Modal Shortcuts

This is to help those familiar with the major scale and the modes. This is to help you whip out any mode you need on the fly.

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Ah the modes. This article is designed to help those familiar with the major scale. If you are familiar with all the patterns of the major scale in all positions of the fret board then this should be very helpful. This system doesn't require you to memorize every note in every scale, the Circle of 5ths, or any musical theory terms. (But it sure as hell doesn't hurt if you know all that stuff.) I just wanted to have a quick way to find any mode on the fly. I tried to make this as simple as possible relying more on shapes and simple patterns. Alright here we go. First off the modes: To understand the modes you have to understand the major scale and the chords of the key you're in. In a C major scale the notes are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C and the chords in the key of C are C Major, D minor, E minor, F Major, G Major, A minor, and B Diminished. How does that apply to the modes? Well you if you play the C Major Scale over a C Major chord you get the Ionian mode. (Ionian is also just knows simply as the major scale) Playing the C Major Scale over the D minor Chord will give you the D Dorian mode. Playing a C Major Scale over the E minor chord will give you the E Phrygian mode. Playing a C Major Scale over the F Major chord will give you the F Lydian mode. Playing a C Major Scale over the G Major chord will give you the G Mixolydian mode. Playing a C Major Scale over the A minor chord will give you the A Aeolian mode. Playing a C Major Scale over the B Diminished chord will give you the B Locrian mode. Ionian (Major): C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C Dorian: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D Phrygian: E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E Lydian: F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F Mixolydian: G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G Aeolian: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A Locrian: B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B Even though all these scales are basically all just the C major scale, they become modes when played over different chords. The combination of the scale and the chord its played over bring out the flavor or tonal characteristics of the mode. What you have to remember is just the order of the modes: Ionian (Major), Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. Then for this system you have to remember the relation of the mode to the root. As in the second note is the Dorian, the third note is the Phrygian, the fourth is the Lydian and so on and so on. No for this system you just have to remember this simple fingering for the major scale.
e-----------------------------------------10-12-13---]
B--------------------------------10-12-13------------]
G------------------------9-10-12---------------------]
D----------------9-10-12-----------------------------]
A--------8-10-12-------------------------------------]
E-8-10-12--------------------------------------------]
  C D  E F G  A  B  C  D E F  G  A  B  C   D E   F
For this lesson we will call this "Home Base Pattern" of the Major Scale. It Starts on the Low E string and ascends all the way to the high e. It is also very comfortable to play. Don't just focus on the frets or notes you are playing, try to remember the shape and pattern of the scale so you can move it around to anywhere on the fret board. The root is placed on the low E String and is the first note. If you can remember this pattern you can play any major scale starting on the low E string. The first note will always be the root. So as an example if you started on the 5th fret of the Low E String and played this scale pattern you would have an A Major scale.
e-----------------------------------------7-9-10---]
B--------------------------------7-9-10------------]
G------------------------6-7-9---------------------]
D----------------6-7-9-----------------------------]
A--------5-7-9-------------------------------------]
E-5-7-9--------------------------------------------]
  A   B  C# D  E F#  G#
Once you know this we can get to the modes.In this system we are just going to focus on the Low E, A, and D strings. These will be you bases for finding any mode all over the fret board. Let's keep using the C major scale as an example.
[------------]
[------------]
[------------]
[------------]
[------------]
[--8--10-----]
   C  D
C-D is Major to Dorian. As you can see C is the Root or Major of the scale. So if you are trying to play the C major scale you just use the "Home Base Pattern" above. But also remember the second note is the Dorian mode. So if you wanted to find the D Dorian mode you would go to the D note on the low E string and go Two frets back to the C root or C Major Scale. So then you just play the "Home Base Pattern over a D minor chord and Boom, you got yourself a D Dorian mode. This will work for any note on the low E string, pick one, go back Two frets, and play the "Home Position Scale" over the minor chord of the note you chose and you have the Dorian mode.
