Mastering Modes: Ionian (Guitar Lesson)


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Kris Norris

Mastering Modes: Ionian

In this lesson Kris explains the history behind the modes and then explains the basics of the Ionian mode and its target tones. He plays over a backing track to illustrate the Ionian sound.

Taught by Kris Norris in Kris Norris Artist Series seriesLength: 9:59Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:41) Introduction Kris improvises over a chord progression that features diatonic chords from the E Ionian tonality in this scene.

The Ionian mode is the same scale as the major scale. The terms "Ionian" and "major scale" can be used interchangeably. In the next several lessons, Kris takes an in depth look at the theory and practical applications for each of the modes of the major scale.
Chapter 2: (02:48) Basics of Ionian Note: The video screen Kris references throughout the lesson is available under the "Supplemental Content" tab. It is not necessary to search for it in the Scale Library.

There are two ways to look at modes: using a relative approach and a derivative approach. The relative approach looks at how the modes are related; each mode can be built on each note of the major scale. So, the first note of a major scale would spell the Ionian mode, the second note would spell Dorian, the third would spell Phrygian, the fourth Lydian, the fifth Mixolydian, the sixth Aeolian, and the seventh Locrian. This is the approach that Brad Henecke takes with the modes in lessons 22 and 26-31 of his his Phase 2 Classic Rock Series. Brad uses the key of G for his lessons. Consequently, the modes discussed are G Ionian, A Dorian, B Phrygian, C Lydian, D Mixolydian, E Aeolian, and F# Locrian. This approach is labeled as "relative," because every mode has the same set of notes, each with a different tonic (starting note).

Kris chooses to use the derivative approach. All the modes he teaches start on E, and are presented as variations on either the major or minor scale. This means you have to know how to spell and play both the major scale (by step, W-W-H-W-W-W-H) and the minor scale (W-H-W-W-H-W-W) so that you can alter certain steps to create each mode. Ultimately, you must understand and be able to apply both approaches to the modes.

The diatonic chords in E Ionian are (letters by themselves mean major, minor is abbreviated "min," and diminished is indicated with a "o"): E, F# min, G# min, A, B, C# min, and D#o. The primary chords (also referred to as "primary triads") in the Ionian mode are E, A, and B. These are the chords built on the first, fourth, and fifth notes of the scale. Musicians refer to them by Roman numerals: I (one), IV (four), and V (five).

When used together in progressions, these chords produce the characteristic sound (or "flavor") of the entire mode. Between these three chords, every note in the mode is present. The E major chord contains E, G#, and B; A contains A, C#, and E; and B contains B, D#, and F#. A chord progression using these three chords strongly implies Ionian, aka the major scale.
Chapter 3: (01:42) History of the Modes Kris introduces the importance of the relationship between the Church and music during the pre-Renaissance era. The church modes as defined for Gregorian chant, around the year 1000, actually listed 8 modes. The organizational system was based on the final note of a given melody (the "final"), the intervals (distances between notes) making up the rest of the pitches, and the range of pitches available (ambitus). Interestingly, there were four finals: d, e, f, and g, and each final had two possible modes to go with it. There was a high range of notes, called the authentic mode, and a lower range of notes, called the plagal mode. So the modes used for Gregorian chant include what we now call Dorian, which would end on the note D; Phrygian, which ended on E; Lydian, which ended on F; and Mixolydian, which ended on G. (Randall 499-500)

The Greek modes had been around for centuries, dating back to Plato and Aristotle (Randall 349), and music theorists simply took the Greek names and applied them to the Latin church modes. It is notable that they (the theorists) did not use the names with regards to the Greek rules for the modes. Ionian and Aeolian were not categorized as church modes per se; under the Gregorian chant system, Ionian and Aeolian were afterthoughts. Like the other 8 modes, Ionian and Aeolian were established based on their final (for Ionian, C, and for Aeolian, A) and their ambitus (again, the available range of pitches). Also, just as with the church modes, each had an authentic and plagal version. (Randall 500)

The modes as we know them today have evolved over one thousand years. We use the Greek names and a system inspired by the Church, but the heavy restrictions both systems fell under are almost completely absent today. For example, we can play something in E Dorian in any octave with chromaticism without breaking any theoretical rules.

