So far I’ve discussed modes in terms of their structure and relation to the comparative major scale.

I haven’t been too prescriptive about how to use them and have encouraged experimentation, however, it is a fair point that you can sound like you are just playing a major scale over the top of chords instead of getting the signature modal sound.
Some music teachers encourage you to learn the patterns of the modes and practice these in all the positions whilst others encourage you to play over certain chords or chord progressions as they say it’s not so much the mode but the harmony against chords that really brings the sound out.
One way to do this and also potentially increase your creativity is to consider modal chords.  All this really means is looking at the structure of the mode and only using the chords that can be formed from it, as these are the chords that will really bring out the distinctive sound of each mode.
The most common modal chords for the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian modes are explained below. There are no doubt more chords that could be formed so by all means feel free to create some others of your own. Just bear in mind that sometimes they may not sound too good, for instance if you use 3 and 4 notes in the same chord.  A suspended chord will often be used in these circumstances.

 

Dorian : 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7

We can see that we have a minor triad with the 1 b3 5 notes but there are also a number of potential extended chords that can be formed:

min – 1, b3, 5
min6 – 1, b3, 5, 6
min7 – 1, b3, 5, b7
min9 – 1, b3, 5, b7, 9
min6/9 – 1, b3, 5, 6, 9
min11 – 1, b3, 5, b7, 11
min13 – 1, b3, 5, b7, 13

 

Phrygian : 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

We can see that we also have a minor triad with the 1 b3 5 notes.  In this instance there appears to be fewer extended chords especially since those with a b9 are not that commonly used:
min – 1, b3, 5
min7 – 1, b3, 5, b7
min7b9 – 1, b3, 5, b7, b9
min11(b9) – 1, b3, 5, b7, b9, 11
We could also consider the use of a sus4 chord as a base triad.  This replaces the b3 with a 4.  The extended notes we could add in are the b7 and b9 which will give us a susb9 chord which is sometimes called the ‘Phrygian chord’
susb9 – 1, 4, 5, b7, b9

 

Lydian : 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7

We can see that we have  a major triad with the 1 3 5 notes. There are a number of extended chords that can be formed and we could also use an add9 chord.  The raised 4th is what really gives the Lydian mode its signature sound.  We tend to use this as a #11 in chords and these are sometimes called ‘Lydian chords’
maj – 1, 3, 5
maj7 – 1, 3, 5, 7
maj9 – 1, 3, 5, 7, 9
maj7#11 – 1, 3, 5, 7, #11
maj13 – 1, 3, 5, 7, 13
add9 – 1, 3, 5, 9
add9#11 – 1, 2, 5, 9, #11
6/9 – 1, 3, 5, 6, 9

 

Mixolydian : 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7

We can see that we have a major triad with the 1 3 5 notes.  This mode lends itself to dominant chords and we can form the dominant 7, 9 and 13 chords.  We could also use a sus4 chord as a base triad for the 7sus4, 9sus4 and 13sus4 chords.
maj – 1, 3, 5
7 – 1, 3, 5, b7
7sus4 – 1, 4, 5, b7
9 – 1, 3, 5, b7, 9
9sus4 – 1, 4, 5, b7, 9
13 – 1, 3, 5, b7, 13
13sus4 – 1, 4, 5, b7, 13
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