Learn Modes Easy With Pitch Axis Theory

Have you tried to learn the 7 modes, but couldn't memorize all the shapes? I guarantee this lesson will help you learn every mode in every key. Just give it a chance.

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Many of you may know this, but it changed my view on the elusive Mode when I learned it. So if you don't know this..please give it a look. It makes things much easier to understand. Alright..So you've learned the major scale. Awesome. Believe it or not, that is all you will need for this lesson. Below is the shape we will be working with. We're in Standard Tuning on this.
E------------------------------
B------------------------------
G-------------------6--8--9----
D---------6--7--9--------------
A---7--9-----------------------
E------------------------------
Run through that a few times. Alright, what do you hear? The E major scale, am I right? Yep. When played behind a progression in the key of E, this is also known as The Ionian Mode. There..You just learned a mode. We will call this Mode #1 because the root of the scale (first note played) is the name of the key we are playing in, and vice versa. So if this is the E major scale, with E being your first note, then it's "E Ionian." 7th Fret, A String is your E for those who don't know. "Okay fine..but how do I play the other 6 modes?" you ask? Easy. For the sake of this lesson, you are in standard tuning so you've got an open E up there that you aren't using. Play that E string open and let it ring out as you run through the scale above. Ionian Mode, got it. Now if you have another player with you or a pitch pipe or anything else that will hold out that E as you play the scales, even better. As long as you have that E audible as you play through the scale, otherwise everything you play will sound like the Major Scale. Confused? That's okay, You'll understand in a few minutes. So E Major Scale=E Ionian and that goes for everything. If you play the D major scale over a D note, you'll get D Ionian...or "Mode #1" Mode #2 is the Dorian Mode. Now since it's Mode #2. TWO is the magic number here. You're playing in the key of E. So move the whole scale shape down so that E is the SECOND note of the scale. So it should look like this.
E----------------------------
B----------------------------
G----------------4--6--7-----
D-------4--5--7--------------
A--5--7----------------------
E----------------------------
You may notice that is it the exact same shape as the last one, but moved down a Whole Step in this case. You may also notice that it's just the D Major Scale. Huh..That's weird..Have you tried playing it behind an E note? Try it. Go on. Hit that Open E string and run through it. Doesn't sound like the D Major Scale anymore does it? It sounds like E Dorian. Do you see what happened when you moved the root note to the second note of the major scale? Before you read on, please make sure you have the shape memorized. I don't want someone to comment on this and say it didn't work for them and I'm full of crap because you played the scale wrong. I know one of you guys out there will do that which is why I suggest you learn the simple 8 note scale. (7 notes plus Octave. I know someone will comment on that too if I claimed a scale was 8 notes!) What is Mode #3? Phrygian. One of my favorites. Alright, I'll leave the math to you now. If this is Mode #3..then the root must move to the??????? Right! The 3rd Note of the scale has to be the E! (When playing in E as we have been doing since the beginning.) E Phrygian looks like this.
E---------------------------------
B---------------------------------
G-----------------2--4--5---------
D--------2--3--5------------------
A--3--5---------------------------
E---------------------------------
2nd Fret on the D string is an E right? If you've played it correctly over the E note, it should sound quite Middle Eastern or Egyptian. Something like that. This is the C major scale by itself, but like the others, when being played over the E, it becomes what is known as E Phrygian. Pretty cool, huh? Remember though, You can play this starting at the 15th fret as well. If you prefer the high noted, closely fretted, shredding room, just move these scales to your boxes near or beyond the 12th Fret. Mode #4 is Lydian. I'm not gonna tab this one out for you. Make your E the fourth note of the scale and play your open E behind it like we did in the last three. Hint: Start your scale on the 2nd Fret on the A string. If you've done this right, It should sound like something from the ending, "They lived happily ever after" scene in a Disney Movie haha. Mode #5 is Mixolydian. Again, start your scale so that the E is the 5th note of the scale. It sounds Angelic. It sounds happy, but not like an annoying happy. It's reminds me of genuine happiness, not to be confused with Sesame Street happiness. Mode #6? Aeolian. This is also known as the Minor Scale. Once again, start you scale so that the E lands on the 6th note of the scale. Mode #7 is called the Locrian Mode. Be careful playing this one while you're at home alone. You may crap your pants out of fear. It's very dark sounding. I like it. Situate your scale so that 7th note is the E note and blah blah blah you know this! Well. You've learned all modes in the key of E. After a while, you will learn to memorize where each mode is played in this key without having to think about it. Of course you don't always play in the key of E. So now that you know how to set them up using the root note, you can use any root note and figure out where to start the scale. Pretty easy, right? If you are a dropped tuned player like I am, you can hit that open D string string when in Dropped D and play them all in D and you can still play these scales as I have them written because you aren't using the top string as you would when playing the modes the traditional way like most Theory Nazis do. Nothing wrong with playing them that way, but this way is easier for me. Remember, once again, you can play this in any key. Say you have a jamming partner and he's playing a progression. Throw out some of these modes and it can drastically change the style of the song. If you really want to break away from the normal Pentatonic Scale or the sickly Major Scale sound, throw in some Phrygian or Mixolydian to spice it up. This is called the Pitch Axis Theory. Any questions or comments? Put them down below or shoot me a message.

