The Derivation of Modes

©2010 Mermikides

The major scale has a particular pattern of tones and semitones.
I II III IV V VI VII

4 &4

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tone

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tone

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semitone

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tone tone

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tone

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semitone

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Since these intervals are not regular, we get a different pattern, and set of scale degrees depending from which of the 7 notes we start with. Each of these 7 starting points gives a 'mode' of the major scale and each has its own distinct and beautiful character, harmonic language and repertoire.

1. IONIAN
Mode 1: Starting on the 1st degree: Ionian. In this case: C Ionian (C, D, E, F, G, A, B) with degrees (R, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) Identical, of course, to the major scale.

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tone

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semitone

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2. DORIAN
Mode 2: Starting on the 2nd degree: Dorian. In this case: D Dorian (D, E, F, G, A, B, C) with degrees (R, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7) Natural minor with a 'sweet' and 'funky' major 6th.

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tone

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semitone

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3. PHRYGIAN
Mode 3: Starting on the 3rd degree: Phrygian. In this case: E Phrygian (E, F, G, A, B, C, D) with degrees (R, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7) Natural minor with a 'sinister' and 'moorish' minor 2nd.

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semitone

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tone

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2

4. LYDIAN
Mode 4: Starting on the 4th degree: Lydian. In this case: F Lydian (F, G, A, B, C, D, E) with degrees (R, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7) Major with a 'bright' and 'magical' raised (augmented) 4th.

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tone

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semitone

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5. MIXOLYDIAN
Mode 5: Starting on the 5th degree: Mixolydian. In this case: G Mixolydian (G, A, B, C, D, E, F) with degrees (R, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7) Major with a 'bluesy' and 'majestic' flattened 7th.

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tone

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semitone

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6. AEOLIAN
Mode 6: Starting on the 6th degree: Aeolian. In this case: A Aeolian (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) with degrees (R, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7) Just like natural minor but without the alteration of the 6th and 7th degrees as found in typical tonal harmony. Aeolian is a 'bleak' and 'sorrowful' mode.

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tone

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semitone

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7. LOCRIAN

Mode 7: Starting on the 7th degree: Locrian. In this case: B Aeolian (B, C, D, E, F, G, A) with degrees (R, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7) Phrygian with a flattened 5th. Locrian's diminished quality is 'demonic' and 'twisted'.

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semitone

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tone

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Writing Modal Chord Progressions

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Since 7 modes are derived from one scale, they all share the same notes, and diatonic chords. How then can we make, for example D Dorian sound different to E Phrygian or F Lydian? Here are 5 methods to help write effective chord progressions. You don't need to use them all, but they are excellent principles.

1. Return to Root Chord often
Use the 'root chord' regularly e.g. A minor or Aminor 7 in A Aeolian. This should occur on strong beats and bars (Every downbeat, or on every 2 or 4 bars for example)
A aeolian: Root chord appears on the downbeat every 2 bars, solidifying mode.

& ™™ V V V V
A‹ D‹

FŒ„Š7

V V V V

E‹7

A‹7

V V V V

G

V V V V

F

G

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2. Use a Pedal Tone
By keeping the root of the mode constantly below diatonic chords, the mode is clearly established.
F Lydian: Root of mode is kept as a pedal tone below diatonic chords, solidifying mode.

& ™™ V V V V
FŒ„Š7 G/F

A‹7/F

3. Static root chord with modal bass line

V V V V

G/F

FŒ„Š7

V V V V

G/F

A‹7/F

V V V V

E‹7/F

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By keeping the root of the mode constant above a modal bassline, the mode is clearly established.
G mixolydian: Root chord of G is kept constant while the bass line outlines important notes of the mode.

& ™™ V V V V
G G/F

G/E

4. Non-triadic harmony

V V V V

G/F

G

V V V V

G/F

G/E

V V V V

G/C G/F

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To avoid tonal references, chords can be constructed in 2nd, 4ths, 5ths and 7ths (and combinations there of) rather than just 3rds
D Dorian: These chords are built in 4ths creating a more 'open'
D‹11 E‹11

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CŒ„Š11

E‹11

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5. Character
Discover the 'character' chords of the mode - the chords that best describe the mode and show its unique identity - and use them. The melody should also contain the character notes of each mode, and return to the root often. The character notes and chords are described for 5 very useful modes below.

