Learn Modes on the Guitar


Modes are types of scales, they include the major and natural minor scale but also include other more interesting scales which feature in Latin Jazz flamenco and Brasilian music as well.

In this tutorial, we’ll look at modes on the guitar. I will try shed some light on this often confusing topic. I though the best way to do this is to show you each modes starting on a so that you can compare and contrast each mode and how they differ. Often one note change in a scale can make a huge difference in the musical result.

There are 7 major modes each mode consists of a scale starting on different degrees of the scale. The major scale has the intervals:  T – T – St – T – T – T – St . This formula constitutes the first mode (Ionian) or major scale. The second mode then has the following formula :  T – St – T – T – T – St – T . So you can see we start on the second T interval and move up from there. This results in a different series of notes and intervals and so on.

Let’s use this to create all the major modes in A:

Ionian

This mode has the same sequence as the major scale. As stated above the sequence of intervals are as follows:

T – T – St – T – T – T – St so starting on  A we get A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A

Dorian

This mode has the sequence of intervals are as follows:

T – St – T – T – T – St – T so starting on  A we get A – B – C- D – E – F# – G – A

the Dorian scale is often found in Jazz and also folk, Irish/Celtic music and occasionally in flamenco (Eg Entre Dos Aguas A section). It works well over the chord progression Am7 – D7

Phrygian

This mode has the sequence of intervals are as follows:

 St – T – T – T – St – T – T so starting on  A we get A – Bb – C- D – E – F – G – A

This mode is very Spanish and forms the backbone of flamenco music. Often we find the 7th note raised (phrygian dominant). The minor second interval is very dark and moody and usually resolves down to the tonic. Works well over a major chord for a flamenco feel or over a minor chord as well for a darker melody.

Lydian

This mode has the sequence of intervals are as follows:

 T – T – T – St – T – T- St so starting on  A we get A – B – C#- D# – E – F# – G# – A

Also known as the ‘superman mode’, this is a major scale with a raised 4th degree. The raised fourth gives it an optimistic and kind of supernatural feel. You often hear this mode in movie soundtracks at the start of a film. Try the lydian over major chords for something different.

Mixolydian

This mode has the sequence of intervals are as follows:

 T – T – St – T – T- St – T so starting on  A we get A – B – C#- D – E – F# – G – A

This mode is very blues as it contains a flat 7 so it really works well over a dominant 7th chord. It is often played in conjunction with the pentatonic scale.

Aeolian

This mode has the same sequence as the minor scale. As stated above the sequence of intervals are as follows:

T – St – T – T – St – T – T so starting on  A we get A – B – C – D – E – F – G – A

This is a natural minor scale so works well over a minor scale.

Locrian

This mode has the sequence of intervals are as follows:

St – T – T – St – T – T – T so starting on  A we get A – Bb – C- D – Eb – F – G – A

I don’t use this scale much but you can use it over a diminished chord.

Play Along Track

This content is restricted to LGM Members

 

 

Get Access now or Login


 

Comments