Today we will learn about modes. Those are types of scales that come from ancient times, mostly ancient Greek music. It was a tradition in Middle Ages to write songs in some mode scales, and those modes are still used in modern western music. There are seven modes, and at first sight, it seems a difficult subject. However, you will see that actually, it is an easy task to learn, as long as you are already familiar with major scales and, of course, intervals.

The idea here is not to explain modes based on the number of half-steps because it will make the process a lot boring. Instead, we will learn that all modes follow a pattern based on what scale degree is being affected in the current mode.

Everything we need to do is to consider a major scale as the starting point. So, let’s consider a C Major scale:

Each scale degree is represented by a Roman numeral: “I” is the tonic (or first degree), “II” is the second degree, and so on.

We will build all modes based on the major scale. Let’s start with the first mode.


The easiest way to build a Lydian scale is to raise the fourth degree of a major scale by a semitone. So, turning our C major scale into a C Lydian scale would be like this:

Using the keyboard diagram:

Let’s now build a G Lydian scale. All we need to do is start with a G Major scale and then raising its fourth degree by a semitone. Here’s the result:

Notice that we kept the G Major scale’s key signature and added an accidental to the affected note.

Using the keyboard diagram:

Also, notice that if we play the D Major scale starting with G, we will be actually playing a G Lydian scale.


The Ionian scale is the mode name for the major scale. So, whenever you hear someone saying “play the C Ionian scale”, it will be the same as playing the C Major scale.

C Ionian or C Major scale

Another way to understand an Ionian scale is lowering the fourth degree of a Lydian scale by a semitone.


We can build any mixolydian scale by lowering the 7th degree of a major scale by a semitone. So, building a C Mixolydian scale would be like this:

Using the keyboard diagram:

Notice that a C Mixolydian scale has the same accidents of an F Major scale. Let’s now build a G Mixolydian scale. All we need to do is lower its 7th degree by a semitone:

Using the keyboard diagram:

Notice that now we play only the white keys, just like the C major scale. Also, notice that C is the 4th degree of G.

So, another way of building a Mixolydian scale would be using the key signature of the 4th degree of a given note.

That’s it! In the next lesson, we will continue learning about modes.

Good productions!