4

Dorian
A Dorian

Let's look at the dorian mode, and choose A dorian so we can easily see its relationship to A natural minor. Since A dorian is derived from G major (the 2nd mode of G major) we'll use one sharp in the key signature. However A (and not G) should be considered the root, and we'll work out all scale degrees and chords with A as the root. The scale degrees are (R,2,b3,4,5,6,b7)

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Root

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Maj2

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Min3

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P4

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Ä ( #) ˙

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Min7

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Octave

P5

Maj6

Note that Dorian is different from natural minor in that it has a major 6th (not minor 6th) - in this case F# not F This is its character note. In fact it is the presence of both a minor 3rd and major 6th that gives much of Dorian's vibe. Here are the triads of A Dorian , together with a ('US') roman numeral analysis. Chords containing the character major 6th (F#) are underlined. The IIm and IV are the most common dorian modal chords (the VIº ir unstable and not commonly found) A Dorian A‹

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#

B‹

C

D

Im

IIm

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bIII

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IV

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E‹

Vm

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F©º

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G

w w w

VIº

bVII

And here are the 7th chords with roman numeral analysis. A very common and effective Dorian chord is the IV7, as it contains both the minor 3rd and major 6th of the mode. Of the seventh chords IIm7, IV7 are the most often used to describe Dorian modality, but most of the other diatonic chords may be found in progressions. In addition the Im6 is chord is often used. A DorianA‹7

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B‹7

Im7

IIm7

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CŒ„Š7

bIIImaj7

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D7

IV7

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E‹7

Vm7

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F©‹7(b5)

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GŒ„Š7

w w w w

VIø7

bVIImaj7

There are may examples of the Dorian mode in popular music here are a few: So What - Miles Davis (alternates between D Dorian and Eb Dorian) Scarborough Fair and Drunken Sailor traditional songs, Pink Floyd 'Another Brick in the Wall' ( D Dorian:Dm7, F, C, G Im7, bIII, bVII, IV) The classic arpeggio of 'Sine On You Crazy Diamond' (G dorian. and most of the 'Dark Side of the Moon' album (E Dorian: Em (or Emadd9,Em7) to A7-Im to IV7) The opening riff of Lenny Kravitz' 'Always On the Run' (E dorian) Beatles - Eleanor Rigby (Verse melody in E dorian) Joe Satriani - 'Ice 9' opening melody (C# dorian) Loads of funk tunes: eg 'Brick House' - Commodores 'Le Freak' Chic Moondance - Van Morrison. The verses are Am Bm/A C/A Bm/A Oye Como Va - Santana (Am D7 -Im IV7)

Phrygian
A Phrygian

5

Now Let's look at the 3rd mode, the phrygian mode, and choose A phrygian so we can easily see its relationship to A. Since this is derived from F major (the 3rd mode of F major) we'll use one flat in the key signature. However A (and not F) should be considered the root, and we'll work out all scale degrees and chords with F as the root. The scale degrees are (R,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7)

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Root

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Ä ( b)˙

Min2

Min3

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P4

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Min6

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Min7

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Octave

P5

Note that Phrygian is different from natural minor in that it has a minor 2nd (not major 2nd) - in this case Bb not B This is the character note of Phrygian which gives it its unique 'flamenco' quality. Here are the triads of A Phrygian , together with a ('US') roman numeral analysis. Chords containing the character minor 2nd (Bb) are underlined. The bIIm and bVIIm are the most common phrygian modal triads (the Vº if unstable and not commonly used) A Phrygian A‹
C Eº F G‹

