The Ionian Mode: What Is It?

If you’ve never heard of the ionian mode, the likely hood is that you know it without knowing that you do. It’s one of the most common scales in the world and is often the first thing people learn to play when learning a musical instrument.

In this post I’ll be taking a look at what it is and how to play it but first, what even is a mode?

What are modes?

The music modes (sometimes called the church or greek modes) are seven different scales based on the major scale. Each mode is made by playing a major scale but starting on a different note.

For example, if you were to play C major scale start on D you would have play D dorian scale. If you were to play C major scale starting on F you would have played F lydian scale.

What is the ionian mode?

The ionian mode is the first of seven modes of the major scale. In fact, it’s exactly the same as the major scale and is just another name for that scale.

It use the formula of semitones and tones: TTSTTTS.

Which in half and whole steps is: WWHWWWH.

Here is C ionian mode in the treble clef.

C Ionian scale

Degrees of the ionian scale

The ionian scale shares the same scale degrees as the major scale which is unaltered (doesn’t have raise or lower and notes). That means the intervals are:

  • 1. Root
  • 2. Major second
  • 3. Major third
  • 4. Perfect fourth
  • 5. Perfect fifth
  • 6. Major sixth
  • 7. Major seventh

List of ionian scales

Below is a list of all the ionian scales along with the notes. Below the chart is each scale in the treble clef.

KeyNotes in the ionian scale
CC – D – E – F – G – A – B – C
C#C# – D# – E# – F# – G# – A# – B# – C#
DbDb – Eb – F – Gb – Ab – Bb – C – Db
DD – E – F# – G – A – B – C# – D
EbEb – F – G – Ab – Bb – C – D – Eb
FF – G – A – Bb – C – D – E – F
F#F# – G# – A# – B – C# – D# – E# – F#
GbGb – Ab – Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – Gb
GG – A – B – C – D – E – F# – G
AbAb – Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – G – Ab
AA – B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A
BbBb – C – D – Eb – F – G – A – Bb
BB – C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A# – B

C ionian scale

C ionian scale

C# / Db ionian

C# ionian scale
Db ionian scale

D ionian

D ionian scale

Eb ionian

Eb ionian scale

E ionian

E ionian scale

F ionian

F ionian scale

F# / Gb ionian

F# ionian scale
Gb ionian scale

G ionian

G ionian scale

Ab ionian

Ab ionian scale

A ionian

A ionian scale

Bb ionian

Bb ionian scale

B ionian

B ionian scale
Dan Farrant

Dan Farrant

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 10 years helping thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. Since then he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.

1 thought on “The Ionian Mode: What Is It?”

  1. John Reed Brundage

    Can you tell me why the Ionian scale (major diatonic scale) is structured in the sequence of whole and half tones that it is, i.e. W – W – H – W – W – W – H? I cannot find an answer to this in any online source on Western musical structure.

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