PRACTICAL MODES - IONIAN

In this unit we will be getting familiar with how this scale sounds and feels, and the important notes within this scale that give it its defining qualities. As we continue through the unit, we will add the five scale shapes that you'll need as well as how to then harmonise a full Ionian key. We'll also learn a super cool Ionian solo to get you started using these scale shapes. By the end of this unit you'll have the essential tools to begin creating and composing, and will be ready to dive deeper with this mode. Pick up your guitars and let's get started!

Talking Modes

This course represents the start of an epic quest to take a deep dive into every single major scale mode, and learning the Ionian mode is really the groundwork required to understand how the other modes work and function. This Ionian mode study is, in many ways, the most important study as it's the most well-used mode of all. When it comes to songwriting in pop, folk and most mainstream genres, this is the go-to modal scale.

Just The Beginning...

As Dion and Dan discuss the modes, it becomes clear that the study of the Ionian mode is just the beginning of a true understanding of the usage of modes. Understanding how the modes compare to each other, and key tonal differences between them are crucial to getting them useable in your playing. To do this, you have to take one mode at a time, and explore it in depth. We look at the basic theory, how to play lead lines and scales within the mode, as well as how to write chord progressions and where they are used stylistically in popular music. It's all here, it's all going to be covered, and we start with Ionian!

Lesson 1: Constructing

Let's start by tackling the theoretical basics of the Ionian scale. First up, you'll probably already be familiar with the Ionian, as it's simply a fancy term for the major scale. We therefore need to start by learning how to construct a major scale. This is the formula you will need:

This is the formula that you need to create ANY Ionian (major) scale. Simply take the key you want to work with, and apply this formula. Let's work with the C Ionian scale first. Here's how it would look:



As you can see, this scale is now built! The scale of C Ionian (or C Major) has no sharps or flats and we have used our formula to create it. Simple as that!

  • See if you can create another major scale using the formula. For example, try to create D major scale and then play it on the guitar!

How does it feel...?

Finally, now that we can construct an Ionian scale, let's have a proper listen to it, and get to grips with how it feels. To do this we'll use a drone, which is the idea of looping an individual note, which we then play over. During the video Dan uses a C note, but if you don't have a looping pedal you can always use an open E (and play in E Ionian!). We can then use our C major scale box (check out the fretboard diagram) to have a listen to the mode and get a feel for it. How does it sound to you? What emotions does it evoke for you? How would you describe this sound to a musical friend? Take time to answer these questions as they will help you identify the properties of the mode.



Lesson 2: Scale Shapes

By now you'll most likely be familiar with the 5 pentatonic shapes. This is a very strong foundation for applying the Ionian and we firmly believe in the idea of dividing the fretboard into 5 clear positions or boxes, which is the base for the CAGED chord system that we love here at YGA! So, our first step is just to refresh you with the 5 boxes of the pentatonic scale in the key of G major.

G Major Pentatonic...

Here are the 5 positions of G major pentatonic. Notice how the actual shapes are the same as in minor, we just apply them differently in major. This is the core concept for being able to use these same boxes and shapes in every mode! So, spend some time playing through these pentatonic shapes to refresh them for you.













  • Try this exercise in different keys! For example, try transposing the scale from the key of G major to C major. Can you move these box shapes around the neck?

Lesson 3: Enter The Full Scale

We can now take these 5 box positions and add the 4th and 7th degree of the scale. By bringing in these two extra notes across each shape, we create the full major (Ionian) scale. Once again, by learning the boxes as nothing more than just a shape, we can easily then learn how to manipulate them across various modes of the major scale. Remember this: These 5 boxes can be used for every single one of the modal scales, we just need to apply them correctly. So the work you put in now to learn these box shapes, you'll be able to use all the way through your modal quest! Here are the shapes.











Lesson 4: Ionian Solo

It's now time to take those 5 shapes and start to see how you can apply them to some Ionian soloing! This track works through a range of those shapes putting together a very melodic solo, in keeping with the Ionian theme. Your basic task is to really get your head around the licks, and the shapes that they are using. Along the way we'll also push your lead skills with some speedy, dynamic and vocal sounding licks.

notice the pentatonic...

As you play the licks, notice how a lot of them are rooted within those pentatonic boxes, adding the 4th and 7th degrees to really highlight those key scale notes that make Ionian, Ionian! Let's take a look at the tab first:

In this lesson, we will be tackling licks 1 and 2 from the solo. These are all based around box 4 of the pentatonic and full scale in G major, exactly as we learnt them. Be sure you can visualise these shapes:



How It Should Sound!

Lesson 5: Continued...

We now tackle licks 3, 4 and 5 to complete the solo for now. Remember that our key aim is to notice and reference the boxes we are using. So, here we are using box 5 for lick 3, then box 3 for lick 4, and finally box 1 for lick 5. As for the final part of that solo, we'll do that in the next unit (all will be explained then!). Good luck!







Ready to move on? Remember to check out every lesson in this unit first – then try the next unit...

Unit 2 | Harmonising

Now that we've covered the scale aspect of Ionian, let's take a look at how to create chords within the Ionian mode. This is the often forgotten step when we first start looking at modes, and honestly, should be the most important!