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The major scale and its scales and chords

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Ionian:
The major scale is also known as the Ionian mode. The 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th note create a major7 chord with the structure 1-M3-5-maj7, here Cmaj7. The tensions are 9, 11 and 13.
The 4th note, the 11 - here the F -, is the avoid note because - despite of all the other tension notes - it sounds dissonant and inappropriate in the Ionian major chord.

Dorian:
From the second note on we get a minor scale, the so-called Dorian mode. The 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes results in a minor seventh chord with the structure 1-m3-5-7, here the Dm7. The tensions are 9, 11 and 13.
The sixth note, the 13 - hier the B -, is in the classical major II-V-I progression considered a avoid note as it would anticipate the third auf the following dominant chord.

Phrygian:
From the third note on we get a minor scale, which is also called the Phrygian mode. The 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes result in a minor seventh chord with the structure 1-m3-5-7, here the Em7. The tensions are b9, 11 und b13.
The second and sixth note, the b9 and b13 - i.e. the F and C - are the avoid notes because they sound dissonant and inappropriate.

Lydian:

From the forth note on we get a major scale, which is also called the Lydian mode. The 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes result in a major seventh chord with the structure 1-M3-5-maj7, here the Fmaj7. The tensions are 9, #11 und 13.
The Lydian mode has no avoid notes as it typically stands at the end of the classical cadence and all tension notes sound appropriate and harmonic.

If you play the #11 instead of the fifth, the tension between the #11 and the root note (tritone) characterizes the special sound of the Maj7#11 chord.

Mixolydian:
From the fifth note on we get a dominant scale, which is also called the Mixolydian mode. The 1st, 3rd, 5h and 7th notes result in a dominant seventh chord with the structure 1-M3-5-7, here the G7. The tensions are the 9, 11 and 13.
The Mixolydian mode, the fourth tone, i.e. the 11, is considered a prohibited tone. Or, if we play a sus4 chord, the third note, the major third M3, is the avoid note. M3 and 11 are never played at the same time.

Aeolian:
From the sixth note onwards we get a minor scale, which is also called the Aeolian mode. The 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes result in a minor seventh chord with the structure 1-m3-5-7, here the Am7. The tensions are 9, 11 and b13.
The sixth note, the b13 - here the F -, is considered the avoid note because it sounds dissonant and inappropriate.

Locrian:
From the seventh note on we get a half-diminished minor scale, which is also called the Locrian mode. The 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th note create a half deminished minor seventh chord with the structure 1-m3-b5-7, here the Bm7b5. The tensions are b9, 11 and b13.

Résumé

  • The following modes are derived from the Ionian major scale:
    • Ionian (tonic)
    • Dorian (subdominant)
    • Phrygian (tonic)
    • Lydian (subdominant)
    • Mixolydian (dominant)
    • Aeolian (tonic)
    • Locrian
    These scales and their corresponding chords are the most widespread and important. What is still missing are the altered, diminished and excessive chords. They cannot be formed from it, so we have to use further scales.

  • The terms tonic, dominant and subdominant will be explained in the chapter Progressions.