Modes in Composition

Modes in Modern Pop & Commercial Composition

Before reading this make sure you are familiar with the basic concept which is covered in the modes in jazz article. I prefer not to think of modes as relative to a major scale (e.g. D Dorian as a mode of C major), but as a scale in their own right (e.g. D Dorian is based on the root note D and functions purely as a D Dorian). This may not be as easy as relating each mode to a major scale with the same notes, but it makes more sense in the end. You need to learn the relationship between each note of the scale and the root as well as each note of the scale and the adjacent note.

Modes can be used freely in pop music, either in a traditional form, as a one or two chord riff (eg modal jazz or riff based pop, funk etc) or as a way of finding interesting chord substitutions (modal interchange)

Traditional (melodic) use of modes

Typical examples can be found in folk music. As with conventional tonal harmony a chord can be built up in 3rds from a root note, which can be any note of the scale:

Dorian mode


Generally the harmony is kept simple with triads rather than 7ths. The diminished or half diminished on VI would rarely be used.



Note that in this Dorian example the VII chord (C) is used for the final cadence. One of the main features of modal music is the lack of a traditional V7 -I perfect cadence (Except, of course, the Ionian mode which is the major scale). In this example the Am could also have been continued through bar 7 to give a Vm-I cadence.

Modal Jazz & Riffs

If only one chord is used for a tune, it can imply more than one mode, either for composing a melody or for improvising. This ambiguity can be used very effectively to allow the music to shift between different modes (and moods):

modal 1


If two chords are used as a riff, then they will usually imply a particular mode:

modal 2


In the following example of a typical Latin riff, the C# is a passing note, so a Dorian mode is still implied, though in improvisation or composition a C# could be used either to coincide with the C# in the riff, or as a neighbour (or “leading”) note.



Modal Interchange

This is where conventional tonal harmony is used but chord substitutions are used which “borrow” chords from a mode – see Modal Interchange. In the following example a bVII chord is used to substitute for a more conventional V7. In this case the D and F in the melody could conventionally have been harmonised with a G7, but in this case on the D note you imagine that you switch temporarily from C major to C Aeolian mode. This contains a chord of Bb7 and as it contains a D and F, can be used to harmonise those notes. It gives a very different flavour.

modal interchange

Subscribe To Our (very occasional) Newsletter
Subscribe to our email newsletter today to receive updates on the latest news, tutorials and special offers!
No Thanks
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.
Frequently Asked Questions
I did not receive the email with with my download link

Please check your spam folder.

NB: Purchased downloads are also available to download directly from your customer account area.

I am having a problem downloading to iPad or iPhone

This is a common issue and affects all downloads, not just our products. In order to download anything to iPad etc. you will need an app that can handle .zip .pdf and .mp3 downloads.

See this article and/or this app

It may be easier to download to your desktop and then transfer to your tablet.

Download expired, reached its limit
  • The download may actually have  expired. Download links are valid only for a certain number of days and have a limit on number of downloads - please contact us with your order number and date of purchase to reset it. (Ideally reply to your order confirmation email)
  • Download manager/accelerator  software or browser plugin is interfering with the download. If so try disabling it.
  • The files did actually  download, but very quickly and you did not realise. Please do a search of your download destination directory before contacting us.
Do you sell outside the UK?

Yes, we sell internationally. Your currency will be automatically converted at the current exchange rate.

Saxophone Instruction DVD region compatibility

This is a PAL all region DVD so will not require you to reset your DVD player/computer region.

However as it is PAL format it may not be compatible with some older U.S. TV sets which are NTSC only, please check if your TV and/or DVD player is compatible with PAL format.

If not, it should still work on any computer with DVD drive (anywhere in the world). Please note we have only tested the DVD by playing on DVD systems or playing on computers with standard DVD hardware and software. We cannot guarantee that files extracted (ripped) from the DVD will play successfully. Sharing of copied DVDs or ripped files is illegal.

How much will postage cost?

After adding an item or several items to your cart, click on the Calculate Shipping button and choose your location from the dropdown menu. This will give you the postage options available to your country.

When will I get my stuff?

Products in stock

We usually post within 3 days of receiving an order. We are unable to give exact delivery times, but generally packages to Europe can take 2 - 7 days, outside Europe 4 - 14 days. Under exceptional circumstances (weather, strikes, customs delays) it can take longer.

Out of stock (backorders) or special orders

Out of stock books and DVDs are generally restocked within a week. Out of stock or special order mouthpieces can take between 6 and 10 weeks for manufacturing.

From time to time we have a holiday, in which case items will take longer, look out for any notices at the top of the page re:holidays.

How do I find out the price in dollars, yen, euros, dirhams etc?

The checkout pages shows prices in GBP (£). Your bank, credit card company or Paypal take care of the actual conversion, so you can pay with your normal account in your own currency. We don't publish actual rates in different currencies as this is constantly changing so we advise you check with a live currency conversion site such as

Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.