Locrian Mode

The different diatonic modes allow you to add variety to your music and borrow the chords from the parallel modes.

This article covers the Locrian mode, including its scale formula, intervals, notes, main characteristics, comparison with other modes & scales, possible alterations, fretboard patterns to assist you in guitar playing, chords, its use in popular music, etc.

Read the complete article to know all about the Locrian mode and more!

What is a Mode in Music?

We have covered the introduction and basics of the modes in our articles on the Diatonic modes and Dorian modes. The articles included notes of the different modes relative to the notes of the major scale or the Ionian mode. Let us start directly with the details of the Locrian mode in this article.

What is the Locrian Mode

As per the music theory, the Locrian mode is the 7th mode of the major scale. This means that if you make the scale degree 7 note of the major scale as the tonic and rearrange the scale keeping the notes and their sequence as same, you get the Locrian mode.

Consider the C major scale, with its notes [C D E F G A B]. As you can see, B is its 7th-scale degree note of C Major. Derive a new scale [B, C, D, E, F, G, A] by using the same notes and maintaining the same sequence as the C major scale. The only change you carry out other than rearranging the notes is to make B the tonic. Hence, it is also a mode of the C major, the B Locrian mode.

In the key of D, C# Locrian is the seventh mode. The Locrian mode starts on the leading tone of the major scale as its tonic.

Locrian Mode Formula

The scale formula for the Locrian mode is

{H W W H W W W} or {S T T S T T T} or {1, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2}

Here W denotes the Whole steps (2 half steps), and H represents a half step. Similarly, T and S represent a Whole tone and a semitone, respectively.

Use the Relevant Major

You can also get the notes of the Locrian mode by applying the below formula on the notes of the parallel major scale.

{1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7}

For example, the notes of the B major scale are {B C# D# E F# G# A#}. Applying the above formula on the B Major scale notes, we get {B C D E F G A}, which are the same as the B Locrian in the above section.

Similarly, the C Locrian mode has notes {C Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb}.

Locrian Mode Intervals

You can derive the intervals of the Locrian mode from the notes or the scale formula discussed above. These are as under.

B To C – 1 semitone = minor 2nd (minor second or m2 from root)

C to D – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (minor third or m3 from root)

D to E – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Perfect Fourth or P4 from root)

E to F – 1 semitone = minor 2nd (diminished fifth or d5 from root), enharmonically equivalent to an augmented fourth.

F to G – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (minor sixth, m6 from root)

G to A – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (minor seventh, m7 from root)

A to B – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Octave from root)

The intervals can be summarized as R, m2, m3, P4, d5, m6, m7. and R(O). A more detailed structural representation of the scale formula and intervals is given below.

R – S – m2 – T – m3 – T – P4 – S – D5 – T – m6 – T – m7 – T – R

Locrian Mode Notes & Degrees

You had seen the notes of the B Locrian mode. The scale degree numbers and their names, including the functions, remain the same as those of the major and natural minor scales.

B Locrian Mode On Treble and Bass Clef

The notation diagrams of the B Locrian mode in ascending and descending are placed below, showing its notes on the treble and bass clef.

B Locrian on Treble Clef in Ascending and Descending

B Locrian Mode on the Treble Clef

B Locrian on Bass Clef in Ascending and Descending

B Locrian Mode on the Bass Clef

Comparing Locrian to the Major Scale

Locrian is the 7th mode of the major scale. Its 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th scale degrees are lowered from the corresponding notes in the major scale.

Due to the minor third note, it is a minor mode along with the Dorian, Phrygian, and Aeolian modes.

Comparing Locrian to the Natural Minor Scale

The natural minor scale, or the Aeolian mode, differs in two notes, the 2nd and the 5th notes, which are lowered by a half step in the Locrian modes. This means that the Aeolian mode has a raised 2nd and 5th.

The B Minor scale has notes {B C# D E F# G A}. You can easily observe the raised 2nd and 5th.

If we compare it to the B minor pentatonic scale {B D E F# A}, the differences are

  1. The 2nd (C) and 6th (G) notes are not there in any minor pentatonic.
  2. The 5th (F) note is a semitone lower than the minor pentatonic (F#).

Locrian Mode Characteristics

The Locrian mode is the only mode with a diminished fifth interval instead of a Perfect fifth. The 5th forms a tritone with the tonic. In addition, the mode has a minor 2nd interval, making it further dissonant.

Hence, this mode is heavy, unstable, unsettling, dissonant, and comparatively less used. But you can definitely use it to give your music variety and create a natural form of darkness. Its array of five flat notes makes it the darkest of all the modes.

