Learning The Ionian Mode (major scale)

In this music theory guitar lesson we will start to learn about the standard modes, including the ionian modal scale which is commonly called the major scale. These are the seven note scales that we learned and memorized the names of in a previous lesson. If you have not already completed the lessons preceding this one, you should do so before going into this lesson.

First, we will learn the mode called "ionian" in music theory. This scale is very widely known as the "major scale". Most people already know a mode and they don't even know it, but if you have ever been taught or have heard the "do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do" scale that they teach in most grade schools, then you have a head start.

The "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do" thing that you have probably heard in the past is actually the ionian mode. Notice it is a seven note scale, and if you are familiar with it, that it has a certain sound. This is a "major" scale and has the "major" sound. Very bright, happy, upbeat, sweet sounding, just the kind of scale you would want to use to write a pretty love song or a children's song. If that's not what you want to write, keep reading because this must be learned just the same.

Now, lets find out where this ionain mode comes from. You do remember your twelve steps of key construction right ? We can find the major scale (ionian mode) simply by using all of the "major intervals". This means that for whatever key we are in, if we use the root, major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th, major 7th and then root again, we will get the ionian mode (the major scale). I will show a diagram here to show you.

Finding The Ionian Mode Using Key Construction:

Key Construction
1. Root
2. Minor 2nd
3. Major 2nd
4. Minor 3rd
5. Major 3rd
6. Perfect 4th
7. Diminished 5th
8. Perfect 5th
9. Minor 6th
10. Major 6th
11. Minor 7th
12. Major 7th
1. Root (octave)
Major Intervals

Major 2nd

Major 3rd
Perfect 4th

Perfect 5th

Major 6th

Major 7th
Ionian Mode






Notice that this shows us a pattern of intervals to arrive at the major scale or ionian mode. From the root to the major second was a "whole-step". Then we made another whole step to get to the major 3rd. But, from the major 3rd to the perfect 4th there was only a "half-step". If you follow this pattern you will see that to get the ionian scale or mode in any key, you would just apply the proper order of whole and half steps.

The order of intervals (steps) go like this:

Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half

*note : this is very important and must be learned

If you start on ANY note and move forward following this pattern of intervals, you will find the "ionian mode" (or the major scale) in your chosen key (the note you started on).

In the next lesson we will discuss more about this and actually try a few examples to show you how it works.


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