Pentamodal Idea

Prior knowledge of the five Minor Pentatonic box patterns and the 7 modal shapes is helpful for understanding this lesson, but not absolutely necessary.

40
As a guitarist, I am primarily self-taught and didn't have any formal music theory training in the early stages of my playing. The first scales that I learned were the five positions or box patterns of the minor pentatonic scale. I wrote the diagrams out by hand, and would play (and draw) them constantly. When I was first exposed to the seven modes of the major scale, I did the same thing; sketched the fretboard diagrams, studied how the shapes fit together, etc. Even after I had the modal shapes memorized, I was still having a difficult time actually applying them to my lead playing. Seven shapes just seemed like too many after becoming so accustomed to the five box patterns of the pentatonic scale. Then I came up with an idea: What if I divided the modes of the major scale up into 5 scale chunks, based on the five Minor Pentatonic box patterns that I was already comfortable with? This way I would only have to add a couple of new notes to each of the 5 pentatonic boxes! For lack of a better name, I've decided to call this the Pentamodal Idea. To demonstrate, let's work out an example for a scale which is commonly used in rock guitar lead playing - the 6th mode of the Major Scale, Aeolian mode (a.k.a. the Natural Minor scale). The following examples are in the key of A minor. Here is our 1st Pentamodal shape, Aeolian Mode: Aeolian Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 1 notes circled We will skip Locrian, the mode that would normally follow Aeolian, since its first note (B at the 7th fret of the low E string) does not align with our A Minor Pentatonic scale box patterns. This brings us to Pentamodal Pattern #2, Ionian Mode: Ionian Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 2 notes circled Note: Keep in mind that even though we may have skipped over the Locrian Mode, its notes are still available for us to use in our soloing via patterns 1 and 2, we just aren't thinking of it as its own individual shape or box pattern. Continuing in order, Pattern #3 consists of the Dorian shape: Dorian Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 3 notes circled Next is Pattern #4, which includes the Phrygian mode: Phrygian Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 4 notes circled We will skip the mode that would normally follow Phrygian, (Lydian) because its first note does not align with the Minor Pentatonic scale box pattern in our A Aeolian-based example. This brings us to our 5th and final pattern, using the Mixolydian mode: Mixolydian Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 5 notes circled Key Points: 01. Remember, we're still playing all of the notes of the seven modes, we've just chosen to break them up into 5 box patterns - like our minor pentatonic scales. 02. The above patterns will also work for a C Ionian (Major) root, since it is the relative major of A Aeolian Mode. 03. Depending on which mode we choose to be our #1 (root) or parent scale, different modes may be skipped over. For example, if A Dorian minor was our #1 scale, we would skip Phrygian (at B, the 7th fret of the low E string) and Lydian would be our #2 shape, at the 8th fret (the C note). 04. This is a quick-and-dirty method for assimilating the modes into your playing. Once you become familiar with using these shapes, I highly recommend also working out and memorizing the three note-per-string patterns for the modes. Box patterns are great for breaking ideas into small, easily digestible pieces, but you don't want to be limited by them either. I hope this lesson helps you to begin to implement modal sounds into your playing. 2008 Paul Tauterouff All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. If you enjoyed this article I invite you to sign up for my free newsletter at http://www.paultauterouff.com. Each month I include a free guitar lesson along with links to cool resources for guitarists. Paul Tauterouff is a professional guitarist/ teacher in New York and is currently working on several instructional projects and a full length CD for 2008 release.

