How To Master The Neck

This lesson is a brief over view of modes (not modal theory, only the patterns in a certain key) and how to use them to know all the notes all over the fretboard.

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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
e--------------------------------7-8-10--------------------------------
B---------------------------8-10---------------------------------------
G--------------------7-9-10--------------------------------------------
D-------------7-9-10---------------------------------------------------
A------7-8-10----------------------------------------------------------
E-8-10-----------------------------------------------------------------
Now the C major scale in Dorian mode is played
e-----------------------------------------10-12-13---------------------
B--------------------------------10-12-13------------------------------
G------------------------9-10-12---------------------------------------
D----------------9-10-12-----------------------------------------------
A----------10-12-------------------------------------------------------
E-10-12-13-------------------------------------------------------------
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).
E-8-10-----------------------------------------------------------------
E---10-12-13-----------------------------------------------------------
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.

24 comments sorted by best / new / date

    mckaveney
    mijoecha : I came here because I am a beginner. This is for beginners right. Well personally I learned a lot, ... and I am grateful that it was for free. My fingers are sore but it was worth the practice. I am more fluid scaling after a few hours of practicing this mode or what ever you call it.. It works I will practice this exercise until I master it to some degree or another.... As for all the negitive... ->...Well did you learn any thing? If not what a waist...
    Finally something positive about this, ha. This lesson isn't bad like people say. I don't know what all the fuss is about.
    mralexforbes
    i am an intermediat player i think because i can play lots o' stuff like solos but i really only learnt tabs and i dont understand any of this really
    philipp122
    D Dorian is NOT in the key of C major. It is derived from C major, interval-wise. However, D Dorian should be compared to D major, not C major. For example, D Dorian is derived from C major and therefore yeilds: D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D D major, on the other hand, is: D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D It can therefore be said that D Dorian is the equivalent of the D major scale with the 3rd and 7th scale degress flattened (b3 & b7). A D Dorian chord progression resolves to D, not C. Without getting too technical, a D Dorian chord progression is one comprised of chords built on notes from the D Dorian mode (the resolving chord, then, would be a D minor or a D minor 7th chord). This is the very basic concept of modal music. It utilizes modal chord progressions and the corresponding mode to that progression. True modal music is much more complex and may use multiple modes over various chords throughout the song. For an exceptional example of this, study and listen to the album Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.
    deakus
    I have played woodwind till now and frankly I had always wanted to play guitar but I think this guy made me think that I would never get to grips with modes and modal whatevers! Someone else could try explaining modals/modes before my head pounds more in confusion I would be eternally greatful!!
    AeolianWolf
    sonic_777111 wrote: That's not the C major scale in Dorian. That's D Dorian. C is Ionian in the same scale... Took me a while to figure that out, but now that I've figured out how displacements work, my band plays 90% of the time in C# Locrian. (It's a D major scale, but starting on the C#.)
    ...i HIGHLY doubt that. you're probably playing C# minor and flattening the D# and the G#. yes, there is a difference. one is tonal and one is modal.
    rockingamer2
    This lesson does not teach the application of modes. It explains how to find the notes in a mode, but like so many other pages on internet spewing out misinformation about modes,does not go into how to use them. I'll say it loud and clear: MODES ARE NOT JUST THE MAJOR SCALE STARTING ON A DIFFERENT SCALE DEGREE THAN THE ROOT There is much more to modes than that. Also, +1 to what AeolianWolf said.
    sonic_777111
    That's not the C major scale in Dorian. That's D Dorian. C is Ionian in the same scale... Took me a while to figure that out, but now that I've figured out how displacements work, my band plays 90% of the time in C# Locrian. (It's a D major scale, but starting on the C#.)
    AeolianWolf
    you don't have a "C major scale in dorian mode". no such thing. you have a D dorian mode. why must everyone overcomplicate modes?
