Church Modes in Composition
Each one of these modes has a common version, which is the most popular one to play, or perhaps the easiest to memorize. These versions are followed by a letter which signifies the chord they are supposed to resolve to. These modes can be transposed and played on different notes, but once again, there's no point in making it too complicated, unless of course, that's what you want. Anyway, here are the seven modes.
1. Ionian Mode (C)
This is perhaps the easiest mode to play and the most common. There are countless songs that use this mode, such that it doesn't really even seem like a mode at all. Another name for this mode is the major scale. Jingle Bells, Mary had a Little Lamb, and Hot Cross Buns, plus many other children's songs, are in this mode. That's not to say that this mode's good for only kid's songs. No, it's great for many different types of songs. Although this mode is often thought of as major and happy, that's not always the case. Composers can also make very sad songs using this mode, though it does take more skill to pull off.
2. Dorian Mode (D)
Greensleeves is the classic example of a song in Dorian mode. In fact, many medieval songs use this mode. If you want to make a song which will take your listeners back to the age of castles and monks, employ this mode in your compositions.
3. Phrygian Mode (E)
The most mysterious of all the modes and often the most depressing and sad. It has a minor sound to it, but it also has a suspenseful quality to it as well. This mode works as great background music for rainy, dreary days. It also has a solemn feel to it, reminiscent of stone temples and ancient ruins.
4. Lydian Mode (F)
Don't fall asleep. This mode can be used to create dreamy ethereal songs which will make you feel like you're floating on clouds. Like the previous mode, it also has a sort of suspenseful feel to it, though not a scary or sad one. This mode never seems to resolve itself and thus it can be quite nebulous-sounding. It really is sort of happy-sounding, though.
5. Mixolydian Mode (G)
Not to be confused with its younger sister, Lydian, this mode has a Celtic flair to it and is completely different, not having the suspenseful feel to it at all. If you've always wanted to compose an Irish jig, make a song which will sound like an inn from your favorite rpg, or simply create a happy tune, this is the mode for you.
6. Aeolian Mode (A)
This is the second easiest mode to utilize and the second most common. Like the Ionian mode, this one doesn't really seem like a mode. Another name for this mode is the natural minor scale. Many popular dark-sounding songs, sad songs, and scary songs use this mode. Mastery of this mode is essential for composers as it is so powerful and can be used in so many ways.
7. Locrian Mode (B)
I think of clowns, circuses, and barren wastelands whenever I play in this mode. Overall, it doesn't have a very pretty sound, and as such doesn't have much of a place in the music world. It is by far the most rare of all the modes, and hardly any modern songs use it. Still, if you're feeling brave, and can withstand the ugly sound of it, try your hand at composing in this mode. Who knows, you might just come up with the next hit song.
Well, that was certainly a longer post than usual. I hope you didn't grow too tired reading it. I hope to come up with another one shortly.