55 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    zorbozate
    it,s about time!!!! i,m sick of people trying to complacate music to try to make them self feel smarter than others this is dynamite!!! thanx for sharring!! exellent lesson!! rock on rock hard!!!!
    Jackolas
    This is almost exactly what I do on a more basic level. Leads to more original results if you do your own thing. Good work.
    sum1udunno
    This is great. One question though. If this works with pentatonic scales, would it work with the full blues scale aka the hexatonic scale as well?
    Night_Lights
    cool, this is exactly what Guitar Techniques did a while ago in a series on modes- add the notes to the familar box shapes. its a really simple and effective way.
    shreddyboy
    sum1udunno wrote: This is great. One question though. If this works with pentatonic scales, would it work with the full blues scale aka the hexatonic scale as well?
    Absolutely! I see the pentatonic as a basic skeleton and think of these notes as the safest notes harmonically speaking. Then I add the modal notes and also blues note (flat 5) and chromatic tones as well. I'm glad you guys have been enjoying this. As I said in the article, I give stuff like this away with each newsletter. Visit my website and sign up and you will be emailed the free lesson which was included in my September newsletter.
    shreddyboy
    IronBeast wrote: Good lesson ok I have a question: If I move these patterns to where they start on, say, the 10th fret, will the same shapes work? does it transfer to the key of D instead of A, or do these shapes only work starting on the 5th fret?
    Yes, simply slide all of the patterns to start at the 10th fret and it will work for D minor. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can move backwards, meaning that in the key of A (as shown) the 5th pattern can be played below the 1st pattern at the 3rd fret and so on....
    me_llamo_juan
    Wow, I thought this would help, and it would, but that's how my teacher taught me. Good article nonetheless.
    ledroses23
    just realize modes in practice are taking a note other than the root note of a key and calling it home, instead of the tonic. It fits in chordally too.
    bassdrum
    Paul Tauterouff wrote: bassdrum wrote: Dunno if it was you but someone posted alesson about this typeof thing on cyberfret.com... This is more in depth and better though, but you might've been beaten to the idea. That was me on Cyberfret!
    ahhh ok please excuse my ignorance.
    .daniel
    Dude, you are a thousand times better than that Tom Hess *****. All of his articles are just full of links and useless information. YOU are actually giving us valuable stuff. Thank you!
    IronBeast
    Good lesson ok I have a question: If I move these patterns to where they start on, say, the 10th fret, will the same shapes work? does it transfer to the key of D instead of A, or do these shapes only work starting on the 5th fret?
    Paul Tauterouff
    .daniel wrote: Dude, you are a thousand times better than that Tom Hess *****. All of his articles are just full of links and useless information. YOU are actually giving us valuable stuff. Thank you!
    Daniel, I am glad that you enjoyed the lesson and I plan to contribute more quality lessons to UG on a regular basis. But please keep your comments on the topic of the lesson. Tom Hess is actually a good friend of mine and if it weren't for his guidance and mentorship you wouldn't even know who I am or be reading this article right now. He has helped me in huge ways. I personally don't care if you like him or not (that's your choice) and I'm not trying to turn this into an ad for Hess. I am just requesting that you post that negative garbage sonmewhere else. Now back on topic!!!
    hellbound_jonny
    Very good lesson! I saw this on the front page and it really helps in developing modal ideas and explaining them! Thank you
    dann_blood
    Imo the best way to learn the modes is in 3 notes per string groupings. It's just as easy as the pentatonics to see where everything fits in, good for playing exercises. When you progress that little bit further and start mixing them into your playing with your standard scales (such as the Aeolian scale in the first example) as well as the pentatonics it makes playing and understanding it all much easier.
    C&C Magik
    I was thinking along these lines, but this just helped me get it all straightened out good article.
    yaaarp
    This is brilliant. Too bad I learned the modes 1st... Any way I still find it's easier to learn the modes in the key of C major because all you have to to is find all the natural notes. But what do I know, I haven't learned the pentatonic boxes at all yet. Anyway great lesson
    diesiraex
    Paul Tauterouff : .daniel wrote: Dude, you are a thousand times better than that Tom Hess *****. All of his articles are just full of links and useless information. YOU are actually giving us valuable stuff. Thank you! Daniel, I am glad that you enjoyed the lesson and I plan to contribute more quality lessons to UG on a regular basis. But please keep your comments on the topic of the lesson. Tom Hess is actually a good friend of mine and if it weren't for his guidance and mentorship you wouldn't even know who I am or be reading this article right now. He has helped me in huge ways. I personally don't care if you like him or not (that's your choice) and I'm not trying to turn this into an ad for Hess. I am just requesting that you post that negative garbage sonmewhere else. Now back on topic!!!
    I admire your swift and decisive action. Sweet lesson for the record
    MonsterOfRock
    #4 can easily be turned into a Locrian. But I doubt you can make much sense out of a Locrian is you play it up and down. Modes have a lot to do with your note selection. The root and the shifted note or your 'modal note' should be the focus, and you should be fine with modes. This lesson is a great help for newcomers to modes. Lotta people tend to not explore these because they dont find the right approach to it. Nicely put together lesson, Kudos!
    yao151
    this will be helping people for years to come.. awsome lesson
    Toms' anominous
    i learned all the scales, very slowly by their tone, and how they link together and what not, becasue i learnt piano first. I wish i'd learnt this now good lesson.
    Paul Tauterouff
    Glad you guys liked it. Modes are a lot simpler than some make them out to be. I will be posting more cool lessons based on the stuff I teach to my students.
    PaulKleff
    This is a really cool way to get your fingers around the mode patterns--thanks Paul!
    Rabada
    Thanks, I had a similar idea, but this is more thorough, and the tabs help alot.
    sexualbreakfast
    The easiest way for me to memorize the modes are to know the steps. example the natural minor or aeolian is w w h w h w w , the w's being whole steps and the h being a half step, this way u can just choose a note on the fretboard and go from there. I feel its easier then remembering every single spot and note on the fretboard.
    Paul Tauterouff
    sexualbreakfast, that is a great way to do things. It is based on traditional music theory, but for someone new to the modes it may be more difficult. This lesson is really about helping people to find an easy way to begin using modes by seeing them as their 5 pentatonic shapes with extra notes added. So many people get hung up on the modes, or confused as to what they are, but at the end of the day they are just notes. Fortunately for us guitarists, our instrument are very pattern-based and visualing shapes on the fretboard is a very easy way to do things.
    rexatar
    Ya thanks alot, its a good idea... but i think i'm going to stick to the three note patterns cause i already learned them.
    diesiraex
    Sweet lesson...perhaps the blues note (b5) could be included to add a little more, uh, "flair"?
    bassdrum
    Dunno if it was you but someone posted alesson about this typeof thing on cyberfret.com... This is more in depth and better though, but you might've been beaten to the idea.
    SylvaShredder
    Also, it gets really cool sounding to impose other Min Pent Scales over different chords, say B Min Pent over a Cmaj7 chord. Anything sounds good if you play it with conviction (to a certain degree)
    yM.Samurai
    Not a bad article...obviously aimed at beginners, and that's where I see it as effective. Good job!