Writing Songs in Modes
First off, if you need to brush up on your modes, you can do so here:
Through the years, many students and musician friends have asked me how to write songs in different modes.
While it’s good to know the scale structure of each mode, a good start is to memorize some of the most common chord progressions for each mode:
Have fun playing around with the above chord progressions.
You might think to yourself now: “OK, but these are only chords. How do I come up with melodies?”
That would be a great question, because indeed: without a melody, you don’t have a song. The good news is that it is pretty simple. The way you came up with major and minor songs, is also exactly how you write Dorian, or Phrygian, or Mixolydian (and so on) songs. Just strum the chords of each mode, and simply sing melodies over those chords till you come up with a melody you like or that you can use.
When you sing a melody strumming the C Dorian chord progression, you’re writing a song in C Dorian. When you sing a melody strumming the C Aeolian progression, you’re writing a song in C Aeolian.
While the above examples list some of the most common chord progressions for each mode, it’s fun to experiment, coming up with your own progressions. To that end, here are all the chords for each mode in the key of C.
To write songs using modes in different keys, you’d just have to move all chords up or down a number of equal steps or frets. As an example: if you want to write a song in D Mixo, you will need to move up the C Mixo chords or chord progression up a whole step to the key of D. For A Aeolian, you’d move the C Aeolian chords or chord progression down three frets. The key of A is three frets down from the key of C.
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