Its tonic chord is a diminished triad rather than a major or minor one in other modes. A diminished chord is actually a tool to create tension, which craves resolution. Hence, some feel that the entire mode is unstable if the tonic comprises of an unstable chord. But that’s what makes it a powerful tool in jazz and ornamental music, though it gets rarely used in traditional music.

List of Locrian Scales

The list of the Locrian scales, along with their notes, is given in the table below. The scale formula given above will help you in deriving the notes of the other Locrian scales.


Relative keys – Locrian and Major

Any two scales are known as relative pairs if they carry the same notes and key signatures. By this definition, any selected pair out of the seven modes of any scale forms relative pairs. Let us stick to the relative pairs between the Locrian mode and the Ionian mode (major scale) for now. To find the relative pair of any Locrian mode, just raise its tonic by a minor second interval or a half step.

  • C Locrian – Db Major
  • C# Locrian – D Major
  • D Locrian – Eb Major
  • D# Locrian – E Major
  • E Locrian – F Major
  • F Locrian – Gb Major
  • F# Locrian – G Major
  • G Locrian – Ab Major
  • G# Locrian – A Major
  • A Locrian – Bb Major
  • A# Locrian – B Major
  • B Locrian – C Major

Altered Locrian scales

The following section discusses the common alterations on the Locrian scales.

The Major Locrian Scale

The Major Locrian scale is obtained by chromatically altering the 2nd and 3rd notes of the normal Locrian mode and raising them by a semitone. Hence the formula for the Major Locrian scale is {1 2 3 4 b5 b6 b7}.

As the third has been raised to a major third, the scale is termed a major one. Note that the characteristic diminished 5th interval still remains.

If you remove the 4th note, you will get a six-note, whole-tone scale.

The Altered Scale

You had seen the formation of altered scales in our article on altered chords. It is the 7th mode of the melodic minor scale.

The C Altered scale has the notes {C, Db, D#, E, F#, Ab, Bb}. These can be enharmonically written as {C, Db, Eb, Fb, Gb, Ab, Bb}. The main characteristic of an altered scale is that barring its essential notes, at degrees 1, 3, and 7, the C, E, and Bb that form the C7 dominant seventh chord, all other notes are altered.

See that the scale has a flat 2nd and 5th, like the Locrian, and hence most of its characteristics. The difference lies in the 4th note, which is a Perfect 4th in the Locrian. If you lower it by a semitone, you get the altered scale.

The Natural 13 Locrian

Consider the ‘A’ Harmonic Minor scale with the notes {A B C D E F G#}. Take its 2nd mode {B C D E F G# A}. You get the Locrian mode with a raised 6th (major 6th). The raised 6th is equivalent to a 13th interval. Hence the name of the Natural 13 Locrian scale. It slightly brightens the Locrian sound, like the Dorian brightens the minor scale sound.

B Locrian Mode Guitar Patterns on the Fretboard

Let us now look at the patterns of the B Locrian scale on the guitar fretboard, their fingerings, and the guitar tabs.

The complete B Locrian scale on the entire guitar fretboard (up to the 15th fret) is shown in the diagram below. You can see the entire B Locrian Scale in a single line from the 2nd fret of the 5th string to the 14th fret.

B Locrian Scale Up to 15 Fret

Locrian Mode One Octave Shapes

The fretboard diagrams showing one octave of the B Locrian scale with the tonic note on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th strings are placed below.

B Locrian Scale - Single Octave Patterns

Locrian Mode – CAGED Patterns

The below diagrams show the five different scale patterns based on the open chord CAGED system. Note the lowest root note positions of each pattern carefully, as you need to start playing any pattern from this position.

B Locrian Scale Patterns

1st Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: E open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 7th fret to 10th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Three.
  4. Lowest root note position: 7th fret on the 6th string.
B Locrian Mode - E Shape

2nd Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: D open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 9th fret to 13th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Two.
  4. Lowest root note position: 9th fret on the 4th string.
B Locrian Mode - D Shape

3rd Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: C open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 12th fret to 15th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Two.
  4. Lowest root note position: 14th fret on the 5th string.
B Locrian Mode - C Shape

4th Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: A open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 2nd fret to 6th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Two.
  4. Lowest root note position: 2nd fret on the 5th string.
B Locrian Mode - A Shape

5th Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: G open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 4th fret to 8th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Three.
  4. Lowest root note position: 7th fret on the 6th string.
B Locrian Mode - G Shape

Practicing The Scale Patterns

For the patterns that span four frets, you can use one finger to play notes on each fret. For example, in the 1st pattern, use

  • index finger for the 7th fret,
  • the middle finger for the 8th fret,
  • the ring finger for the 9th fret, and
  • the pinky finger for the 10th fret.

