This is a public version of the members-only Jazz Sax with Eric Marienthal, at ArtistWorks. Functionality is limited, but CLICK HERE for full access if you’re ready to take your playing to the next level.

These lessons are available only to members of Jazz Sax with Eric Marienthal.
Join Now

Basic Saxophone
Intermediate Saxophone
Advanced Saxophone
Exercise of the Week Archive
Lick of the Week Archive
30 Day Challenge
«Prev of Next»

Jazz Sax Lessons: Introduction to Modes

Lesson Video Exchanges () submit video Submit a Video Lesson Study Materials () This lesson calls for a video submission
Study Materials Quizzes
information below Close
information below
Lesson Specific Downloads
Play Along Tracks
Backing Tracks +
Written Materials +

+Basic Saxophone

+Intermediate Saxophone

+Advanced Saxophone

+Exercise of the Week Archive

+Lick of the Week Archive

Additional Materials +
resource information below Close
Collaborations for
resource information below Close
Submit a video for   
Jazz Sax

This video lesson is available only to members of
Jazz Sax with Eric Marienthal.

Join Now

information below Close
Course Description

This page contains a transcription of a video lesson from Jazz Sax with Eric Marienthal. This is only a preview of what you get when you take Jazz Sax Lessons at ArtistWorks. The transcription is only one of the valuable tools we provide our online members. Sign up today for unlimited access to all lessons, plus submit videos to your teacher for personal feedback on your playing.

