How To Master The Neck

author: edhead93 date: 11/29/2010 category: for beginners
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Modes are one of the most intimidating aspects to the guitar that any beginner can try to master. However, the modes are one of the most important aspects to playing guitar, and knowing them is what separates good guitarists (and musicians in general) and great ones. This isn't going to be another one of those lessons that just explains them, because there are plenty of those all over the place. This lesson is more about the application of modes, and in knowing the application, the whole concept of modes may just become that much clearer. To start off, I'll explain the basics of modes. There's a whole lot of other stuff involving them, but this here is just the important stuff for beginners to know. In the key of C major, there are no sharps or flats. The C major scale is C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. There is a specific underlying pattern of whole and half steps (on the guitar, a half step is the next fret up from a fret, so the interval of the 8th and 9th frets is a half step, and a whole step is skipping a fret, so it would be the 8th and 10th frets). That pattern is Whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step (W-W-H-W-W-W-H). This pattern is called "Ionian mode." It's the major scale. The E major scale is E Ionian and so on. This is the first, and the most important mode because it defines the key that the piece of music is played in. Now we're gonna go back to C Ionian (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C). What if the scale was played from D to D an octave up, but staying in key, so it would beD-E-F-G-A-B-C-D? That right there is Dorian mode. For this lesson the names aren't important, the concept is. The pattern of whole and half steps can literally be shifted. It's like a treadmill, one end of the conveyor that the user runs on goes down the back end of it and it pops up on the front end. W-W-H-W-W-W-H can literally become H-W-W-W-H-W-W by taking two whole steps off of the front and adding them to the back, so to speak. That's the basic concept of the modes. On the neck of the guitar (tuned standard of course), the C major scale (Ionian mode) is played
Now the C major scale in Dorian mode is played
If you haven't noticed already, these two patterns overlap each other. Let's take a look at the low E strings pattern for example. Here they one on top of the other (C Ionian on top of Dorian).
All the modes that are next to each other lock up together like this all across the fretboard. So that's the concept, now here is how you actually learn what all these things mean on the guitar: First, you must learn the modes. Start in the key of C because it's the easiest one to use since there are no sharps or flats. You already know how the C major scale is played because it was written for you in this lesson. Now move up to D (which is Dorian mode that's already explained) and see for yourself how all the notes are in the key of C. Next figure out the pattern starting on E (Phrygian), F (Lydian), G (Myxolidian) A (Aeolian), and B (Locrian). Remember that there are no sharps or flats, so all your patterns should only consist of the notes C,D,E,F,G,A, and B respectively. After you figure out all the modes for yourself and you get them under your fingers, play them consecutively. You should start to notice how they all interlock together like a jigsaw puzzle. After you figure out how all these things work, you will know how to play in any key, because the patterns shift depending on the key you're in. For example, in the key of D (D ionian mode), all the mode patterns you just figured out for yourself shift up so that instead of Ionian starting on C, it starts on D, and then Dorian starts on E, and so on. It is important to figure these things out for yourself because if you teach them to yourself, you will really understand how everything works.
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