Guitar Lesson About The Order Of Flats

The order of flats is something we learn just to get an idea of how each scale is different from the others. It gives us a kind of spectrum of how each sounds, as well how each mode relates to each other. This is just a way of looking at them in a different sense and in no way changes the order of the modes the way you have already memorized them. The modes are always in the order that you learned them in previous lessons, but since this is the internet and things need to be a clear as possible I figured I try to make it clearer.

What we are going to do is jumble the modes up into the order that they would be in according to the way they sound. This will help us see more clearly the difference between modes and the way they sound, and also helps to make the modal formulas easier to remember.

The Order Of Flats

1 sharp -- 1 flat 2 flats 3 flats 4 flats 5 flats
# -- b bb bbb bbbb bbbbb

You can now see that each of the 7 modes are one neat step away from the next. Its starting to look like these scales aren't a bunch of meaningless theory, but that they actually fit together nice and neatly, each one serving a purpose that the others can't.

We can also now see a spectrum of sounds here, ranging from bright and happy to dark and dissident. Generally, the scales that use major notes with no flats are very happy and bright sounding. The scales that use a lot of flats have a darker mood.

I will give a general and vague sense of what each scale sounds like and what it might be used for. However, my opinions on these will be very general and not something to be taken very seriously, its just a guide to help you get started. Many good musicians can alter the feeling of any scale with playing techniques and such, so just get a basic idea here and then see what you can do with it.

Spectrum of modes based on how they sound

brightest ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- darkest
  • LYDIAN very bright, upbeat. Good for anything very bright and upbeat such as pop, kids music, etc
  • IONIAN very sweet, happy, bright. Perfect for happy songs, love songs, etc. Used for almost all childrens music
  • MIXOLYDIAN middle of the road bright scale. Good for light rock, pop, country, etc
  • DORIAN perfect middle ground. Not too bright, not to dark. Good for country, rock, blues.
  • AEOLIAN gritty, bluesy, warm sounding rock scale. This is the standard rock and blues scale.
  • PHRYGIAN dark, classical metal sound. A Randy Rhoads favorite.
  • LOCRIAN very dark, dissident, brooding. Good for heavy metal, dark classical, etc

Now that we have looked at what this all means to the 'lehman', we can go on and learn a little more about the details of how this works.

Remember when I said that understanding the order of flats would make memorizing the modal formulas easier ? Now we get to find out why this is. Each of the scales that include flats, which would be 5 of them (most), are really the same as the one before with the addition of one new flat.

LYDIAN #4 -- -- -- -- -- --
IONIAN -- 0/0 -- -- -- -- --
MIXOLYDIAN -- -- b7 -- -- -- --
DORIAN -- -- b7 b3 -- -- --
AEOLIAN -- -- b7 b3 b6 -- --
PHRYGIAN -- -- b7 b3 b6 b2 --
LOCRIAN -- -- b7 b3 b6 b2 b5

So if you can remember the order that the flats come in, memorizing the modal formulas becomes much easier. Once you learn the order of flats, you should have a much better understanding of what makes each scale different, and why each one sounds the way it does.


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