• FAQ: What Chords Should I Use Over The Modes?

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Scales,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning the right chords to play against any given mode, this lesson is for you.

    Modes are important in variety of music styles – especially gospel and jazz. However, beyond the knowledge of modes, it is also important for one to know how these modes can be applied over chords.

    I suppose that you’re already familiar with modes, yet, I’ll recommend that we review it shortly before we proceed.

    The Concept Of Modes – Reviewed

    Before the concept of key was introduced about 400 years ago, modes were prevalent. A mode is established by a collection of white notes (aka – “naturals”) from a given note to its octave.

    From C to C (its octave):

    …produces the Ionian mode.

    Due to the fact that there are seven unique white notes on the piano (all the rest being duplicates), there are seven modes.

    From C to C:

    …produces the ionian mode.

    From D to D:

    …produces the dorian mode.

    From E to E:

    …produces the phrygian mode.

    From F to F:

    …produces the lydian mode.

    From G to G:

    …produces the mixolydian mode.

    From A to A:

    …produces the aeolian mode.

    From B to B:

    …produces the locrian mode.

    These modes (seven of them) were used before the concept of the major and minor key replaced them. However, the 1960s featured a come-back of these modes and they were used extensively in popular music styles like jazz.

    Now that we’ve reviewed the modes, let’s proceed into studying the chord types for every mood.

    Triads And Seventh Chord Types For Modes

    There are designated chords for all the modes, and we’ll be looking at them closely. Focusing more on triads and seventh chords.

    The Ionian Mode

    The chords of the C ionian mode:

    …can be derived by picking out its first, third, fifth, (and seventh tones).

    The first, third, and fifth tones of the C ionian mode:

    …are C, E, and G:

    …and that’s the C major triad:

    In addition to the triad we just derived, we can add the seventh tone (which is B):

    …to the C major triad:

    …to produce the C major seventh chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The major triad and the major seventh chords are compatible with the ionian mode.

    The Dorian Mode

    The chords of the D dorian mode:

    …can be derived by picking out its first, third, fifth, (and seventh tones).

    The first, third, and fifth tones of the D dorian mode:

    …are D, F, and A:

    …and that’s the D minor triad:

    In addition to the triad we just derived, we can add the seventh tone (which is C):

    …to the D minor triad:

    …to produce the D minor seventh chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The minor triad and the minor seventh chords are compatible with the dorian mode.

    The Phrygian Mode

    The chords of the E phrygian mode:

    …can be derived by picking out its first, third, fifth, (and seventh tones).

    The first, third, and fifth tones of the E phrygian mode:

    …are E, G, and B:

    …and that’s the E minor triad:

    In addition to the triad we just derived, we can add the seventh tone (which is D):

    …to the E minor triad:

    …to produce the E minor seventh chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The minor triad and the minor seventh chords are compatible with the phrygian mode.

    The Lydian Mode

    The chords of the F lydian mode:

    …can be derived by picking out its first, third, fifth, (and seventh tones).

    The first, third, and fifth tones of the F lydian mode:

    …are F, A, and C:

    …and that’s the F major triad:

    In addition to the triad we just derived, we can add the seventh tone (which is E):

    …to the F major triad:

    …to produce the F major seventh chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The major triad and the major seventh chords are compatible with the lydian mode.

    The Mixolydian Mode

    The chords of the G mixolydian mode:

    …can be derived by picking out its first, third, fifth, (and seventh tones).

    The first, third, and fifth tones of the G mixolydian mode:

    …are G, B, and D:

    …and that’s the G major triad:

    In addition to the triad we just derived, we can add the seventh tone (which is F):

    …to the G major triad:

    …to produce the G dominant seventh chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The major triad and the dominant seventh chords are compatible with the mixolydian mode.

    The Aeolian Mode

    The chords of the A aeolian mode:

    …can be derived by picking out its first, third, fifth, (and seventh tones).

    The first, third, and fifth tones of the A aeolian mode:

    …are A, C, and E:

    …and that’s the A minor triad:

    In addition to the triad we just derived, we can add the seventh tone (which is G):

    …to the A minor triad:

    …to produce the A minor seventh chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The minor triad and the minor seventh chords are compatible with the aeolian mode.

    The Locrian Mode

    The chords of the B locrian mode:

    …can be derived by picking out its first, third, fifth, (and seventh tones).

    The first, third, and fifth tones of the B locrian mode:

    …are B, D, and F:

    …and that’s the B diminished triad:

    In addition to the triad we just derived, we can add the seventh tone (which is A):

    …to the B diminished triad:

    …to produce the B diminished seventh chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    The minor triad and the minor seventh chords are compatible with the locrian mode.

    Final Words

    Now that you’ve learned the chords designated for each mode, feel free to apply the appropriate mode while improvising over chords.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll explore synthetic modes and how they can be applied.

    See you then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    1 Zino

    Good

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