotta LOVE that Phrygian intro!!!
Check out the Frog on the Bass neck in the first few seconds.

Here's a link to Phrigian scale positions. I like playing the F# chord with the root at the 5th string, 9th fret (the note inside the box in the scale pattern below):

A Google search will bring up several Tabs for White Rabbit chords, intro, etc.
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Re: An explanation of the Greek Modes

Postby javalina » Thu Nov 11, 2010 4:34 pm

For any real beginners or anybody that likes diagrams of this kind of thing, I posted a bunch of mode stuff that I made up when I was studying Frank Zappa (who is a very modal player), at this link here:

Jerry"s playing is melodically a lot more sophisticated, or so it seems to me; but familiarity with the modes is a real good foundation for trying to get into that zone.
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