Musicarta Modes - Supplement Two

Modes Master Chord Diagrams

The following tables present the useful chords in the Ionian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Dorian modes (click through) in keys up to four sharps, four flats.

The chords are arranged with the tonic (home chord) in the middle column, a potentially more creative way of thinking about the chords in the modal families than thinking of the tonic (home chord) as always being the lowest chord.

The classical key signatures which produce the mode tones for the given tonic are shown in the left-most column. These are unlikely to be used in written modal music – generally, the ‘proper’ classical key signature will be used but accidentals in the MS will reveal the modal nature of the music.

The diminished triad has been omitted from these tables, leaving families of six chords. The diminished triad is unstable and serves mainly to furnish the top three notes of a dominant seventh chord. The naturally occurring dominant sevenths in the modes are:

 Ionian: V7   Mixolydian: I7   Aeolian: ëVII7   Dorian: IV7

 These seventh chords will have a strong tendency to cadence out of the mode and into the classical tonic chord of the modal family – IV in the Mixolydian, ëIII in the Aeolian and ëVII in the Dorian.

These tables can easily be used to structure keyboard compositions. As a starting point, start on the tonic chord and stray up and down (i.e. right and left along the rows). Try out some mediant substitution in your meanderings by dropping the left hand bass note a scale third or taking the right hand triad up a third (essentially, adding the seventh chord tone).

Remember that the modern musical ear tends to want to pull the music out of the mode and back into the classical major (Ionian mode) or minor, so make a point of finishing back on your modal tonic (home) chord, savouring the modal harmonic tension. (See the paragraph about thee diminished triad, above.)

NOTE  This page serves only to remind you that thsee tables are in your Workbook pdf. Apart from for quick reference purposes, you will no doubt find it more convenient to study from a hard-copy print-out.

Ionian mode

(The Ionian mode is the classical, modern major key system.)

Mixolydian mode

Click through to Mixolydian One

Aeolian mode

Click through to Aeolian One

Dorian mode

Click through to the Dorian pages


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