Works Cited


Randall, Don Micheal, ed. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music. The Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 1986: 349, 499-500.
Chapter 4: (02:50) Ionian Target Tones Here Kris discusses the importance of chord tones, specifically the 3rd of each chord. He demonstrates several power chords at 0:26, which are diads (two note voicings) built on a root note and the note a perfect 5th (3 1/2 steps) higher. Without a 3rd present, the quality of the chord, meaning whether it's major or minor, is ambiguous. Typically, several power chords in a row can imply a major or minor key, but a power chord by itself is "neutral."

In the Ionian mode, our primary triads (the I, IV, and V chords) are all major. Each chord contains a root note, a major 3rd (2 whole steps, abbreviated M3) and a perfect 5th (3 1/2 steps, abbreviated P5). The notes in each chord have been stated above. At 0:40, Kris plays an E and E minor back to back so you can hear the difference. The G# in the E chord becomes a G in the E minor; this is the only change but the chord has a drastically different sound. Recognizing this difference by ear is a big step in your growth as a musician.

Kris then advances to discuss target tones. Utilizing target tones can make your soloing sound more mature and melodic if done well. Target tones target tones are specific notes that will sound consonant against a given chord. They don't have to be overemphasized or overplayed, but they're important to use. Targeting the G# over the E chord will have a very consonant and satisfying sound, but over an A chord it will have more of a tendency to want to resolve to the A note, since it is a half step away. Likewise, over the A and E chords a D# note will sound somewhat dissonant if not resolved to the E note. This slight problem occurs with each target tone when it is not a part of the current chord in the progression.

The ideal approach is to target the important chord tones of the chord you are playing over at the moment. So, when playing over an E chord, target the E, G#, and B notes. You are always allowed to play other notes. The target tones are simply the most consonant.
Chapter 5: (01:56) Ionian Playing Example Kris explains the chords and the chord progression that he improvises over in this scene. He uses the I, IV, and V chords (E, A, and B). The chord progression is E (1 meas.), A (1 meas.), E (1 meas.) and finally A (2 beats) and B (2 beats). The scene ends with more improvising using E Ionian.

Up next, Kris will walk us through the Dorian mode, using E as our root note. Make sure you get comfortable with Ionian! The vast majority of music has been composed in the Ionian or major mode. Do not disregard the importance of this mode!

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


GRAH01GRAH01 replied on May 2nd, 2015

Humor is Good!!

turnstoashesturnstoashes replied on September 21st, 2012

Great lesson! Starting to improv :).

rcausrcaus replied on December 2nd, 2010

That's great exactly what I was looking. Scene 5 as from 1.07 ; are these solo notes on the supplementary. I cannot figure out which one you are playing. Kindly help me out. rcaus

caliban4caliban4 replied on November 29th, 2010

Would I target the third notes of each chord as each chord is played or can I target the 1, 3, 6, 7 notes of E major regardless whether an E, G#, C# or D# chord is playing?

gibson22gibson22 replied on January 27th, 2010

great lesson my playing sound more musical

skate8skate8 replied on January 1st, 2010

If the backing tracks for this lesson on modes was all done in standard tuning I'm about a half a semitone off. I had to either tune my guitar to the track or using my software adjust the pitch. I mention this only because this is the first time I had to re-tune or adjust the pitch in order to follow a lesson or backing track.

J.artmanJ.artman replied on October 6th, 2009

What guitar is being used in this video? I love this guitar.

HelgiHeHelgiHe replied on July 5th, 2009

Great lesson, looking forward to the other ones.

rayza4drayza4d replied on July 1st, 2009

thanks for clearing up this mode mystique. "Back in teh day" I had no idea that Ionian was another word for the major scale. I look forward to the next lesson.

currannicurranni replied on July 1st, 2009

THANKS SO MUCH for not doing these in metal distortion, makes it so much easier for me personally as i m not a metal fan.. this is great stuff to learn thanks very much for doing these lessons!!

Kris Norris Artist Series

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Kris Norris kicks off the JamPlay.com Artist Series with a wide array of ideas and lessons; from changing strings on a floyd rose, to advanced sweeping / legato techniques and soloing applications.



Lesson 1

Changing Strings - Floyd Rose Style

Kris Norris demonstrates how to install new strings on a guitar equipped with a Floyd Rose tremolo system.

Length: 13:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Warm-up Exercises with Kris

Kris Norris shows you his favorite warm-up exercises. These exercises will prepare you to play the guitar from a physical and mental standpoint.

Length: 12:16 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Scalar Exercises: Left and Right Hand Synchronization

Kris covers chromatic and scale pattern exercises. Also, he explains some variations on these exercise and provides you with the knowledge to create your own variations. Now you don't have any excuse...