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    freebird j
    For anyone who is confused about this, Roy Chappers does a great video on modes and pitch axis theory (I think it is in two parts). If you get a chance, check it out.
    tatatotfolife
    alright this all wrong. In the key of E major, you'll have 4 sharps ( this is where you NEED to know your circle of fiths). Sooo, no matter what mode you're in, at least in the key of e major, you'll have the same 4 sharps. The D dorian explained here is the E dorian, a D major with E as the root and 2 sharps. Key of E Major. Ionian (aka MAJOR)- E f# g# A B c# d# E Dorian- f# g# A B c# d# E f# Phrygian- g# A B c# d# E f# g# Lydian- A B c# d# E f# g# A Mixolydian- B c# d# E f# g# A B Aeloian (aka MINOR)- c# d# E f# g# A B c# Locrian- d# E f# g# A B c# d# Notice how they all have the same notes, just starting on a different. The key to understanding modes is to know your KEY.(haha pun intended). In all seriousness though you need to understand the circle of fifths and the order of sharps and flats. Otherwise you'll never get it
    Danjo's Guitar
    Isn't that backwards..... I'm pretty sure E dorian should start on F#, not D... but I could be wrong. Anyways, just so all you people know, modes are not important at all. Its basically just changing the root note in a certain key so that it sounds weird. Unless you're gonna be the next Vai or Satch, don't even bother with modes, just stick to your major and minor.
    Damaged Roses
    now i dont know jack about modes, but this is d major isn't it? i thought that E always had the same notes no matter what mode it was. was i wrong or is this tab wrong?
    Yes, but if they were the same notes always, there wouldn't be modes...
    p_a_morgan
    jasonstatement wrote: Now since it's Mode #2. TWO is the magic number here. You're playing in the key of E. So move the whole scale shape down so that E is the SECOND note of the scale. So it should look like this. E----- B----- G-----4--6--7----- D-----4--5--7-- --- A--5--7----- E----- now i dont know jack about modes, but this is d major isn't it? i thought that E always had the same notes no matter what mode it was. was i wrong or is this tab wrong?
    yes that's the D major scale..but when played in the key of E it's Dorian.
    jasonstatement
    i would really like it if someone just explained what E ionian and E dorian are. do they have the same notes or not?
    JohnnyKeybrain
    jasonstatement wrote: i would really like it if someone just explained what E ionian and E dorian are. do they have the same notes or not?
    E Ionian is E major and E dorian shares the same notes as D major.
    Four Symbols
    This article fails to stress how important chordal contexts are to modes... this is what makes the modes what they are... the harmonic structure.
    AllYourBass wrote: crazysam23_Atax wrote: Aetius wrote: Colohue you're wrong.. He's talking about the scale, not the key. The E major scale exists out of E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D# If you start out on F# and end on F# you are playing the 2nd mode. So he was right. Logical, since the interval structure would change. I find the article a bit strange though.. Pitch Axis Theory is about changing modes with a fixed tonal centre. Not how modes correspond to each other, even though they do correlate to pitch axis./sigh MODES ARE NOT SCALES!!! When I read these mode lessons, I finally start to think I get it. Then the comments remind me I'm nowhere close to understanding the elusive mode. Does anyone have a link to a mode lesson they find ACCURATE? Someone described the mode issue as the "Holy land of theory." I have to agree.
