The Architecture of Music

Modes

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The Relationship Between Chords and Modes

The main use of modes in this book, and the most important concept about modes to understand, is their relationship with chords. When modes are analyzed (identified by the central note scale degree), their LCOF diagrams describe exactly which chords can be played with each mode using the central note scale degree as the bass note (below). In a key of a scale, modes describe exactly which chords can be played with each note of a scale as the bass note in a root position or inverted chord. For each scale degree, any root position, 1st, and 2nd inversion can be played in combination with any add variation listed for each mode while still remaining within the limits of the key and scale being played. All the chords listed for each mode use the central note as the bass note. All root position chords include the P5th, all 2nd inversions include the P4th, and the variable 3rd note names the chord. Study the chord diagrams on the analyzing chords page to understand how modes can be used to identify the chords that can be played with them.

If you look at mode II of Suspended Pentatonic, no root position chords can be played with that scale degree as the bass note because the central note has no P5th. Mode V is the exact opposite and no 2nd inversions can be played with that scale degree as the bass note as the central note has no P4th. All scales (with the exception of the Chromatic scale) will have modes that are theoretical “ends” where either no root position or 2nd inversion chords can be played with it as the bass note. This is why it is so important to learn and use chord inversions, as it gives us the ability to use every note in a scale as the bass note in a chord. In more complex scales with an isolated note around the COF, only 1st inversions can be used to play the isolated note as the bass note in a chord, at least as far as root position and inverted chords are concerned.

the relationship between chords and modes