The Ionian mode belongs to the I chord!

Ionian is the modal name for the major scale (Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do).

The majority of hit songs composed in the popular music tradition take place in the Ionian mode, using the other modes to support it.

Practice extensively, do not underestimate the importance of being able to solo and write in major!

By starting with the major pentatonic, adding notes you will discover the true sound of the scale since the important intervals that make up the mode will pop out. See below.

Major Pentatonic:
Ionian: 4

To learn how to write and improvise with Ionian you must learn all five shapes, take them around all keys and finally connect the shapes.

Let’s start with the E shape.

The E shaped Ionian mode

The E shaped Ionian mode is very similar to the Major Pentatonic, simply add 4 and 7.

Looking at the chordacus image below, can you see the E shaped chord? The E shaped Major Pentatonic?

A Ionian, E shape

Just like the minor modes, we practice this exercise as we see it:

  1. Chord
  2. Major Pentatonic
  3. Add 4
  4. Major Pentatonic
  5. Add 7
  6. Major Pentatonic
  7. Ionian
  8. Chord

This approach will ensure that you can phrase with this scale since you know where all intervals are inside the shape.

The video lesson demonstrate this in the key of A.

The A shaped Ionian mode

The A shaped Ionian mode is difficult to phrase with, use the A shaped maj7 arpeggio and the A shaped major pentatonic to mix things up.

A Ionian, A shape

Here’s the video lesson demonstrating how you practice the A shape. When you can do it, take it around the cycle of 4th, thats: A – D – G – C – F – Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb – B and E.

The D shaped Ionian mode

The D shaped Ionian mode is difficult to phrase with below the root note. As with most D shapes it makes more sense to slide down to the E shape if you want to play below the root.

However, these intervals are important to know when you use the concept of chords around the d shape as when we play Ionian, each interval can be replaced with a chord number!

A Ionian, D shape

As you play the exercise, call out the intervals, or even better; sing them in correct pitch as you play.

This will enforce the connection between your ear, the interval number and chord number.

The G shaped Ionian mode

The G shaped Ionian mode should not be confused with the Em shaped Aeolian mode, focus on the intervals and practice extensively.

A Ionian, G shape

If you have been practicing all other modes you may be able to see how they all can be found in the Ionian G shape. Like this:

A mode need to be mastered individually as well as having its place in the bigger picture.

Practice as video demonstrate, sing along with the intervals.

The C shaped Ionian mode

The C shaped Ionian mode is one of the easiest to phrase with due to its compact layout.

Study the shape carefully, can you see all other modes in this as well?

A Ionian, C shape

Connect Ionian scale shapes

This exercise will teach you how to connect the Ionian shapes in the key of A.

If you get stuck on a particular shape, go back and practice it as an isolated shape.

As with all connect shape exercises, find ways to vary them:

  1. Rhythm, it doesn’t have to be triplets as in video
  2. Use the same rhythms as the Chromatic Exercises right now for example
  3. Don’t just play the exercise up the neck, go back down as well!

Ionian through the cycle of 4th

This exercise takes the Ionian mode and runs it through the cycle of 4th using closest possible shape.

If you struggle with this exercise, go back and practice scale shapes individually.

This final Ionian exercise reads:

A Ionian – E shape
D Ionian – A shape
G Ionian – D shape
C Ionian – G shape
F Ionian – C shape

This is the followed by the same shapes one fret up the neck:

Bb Ionian – E shape
Eb Ionian – A shape
Ab Ionian – D shape
Db Ionian – G shape
Gb Ionian – C shape

Ionian Improvisation

This improvisation use the A Ionian mode. Can you see the major pentatonic shapes? Can you see the 4th and maj7th?

Just like major pentatonic is often mistaken for minor pentatonic, you could confuse Aeolian with Ionian.

Compare the Aeolian Improvisation with this one.

If you can hear that Aeolian sounds minor and Ionian sounds major you are on your way to being able to play using the technique new chord = new scale.

Conclusion Ionian

The Ionian mode is the modal name for the major scale.

To learn this mode we need to build it from the major pentatonic shapes.

By doing it this way the new intervals will pop out. Your ears and fingers will know what these notes mean, what makes them sound like they do.

To understand how Ionian is used in hit melody writing you need to take the Advanced Guitar Course.