Musician’s Corner Part VII

Locrian mode is the last in the series of modes based off of the major scale. This will wrap up our analysis of these seven basic modes, but don’t worry; the conversation gets deeper from here. Using the information from the three relationships we will be able to transfer these modes and scales to different keys. We will also analyze chords and see how each mode matches up to a certain chord. First, let’s take a look at B Locrian.

B Locrian Scale



Read moreMusician’s Corner Part VII

Musician’s Corner Part VI

I know it has been a few days since the last post. Sometimes life gets busy, but I haven’t forgotten about you. Let’s just say that I was giving you time to absorb everything up to this point.
Today’s scale is A Aeolian. This is a very important scale because this is the scale that opens up our parallel universe of minor keys. The Aeolian scale is known as the relative minor or the parent key. But before we open that can of worms let’s take a look at what it is and where it comes from.

A Aeolian Scale:

Derivation from C major:

Now, a look at the three relationships.

Relationship # 1

The formula for Aeolian:

Relationship #2, scale degree and interval from the root:

The chart showing the derivation of intervals between each scale degree:

Relationship #3, relation to root of the key:


The third of a scale determines the basic major or minor sound, but the other degrees also have an influence over that sound. We have seen flatted thirds before in the Dorian and Phrygian scales, but in those cases there was one chord tone that pulled the ear away from feeling it completely as minor. In Dorian, the major 6th gives a hint of a major feeling. In the case of Phrygian the presence of the flat 2nd pulls the ear in another direction entirely. Even though it has the same 3rd, 6th and 7th as Aeolian, that flat 2nd is enough to change the feeling of the scale.
Aeolian has the requisite 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees plus the major 2nd degree that yields the natural minor sound our ears are accustomed to hearing. In fact Aeolian is also known as the Natural Minor or Pure Minor scale. When it comes time to take a look at how chords structures are created in minor keys the Aeolian scale is going to be our new parent scale. This is the point where your ability to view the scales as entities in and of themselves simultaneously with their relation to the parent key becomes crucial. Once we start analyzing minor chords we will relate them to their parent minor key and their relative major key. Don’t worry, it will become clearer later on.
So you can see why minor concepts can be more confusing that major concepts. There is only one major scale. When someone tells you to play the major scale you know exactly which notes are intended. But when someone asks you to play a minor scale, there are several choices as well as different names that can get confusing. Just Aeolian can be referred to as Aeolian, relative minor, natural minor, or pure minor. On top of that, there are more types of minor scales that we will cover later.
The next post will cover Locrian mode and will wrap up our discussion of the basic modes. After that we will derive the naturally occurring chords in a major key. Once we have accomplished this we will come back to this Aeolian scale and derive the naturally occurring chords in a minor key. So if you only really grasp one mode that you make it this one!

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Musician’s Corner Part V

By now you should be familiar with the 3 different relationships I am stressing concerning the modes. Let’s jump right into to examining G Mixolydian.

Here is the scale:


Derivation from C major:


Relationship #1


This gives us the formula for G Mixolydian:


Relationship #2, scale degree and interval from the root:


Again, here is the chart showing the derivation of intervals between each scale degree:


Relationship #3, relation to root of the key:


(Click on image to enlarge)

The next discussion will be of A Aeolian. Aeolian mode is going to open up a whole new can of worms. Until then, enjoy Mixolydian.

Read the Chapter VI

Musician’s Corner IV

Today’s Musician’s Corner entry will discuss F Lydian. By this point you should be familiar with the three different relationships that we are discussing. If you are not, please go back and review the prior Musician’s Corner posts.
If you find yourself glancing over these charts like they are pictures, you need to step back and take a breath. Then come back and actually read them. Read them one note at a time like you are reading a sentence. Go slowly and think about all the different relationships that you can find among the notes.
The goal of all of this is to be able to look at (or listen to) a song or set of chord changes and know how to make educated note choices. After we have analyzed all of the modes of the key of C we will move on to a discussion of chords. We will find out where they come from and take a look at their different relationships. Once we have done that we will be able to look at different examples of chord progressions and put them in a context. This context will come directly from our discussion of modes and chords. Please do not gloss over this information because it is the foundation. Without it you will probably get lost later.

F Lydian:



Here is how we derive it from C major (the parent key) and our previous modes:


Relationship #1

Thus, the formula for F Lydian:



Relationship #2, scale degree and interval from the root:




Again, here is the chart showing the derivation of intervals between each scale degree:


Note ➔NoteNumber of StepsInterval
F➔G1major 2nd
F➔A1+1=2major 3nd
F➔B1+1+1=3augmented 4th
F➔C1+1+1+½=3½perfect 5th
F➔D1+1+1+½+1=4½major 6th
F➔E1+1+1+½+1+1=5½major 7th
F➔F1+1+1+½+1+1+½=6perfect Octave


It is worth noting here that this is the first time that we have encountered a scale with an altered 4th or 5th. These intervals, 4ths and 5ths, do not determine major or minor sounds so we don’t use the terms major or minor to describe them. Instead we use augmented (raised ½ step) or diminished (lowered ½ step). A perfect 4th or 5th is one that has not been altered.

Relationship #3, relation to the root of the key:


Click on the table to get a full view.

(Closer look? Click here)


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Musician’s Corner Part III


By now you should be starting to be able to conceptualize how these scales fit together. Today’s exercise will be to examine E Phrygian mode. At this point you might be wondering why you need to know all of this stuff. Do people really use this? Well, the truth is that if your ear is perfect then you don’t need to know all of this stuff. There are some musicians out there who understand what I am explaining on an intuitive level and their ear leads them to these same note choices without a full intellectual understanding of what they are doing. These people are very lucky, but they are few and far between. The vast majority of musicians stand to benefit greatly by delving into the intellectual side of music theory. Eventually, I will talk about incorporating ear training exercises, but first I want to finish the discussion of the modes so that they are presented in one large group that can be referenced. Let’s proceed.

Diving right in, here is the E Phrygian scale:


Here it is in relation to C major (the parent key) and D Dorian:


Just like D Dorian is the C major scale starting on D, E Phrygian is the C major scale starting on E. Now we will revisit relationship #1 and find the number of steps between each scale degree.

Relationship #1

This yields the formula for E Phrygian:


Relationship #2, scale degree and interval from the root.


Again, here is the chart showing the derivation of intervals between each scale degree:

Note➙NoteNumber of StepsInterval
E➙F½minor 2nd
E➙G½+1=1½minor 3rd
E➙A½+1+1=2½perfect 4th
E➙B½+1+1+1=3½perfect 5th
E➙C½+1+1+1+½=4minor 6th
E➙D½+1+1+1+½+1=5minor 7th
E➙E½+1+1+1+½+1+1=6perfect Octave

Relationship #3, relation to the root of the key:


Now things begin to really get complex. We have a multitude of ways that we can refer to each note. For example, the note C is the root of the key, the first degree of the C major scale, the 7th degree of D Dorian, and the 6th degree of E Phrygian. Because we know the intervallic distances between each note, we know what kind of 6th or 7th degree that C is in each scale.
This sums up E Phrygian. Next time we will take a look at F Lydian.

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