CLICK HERE for full access.
Okay, it's now
time to work on our modes and
our modal scales.
The explanation of a mode basically
is just a scale based on each
degree of the major scale.
So, in other words,
if you're gonna play a major scale.
If you start on the second degree of that
scale and
go up to the octave of that degree,
you've created another scale using
the notes of the original major scale.
And, thus you have your second mode.
The third mode.
All right, so there we go,
the modes are called Ionian,
Dorian, phrygian, Midian,
Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian.
So the important thing about
knowing these modes is
that not only are they related
to their parent major scale.
But each individual mode and
modal scale has it's own harmonic
use in the improvisation.
Jazz improvisation and
just harmonically in general.
The Ionian mode is basically
just the major scale,
so all the applications that you
can use your major scale with.
Dorian mode is gonna be,
basically call a Dorian minor scale.
It's a common, it's sort of really
become in jazz, if you ask me,
the most common minor scale,
because it encompasses the,
it yeah, it uses a flat third and
a flat seventh.
So you use
the Dorian minor
scale over most
minor chords.
So the phrygian mode,
again we're letting in the key of C.
So the phrygian mode, if you are
originating from C major, is E fridgian.
And if you look at its arpeggio,
it's also the arpeggio's minor.
But the Phrygian scale
has a particular sound to it.
You have that flat second and
that's the main difference between I guess
the Phrygian scale and
a natural minor scale,
because you also have the flat sixth and
the flat seventh as well.
So, but it creates its own cool sound.
And if you base your
improvisations on a scale.
It's not like you're running
the scale up and down verbatim,
but you're using the notes from
that scale to create your phrases,
it creates kind of a cool sound.
And that flat second would be
considered a passing tone.
So if you were gonna sit on that flat
second, if your playing an E minor for
instance, and you use an E phrygian scale.
Again, that F, that second
degree is gonna rub a little bit
if you don't consider
it like a passing tone.
Good, the fourth mode, or the fourth
degree of a major of a C major scale,
would be Lydian, F lydian.
And it's the same as a major,
it's got a major triad as its skeleton or
its arpeggio.
Again, these are all notes from
the original parent key, and
our parent key for these are C.
So the cool thing about the Lydian
scale is that it's going
to incorporate that raised or
sharp fourth and so
in a fourth in harmonic terms an octave
higher would be the eleventh.
So you would see if you're gonna use
a Lydian scale in a harmonic context,
play over a particular chord,
the chord you'd wanna use
that over would be a major
seven sharp eleven chord.
So, and very often if
you're playing a major
chord over a major chord and
you us that sharp eleven it works.
It's one of those that we used to call and
still call an available tension.
Tensions are the notes that aren't
found in the chord itself, but
are the notes that you can alter in
the chord that make it sound various
different ways of making it
sound different, or interesting.
The fifth degree, or
the fifth mode is our Mixolydian mode.
And that is the mode that works
the best over dominant chords.
So if you're playing a blues,
that's your go to scale,
go to chord scale,
because it works over dominant cords.
You have that flat seventh on top,
then the rest of the arpeggios,
a natural third and a natural fifth.
Just like in a regular arpeggio.
The sixth degree is our Aeolian degree,
Aeolian mode I should say.
And that's basically a natural minor
scale, so again, you're starting on
the sixth degree of the C major scale,
and the scale itself sounds like this.
All right, so the arpeggio.
Is good old straight up minor
arpeggio with a flat third,
natural fifth and
flat seventh, and
works over any minor chord.
So you can go, the great thing about modes
in general and thinking about them this
way is that you always wanna
keep its parent scale in mind.
And by doing that it's easier for
me to do that than to,
frankly, than to think about each
mode individually in its own key.
You want to, because it does
become its own tonal center.
But to know the notes of these modes,
it helps,
again, to think of where
they originated from.
Because, that way,
if you know your, for instance,
your C major scale,
then you know all seven of these scales.
Because, you already now the scale
that those modes came from.
So by learning your major scales you're
also doing yourself a great service,
without perhaps realizing it,
you're learning your modes.
So, again, our Aeolian or
the sixth degree or the sixth mode,
Aeolian mode is that mode that starts
in the sixth degree of a major scale.
the last mode is our Locrian mode.
It starts on the 7th degree
of any major scale.
And that scale is used over minor
seventh flat five chords.
It can be used over all kinds
of different things, but
if you see a minor seventh flat five,
very often, like for instance,
you've heard of, I'm sure you've heard
of the two-five-one progression.
If that one is a minor one, a minor chord,
then very often the five preceding
it is usually has a flat nine,
because it just harmonically or
melodically sounds
correct to add that flat
nine over that five chord.
And then the two chord of the two-five-one
usually is written and
played as a two flat five.
And so the Locrian scale
encompasses that flat five.
So again, referring back to
the parent key, which is C major.
The seventh degree of that
C major scale is B and
by using the notes of our parent scale,
again if I play that B Locrian scale.
The arpeggio is B, D, F, and A natural.
So, if you look at each degree that you've
got the root, and then the flat third, and
then the flat fifth.
So here we are, so
if you had a b minor seven flat five cord.
You've got your minor in the third and
you got the flat five too.
So you're locrian mode is gonna be very
useful over minor seven flat five chords.
So there you go.
Okay, so there's a basic
explanation of our modes there.
And as always, it's important to drill
those modes right into your brain,
and right into your fingers, and
creates an exercise in the process.
So I have written all the modes out for
you in each key.
So it's gonna take up half
the paper in Into your printer,
but it's 12 pages of modal scales.
And so what we're gonna do is play,
I've divided them up into keys,
because I really do feel,
again, that the parent key that
all the modes come from is really
important to keep in mind.
Because again, if you know the parent
key of each mode, then you're gonna know
the scales and be able to play
those scales much more easily.
So, each of these lessons is
divided into 12 parts, one for
each of the 12 keys, and as you see there,
I've got 12 played on an E flat
instrument, my alto here, and
12 played on a B flat instrument,
I've got my soprano over there.
So I'm gonna start off here in alto,
and play them along with me.
I'm gonna play, for
our purposes I think we'll be able to make
it through okay, were gonna need
to take breaths here and there.
So there'll be a pause in the middle, but
basically we'll just play them down and
I have my metronome set at 150 and
play them along with me.