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D‹

Im

bII

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bIII

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IVm

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bVI

w w w

bVIIm

Here are the seventh chords of A phrygian with roman numeral analysis. Of the seventh chords bIImaj7 and bVIIm7 are the most often used to describe Phrygian modality, but most of the other diatonic chords may be found in progressions. In additional the Im(addb9) chord is also used. Also note that 'power chords' (chords with just roots and fifths) are found in Phrygian (and other modal) contexts. A Phrygian

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A‹7

B¨Œ„Š7

Im7

bIImaj7

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C7

bIII7

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D‹7

IVm7

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E‹7(b5)

Vm7(b5)

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FŒ„Š7

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G‹7

w w w w

VIø7

bVIIm7

There are may examples of the Phrygian mode in popular music, particularly when 'spanish' and sinister atmospheres are required. Here are a few: White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane. (F#5 and G5 and the notes from F# phrygian are used) Symphony of Destruction - Megadeth (the opening riff uses E5, F5 and G5 from E Phrygian) The God That Failed - Metallica (Eb5, Fb5, Gb5, Bb5 from Eb Phrygian) War - Joe Satriani (E5 and Fmaj7(#11) from E phrygian)

6

Lydian
C Lydian

The 4th mode of the major scale, the Lydian mode, is often found in film soundtracks for its 'floating' and 'magical' quality. The lydian mode can be derived from C major from F to F. If we calculate Lydian with a root of C,we can easily see how it compares to a major scale. In this case we get an F# instead of an F. Lydian is a major scale with a raised (augmented) 4th. (R, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7)

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Root

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Maj2

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Maj3

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Ä ( #) ˙
#4

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P5

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Maj6

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Maj7

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Octave

Note that Lydian is different from major in that it has an augmented 4th (not perfect 4th) - in this case F# not F This is the character note of Lydian which gives it its unique 'magical' quality. Here are the triads of C Lydian , together with a ('US') roman numeral analysis. Chords containing the character augmented 4th (F#) are underlined. The II and VIIm are the most common lydian modal triads (the #IVº if unstable and not commonly used) C Lydian

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C

D

I

II

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E‹

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G

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A‹

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B‹

w w w

IIIm

#IVº

V

VIm

VIIm

Here are the seventh chords of C lydian with roman numeral analysis. Of the seventh chords II7 (often in 3rd inv.), Vmaj7 and VIIm7 are the most often used to describe Lydian modality, but most of the other diatonic chords may be found in progressions. In addition the Imaj7(#11) chord is also used.

C Lydian

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#

CŒ„Š7

D7

Imaj7

II7

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E‹7

IIIm7

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F©‹7(b5)

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GŒ„Š7

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A‹7

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B‹7

w w w w

IVm7

Vm7(b5)

VIm7

bVIIm7

There are many examples of the Lydian mode in popular and film music, particularly when a floating and magical atmospheres are required. Here are a few moments from pop songs: Sara - Fleetwood Mac. (Opens with F, G/F and Am/F all from F Lydian) Man on the Moon - REM (the intro and verses use C major to Dadd11 from C Lydian) The Simpsons theme - Danny Elfman (One of the most famous lydian melodies of all time in C LydianIn fact some of the harmonic material implies Lydian dominant - a mode of melodic minor) The Riddle - Steve Vai (Open in E Lydian with an A# (sharpened 4th as the opening melody note) Other examples include Blue Jay Way - The Beatles, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic - The Police, All I need - Radiohead (C Lydian) The verses of Tonight, Tonight - Smashing Pumpkins.

Mixolydian
Ä ( b) ˙

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The 5th mode of the major scale, the mixolydian mode, is often found in rock and blues. It is also found in superficially 'eastern' influenced pop music due to its similarity with some Ragas. The mixolydian mode can be derived from C major from G to G. If we work out a mixolydian scale with a root of C,we can easily see how it compares to a major scale. In this case we get a B-flat instead of a B, so mixolydian is a major scale with a minot (flattened) 7th. (R, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7)