    check this out... http://www.synesthesiac.org/article/musi... -diatonic-modes
    evh2112
    it seems to me that modes help on the guitar to know where the notes are in the key that youre playing in, and if you memorize the 7 patterns (for major at least), you could pick a root note on the E string and use the corresponding scale. If youre in E major you can start on an A on the E string and play the Lydian pattern/mode. But again it seems like you'd have to start on F# or something if you were playing in Dorian, instead of starting on a D (which should also be sharped if youre in E major) tell me if im wrong, idk about this.
    p_a_morgan
    evh2112 wrote: it seems to me that modes help on the guitar to know where the notes are in the key that youre playing in, and if you memorize the 7 patterns (for major at least), you could pick a root note on the E string and use the corresponding scale. If youre in E major you can start on an A on the E string and play the Lydian pattern/mode. But again it seems like you'd have to start on F# or something if you were playing in Dorian, instead of starting on a D (which should also be sharped if youre in E major) tell me if im wrong, idk about this.
    Dude I'm gonna be honest with you. I know what you mean..but modes confuse me so much. I just learned this from a guy on youtube by the name of Rob Chappers. I haven't studied the theory behind this technique hardly at all, but I know that it sounds like the modes if you play them as I explained because I've done it and it works haha. But it really doesn't make a bit of sense when you think about it. It's probably not the best thing to rely on in music for the long term, but if you want to add some spice to your solos and stuff, I'd say use this. You can also write riffs and stuff using it too.
    Jay Stone
    Pitch Axsis Theory, in this article, is explained using the Relative approach to modes. It is essential for your formal understanding, to learn the meaning of Parallel and Relative approaches to modes. P. A. T. is very difficult for a beginner to become familiar with when learning the Relative approach to modes. You would need to change the shape to utilise the Parallel approach. Therefore Pitch Axis Theory does not marry with convention when applying the Parallel approach to modes. P. A. T. usually comes to you after you have learnt your fretboard, scales and modes. You start to see many more patterns as you become familiar with the fretboard. I am pretty sure that most high profile musicians have not studied P. A. T. before learning modes. UG, please consider this as a resource not as spam. Guitarmodes ($2.95AU) teaches major modes in one lesson(1hr at beginner level, or at your convenience with the on line lesson). ALL other scales and their modes can be learnt using the same copyright method.(it would also be in the same lesson if you had another hour). Throw me any questions anyone? Regards, Ross. Guitarmodes.
    Lhmcg
    When I became this long winded in my response ,I thought it would be better to start a new column then hijack this one... However for some reason I posted that new column last week and it never made it to the board?? So I guess I'll post it here after all! Here is one more attempt to explain modes! (or one more sucker for everyone to criticize! Lol) To understand how the modes have different "sounds" ie. Phrygian sounds egyptian etc. they must be played over a given key. This is why the original exercise in this column was done on the A string, so you could leave the E ringing throughout.. For those of you that have had a hard time figuring out the modes and want to sort it out once and for all I would suggest going a little further and recording a chord progression to play over... Just loop a 1,4,5 pattern over and over for starts...E A B for the key of E major etc. then get jamming the modes over it! Now what to play... I am like a lot of other people, I knew all the mode patterns for years without actually knowing what good they were... I will TRY to explain it in a way you can understand.....(TRY) I was taught originally to practice modes in 3 notes per string patterns (good for stretching and alternate picking exercise) which if played from low E string to high ends up being just over 2 octaves ! These can be practiced up and down, up three strings down two etc. up and down in fours, 1234,2345,3456 etc. (any pattern that helps you really) Here is a link I found with all 7 patterns. http://www.guitar.ch/en/info/scales/3not... Here's how you use them. If you want that nice major sounding solo play Ionian over the chords you now have on an annoying loop! If you stuck with E as the key then this would be.... Frets 2 45 2 45 12 4 12 4 0 2 4 0 2 4 Now if you want that phrygian/Egyptian sound you play the phrygian pattern starring on..THE "E", or the root of the chords playing.... Which will look like this.. frets 1 3 5 1 3 5 0 2 4 0 23 0 23 0 1 3 Played over the E major chords this sounds quite unique! Now where? How do I move around the fretboard? I think the part a lot of people fail to realize now is the relationship between the modes...they are all linked together in this order always no matter what sound you are going for. Ionian Dorian Phrygian lydian Mixolydian Aeolia n Locrian I can't find an image of the fretboard with all seven modes of E major marked from top to bottom but try to picture it with me, Going for that major sound like the first example you played over the chords that may still be playing in the background...you started with the ionian pattern on the open E string...if you continue playing all the nice major notes of that key then you can play the dorian pattern starring on the 2nd fret, or the phrygian pattern starting on the 4th fret, etc etc. these are all notes of the E major scale!!!! (try it over those chords you looped!) Likewise if you were going for that mid east sound of E Phrygian then in order to continue that sound up the guitar you would play..phrygian starting from the open E, then the lydian pattern from the first fret, then mixolydian from the 3rd fret etc etc etc. So essentially the E Ionian"sound" and the E Mixolydian"sound" are all the same patterns, we only Shifted all 7 forms together...over the same key rhythm!(very important) Please if you can't get your brain around this then either ask me or someone more knowledgeable then me some more questions because once you"get"this it'll blow your mind! And you will realize that no one should ever say, "forget the modes , just stick to the major and minors", because that's exactly what the modes are , depending on what chords you play them over! This is genuinely a hard topic to explain in a way that is not confusing, anyone that is still unclear feel free to drop me a line, and to all those sharks lurking, ready to attack every word of yet someone else trying to explain the modes...have at er! Cheers LH.
