two adjacent keys
black or white
are a half step apart.
For example, C-C# are a half
step apart, as are E-F and B-C.
Any two keys with one key in between them are a whole step
For example, C-D are a whole step apart, as are E-F# and B-C#.
What you really have
with each new mode is a different sequence of half steps and whole steps, and it is that specific
sequence that defines each mode.
Historically, the term
and not "scale" was used
for all these note sequences, going
back to the ancient Greeks.
Over time, the term for two particular modes
ionian and aeolian
came to be called "scales."
call the ionian mode the major scale, and the aeolian mode
the minor scale (more specifically, the natural minor scale).
The term "mode" is still used for the
other note sequences.
This variation in terminology is one reason for confusion generated by
many articles and web videos about modes.
Although all 7 modes are variations on whole-step
half-step sequences, only two of the vari
ations are now called "scales" and the other five are still
are simply a sequence of 8 notes, with the intervals between two
successive notes either a half step or whole step apart.
Whole step and half step are best
appreciated on the piano keyboard, shown above.
(Each black key can be labeled as a sharp or a
The seven modes, with their sequence of whole steps and half steps, are shown in another
Note that the ionian mode is also the major scale, and the aeolian mode is the minor
(More specifically, the aeolian mode is the natural minor scale.
There are two other minor
scales, the harmonic minor and melodic minor, which are not represented by any of these modes.)
This table emphasizes the point that each mode can be determined by starting on a successive
note of the C major scale (white keys only).
In this way all the half steps are B-C and E-F.
Again, the term "minor scale" in thi
s table is the natural minor scale.
(Table is from
If you start on C and play C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C you will get the C ionian mode
sequence, which is W-W-h-W-W-W-h.
This is also the sequence for the
The ionian mode and the major scale are synonymous.
If you start on D and play D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D you will get the D dorian mode
sequence, which is W-h-W-W-W-h-W.
This mode does not have another