This article was taken from another website many years ago, but I can’t locate that site now. If I come across it, I will link to it.
I’m posting it here for interest to composers. Modes apparently originated with the Greeks, and although they have not been used much in modern music (except for the major and minor scale), they are still occasionally used in Folk Music, and often give a nice effect.
We have at least 2 modal songs on this website: the alternate tune for Holy Law (which came from a Nova Scotian folk melody)-scroll down the page to find it, and The Restitution.

Western music usually fits into a doh-re-me scale (doh a deer a female deer, re a drop of golden sun…)

A major scale uses doh as its “home” note–which means it usually ends on doh.

However you can start and end a scale on any note in the doh-re-me scale–where you start and end defines the mode. Start and end on doh and it’s a major scale, also known as Ionian.

The other mode commonly found in Classical music is the minor which starts and ends on lah (however the minor scale is actually a bit more complicated in classical music). The unmessed-around-with mode which starts on lah is called the Aeolian mode.

However other modes exist, especially in folk music, particularly the Dorian mode, which starts on re.

You can hear what a scale in Dorian mode sounds like– play a scale using just the white notes on a piano starting on D and ending on D. A famous reel in the Dorian mode is The Tarbolton, in E Dorian. That’s a scale with 2 sharps starting and ending on E.

Here are the modes alongside the doh-re-me:

doh

Major, Ionian

re

Dorian

me

Phrygian

fah

Lydian

soh

Mixolydian

lah

Minor, Aeolian

te

Locrian

If you have a traditional tune which is written with two sharps (for example), how can you tell the mode? Well find the home note, usually where the tune ends, often but not always where it starts. This is the note to which the melody leads. Then think about the key signature and the number of sharps or flats. Then you can use the following table to calculate the mode.

For example the tune has two sharps, F# and C# and the home note is E. Look down the left hand column for 2 sharps then across for E. This is in the column headed Dorian, so the tune is in E Dorian.

You can use this chart the other way around–to answer the question “What is the key signature of xyz mode?”.

For example, what is the key signature of D Mixolydian (or Dmix)? Look down the column headed Mixolydian until you find D. Then look across to the left hand column–you’ll see that Dmix has 1 sharp.

Key Sig

Home Note

Major

Dorian

Phrygian

Lydian

Mixolydian

Minor

Locrian

0 Sharps

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

1 Sharp

G

A

B

C

D

E

F#

2 Sharps

D

E

F#

G

A

B

C#

3 Sharps

A

B

C#

D

E

F#

G#

4 Sharps

E

F#

G#

A

B

C#

D#

5 Sharps

B

C#

D#

E

F#

G#

A#

6 Sharps

F#

G#

A#

B

C#

D#

E#

7 Sharps

C#

D#

E#

F#

G#

A#

B#

1 Flat

F

G

A

Bb

C

D

E

2 Flats

Bb

C

D

Eb

F

G

A

3 Flats

Eb

F

G

Ab

Bb

C

D

4 Flats

Ab

Bb

C

Db

Eb

F

G

5 Flats

Db

Eb

F

Gb

Ab

Bb

C

6 Flats

Gb

Ab

Bb

C

Db

Eb

Fb

7 Flats

Cb

Db

Eb

Fb

Gb

Ab

Bb

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