The Modes of the Major Scale: Theoretical and Guitar-Oriented Approach

author: CostasNoir date: 05/21/2014 category: scales
rating: 4.8 / votes: 4 
The Modes of the Major Scale: Theoretical and Guitar-Oriented Approach
So, when I was learning the modes myself I was quite confused about how to actually play them. Through practicing, however, I discovered I could relate a scale pattern to a mode.

So let's look at the modes from a theoretical point of view (I strongly recommend you memorise the order, as well as the quality of each mode):
  • Ionian Mode (major scale): 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (Major)
  • Dorian Mode: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 (Minor)
  • Phrygian Mode: 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 (Minor)
  • Lydian Mode: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 (Major)
  • Mixolydian Mode: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 (Major)
  • Aeolian Mode (natural minor scale): 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 (Minor)
  • Locrian Mode: 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 (Diminished)
The quality of each mode is determined by the 3rd.

So just boring theory stuff, right? Nope! It's time to grab your guitar now and actually see how you can play them! Start and end on the same (lowest) note, 6th string to the 1st.
  • The 1st position of the major scale is the Ionian Mode.
  • The 2nd position of the major scale is the Dorian Mode.
  • The 3rd position of the major scale is the Phrygian Mode.
  • The 3rd position of the major scale, starting and ending one semitone higher than before is the Lydian Mode.
  • The 4th position of the major scale is the Mixolydian Mode.
  • The 5th position of the major scale is the Aeolian Mode.
  • The 1st position of the major scale, starting and ending one semitone lower is the Locrian Mode.
So, there you have it, the modes. This helped me a lot to learn them. I hope it does the same for you! You see that you really do nothing special on the guitar itself; you just play the patterns you already know slightly differently. Once you've got them down, jam along with a backing track of your choice, to really hear and feel the mojo of each mode. Good luck!

P.S. This is my first lesson post, don't eat my head off!
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