Pentatonic To Modes

Add Modal flavours to your basic Pentatonic shapes.

Ultimate Guitar
Now I don't know about you but Modes confused me for a L O N G time. When I worked out how simple it was actually learning them was a daunting task; playing three note per string scales meant learning seven scale patterns. Seven modes meant a huge forty nine patterns! These days I just play three note per string scales for shredding and moving through different positions.... Most of what I play is based on good old pentatonic scales, usually minor ones at that. Five postions, five patterns. So what happens when I what to add some flavour? This lesson describes one method for adding modal flavours to your basic pentatonic shapes and assumes that you already have these down to pat (if you don't learn them!). So, starting with our basic Am pentatonic, position 1, at the fifth fret... -|---|-P-|---|---|-P-| -|---|-P-|---|---|-P-| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|---|-P-|---|---|-P-| First we add an aeolian flavour (natural minor) Aeolian -|---|-P-|---|-*-|-P-| -|---|-P-|-*-|---|-P-| -|-*-|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|-*-| -|---|-P-|---|-*-|-P-| Notice that only a few extra notes have been added. Now we all know that a pentatonic scale has five notes -- add the other two and you have a full modal scale. Another mode that I find useful is the phrgyian flavour... Phrygian -|---|-P-|-*-|---|-P-| -|---|-P-|-*-|---|-P-| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|-*-| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|-*-| -|---|-P-|-*-|---|-P-| This is easily carried across all five positions. In every pentatonic pattern you will find the following magic shape... -|---|-P-|---|---|-P-| -|---|-P-|---|---|-P-| Add to these the flavours and you should have enough "clues" to add the extra notes on the other strings. Great you say, but how do I know what to add in there? The answer is simple. Remember the magic shape? You only have to add the two notes and you have a modal flavour. Aeolian mode looks like this... -|---|-P-|---|-*-|-P-| -|---|-P-|-*-|---|-P-| and phrgyian mode looks like this... -|---|-P-|-*-|---|-P-| -|---|-P-|-*-|---|-P-| I will not list all the modes or pentatonic positions here but will move onto the second minor pentatonic position for the final examples. Pentatonic Minor (pos 2) -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|-P-|---|-P-|---|---| -|-P-|---|---|-P-|---| <---magic -|-P-|---|---|-P-|---| <---shape -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| There you can see the "magic shape" on the A and D strings. Adding the aeolian flavour we get... -|-*-|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|-P-|---|-P-|-*-|---| -|-P-|---|-*-|-P-|---| <---magic -|-P-|-*-|---|-P-|---| <---shape -|-*-|-P-|---|-P-|---| And to add the phrygian flavour... -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|-*-| -|-P-|---|-P-|---|---| -|-P-|-*-|---|-P-|---| <---magic -|-P-|-*-|---|-P-|---| <---shape -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| The major modes can be dealt with in the same way, by adding the two notes to the major pentatonic shape. For example: Major pentatonic position 1 -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|-P-|---|-P-|---|---| -|-P-|---|---|-P-|---| <---magic -|-P-|---|---|-P-|---| <---shape -|---|-P-|---|-P-|---| and use the following in the magic shape to get lydian... -|-P-|---|-*-|-P-|---| <---magic -|-P-|---|-*-|-P-|---| <---shape so this becomes... -|-*-|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|-*-|-P-|---|-P-|---| -|-P-|---|-P-|---|---| -|-P-|---|-*-|-P-|---| <---magic -|-P-|---|-*-|-P-|---| <---shape -|-*-|-P-|---|-P-|---| Try it with the other pentatonic shapes and have fun :0)

This story was written by a UG user. Have anything interesting to share with the community? Submit your own story!

