A Dorian Mode
Preceded by a review of the C Major parent scale concept


Modes for guitar produce different colors or moods provided from a parent scale. This can be illustrated by the diagram below. Consider the C Major scale as the parent scale of 7 different modes. These are listed in the second column below. Essentially what you are looking at is the C Major scale, stepped through sequentially, each time changing the starting tone. This should not pose any problems recognizing the changes in each row. Right?

Please do not proceed until you can grasp everything that is stated above. Take as many looks as you require.

These 7 different modes shown below can view the C Major scale as the parent scale, and the various modes can be viewed as children modes that are associated with a scale of their own. Again, refer to the diagram below and notice the D Dorian, the E Phrygian, F Lydian and so forth. The D Dorian, while using the very same notes as the C Major scale, creates a tonal center on the D note. The E Phyrgian, while using the very same notes as the C Major scale, creates a tonal center on the E note. The F Lydian, while using the very same notes as the C Major scale, creates the tonal center on the F note. If you didn't establish the same tonal center as the note name that precedes the mode name you would simply be playing the parent scale, in this case the C Major scale.

The clue should be obvious. The letter preceding the mode name - as is D dorian - tells you this dorian mode is revolves around D tonal center.

This is where much of the confusion originates. The C Major scale is the parent scale of the various modes found within, but those various modes like to run with there own tonal centers. D Dorian congregates with the other D modes, E Phrygian congregates with the other E modes.

This illustration is a continuation of the C Major discussion. The A Dorian will be discussed immediately after the following "C Major" related diagram.

C Major Modes
G Major Modes
So, in the diagram just to the left you can see the different modes that originate from the parent scale G Major. These modes like to run with their own kind so to speak.

So A Dorian, while grateful for the parent scale of G Major, prefers to associate himself musically with the A tonal space. The A Dorian mode is a musical exploration of the A tonal universe through the pattern shown to the left labeled A Dorian.

Just notice the A Dorian has the very same notes as the G Major scale. Identical in every way. You'll see more of this later.

A Dorian is A Dorian because the A note is the second tone of the G Major scale. The A note being second tonal position in the G Major scale results in A Dorian.

The fretboard diagram immediately below shows the relationship between the parent G Major scale and the A Dorian mode. They share the very same notes but, in order to evoke the mood of the mode, the tonal center gravitates to A for A Dorian mode.
A Dorian Mode
Don't fret if you can't quite grasp the concept of modes just yet, but don't back away from them either. You will soon.

Remember this:


If you can play the Major scale up and down the fretboard, you can play the modes associated with that Major scale.

No more complicated or mysterious than that. The mysterious part is properly expressing the mood associated with the mode. This is solely the responsibility of the person playing that there guitar.

A Dorian Mode 22 frets

The diagram immediately below shows all of the notes of the A Dorian Mode on a 22 fret fretboard. The G notes are highlighted to emphasize the fact that the A Dorian Mode uses the very same notes as the G Major scale but....., of course, the A notes are emphasized instead of the G notes. Start and stop on the G notes and you will be playing a G Major scale with the unique flavor of G Major. Start and stop on the A notes and you will uncover the tonal qualities associated with A Dorian Mode.

A Dorian Mode

"A" note Tonal Center Modes

This table shows the 7 modes that are preceded by "A" as in A Dorian, A Lydian and so forth. The notes highlighted in blue have considerable influence on the respective mode, the notes highlighted in red show the root note of the parent scale. This table shows the modes starting at the A tone and ending with the A tone. The parent scales of these 7 modes are also named. Please take the time to see that the notes in each of the 7 "A" tonal center modes have the very same notes as the respective parent scale. When you are playing A Dorian, you are playing the very same notes of the G Major scale but you are playing with the A note as your tonal center instead of the G note. This is critical to understanding modes.

Guitar modes

The A Phrygian Mode

The Phrygian mode is based upon the 3rd note of the Major scale. The Major scale that has an "A" as the third tone is the F Major. This means that F Major is the parent scale of the A phrygian mode.

