The Locrian Mode

In my last article we looked at the Lydian Mode, the brightest of the modes. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Locrian, the darkest sounding mode. Locrian is one of the modes based on the Major (Ionian) Scale. Locrian is built from the 7th note of the Major Scale.

It is made up of the following notes in relation to the corresponding Major Scale:

This means that C Locrian would be made up of the following notes:

Locrian is one of the ‘Minor’ modes. It’s easier to think of Locrian as having everything flattened except the 4th!

Even though Locrian is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Lydian, it is more closely related than you may at first think. If you flatten the root note of Locrian, you will end up with Lydian! Also, both of them contain a #4/b5 which gives a certain kind of tension to them. This is sometimes a challenge to deal with!

The chords that are built on the notes of Locrian always follow the same pattern (if you remember the Major Scale chord sequence, just start from the 7th and loop!).

When analysing a chord sequence the position of the 7th chord can help a lot. A Locrian sequence will (generally, not always) start with a m7b5 with the root note of the key! The 7th chord appears on the 6th scale degree, which will help you identify it quickly. Although the Locrian chord progression is rarely used due to its disturbing/unsettling qualities, you will probably ‘know’ it when you hear it!

There isn’t that much music written in Locrian as it is difficult to write in and as mentioned above can be quite unsettling. As an example the bass line of Army Of Me by Björk is Locrian. Heavy Metal bands have used Locrian to great effect, think Slayer, due to its ‘evilness’, but this is more riff/melody driven than a chord sequence. It is used as a melody line more in Jazz where you are more likely to alter the scale to the chord being played and it will fit over m7b5 or dominant quite well. So, if you feel adventurous/brave and want to sound evil, this is the one for you.

Try playing some Locrian chord progressions to get the feel for yourself. You will ‘feel’ it trying to resolve up to the Db from the Cm7b5, to keep the Locrian feel this needs to be avoided.

Below is a Locrian Chord Progression you can listen to and get the feel of it. Have a jam over it too if you feel ‘evil’ enough!

Locrian Play Along Chord Progression

Work hard and most importantly, have fun!!

-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist

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