Length: 20:23 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Scalar Exercises: Legato

Kris shows you the in's and out's of legato playing. These examples will benefit beginners and and advanced players alike. The patterns Kris uses in this lesson are based on the examples shown in "Scalar...

Length: 11:01 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Chuggin' n Skippin'

Kris covers right hand techniques such as palm muting, tremolo, palm muted string skipping, and upstroke accents.

Length: 13:26 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 6

Advanced Sweep Picking Applications

Kris covers the right and left hand components of sweep picking separately. Then, he shows you how to synchronize the two. Three string arpeggios and five string arpeggios with hammer-ons are both included...

Length: 35:40 Difficulty: 4.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Remaining Foolish: Arpeggios & Scalar Lines

Kris presents excerpts from his song "Remaining Foolish" from Icons of the Illogical. He explains the arpeggio patterns used in various parts of the song and also talks about alternate picked arpeggios....

Length: 17:40 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Sweep Exercises Based on Canon in D

Kris uses Pachelbel's "Canon In D" as a way to practice arpeggio sweeps. He shows how to sweep and alternate pick arpeggios.

Length: 10:08 Difficulty: 4.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Counterpoint: A Shift In Normalcy

This lesson is about the concept of counterpoint and harmony. Kris explores contrapuntal examples from his song "A Shift In Normalcy" off of his solo record Icons of the Illogical.

Length: 8:52 Difficulty: 4.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

A Closer Look At Pick Thickness

Kris analyzes different pick sizes and their effect on his playing. Using a slow motion camera, he is able to point out the differences in pick thickness.

Length: 32:24 Difficulty: 0.5 FREE
Lesson 11

Satriani Inspired Tapping

Kris Norris explains how to play a Joe Satriani inspired tapping etude.

Length: 11:13 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Extending Your Musical Reach With 8 String Guitars

Kris Norris takes a look at 8 string guitars and their possibilities. He demonstrates the versatility of an 8 string with jazz and metal applications. Kris also performs a short improv jam at the end.

Length: 10:34 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Neoclassical Inspirations

Kris teaches neoclassical examples from three of his favorite guitar players.

Length: 29:17 Difficulty: 5.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Rock & Metal Chicken Pickin'

Kris displays some adventurous ways to use chicken pickin' in a rock and metal environment.

Length: 15:25 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

Exotic Embellishments In The Style Of Marty Friedman

Kris teaches arpeggio examples that use notes outside of a scale. He also demonstrates an example using the Chinese scale.

Length: 12:19 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Connecting Scale Patterns

Kris shows you how to connect the patterns of a G major scale together.

Length: 15:28 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

Mastering Modes: Basic Scale Theory Primer

This is the first lesson in the "Mastering Modes" mini series. Here Kris explains the fundamentals of scale basics.

Length: 19:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Mastering Modes: Ionian

In this lesson, Kris explains the history behind the modes and then explains the Ionian mode.

Length: 9:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Mastering Modes: Dorian

In this lesson, Kris covers the Dorian mode, which is the second mode of the major scale.

Length: 13:39 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Mastering Modes: Phrygian

Kris explains the basics of the Phrygian mode, which is a minor sounding mode of the major scale.

Length: 7:43 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Mastering Modes: Lydian

In this installment of the "Mastering Modes" mini-series, Kris covers the Lydian mode. This is the fourth mode of the major scale.

Length: 9:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Mastering Modes: Mixolydian

Kris explains the basics of the Mixolydian mode, which is a major sounding mode of the major scale.

Length: 10:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Mastering Modes: Aeolian

Kris explains Aeolian, which is the 6th mode of the major scale. This is also known as the natural minor scale.

Length: 7:32 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Mastering Modes: Locrian

Kris covers the Locrian mode, which is the 7th mode of the major scale.

Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Song Workshop Experiment

Aaron Miller sits down with Kris in the JamPlay studio to discuss songwriting techniques.

Length: 78:38 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 26

Song Workshop Experiment - Finale

Kris Norris and Aaron Miller are back to finish up what they started. Get ready for more songwriting, playing tips, and inside information. Enjoy

Length: 32:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 27

Picking Practice With Drum Rudiments

Kris shows how some drum rudiments can be used to make exercises for your right hand.

Length: 18:33 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Sliding Arpeggios

Kris teaches how to use sliding techniques with arpeggios. He uses an example in the Lydian mode and also plays over a backing.