The notes of the A Phrygian mode are exactly the same notes as the F Major scale. However, as with the A Dorian mode, the A Phrygian mode establishes the A note as the tonal center. You are playing the very same notes of the F Major scale but you are playing them from A to A instead of F to F.

Please look at diagram immediately below and notice in the first row that these are the notes of the F Major scale in their natural order. The 2nd row uses the same notes but starts on the G note, and by doing so, changes the w/h pattern. This change of the step pattern has a sometimes subtle and, more often, a profound change in the color of the notes. A, being the third note, in the parent scale of F Major, is the tonal center for the A Phrygian mode. Again, same notes as F Major, but you circle round the A notes as opposed to the F notes.

Got it?

1) Phrygian mode begins on the third note of a Major scale.
2) If you are looking to play in A Phrygian, you would need to determine what Major scale has A as the third tone.
3) F Major has A as the third note.
4) Therefore, and forevermore, the A Phrygian mode utilizes the very same notes as the F Major scale.
5) Remember to play from A to A or thereabouts and you will Phrygian.
6) With practice of course.

A Phrygian Mode
At this point you should have some sense as to how the modes are spawned from a parent scale and how, utilizing tonal centers, a distinction is made between the parent scale and the mode of interest. We have only looked at the Dorian mode and the Phrygian mode but the concept is consistent. Each mode has a parent scale, as A Dorian's parent scale is G Major, and A Phrygian's parent scale is F Major. The A note is the second tone in G Major scale and therefore is the first tone in A Dorian. The A note is the third tone in the F Major scale and therefore is the first tone in A Phrygian. Here is a diagram showing all of the A Phrygian mode notes on the fretboard, and if you have understood this, those A Phrygian notes are the very same as the parent scale. In the example of A Phrygian, this parent scale would be F Major. Whew.

Notes of F Major Scale are F, G, A, B♭, C, D, E, F. Notes of A Phrygian Mode are A, B♭,C, D, E, E, F, G, A. You should notice some similarity.
A Phrygian Mode for guitar

The A Lydian Mode

The Lydian mode is based upon the 4th note of the Major scale. The Major scale that has an "A" as the fourth tone is the E Major. This means that E Major is the parent scale of the A Lydian mode.

The notes of the A Lydian mode are exactly the same notes as the E Major scale. However, as with the A Dorian mode, the A Lydian mode establishes the A note as the tonal center. You are playing the very same notes of the E Major scale but you are playing them from A to A instead of E to E.

Please look at diagram immediately below and notice in the first row that these are the notes of the E Major scale in their natural order. The 4th row uses the same notes but starts on the A note, and by doing so, changes the w/h pattern. This change of the step pattern has a sometimes subtle and, more often, a profound change in the color of the notes.

A, being the fourth note, in the parent scale of E Major, is the tonal center for the A Lydian mode. Again, same notes as E Major, but you circle round the A notes as opposed to the E notes.

Got it?

1) Lydian mode begins on the fourth note of a Major scale.
2) If you are looking to play in A Lydian, you would need to determine what Major scale has A as the fourth tone.
3) E Major has A as the fourth note.
4) Therefore, and forevermore, the A Lydian mode utilizes the very same notes as the E Major scale.
5) Remember to play from A to A or thereabouts and you will play in the Lydian mode.
6) With practice of course.

A Lydian mode for guitar
Here is diagram of the A Lydian mode notes found on the first 13 frets of the guitar. The only difference between the A Lydian mode and the A Major scale is the sharp being applied to the D note or the fourth tone of the A Major scale. This moves the D tone up a half step to a D# note. This little shift produces a very interesting mood that envelopes the A Lydian mode. A Lydian mode uses the same notes as the E Major Scale, A B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A. You are just playing them from A to A, or thereabouts, to establish that A tonal center.
A lydian mode for guitar
One final review question here.

Question: What is the parent scale of the A Lydian mode and why is this the parent scale of A Lydian?

Answer: Upside down because there has to be a least a touch of challenge here. I am sure you are catching on.



