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"Messiaen's 3rd Mode" Lesson / Etude

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

No notes outside "Messiaen's 3rd Mode of Limited Transposition" have been used in this piece. Below I have included a list of some of the chords, voicings, and other scales that exist inside this scale. The list below is not an exhaustive one; I make discoveries all the time. "Messeian's 3rd Mode" is a nine-note scale, so all but three notes of the "chromatic scale" are available.

Interestingly, all the “V” chords and “I” chords of "John Coltrane's" songs "Giant Steps" and “Countdown" or what's known as “Coltrane Changes”, can be found in this one scale. The scale in "C" is "C D Eb E Gb G Ab Bb B. " The triads, "Eb, Ab, B, E, G & C," are all present. If we take an "ii-V-I" in "C" and put in the “Coltrane” subs, "D7 Eb7 | AbMaj7 B7 | EMaj7 G7 | CMaj7," we can see all the "V" and "I" chords are present.

Another interesting thing about this scale is that the only three notes from the "chromatic scale" not used happen to form an "augmented triad." In this case, an "A, C# or F augmented triad." If you are playing this mode in C, as long as you AVOID the notes "A, C# & F," everything else will be inside the scale. I should mention I did not include all the triad over bass note possibilities in the list below because you can virtually play any of the different "triads" and or "7th chords" below against nine different bass notes. I highly recommend you go through all nine and figure out which ones sound the best to YOU.

As an example, I've included some fourth voicing's played against all nine bass notes. You should experiment with playing various bass notes against all "triads," "clusters," and "voicings" you find. There are a lot of possible names for some of the voicings in the piece. There is a lot of inner voice movement, as well, the harmony is continually moving and changing; for this reason, I only put chord symbols over some of the chords, to hopefully avoid making the music look cluttered. I will probably do a more in-depth lesson on this scale in the future. Until then, have fun with this one. Peace.

Messiaen 3rd Mode Of Limited Transposition

3rd Mode 9 note scale = ( Holdsworth Scale )

C D Eb(D#) E Gb(F#) G Ab(G#) Bb B C

Scales Generated from 3rd mode:

WholeTone C D E Gb Ab Bb C

Augmented Scale C Eb E G G#(Ab) B C "(CEG) (EG#B) (AbCEb)"


Major C E G, Eb G Bb, E G# B, G B D, Ab C Eb, B D# F#

Minor C Eb G, Eb Gb Bb, E G B, G Bb D, Ab B Db, B D Gb

Diminished C Eb Gb, E G Bb, Ab B D

Augmented C E G#, D F# A#, Eb G B, E G# C

Sus4 Eb Ab Bb, B E F#, G C D

7th and Other Chords:

CM7, CM9, CM7#11, CM7#5, C-M7, Cm7, Cm7b5, Cm7#5, C7, C7#11, C7b13

EM7 etc... Same as starting on C

AbM7 etc... Same as Starting on C

GM7, GM7sus4, GM7#9, GM7#5, G6, GmM7, GmM7sus4, GmM7#5 (Ebm/G), GmM7add6, GmM7b9

BM7 Same as starting on G

EbM7 Same as starting on G

More Specific Chords / Voicing's:

D9(no5th) D7sus4, D9sus4(C/D), D13, D7b9, D7#11, D7b13, D69 Db9sus4(B/Db),

EbM7 EbM7#5, Eb-M7, Eb-6


C-M7(add9), E-M7(add9), Ab-M7(add9)

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