    Jay Stone
    A quick question LH, do you have any thoughts on how to get a new genuine method for teaching modes recognised and out there to guitarists worldwide? Regards, Ross,. Guitarmodes.
    p_a_morgan
    tatatotfolife wrote: p_a_morgan wrote: Dude I'm gonna be honest with you. I know what you mean..but modes confuse me so much. I just learned this from a guy on youtube by the name of Rob Chappers. I haven't studied the theory behind this technique hardly at all, but I know that it sounds like the modes if you play them as I explained because I've done it and it works haha. But it really doesn't make a bit of sense when you think about it. It's probably not the best thing to rely on in music for the long term, but if you want to add some spice to your solos and stuff, I'd say use this. You can also write riffs and stuff using it too. Alright if you don't know anything about this, then why did you write this BS? Ughh, maybe I'll just write something myself, cause this is an easy subject that everyone thinks too much about and confuses themselves.
    I didn't say I didn't know anything about it, but I just haven't studied on the reasons behind why the notes are different like evh2112 asked. I haven't looked into it enough. I memorized the mode shapes the hard way a while back..several times actually..but I could never fully understand how to utilize them. So I saw a series of videos that simply taught it this way. no theory involved, just what I typed in this column. This way of doing it will probably put some players into a bad habit kick..but I thought I'd share. If you could write and clear some of the confusion up..please do..and I would like to ask if you are such a wise guy, why haven't you written one before?
    AllYourBass
    crazysam23_Atax wrote: Aetius wrote: Colohue you're wrong.. He's talking about the scale, not the key. The E major scale exists out of E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D# If you start out on F# and end on F# you are playing the 2nd mode. So he was right. Logical, since the interval structure would change. I find the article a bit strange though.. Pitch Axis Theory is about changing modes with a fixed tonal centre. Not how modes correspond to each other, even though they do correlate to pitch axis./sigh MODES ARE NOT SCALES!!!
    When I read these mode lessons, I finally start to think I get it. Then the comments remind me I'm nowhere close to understanding the elusive mode. Does anyone have a link to a mode lesson they find ACCURATE? Someone described the mode issue as the "Holy land of theory." I have to agree.
    tatatotfolife
    p_a_morgan wrote: Dude I'm gonna be honest with you. I know what you mean..but modes confuse me so much. I just learned this from a guy on youtube by the name of Rob Chappers. I haven't studied the theory behind this technique hardly at all, but I know that it sounds like the modes if you play them as I explained because I've done it and it works haha. But it really doesn't make a bit of sense when you think about it. It's probably not the best thing to rely on in music for the long term, but if you want to add some spice to your solos and stuff, I'd say use this. You can also write riffs and stuff using it too.
    Alright if you don't know anything about this, then why did you write this BS? Ughh, maybe I'll just write something myself, cause this is an easy subject that everyone thinks too much about and confuses themselves.
    jasonstatement
    Dorian- f# g# A B c# d# E f#
    yes that's the D major scale..but when played in the key of E it's Dorian.
    the tab the second quote is referring to has a G natural in it. so these can't both be true right?
    hildesaw
    Soldier Poet wrote: Thanks. Finally a lesson about modes that actually helps me in my playing. I'll go and find a lesson about the whole theory behind it later (if I want to).
    Then its really not helping you with your playing. Memorizing a pattern isn't going to do anything for you when it comes to modes, or most music.
