Church Modes

A series of seven musical scales

"Church Modes", also known as "Gregorian Modes" or "Medieval Modes", are a set of seven diatonic scales used in Western medieval and early Renaissance music. These modes serve as the basis for melody and harmony in this historical musical period. Each mode has a unique sequence of whole and half steps, resulting in distinct tonal characteristics.

Church Modes originated in medieval church music and were used extensively from the 9th to the 16th centuries. They provided a framework for composing melodies and harmonies before the widespread adoption of major and minor keys in later musical styles. Each mode is associated with a specific final or tonic note, which serves as a central pitch around which the melodies revolve.

The seven Church Modes are:

  1. Dorian Mode: This mode has a major scale with a minor third and seventh scale degree. It is often described as having a somewhat "medieval" or "ancient" quality.
  2. Phrygian Mode: This mode features a minor scale with a lowered second scale degree. It often conveys a somber and introspective mood.
  3. Lydian Mode: This mode contains a major scale with a raised fourth scale degree, giving it a bright and dreamy character.
  4. Mixolydian Mode: This mode has a major scale with a lowered seventh scale degree. It carries a somewhat bluesy or folk-like quality.
  5. Aeolian Mode: This mode is equivalent to the natural minor scale, characterized by a minor third, sixth, and seventh scale degree. It often expresses a sad or melancholic mood.
  6. Ionian Mode: This mode corresponds to the modern major scale, known for its cheerful and uplifting quality.
  7. Locrian Mode: This mode has a minor scale with a lowered second and fifth scale degree. It is considered the most unstable and dissonant of the modes.

Church Modes were integral to the development of Western musical theory and provided the foundation for understanding tonal relationships, which later evolved into the major and minor key systems. While their use declined after the Renaissance, they continue to influence modern music, particularly in certain genres that embrace modal or exotic scales.

Example of Church Modes

THE MODES: a Basic Introduction with a Crazy Continuation...