The Aeolian Mode

The next mode that we are going to study is Aeolian. This is also the natural minor or relative minor scale of a major scale. Every major scale has a relative natural minor scale and this always starts at the 6th note of major scale. In our example we have chosen C major as a reference major scale, the 6th note of C major is A therefore our natural minor scale is A minor. This is, like the natural major scale, a very commonly used scale. Aeolian is used in many sad sounding songs. Although it is a minor scale but is not as dark sounding as Phrygian or Locrian. It has controlled minor sound characteristics. The following structure represents an Aeolian mode;

R 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8

From the above interval structure it is clear that it has three flats in it. These three flat notes help in creating the minor sounding flavor in sad songs. Aeolian is brighter than Phrygian and Locrian while it is darker than Dorian mode. It can be used in sad cowboy like songs as well as hard-rock tracks. It is also used extensively in neo-classical music where its notes are altered to create different variations such as Harmonic minor or Melodic minor. The 6th note of Aeolian has the ability to significantly change its tone. The following image shows A Aeolian at 5th fret;

Aeolian Mode

Aeolian holds characteristics of sadness and melancholy in it which means if you want to compose a sad love song, you can start your song with this mode and use chords which perfectly fir with it. It has been heavily used in most of Iron Maiden songs and many other bands such as Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Dream Theater have also used this mode extensively. The main reason why it is famous is because it is a sad mode and not as dark as other modes making it easy to handle.

Relevant Chords of Aeolian

Practically you can use most of the chords produced by the notes of a scale but different sounds are produced by different combinations. The key is to identify those differences and then effectively use the combinations you like. In order to identify these differences, you need to practice and experiment a lot so that you can understand how changing a chord dramatically changes the overall emotions of a song. The root note of A Aeolian is A therefore it is natural to use this chord. You are open to add other chords in your progressions. The following chords are considered to create most of the flavor of Aeolian;

  • IV min 7th
  • bVi maj 7th

[asa_collection no_content]modes[/asa_collection]

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Ahmed is a regular contributor to GuitarChords 247 and brings you in-depth guitar lessons and music theory.
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1 comment

  • Ahmed, you write, “The next mode that we are going to study is Aeolian. This is also the natural minor or relative minor scale of a major scale.”

    That isn’t quite right. The natural minor of a major key is the same named minor. So the natural minor of C Major is C minor.

    The relative minor is major 6th of the key. As the major 6th of C is A, the relative minor of C Major is A minor.