In this series of articles we will be taking a look at the different sounds that you can build from any mode in the Major Scale, in particular the chords, scale, triad and arpeggio that go with each mode in the major scale.

So far we have covered the Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian Modes, which you can see linked below, and we are now ready to dig into the 6th mode of the major scale, the Aeolian Mode.

If you need a refresher on the first 5 modes of the major scale, you can find them here:

Sounds of the Ionian Mode

Sounds of the Dorian Mode

Sounds of the Phrygian Mode

Sounds of the Lydian Mode

Sounds of the Mixolydian Mode

In this lesson, we’ll be looking at the chords, scale, triads and arpeggios that are build from the Aeolian Mode, giving you a full understanding of how this scale works and the different sounds that can be derived from this commonly used major-scale mode.

Here is a quick look at each device from the Aeolian mode, with further details provided below to read further.

Click to view attachment

Now that you’ve seen these different sounds on paper, let’s take a deeper look at each one of them, starting with the two different chords that you can build using the Aeolian Mode.

Aeolian Chords

The first two items that we’ll look at are the 3 and 4-note chords built from the Aeolian Mode. This knowledge will not only help you relate the scale to a few harmonic devices, but it will allow you to quickly use the Aeolian Mode in your soloing as you’ll be able to recognize these chords as related to the Mode itself.

The first chord that comes from the Aeolian mode is the minor triad. This triad is built from the intervals R-b3-5, so it is like a major triad with a lowered 3rd note.

These notes come directly from the Aeolian Mode, which has the following intervals.

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 1

We will explore this more in the next section of the lesson, but for now just know that the minor triad is built from the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the Aeolian Mode.

As well, you can build a 4-note chord from the Aeolian Mode, and in this case you find a m7 chord, minor 7th.

This chord is spelled R-b3-5-b7, and as you can see these notes are all found in the Aeolian Mode before being used to build the related m7th chord.

By now you have noticed that Dorian, Phrygian and Aeolian all produce a minor triad and a m7 chord, but it is the characteristic notes of each scale that make them all sound different when used to solo over these 2 chord.

So, let’s look at the Aeolian Mode as a scale to see how it can produce the same chords as Dorian and Phrygian, but has a unique sound at the same time.

Further Reading

How to Play Minor Triads


Write out the note for each minor triad and m7th-chord in all 12 keys.

Post your answers below and I will correct them and give you feedback if you are having any trouble writing out the notes of these triads and chords.

Aeolian Scale

The Aeolian Scale can be built in two ways, the first is it’s interval structure, and the other is compared to the Ionian/Major Scale.

Let’s look at the intervals of the Aeolian Mode first:

Here is how the Aeolian Mode is spelled from an interval standpoint.

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 1

So, if you take a C Major Scale


And you flat the 3rd, 6th and 7th notes, you now have a C Aeolian Scale.

C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

You can use this structure to build any Aeolian Mode, by taking any major scale and then lowering the 3rd, 6th and 7th, you will then have an Aeolian Mode built from that root.

When you do this, you notice that the Aeolian Mode has a b6 interval, which is not found in Dorian, and a natural 2 note, which is note found in Phrygian.

So, this means that the b6 is the “characteristic” note of the Aeolian Mode, the note that makes it sound different than the other 2 minor modes we’ve looked at, Dorian and Phrygian.

You can also build an Aeolian Mode by taking the major scale and starting it from the 6th note.

So, if you have a C major scale, C D E F G A B C, and you spell it from the 6th note, A B C D E F G A, you now have an A Aeolian Mode.

This gives you two ways to spell any Aeolian Mode, so feel free to try them both out and see which one works best for you.

Further Reading

Aeolian Mode Harmonized With Triads


Write out the notes of the Aeolian Mode, in all 12 keys.

Post your answers below and I will check them out and post feedback, as well as answer any questions you may have on this scale construction.

Aeolian Triad and Arpeggio

The triad and arpeggio that we can build from the Aeolian Mode are the same as the two chords we saw earlier, minor triad and m7 chord, but this time they are picked in note order, and not strummed as a chord.

By learning the triad and arpeggio, to go along with the two Aeolian Mode chords from the previous section, you are giving yourself a full understanding of the melodic side of these concepts, as well as the harmonic side when strummed as a whole.

Further Reading

How to Build Minor Triads


Write out the triad and arpeggio notes for the Aeolian mode, a minor triad and m7th-chord arpeggio, in all 12 keys.

Post your answers below and I will check your work and help with any issues or questions you may have on this subject.

Learning the structures behind each mode that you are learning on the guitar can help shore up your theory knowledge, as well as make it easier for you to apply these modes to your solos and song writing as you learn to relate them to chords, triads and arpeggios.

If you have any questions or comments, post them below.