A Lydian mode Guitar

A Mixolydian Mode

The Mixolydian mode is based on the 5th tone of the respective parent scale. The Major scale that has an "A" as the fifth tone is D Major. This means that D Major is the parent scale of the A Mixolydian mode.

The notes of the A Mixolydian mode are exactly the same notes as the D Major scale. However, as I am sure you know now, the A Mixolydian mode establishes the A tone as the tonal center. You are playing them A to A and not D to D. Well, actually what you are doing is running up to and away from the A note. Touching and circling around the A note, and by doing so, you can create the mood of the A Mixolydian mode.

Please look at the diagram below and notice the first row presents the notes of the D Major. This first row in D Ionian or the equivalent of D Major. Hop down to the 5th row and notice this is the A note. A, being the fifth tone of the D Major scale, is the tonal center for the A Mixolydian mode.

D Major modes for guitar
Here is diagram of the A Mixolydian mode notes found on the guitar. The only difference between the A MIxolyidan mode and the A Major scale is flat being applied to the 7th tone or the G# note. This introduces a natural G tone to the A Major scale and distinctly alters the color or flavor of the scale. Again, and again, and again, these are the very same notes of the D Major scale but the tonal center is the A note and you drive toward and away this A note and resolve to it. This is what distinguishes this mode from the D Major scale. This is the essence, aside from discovering how to truly play in this mode, of modal play. Parent scale, but different tonal center, except of course in the Ionian mode because the Ionian mode is interchangeable with the Major Scale of interest.
A Mixolydian for guitar
D Major A Mixolydian

A Aeolian Mode

The Aeolian mode is based on the 6th tone of the respective, parent scale. The Major scale that has an "A" as the sixth tone is the C Major Scale. This means that C Major is the parent scale of the A Aeolian mode. The A Aeolian mode has no sharps or flats as the parent C Major scale has no sharps or flats.

The notes of the A Aeolian mode are the exact notes as those found in the C Major scale. This distinguishing feature is that the tonal center established in the A Aeolian mode is the "A" note and not the "C" note. Play the C Major scale notes with an emphasis on the C notes and you will be playing the C Major scale. Play those very same notes but place the tone of take off and resolution on the "A" note and you will be playing in the A Aeolian mode.

You should also know that the "A" note in the C Major scale establishes the starting point of the relative minor scale of A minor. The A minor scale is identified as the relative minor of the C Major scale because the notes are one and the same.

Please review the diagram below and notice that the "A" note is the sixth tone of the C Major scale and for this reason is the A Aeolian mode.

C Major Mode diagram
Scale tones for the A Aeolian mode are A B C D E F G. If you look closely you will see these are the very same notes as the C Major scale. C Major is the parent scale of A Aeolian.
A Aeolian fretboard

A Locrian Mode

The Locrian mode is based on the 7th tone of the respective parent scale. The Major scale that has an "A" as the seventh tone as the BMajor scale. This means the BMajor scale is the parent scale of the A Locrian mode.

The notes of the A Locrian mode are the exact same notes you will find in BMajor, but, as you well know, you will be dancing about the A tone in order to establish the tonal quality of the A Locrian mode.

Please review the diagram below to see why this is the case. Please do not pass go if this is not clear.

A Locrian mode
Here is a diagram of all of the A Locrian mode notes found on the guitar.

The adjustments required by the A Major scale to produce this mode is a flat being applied to the 2nd (B), the 3rd (C#), the 5th (E), the 6th (F#), and the 7th (G#). Whew! This results in a B, a C, an E, a F, and a G, which in turn, are the same notes found in the BMajor scale.

So you can flatten the 5 notes, or play the BMajor scale but circle the wagons around the "A" note.

Hopefully the concept of parent scale and resultant modes is relatively clear at this point, but if not, no big deal.

Play the A Locrian mode from the tonal center of the "A" note and you'll get the sense of what the mode is about. Well, you will if you are able to capture the sense of the mode. This applies to all of the modes, all of the times. You have to play, play, play, and you have to do so with feeling. Takes a while to capture but you can make the hunt fun. Few things finer than picking up that guitar and running about the fretboard.
A Locrian Mode for  guitar