    Ultima2876 wrote: How dare you try to explain modes in a way that actually relates to playing. You've offended the elitists, good job
    it's not about being an elitist. it's about knowing what the hell a mode actually is. and if you're seeing modes here, i don't think you do. it's good to know your patterns, but don't try to pass them off as modes. it's not correct, and you're only going to confuse the next generation of guitar players. but what does it matter? a minute percentage of guitarists actually know music well enough to understand what the hell modes actually are, and it's not like we're going to change that anytime soon. to the beginners: this is actually a good lesson - just ignore every time the word 'mode' comes up. this has nothing to do with modes. at all. other than that, glean what you can.
    mskasson
    He's showing the locations of notes of the major scale in different positions and how they relate to modes. Making notes/chords actually modal is not a note location issue, but rather a composition issue. I do agree that this combines and confuses too many things to the extent that it may confuse more people than it helps. Further I agree the title does not well represent the content. The whole article could be summarized: I've found it helpful to learn the location of the notes of the major scale across the entire neck by playing the modes of the major scale. While I don't find it helpful, apparently the author has and he should be able to express that (if he does so reasonably clearly). While Musicians aren't usually English majors, so I think its usually reasonable to cut authors a little bit of a break initially, this one may have crossed the line. Sorry, author.
    mijoecha
    I came here because I am a beginner. This is for beginners right. Well personally I learned a lot, ... and I am grateful that it was for free. My fingers are sore but it was worth the practice. I am more fluid scaling after a few hours of practicing this mode or what ever you call it.. It works I will practice this exercise until I master it to some degree or another.... As for all the negitive... ->...Well did you learn any thing? If not what a waist...
    krypticguitar87
    sorry but when I think of "Mastering the Neck" I'm thinking that you are teachnig a way to learn the notes of the neck, not modes.... I guess that to you modes are the neck? I dunno man, the way I look at it is that any beginner looking at this is not going to understand this one bit.... It also seems that you are more of just eplaining seven different positions to play (one starting off of each note in the scale) with out actually explaining the pattern... just saying look "start on this note and make sure you hit every note in the scale from the sixth string to the first string and back with out missing one" then you'll be able to play in any key... thats great but if you just give the pattern (not tabs) then there is something for beginners to actually apply... the pattern would look something like this: |O|O|O|O| |O| |R|O| | |O|R| | | |O|O| | | |O|O|R|O|O|O|
    SilverSpurs616
    What this guy is trying to show us is FRETBOARD VISUALISATION through the use of "modal positions" Although personally, I think he's just some kid ripping off a Rusty Cooley DVD in a different key..
    ShiningEntity
    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.
    Fuck. No.
    !-twisty-!
    No offence, good attempt but i really doesn't sound like you fully understand modes yourself.
    SEALSniper1152
    Ultima2876 wrote: How dare you try to explain modes in a way that actually relates to playing. You've offended the elitists, good job
    +1
    Ultima2876
    How dare you try to explain modes in a way that actually relates to playing. You've offended the elitists, good job
    Myshadow46_2
    Xeus wrote: after reaading Colohue's incredible articles on modes i dont think you should be furthher confusing people. I'd pull off the article an re work it if i were you. sorry
    I'd pull it off and delete it.
    Xeus
    after reaading Colohue's incredible articles on modes i dont think you should be furthher confusing people. I'd pull off the article an re work it if i were you. sorry
    edhead93
    sorry if i confused anybody. i've never really been any good at explaining myself. the article isn't really about playing modally i guess, but it's something that was never taught to me, and as a beginner i was really frustrated until i figured this out for myself. i just wanted to pass it on to other people. the main point is that you can use the patterns to find notes all over the neck. they connect like a giant jigsaw puzzle, if that makes any sense. i'm sorry i didn't explain it well, but then again none of this was explained to me, i just noticed one day that A minor had the same notes as C major, and that A Aeolian had the same notes as C Ionian, and that E Phrygian had the same notes as the previous two and etc.