In this guitar lesson we are going to learn how the Ionian mode sounds and how to bring that sound out and express it on the guitar. We will be in the key of G major for the lesson and we will be using a common three note per string G major scale shape.
There are several ways to explain how modes work. Hopefully this article will help you learn how to think about modes for yourself. There aren’t really any rules, just guidelines. Take the things you learn in this lesson and try to experiment with them for yourself.
The Ionian mode is basically just the major scale so it will have a happier more lighthearted sound to it. The notes in a G major, or G Ionian, scale are G A B C D E and F#. There are certain notes in the major scale that you can either emphasize or handle with care to bring out the Ionian sound. Since we are in the key of G major let’s take a look at a G major 7 chord. A G major 7 chord is spelled G B D F# and it is made up of the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th scale degrees of the G major scale. These are the notes in the G major scale that can be emphasized in order to bring out the G Ionian sound.
There is really only one note in the G Ionian scale that you need to treat with some care. That is the C or 4th scale degree. This is not a note that you should necessarily stay away from but you should be aware that, when expressing the Ionian mode, the 4th scale degree tends to resolve down to the 3rd scale degree, or up to the 5th scale degree. Remember that there aren’t really any rules, just tendencies and guidelines.
A great way to work on playing in the Ionian mode is to play G major scale over a 1 4 5 chord progression in the key of G. Since we are in the key of G major, the 1 4 5 progression would be G major, C major and D major. This 1 4 5 progression really hints at the Ionian mode and lends itself to experimenting with expressing the Ionian sound. Recording these chords over and over again and then play them back. Try to improvise with the Ionian scale. If you do not have a way to record this, try and get a friend to play these chords for you while you experiment with the G major scale. Listen to what each scale degree sounds like over each chord. Play the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th scale degrees and just listen to how they sound. Now play the 4th and see how it sounds over each chord. If you start to memorize what each note sounds like you will start to be able to know exactly when to use specific notes. Have fun and get the Ionian sound in your head.