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About Modes - Lesson 3


The king of the song
A mode can also be seen as the tonic of the song. The "tonic" is the one chord that defines the key of the song. So a song in C-major has a C-major chord as the tonic of the song. A song in A-minor has the A-minor chord as the tonic of the song.

But all chords in the C-major scale can take the role as the king or tonic. Within the C-major scale you can assign this role to any one of the 7 chords. So you could write a song in E-phrygian or in B-Lochrian. In the case of E-Phrygian the E-minor chord would be the one chord to focus on as your "home base" it will probably be the chord you start and end your song with and all the other chords within the scale will work around that E-minor chord.

At all times you can use the mode of the tonic to play over the entire chord progression. In this case this mode will work in the same way as the pentatonic scale - as a safe zone for you to enter when ever you need to find notes that you can rest on.

So if you're playing a song in C-major/C-Ionian your Cmaj7th arpeggio will be your safe zone. If you're playing a song in E-phrygian, your Em7 arpeggio will work as your safe zone. So even though you can't play all modes and mirror every chord in the background music perfectly, you can still use modes as a powerful tool.

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