Remembering Your Musical Modes


Working musicians feel the need every now and then to brush up on music theory. For those of us with jazz and sacred music interests, it’s common to come across references to musical modes in guides to performance. It can be difficult to keep the Greek modes straight, so I’ve created a mnemonic that is a little more meaningful (at least to me) than some of the others I’ve seen in the past. Here it is:

I Don’t Play Loud Music After Lights-out

I = Ionian; D = Dorian, P = Phrygian, L = Lydian, M = Mixolydian (half-Lydian), A = Aeolian, L = Locrian

I think the final word in the mnemonic is especially useful, since it helps differentiate between Lydian and Locrian (Lights Out, LO for Locrian).

For more background on modes, here’s an interesting reference which explains the relation of mode names to Greek cities or regions associated with the emotional response invoked by each scale:

Also for part-time musicians, here is a practical guide to theory that’s good for the occasional brush-up:

An Understandable Guide to Music Theory: The Most Useful Aspects of Theory for Rock, Jazz, and Blues Musicians by Chaz Bufe

(Original post on August 13, 2016)


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