Musical Modes Characteristics

Here are how I characterize the different musical modes:

  • Ionian or Major – Bright and joyful. My second favorite because it is so joyful.
  • Aeolian or Minor – Sad and oppressive. Quite the downer. Use for super sad stuff.
  • Dorian – Slightly sad but very hopeful. Like the minor scale but with a slight difference that is the raised 6th note (the Dorian 6th). It is by far my favorite sound of all of the musical modes. It has an uplifting feel to it when played.
  • Phrygian – Dark and tension-filled. I’ve heard it works for heavy metal, flamenco, and jazz music, but I don’t know for sure. It has an oriental and Spanish feel to it as well. It is kind of foreboding in its feel.
  • Lydian – Mystical and mainly used in jazz. It is a major scale with a raised 4th.
  • Mixolydian – Blues, rock, jazz, and funk use this one. Similar to the major scale in feel, but with a bit of a difference. I like it third best of all of the modes.
  • Locrian – Unstable and tense is the Locrian scale’s forte. It has a dissonance to it but is not as sad as the minor mode.
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