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[------------]
[------------]
[------------]
[-8--12------]
  C  E
C-E is Major to Phrygian Once again we focus on the low E string. Someone plays an E minor chord and you want to play E Phrygian. Play the E on the low E string and remember its relation to the major root. Go back 4 frets and play the "Home Base Pattern" and you have the E Phrygian scale. So to review all the modes you can find on the low E string are the Ionian (Major Scale), Dorian, and Phyrgian. What you have to always remember is the order of the modes, the "Home Base Pattern", and the distance between the notes. If you know this you can pick any note on the low E string, find its relationship to the major scale, play the right chord and get the mode you want. Now on to modes on the A string.
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[---------]
[---------]
[---------]
[----8----]
[--8------]
   C F
C-F is Major to Lydian. Find the F note on the A string, 8th fret, and go directly to the fret above it on the Low E string. That will bring you back to the Root note in the "Home Base Pattern." Play that pattern over an F Major chord and you have the F Lydian mode.
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[----------]
[----------]
[----------]
[----10----]
[-8--------]
  C  G
C-G is Major to Mixolydian. Find the G on the A string, 10th fret, and go back two notes and up onto the fret above it on the Low E string. If you played these two notes together it would feel like a two note power chord but seperated it is the distance between the Major to the Mixolydian. You can pick any note on the A string, go the distance of the two fingered power chord to the Low E string and what ever note you land on will be the Root of the Major scale, once again play the "Home Base Pattern" starting on the root of the Major scale you landed on over the Major chord of the same note you chose on the A string and you have the Mixolydian mode.
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[----------]
[----------]
[----------]
[----12----]
[-8--------]
  C  A
C-A is Major to Aeolian Pick the A note on the A string, 12th fret, and go 4 notes back and straigh up above to the same fret number on the low E string. Tha Major to the Aeolian are always this distance apart and vice versa. Some one plays an A minor chord, you pick A, Find the root of it's related major scale, play the "Home Base Pattern" and you have the A Aeolian mode. So in review the modes you can find on the A string are the Lydian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian. Remember all these patterns are always in relation to the "Home Base Pattern" If you don't find the root of the related major scale and play the "home Base Pattern" this system won't work. Finally the D string.
[------------]
[------------]
[------------]
[-----9------] 
[------------]
[--8---------]
   C  B
C-B is Major to Locrian. Pick the B note on the D string, 9th fret, and back one fret and down two strings to the low E strings 8th fret. Once again we have found the root, play the "Home Base Position" over the diminshed chord of the note you chose and you have to Locrian mode. So on finally on the D String you can find the Locrian mode. Remember all of this only applies to the home base pattern. If you can remember the order of the modes, the Major, minor, or diminished chord each mode is played over, the "Home Base Pattern", and the relation of each mode to its Major scale founding then you can find any mode any time you need it. Also remember there are many positions of the major scale all over the fret board. If you know them going from "Home Base Position" into all the other positions should be a breeze. "Home Base" just helps to give a feel of where you are and where all the the other patterns will lay out on the fret board. Well thank you for reading. I hope this helps give you a shortcut to finding any mode. Good Luck! :)

9 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Emenius Sleepus
    I think the Locrian mode uses a half-diminished chord rather than diminished, but other than that it's a great lesson. there are many ways to think of modes, but however you approach them, they give you some interesting sounds
    AeolianWolf
    Playing the C Major Scale over the D minor Chord will give you the D Dorian mode. (etc.)
    no, it won't.
    they become modes when played over different chords.
    and no, they don't. you might want to learn your modes before posting an article. if you play the C major scale over a D minor chord, you don't have D dorian; you have a C major scale over a D minor chord. you can refer to them as positions, and that's fine, but the fact remains that what you have taught here is incorrect. whether or not a mode is to be used depends on whether the song is tonal or modal. there are such things as modal feels, but those still qualify as tonal music.
    aCloudConnected
    AeolianWolf wrote: Playing the C Major Scale over the D minor Chord will give you the D Dorian mode. (etc.) no, it won't. they become modes when played over different chords. and no, they don't. you might want to learn your modes before posting an article. if you play the C major scale over a D minor chord, you don't have D dorian; you have a C major scale over a D minor chord. you can refer to them as positions, and that's fine, but the fact remains that what you have taught here is incorrect. whether or not a mode is to be used depends on whether the song is tonal or modal. there are such things as modal feels, but those still qualify as tonal music.