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C Mixoydian

Root

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Maj2

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Maj3

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P4

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P5

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Maj6

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Octave

Min7

So Mixoydian is different from major in that it has a minor (not major) 7th - in this case B-flat not B This is the character note of mixoydian which gives it its 'dominant' quality. In fact it is the combination of the major 3rd and minor 7th that sets it apart from all the other modes of the major scale. Here are the triads of C Mixolydian , together with a ('US') roman numeral analysis. Chords containing the character minor 7th (Bb) are underlined. The Vm and particularly the bVII are the most common mixolydian modal triads (the IIIº if unstable and not commonly used) C Mixolydian
C D‹ Eº F G‹ A‹

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I

II

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w w w

IIIº

IV

Vm

VI

bVII

Here are the seventh chords of C mixolydian with roman numeral analysis. Of the seventh chords I7 , Vm7 and bVIImaj7 are the most often used to describe mixoydian modality, but most of the other diatonic chords may be found in progressions, particular the IV chord. bVII/IV/I, for example, is a common mixolydian progression. C Mixolydian

&b ˙ ˙ ˙ ˙

C7

D‹7

I7

IIm7

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E‹7(b5)

IIIø

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FŒ„Š7

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G‹7

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A‹7

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B¨Œ„Š7

w w w w

IVmaj7

Vm7

VIm7

bVIImaj7

There are countless examples of the mixolydian mode in popular music - particularly in the harmony of a track (even if melodies and solos are in minor pentationic) The bVII/IV/I sequence can be found in everything from AC/DC to Zappa. More 'pure' examples of mixolydian (when harmony and melody are both mixolydian) include: Norwegian Wood - Beatles. (E Mixolydian) Sweet Child of Mine - Guns and Roses and Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd (D, Cadd9, G D in verses and the notes of guitar intro are all from D mixolydian) Champagne Supernova - Oasis (A, A/G, A/F# and A/E - derived from A mixolydian) Other examples include Led Boots - Jeff Beck, Within You or Without You - Beatles,

8 The 6th mode of the major scale, the aeolian mode, is a common mode in rock and pop music when a mournful emotion is required. The aeolian mode can be derived from C major from A to A which gives us the following scale degrees. (R, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7) A Aeolian

Aeolian

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Root

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Maj2

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Min3

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P4

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Ä ˙

Ä ˙

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Octave

P5

Min6

Min7

You'll notice that the aeolian mode is identical to the natural minor scale. However in a minor key, the 7th note of the scale is often changed to a leading tone (harmonic minor) which allows for V7 chord for example. The 6th degree is also sometimes changed, as in melodic minor. However the aeolian mode has a fixed minor 6th and minor 7th which gives it its particular character. Here are the triads of A Aeolian , together with a ('US') roman numeral analysis. Chords containing the character minor 6th (F) - distinguishing it from Dorian - are underlined the IIº (rarely used), IVm, VI. The Vm and bVII which contain the character minor 7th (G) are also underlined. A Aeolian
A‹ Bº C D‹ E‹ F G

& ˙ ˙ ˙
I

IIº

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III

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IVm

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VI

w w w

Vm

bVII

Here are the seventh chords of A aeolian with roman numeral analysis. All of these contain the minor 6th and minor 7th, and they are all used in aeolian progressions -although the IIm7(b5) is rare. A Aeolian
A‹7 B‹7(b5)

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Im7

IIm7(b5)

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CŒ„Š7

bIIImaj7

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D‹7

IVm7

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E‹7

Vm7

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FŒ„Š7

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G7

w w w w

bVImaj7

bVII7

There are many examples of the Aeolian mode in popular music - the Im/bVII/bVI/bVII sequence is common, as well as peices built around Im, IVm and Vm. Here are a few examples of the Aeolian mode in popular music The X-Files Theme - melody in A Aeolian. All Along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix (C#m - Bm - A all from C# Aeolian - although the guitar is tuned down a semitone) Ain't No Sunshine- Bill Withers is built around Am7, Dm7 and Em7 (all from A Aeolian) Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin) outro solo has the repeated chords Am G F G from A Aeolian. The Sound of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel) is in Eb Aeolian. (with chords Im bVII bVII and III)

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