    Windwaker
    p_a_morgan wrote: Before someone comments on this, I wanna make clear that these are just the 7 modern modes..
    No. The modes derived from melodic and harmonic minor are all very significant. What you mean to say is there are 7 modes of the major scale.
    theogonia777
    Wolffgang wrote: I'm definitely feeling the consistent confusion... Well, it sounds cool; can't wait til I'm a guitar so I check it out... I swear, I've never heard anything cause so much argument as modes... They're like the Holy land of theory...
    both of these things you said are awesome, +2
    Soldier Poet
    Thanks. Finally a lesson about modes that actually helps me in my playing. I'll go and find a lesson about the whole theory behind it later (if I want to).
    hildesaw
    Colohue wrote: Please God do not bring Pitch Axis theory in when you're still explaining modes as if they are scales. You haven't laid the right foundations for this. Right theory; incomplete description = consistent confusion.
    I wish there were like buttons here, so I could like every statement that Colohue makes concerning modes.
    Talicom
    So, when you play E Phrygian, which is the Phrygian mode of C Major, you're in the key of E? I am confuse. Is it that modes are meant to be played over chord progressions in the major key of their root note? Or the chord progression is in the key from which the mode is derived?
    Colohue
    Please God do not bring Pitch Axis theory in when you're still explaining modes as if they are scales. You haven't laid the right foundations for this. Right theory; incomplete description = consistent confusion.
    Wolffgang
    I'm definitely feeling the consistent confusion... Well, it sounds cool; can't wait til I'm a guitar so I check it out... I swear, I've never heard anything cause so much argument as modes... They're like the Holy land of theory...
    SilverSpurs616
    Colohue wrote: Please God do not bring Pitch Axis theory in when you're still explaining modes as if they are scales. You haven't laid the right foundations for this. Right theory; incomplete description = consistent confusion.
    We're still waiting for you to do better.
    rickyj
    yea i have a question, where do you get off stealing this from rob chapman? this is literally exactly how he explains it in these videos
    http ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uhN5h1o7ww&feature=channel an d he does it without the confusion and he actually tells you why you're rooting on the a string.
    Colohue
    kurtebirdi wrote: essentially, the E major scale can be one of 7 modes, changing the note you start on changes the mode you're playing in. gratz
    Nope. Changing the note you start on changes only the note you start on. If you're playing in E Major, it makes no difference where you start; you're still in E Major.
    Aetius
    Colohue you're wrong.. He's talking about the scale, not the key. The E major scale exists out of E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D# If you start out on F# and end on F# you are playing the 2nd mode. So he was right. Logical, since the interval structure would change. I find the article a bit strange though.. Pitch Axis Theory is about changing modes with a fixed tonal centre. Not how modes correspond to each other, even though they do correlate to pitch axis.
    p_a_morgan
    Before someone comments on this, I wanna make clear that these are just the 7 modern modes..
    evh2112
    I might be wrong also but if its in E major and you want to make E the second note in the Dorian scale, wouldnt you start on D#? (6th fret)
    jasonstatement
    Now since it's Mode #2. TWO is the magic number here. You're playing in the key of E. So move the whole scale shape down so that E is the SECOND note of the scale. So it should look like this. E----- B----- G-----4--6--7----- D-----4--5--7-- --- A--5--7----- E----- now i dont know jack about modes, but this is d major isn't it? i thought that E always had the same notes no matter what mode it was. was i wrong or is this tab wrong?
    kurtebirdi
    essentially, the E major scale can be one of 7 modes, changing the note you start on changes the mode you're playing in. gratz
    p_a_morgan
    rickyj wrote: yea i have a question, where do you get off stealing this from rob chapman? this is literally exactly how he explains it in these videos Yeah I actually learned this from him. I was going to say something about him in the article but I honestly couldn't think of his name haha. Satch actually uses this technique quite a lot as well.
    http ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uhN5h1o7ww&feature=channel an d he does it without the confusion and he actually tells you why you're rooting on the a string.
    crazysam23_Atax
    Aetius wrote: Colohue you're wrong.. He's talking about the scale, not the key. The E major scale exists out of E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D# If you start out on F# and end on F# you are playing the 2nd mode. So he was right. Logical, since the interval structure would change. I find the article a bit strange though.. Pitch Axis Theory is about changing modes with a fixed tonal centre. Not how modes correspond to each other, even though they do correlate to pitch axis.
    /sigh MODES ARE NOT SCALES!!!