    I'm a little confused then. What exactly would be the D Dorian mode? If you had a chord progression in D Dorian, let's just use a I-IV-V. It would really be i-IV-v though right? So the chords would be Dm, G, and Am? If you just played your scale over it, would that be considered as something being played in D Dorian?
    AeolianWolf
    I'm a little confused then. What exactly would be the D Dorian mode? If you had a chord progression in D Dorian, let's just use a I-IV-V. It would really be i-IV-v though right? So the chords would be Dm, G, and Am? If you just played your scale over it, would that be considered as something being played in D Dorian?
    well, you don't really have a modal chord progression. "modal" and "chord progression" in the same context don't really make sense, because you can only have a chord progression in music that has a key - i.e., tonal music. your Dm - Gmaj - Am progression is just going to sound like it resolves to Am (and is in the key of A minor), so it's not even really modal. you'd have to employ some kind of drone, and even then it might be difficult since you're throwing the Am chord in there. Freepower has compiled information on modes. i encourage anyone interested in learning about modes to check it out: http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/sho... 1042392
    rockgodman
    well i am not going to rate the article so much as i am going to say that aeolianwolf's comment is wrong. The progression described would not sound like it is in A minor because the only thing that makes a progression sound like it is in a certain key is a cadence. There is no E in a G major so there is no way a Gmaj to Am progression will sound like an A minor progression. What you would do is make the A minor and A7 chord (in a minor key usually with altered notes) and it would sound like it is resolving to D minor. Also there is a lesson on this site about modal progressions that would probably answer alot of the questions people who have read this article still have. Also a very important thing for you guys to remember is that it is not so much the progression that is modal but the melody over it. The chords are generally there to harmonize the melody and if the chords harmonize a modal melody then i would argue it is indeed a modal progression. Also you do not really need a drone to make something sound modal even though that is a very easy way to get it to sound modal.
    Bluesrocker5150
    AeolianWolf wrote: Playing the C Major Scale over the D minor Chord will give you the D Dorian mode. (etc.) no, it won't. they become modes when played over different chords. and no, they don't. you might want to learn your modes before posting an article. if you play the C major scale over a D minor chord, you don't have D dorian; you have a C major scale over a D minor chord. you can refer to them as positions, and that's fine, but the fact remains that what you have taught here is incorrect. whether or not a mode is to be used depends on whether the song is tonal or modal. there are such things as modal feels, but those still qualify as tonal music.
    you have displayed a lack of mode knowledge. why don't you give yourself a nice pat on the back? A mode is the same sequence of intervals as the major scale, simply starting on a different tonic within the major scale. Simply by knowing the major scale in all keys, you can play all of the modes with nothing more than some simple elementary mental math.
    Toms' anominous
    modal music has quite a few rules that have to be applied in order for it to be classified as "modal". for instance in D dorian, your progression would start Dm then go to whatever chords are in the key before resolving to the fifth of the initial root. The melody that would go with the chords would also have to follow the same rules for the song to be called "modal". However, you can still have a modal feel to a song regardless of the rules. And as said above there is a very good article posted about last octoberish on modes and their rules.
    GuitarSlingerJ
    ok, wow, this wasn't EXACTLEY on the modes. I just wanted to figure out a way that if someone said play any scale whether it be E dorian, G mixo, Bb lydian, or whatever I would have a quick and easy shortcut to find any scale I needed without having to remember all the notes in all the scales and all the theory that comes with it. THAT'S IT. I just put a little theory about the modes so if any one stumbled across this article they would hopefully know a little about what I was talking about. This is more about shortcuts and less about music theory. And I have studied the modes. I have several music books that I went through to check all the theory stuff in this article. But the shortcuts were of my own invention. So this is not alesson about the history or theory of modes, just how to FIND them. And really? D dorian scale and C major scale all have the same notes. So by playing it over the Dm chord which is what the D Dorian scale is played over according to several books and internet site, you would be correct. So once again, not about modal chord progressions or modal theory. Just shortcuts. So next time your friend says "Hey play an Eb phrygian." And you don't know it off the top of your head. Hopefully after this lesson you will have a short cut to finding it.