Music and Modes
But I'm a million different people from one day to the next I can't change, my mode, no no, no no no.

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The Families of Modes

As seen in this blog post: http://newheiser.blogspot.com/2008/02/modes-and-video-games-music.html

Musical modes can be organized into families which share the same set of intervals between them. A set of intervals can be used to define a set of notes starting from any particular note, and starting from any step in that series of intervals gives you a different mode. For example, starting at C in a diatonic scale you can get the major or Ionian mode, and taking that same set of notes, follow that set from D to D to get the Dorian mode.

I'm writing up this page as a simple exposition of all the different seven note scale modes there are, or even are possible. Taking into account all possible orderings of seven notes in a twelve tone scale would give you 462 modes, setting the maximal interval between notes as being a whole step would give you 21 modes, allowing it to be as large as an augmented 2nd or three-half-steps gives you 161 modes.

The classic set of modes has the property that the notes are as evenly spaced out as they're able to be, and almost all the modes with augmented intervals that I've seen examples of avoid placing two half-steps in a row, which would narrow down the possibilities further, to a mere 42. In addition, some modes, like the classic Locrian are extremely uncomfortable to work with since the root chord they're based around has awkward or dissonant intervals. Out of all the modes listed on this page for example, only 25 or so have a comfortable major/minor sound.

The classical modes

Number: I ii iii IV V vi vii
Note: C D E F G A B
Interval: 2 2 1 2 2 2 1
Key: Major minor minor Major Major minor diminished
Mode: Ionian Dorian Phrygian Lydian Mixolydian Aeolian Locrian

The first row describes the "number" of the note and its corresponding chord in the seven note scale. The second row describes the "note" which would be played for that number, in the key of C. The third row describes the interval of half-steps to the next note, the fourth row describes the key which the chord based around that note in the mode possesses, and the final row describes what mode you get if you start at that particular note and go through the scale until it repeats, making it your root. For example, this list has the Ionian or Major mode as the root, but you could make the root of your piece a D instead, with the same set of notes and have a Dorian mode.

The Aeolian is commonly known as the minor in modern music, and for examples of each of the modes, once again, check out this blog post: http://newheiser.blogspot.com/2008/02/modes-and-video-games-music.html

Considering that an octave (the point at which a tone repeats) is divided into 12 different notes, and that a scale is divided into seven notes, this is the family of modes which satisfies the property of maximal evenness: the intervals between notes are spread out as far as possible while keeping equal space from each other. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximal_evenness

The melodic minor modes

Number: I ii iii iv v VI+ VII
Note: C D E F G Ab Bb
Interval: 2 2 1 2 1 2 2
Key: Major dimin-
ished
dimin-
ished
minor minor augmented Major
Mode: Mixolydian Flat Sixth Half Dimin
-ished
Super Locrian

Melodic minor

Dorian flat second
Lydian
augmented
Lydian
dominant

While the previous family of modes breaks up the half-steps in a scale by two or three whole-steps, this family only has a single whole-step between the two half-steps needed to form a seven note scale. And according to my jazz-guitarist younger brother, one of the popular things to do in jazz these days is to base music off of modes in this set.

The harmonic minor modes

Number: i ii iii iv V VI vii
Note: C D Eb F G Ab B
Interval: 2 1 2 2 1 3 1
Key: minor dimin-ished ? minor Major Major dimin-ished
Mode:

Harmonic minor

Dorain
flat 2,
flat 5
Ionian
augmented

Lydian
minor

Phrygish
or Phrygian
dominant
Aeolian
harmonic

super-
locrian
dimin-ished

Unlike all the above examples, this set of modes contain an augmented second interval, or three half-steps between two notes. Occasionally used in the works of Franz List. You'll notice I left one key as unspecified, it has a flat fifth interval which I'm not sure how to characterize, so for now I'm going to leave a question mark for any root chord that doesn't fall into major, minor, diminished, augmented, or an inverted major.

The harmonic major modes

Number: I ii iii iv V VI+ vii
Note: C D E F G Ab B
Interval: 2 2 1 2 1 3 1
Key: Major dimin-ished minor minor Major augmented dimin-ised
Mode:

Harmonic major

? ?

?

? ?

?

Very closely related to the harmonic minor, this is simply the harmonic minor with a raised third.

Another way to charcterize this family of modes is to describe it as the intervals of the harmonic minor in reverse. Unlike the classic and melodic minor modes, the ordering of intervals is not "symmetric".

The hungarian major modes

Number: I ii iii iv v vi vii
Note: C D# E F# G A Bb
Interval: 3 1 2 1 2 1 2
Key: Major dimin-ished dimin-ished dimin-ished inverted
major
minor

?

Mode:

Hungarian major

? ?

?

? ?

?

Another set of modes with an augmented second, which is unusual in that it has an augmented second and a whole step occuring between two notes, which allows for a larger space between the notes than any previous mode.

The Hungarian minor modes

Number: i ii iii iv V VI VII+
Note: C D Eb F# G Ab B
Interval: 2 1 3 1 1 3 1
Key: minor ? ? ? Major Major

Augmented

Mode:

Hungarian minor

? ?

?

Arabic
mode
?

?

A family of modes with two augmented seconds, and also unusual in that it has two-half-steps in a row, a shorter space between the notes than any previous mode.

The major locrian modes

Number: i ii iii iv V+ VI+ VII
Note: C D E F Gb Ab Bb
Interval: 2 2 1 1 2 2 2
Key: dimin-ished dimin-ished ? minor Augmented Augmented

Major

Mode:

major locrian

? ?

?

? ?

?

Like the above mode, it contains two half-steps in a row, but no augmented second intervals.

The ? Modes

Number: i ii iii iv v vi VII
Note: C D# E# F# G# A B
Interval: 3 2 1 2 1 2 1
Key: ? inverted
major
dimin-ished Dimin-ished minor inverted
major

Major

Mode:

?

? ?

?

? ?

?

I included this family of modes, not because of existing examples that I'm aware of but out of mathematical necessity. It is the only other family of modes which shares the property of having no more than two-half steps in a row, although it does have the uncomfortable property of an augmented second next to a whole step, an unusually long interval. It is effectively the reverse of the hungarian major family of modes, all the same intervals can be applied in ascending order as opposed to descending.

I have yet to run into any examples or explanations of these modes, but by all rights they ought to be workable.