Length: 15:11 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 29

Left Hand Finger Independence

Kris teaches exercises focused on getting the left hand fingers to be more independent.

Length: 26:19 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 30

Building Triad Arpeggios

Kris explains root triad arpeggios and their first and second inversions.

Length: 25:12 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Practicing Triad Arpeggios Chromatically

This lesson focuses on sweep picking major, minor, and diminished triad arpeggios chromatically.

Length: 16:33 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 32

Re-voicing Progressions with Inversions

Kris shows you how inversions can be used to create smooth voice leading within a progression.

Length: 14:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

Dual Tonality Pentatonics

Kris shows how to combine pentatonic scales from different keys to form new and interesting sounds.

Length: 24:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 34

Betcha Can't Scale This

Kris shows you how to learn scales vertically and horizontally on the fretboard.

Length: 16:11 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 35

The Neapolitan Chord

Named after the "Neapolitan School" from the 18th century and not ice cream, this chord is a major chord built on the lowered 2nd scale degree.

Length: 7:13 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

Diatonic Chords In G Major

Kris shows the diatonic chords of G Major.

Length: 19:42 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios

Kris teaches you how to play diatonic 7th arpeggios and their inversions in the key of G major.

Length: 15:47 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 38

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Length: 7:45 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 39

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Length: 27:24 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 40

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Length: 26:15 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 41

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Length: 77:35 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only

About Kris Norris View Full Biography Mr. Kris Norris was born August, 31 1978 in Canton, Ohio. He began playing around the age of 14. Early on the self-taught guitarist took an interest in metal and began playing in a local Virginia metal band. Kris' early influences were rooted in Swedish metal, bands include In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and Edge of Sanity. Norwegian Black metal also played a part in Kris' interest including early Mayhem, Emperor, and Ulver. Kris started Disinterment with future Darkest Hour bandmate Ryan Parrish. Disinterment lasted over 6 years and developed a local following in the Virginia metal by being some of the first players to incorporate Swedish metal and 3 guitar players.

College Days
When Kris was 17 he attended Virgina Commonwealth University School of Music (VCU). He studied Music composition and focused on film with world renowned composer Dika Newlin. Kris also studied classical guitar with John Patykula, prize student of Jesus Silva who was the prize student of Andre Segovia. Kris left the University after 6 years of studies. After college, he began his teaching career instructing private students and giving lessons at Mars Music. Kris' teaching career would eventually be put on hold to join Darkest Hour.

Darkest Hour Days
Kris' first album with Darkest Hour ,Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation, the 2005 release was recorded at Studio Fredman in Gothenburg, Sweden with producer Fredrik Nordstrom. Ironically, the same studio facilitated many of Kris' influences 10 years prior.

Darkest Hour's next release, Undoing Ruin allowed Kris to stretch his wings and show what he could truly do on the instrument with the addition of several solos. The record was produced by Canadian metal mastermind Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, Steve Vai). Townsend was a big part of pushing Kris to his own musical potential on Undoing Ruin and even more so on the follow up record, Deliver Us.

Deliver Us was released in 2007 and debuted at 110 on the Billboard Chart. This would be the last Darkest Hour record with Kris as a member. The album like its predecessor was also produced by Devin Townsend, who was able to take a bigger hand in its production. Devin pushed Kris to experiment with his own playing and to hone in on his strongest abilities.

Kris' career with Darkest Hour spanned 6 years, 23 countries, 4 continents, countless tours, 3 albums, near 200,000 album sales, and many lifelong friendships made along the way. With the birth of his son in 2008, Kris felt he needed to take his career closer to home while still focusing on music and guitar. In order for Darkest Hour to devote 100% to their music and touring, Kris came to the decision to amicably part ways with the band.

His Future:
As of early 2009, Kris has full sponsorships from ESP, EMG, Peavey, DigiTech, InTune, and Morley. Currently, Kris is producing and mixing aspiring metal acts while also working for Final Symphony Studios out of Charlottesville, Virgina. Kris also edits records for James Murphy (Testament, Obituary, Death) at Safehouse Productions. Kris has released his first solo record through Magna Carta Records, entitled Icons Of The Illogical. His solo effort was recorded at Karma Productions with Cory Smoot (GWAR) and features vocals from Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe.

Kris is excited to be an addition to the JamPlay Instructor Roster. Lending his metal chops and thorough education to his lessons make him a valuable teacher. Kris is excited to be making lessons for JamPlay and just as stoked to learn new things from our other instructors. Check it out and stay Metal.

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