The fingering for all the patterns has been explained in the table below.

ShapeIndex FingerMiddle FingerRing FingerLittle Finger
EFret 7Fret 8Fret 9Fret 10
DString [3 4] - Fret 9th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 10String [3 4] - Fret 10th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 11String [3 4] - Fret 11th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 12String [3 4] - Fret 12th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 13
CFret 12Fret 13Fret 14Fret 15
AString [3 4 5] - 2nd, [1 2 6] - Fret 3rdString [3 4 5] - Fret 3rd, String [1 2 6] - Fret 4thString [3 4 5] - Fret 4th, String [1 2 6] - Fret 5thString [3 4 5] - Fret 5th, String [1 2 6] - Fret 6th
GString 3 - Fret 4, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 5 String 3 - Fret 5, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 6 String 3 - Fret 6, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 7 String 3 - Fret 7, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 8

Analysis And Harmonization Of The Locrian Mode

The triads of the Locrian mode are formed by the use of the tertian harmony, i.e., by stacking the intervals of thirds (major or minor) over the root note.

Triads of the B Locrian Scale

The chords formed by the harmonization of the B Locrian scale, their roman numeral designation with respect to the Ionian mode, and the chord qualities are given in the table below.

Scale Degrees1234567
Chord DesignationidimbIIbiiiivbVbVIbvii
Chord NamesBdimCDmEmFGAm
Chord QualitydiminishedMajorminorminorMajorMajorminor

The following triad chords have resulted from the B Locrian scale.

  1. Three major chords – bII, bV, and bVI – The C major, F Major, and the G Major chord.
  2. Three minor chords – biii, biv, and bvii – The D minor, E minor, and A minor chords.
  3. One diminished chord – idim – The B diminished triad, Bdim.

The seven triads, their note names, and their intervals are shown in the table below.

Scale DegreesIntervalsChord NotesChord Name
1R – B – m3 – D – M3 – FB – D – FBdim
2R – C – m3 – E – M3 – GC – E – GC
3R – D – M3 – F – m3 – AD – F – ADm
4R – E – m3 – G – M3 – BE – G – BEm
5R – F – m3 – A – M3 – CF – A – CF
6R – G – m3 – B – m3 – DG – B – DG
7R – A – M3 – C – m3 – EA – C – EAm

7th Chords of the B Locrian Scale

The seventh chords formed naturally in the B Locrian scale are

Bm7b5 – Half Diminished Chord – [B D F A],

CMaj7 – Major 7th chord – [C E G B].

Dm7 – Minor 7th chord – [D F A C],

Em7 – Minor 7th Chord – [E G B D],

Fmaj7 – Major 7th chord – [F A C E],

G7 – Dominant 7 chord – [G B D F],

Am7 – Minor 7th chord – [A C E G],

You can see that the triads and the 7th chords of the Locrian mode are the same as the C Ionian mode. Only the scale degree of the chords has changed.

Which chord progressions can you use the Locrian scale with?

The most natural movement is to the BII chord having a root half step away. But as this is the same as viio – I in the C Ionian, it is hard to maintain the tonality, as the strong resolution gives the feel of the major scale.

You can use the 7th chords in progressions to sound a little softer, like, i – iii7 – i – V7 or i – vii7 – iv7 – iii7.

Locrian Compositions and Songs

Some of the compositions and the song in the Locrian mode are listed below:

  1. “Jeux” by Claude Debussy has three extended passages featuring the Locrian mode. He used different minor modes in sequence and led to darker intervals through them.
  2. “Pain Killer” by Judas Priest has its introduction in E Locrian.
  3. “Dust to Dust” by English folk musician John Kirkpatrick uses B Locrian.
  4. “Stellar” by Starlight uses Em7b5 to A7 progression.
  5. “Army of Me” by Bjord uses C Locrian in the verses. But the vocal melody does not use the scale degree 5 note.
  6. “Jukebox” by The Strokes has its bassline in Locrian.
  7. “Seek & Destroy” by Metallica. The introduction uses this mode.


We hope our article on the Locrian mode has given you enough insights to try it out in your music. Do write in the comment section below if you need any further clarifications or if you want to share your experience with the Locrian mode.

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