75 comments sorted by best / new / date

    First you must know what all the notes mean ie a,b,c,d,e,f,g and a#,ab,b#,bb,c#,cb etc etc etc Then you must know all the chords. Aha you Simple. A chord = a, c, e etc etc B chord = etc etc etc and so forth except for diminsihed chords which are used in jazz. So how does this work? Well ok, I'll explain the chords. A is number 1 note, B is number 2 etc etc etc So how does that work? ok Chords must have 3 notes and a root and 3rd and 5th. simple! So next learn scales and fingerpicking and speed picking and hammer ons and pulloffs. Then get a drummer and play some chords and do some licks something like this. e---1 5 B-- ..6 7 8 D--- ..etc etc etc G--- A--- E--- e---..5~~~ Just do whatever chords sounds good over whatever kind of licks you play. Next you must learn Arpeggios and pentantonics. How? Well an Arpeggio is a sequence of notes making a harmoney. A pentatonic is very similar to an arpeggio except you speed pick it as fast as you can. (Like Zakk wylde's Apreggios) Also buy the Malmsteen videos, they take a while but are quite good to learn. Anyways, any questions? Please don't ask wait for my next article. Rock on dudes
    Yeah also learn you major scale all music is based on it. If someone ever gives you a formula explanation of the minor scale they might say it's a major scale with a flatter 3rd and 7th, so you need to know the major scale to know all other scales and chords.
    Ok here's a rought explanation of modes. C Major Scale consists of all the natural notes starting at C. So C, D, E, F, G, A, B. The first mode is the Ionian mode and that just means you run through the scale from it's root. The following modes start at the next notes. So the second mode the Dorian modes starts at D and ends at the next C. THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS THE D MAJOR SCALE, IT IS LIKE STARTING THE C MAJOR SCALE AT A DIFFERENT POINT OF IT'S RUN. The modes are, Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian, then the pattern repeats much like the scale at the octave of the Ionian mode. GuitarKnowledgeNet has good information on modes and has great scale read outs, although the explanation one chord and scale formulas is horrible.
    I liked it but im still confused IF anyone else knows more articles on this subject of Modes and Scale shapes I'd like to know a good website i can use as like a reference for just straight modes and scales and maybe some non pentatonic scales... im starting to think the pentatonic scale is counter intuitive to learning guitar
    Man ... jerking off to jenna jameson ... did I REALLY need to know that (i prefer kobe thai btw)
    I guess you're right lol.
    people aren't dumb just because they don't know these things, i mean i don't know it, you may call me dumb but i've only been playing guitar for 2 years
    Good lesson. Ive been doing this for a while, its good advice. It halps spice up your pentatonics
    Dude i'd just like to know what the hell you are even talking about. ive never heard of a pentagon mode, ive never even heard of a mode. Am i the dumbest person at
    yes, yes you are.
    i really liked the use of "magic shapes." gives you an ooh-why-didn't-i-figure-this-out feeling. NICE!
    Pretty cool stuff. But will anybody stick to the modes exactly ?? Also, would you just use one of your 'modes' exclusively when soloing ?? Or mix them up. Personnally I throw in any noes and it seems to work some how.
    sorry..what does the stars mean of the tabs. second of all, does anyone know a website which plainly tells you all the modes and the all 5 shapes for them. Thanks!
    this really helped me add speed to my pentatonic playing. that one extra note adds alot, thanks!
    Great article....Five stars!!!!! Can you do all the patterns...please
    you really only have to memorize one scale pattern... if you were to play C Ionian all up the neck then you have all of the modes relative to C as well like D Dorian, E Phyrgian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, etc... It just depends where you play the notes at on the fretboard--or really which notes you play--... And then you just move that big form up and the down the neck like you would for the pentatonic scale... It might be confusing at first...
    thought modes were part of the A minor's got modes right... well then y da fak are the modes wit notes outside the key mate? THat would mean the minor scale has chromatic intervals mate, like ST-ST-ST-ST...doesnt make sense mate...
    It's far easier than that. What you call A Minor IS a mode, it's technically known as the Aeolian Mode, it's the same as playing a major scale starting with note six instead of one. 6-7-8-2-3-4-5-6 If you're writing something in A Minor and you want to switch scales (but not key) you simply pick a new root and use the note formula for that shape. You'll find that, for example, A Aeolian (a minor) and C Ionian (C 'major' as you'd know it) contain exactly the same notes, so you wouldn't hav eto change any of the actual places you touched the fretboard. C Ionian would be your '1' in this situation, so if you dropped tree frets from your A minor root, you could start there and switch to soloing in a Major pattern. There are 7 patterns since a scale contains 7 notes. I personally am trying to learn them all and have decided NOT to try and learn 'patterns' but to learn note numbers (so for me, if i play the A minor chord/arpeggio in this example I actually think notes('six, eight, two') instead of ('one, flat3rd, five'). It's a method I came up with myself as self-taught which some might find objectionable, but I find it means I mostly know what I'm doing and if I wonder what chord I can switch to, I know immediately: for example, if I'm on tone ('five'), I know I can play a major chord/major7th. Hope that makes sense to you guys who are looking for a way to learn modes, I'm still only part of the way there but (oOOOH! WHat shall we ca11 it!!2) The Axedamn Method seems to work. Of course it's anathema for the classically-trained since it doesn't mean you know any of the note names (although, if you have some basic theory and, say you're playing C major, know that's your ('1'), feel free to switch to open chords any time you want, you know the chords in C major don't you And the same goes for the other modes, it will come with time, at least I hope so
    I like how you built modes off of pentatonic shapes, but it really seems to over complicate the concept. If you just learn the basic major scale pattern it's all about how you use it and what you treat as the root note.
    i mean i only know sum blues scales and al the minor pentatonics and im bored of them lol
    wow i didnt even know there were different positions for the pentatonic scales.. wowow... can u switch between those positions any time in a song??? anybody??
    santelmo... if you still need it, go look at my lesson on blues pentatonic, and use that. top one in the lessons part. Then, you can understand this totally AWSESOME lesson. you rock, man. I was wondering when the hell I was gonna be able to use modes in a way I could understand. ***..
    This is a good article but not for someone who doesn't understand modes. If you want to learn what modes are talk to your guitar teacher or look it up on the net or this site. They're pretty easy to understand. sorry if i'm stating the obvious but i hope ive helped
    Tara wrote: people aren't dumb just because they don't know these things, i mean i don't know it, you may call me dumb but i've only been playing guitar for 2 years
    if you've been playing for 2 years and haven never heard of pentatonics or modes you must live with blinders on.
    fellas, i thought right... i thought modes were part of the A minor's got modes right... well then y da fak are the modes wit notes outside the key mate? THat would mean the minor scale has chromatic intervals mate, like ST-ST-ST-ST...doesnt make sense mate... give me a buz @ and tell me y u use notes outside da key mate
    Newbie Rocker
    Yeah this is the second article I have read about modes and I have no clue about what is going on, dogballs I believe that you are not alone in your cluelessness
    i usually stay up late, sitting infront of my computer with my guitar, playing tabs like i'm jerking of to jenna jameson.
    i dont quite get the whole "7 modes, 49 patterns" deal. it's only 7 patterns.... shift them between keys. anywho, learning patterns and basing all of your playing off of patterns is a bad way to go about things in music. oh, and.... spam deleted.
    could someone explain why there are letters instead of numbers on the tabs for the scales...ive never really seen nething like this beofre
    Brink Hyren
    dogsballs, to answer your question, no offense, but yes, you are. 5 stars. Really helpful.
    Dude i'd just like to know what the hell you are even talking about. ive never heard of a pentagon mode, ive never even heard of a mode. Am i the dumbest person at
    great way to set those up, I would like to see the same lesson with all five pentatonic pattern with each mode applied though, that would have been one of the best lessons on the site