A Great Way To Improve Your Scale And Modal Playing

I have devised a great way to improve your scale and modal learning. Plus adding a bit of randomness to it too.

A Great Way To Improve Your Scale And Modal Playing
0
If you are anything like me, then you find scales and modes a bit of a chore. Well that is a bit of an understatement actually, it's downright horrific. Sitting their hour after hour playing through the G major scales up and down, up and down etc. Well I have devised an almost fool proof way to practice scales and modes without the boredom involved. It is actually extremely simple, and almost childlike in its application. It enables you to practice scales in all positions on the fretboard, in every key and using every mode. It will also drastically improve your improvisation skills as well. Firstly, write out the 7 modes on a piece of paper, 5 times each. So write out:
  • Ionian
  • Dorian
  • Phrygian
  • Lydian
  • Mixolydian
  • Aeolian
  • Locrian 5 times each and then on another piece of paper write out the 12 notes:
  • A
  • A#
  • B
  • C
  • C#
  • D
  • D#
  • E
  • F
  • F#
  • G
  • G# Again 5 times per note. Then simply cut them all out and put the mode names in 1 pot and the notes in another pot. Then you mix them up and draw one from each pot. So you randomly pick out for example. G# and Lydian. So what you will then do is start on the 4th fret 6th string and play the G# Lydian mode up and down the strings. So simple isn't it? You do this for say 20 minutes and when you have gone through the modes at least several times each, put them away for another day. Once you have committed the modes to memory and are comfortable playing whatever mode in any key wherever on the fretboard you need to. Then you can start progressing to the next stage. The next stage is to do the same as before, pick out a note and a mode but this time you play through the mode immediately before, and immediately after. For example. Say you pick out A Dorian, which starts on the 5th fret 6th string. You play that up and down but also play the mode before that, which would be G Ionian which starts on the 3rd fret 6th string. And the mode immediately after A Dorian, which is B Phrygian which starts on the 7th fret 6th string. (If you notice these are the first 3 notes/modes of the G major scale). Once you do this, just try improvising between these three modes fore a few minutes. Do this for whatever note and mode you pick out the pot and within a couple of weeks your modal knowledge will be better than 95% of guitarists.
  • 20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    comments policy
      gl.tch
      valennic wrote: Playing through the modes like that isn't modal playing. You're playing major and minor scales. Why are there so many articles on modes that just shit all over modal theory?
      Ignorance.
      valennic
      Playing through the modes like that isn't modal playing. You're playing major and minor scales. Why are there so many articles on modes that just shit all over modal theory?
      Minivirus2
      An interesting take on practicing modes/scales, but I think the vast majority of people practice them to learn the actual mode/scale. A lot of beginners will spend so much time looking up the scale forms and positions, that they'll likely be put off from completing the entire "game"(for lack of a better word). I could see this being used more as an improvisation tool for someone who already knows the modes/scales back and forth and just wants to challenge themself by playing in a different key/mode than they're use to.
      carlosferrao
      A Dorian mode would start on open E surely? Modes don't start or end anywhere, they're just groups of notes w/ different functions relating to that mode. A better way to practice in my opinion is to either: - start on the lowest note possible (no open strings is my personal taste) of the mode and just play all the way up to say the 12th fret or even beyond using whatever is comfortable for you (I use CAGED so in effect I'm always playing the relative Ionian but it works) - restrict yourself to a single position on the neck and play all the modes as they come up. OP uses a random system, I just go through the cycle of fourths but both works. I think the latter method is more useful for actual playing.
      carlosferrao
      Thanks Hydra. Using this random method that OP describes, you could do a simple exercise with a looper. Say if A Dorian comes up, put an Am7 chord/arpeggio on the looper, and then start on the lowest A Dorian note and play all the way down the neck. Slowly, and paying attention to the relationship between chord and scale notes. I practiced this wrong at first, so I'd know all the notes but I couldn't for instance find all the b7s if I wanted. Ears and fingers, they have to work together.
      onebetter
      CONTEXT. Modes need CONTEXT or else they function just like an unresolved major scale. They don't work like the pentatonic scale, you can't just learn the box shape and head off to the races. Like CarlosFerrao said, the important part of modes is the ALTERED TONES. To really understand them, you need to know what those are, where they occur, and what function they serve. Like the major 6 in Dorian, giving us a IV chord instead of a iv. A better exercise involves LISTENING and ANALYSIS. Wrote memorization will not help your modal playing.
      rockgodman
      Although the A dorian mode does not start on the 5th fret 6th string, it starts wherever there is an A. Also you aren't improvising between the modes if you're by yourself and you are playing between shapes of G major, thats just playing G major. Modes are not specific shapes as this article almost blatantly says, although shapes make it easier to start learning.
      Hydra150
      Hey, shredder1980, do you know what the word modal means? Do you know the difference between a 'mode' and a 'shape/position of the major scale'? I don't doubt you do, but your article does not display that, and will only send theory noobs further down a path of misinformation. This part in particular has me worried; [quote=]shredder1980 wrote: You play that up and down but also play the mode before that, which would be G Ionian which starts on the 3rd fret 6th string. And the mode immediately after A Dorian, which is B Phrygian which starts on the 7th fret 6th string. (If you notice these are the first 3 notes/modes of the G major scale).[/quote] You haven't played the A Dorian and B Phrygian modes, you have played the G major scale. Or rather you have played the notes of the G major/E minor scale without any context. This is not the way to practice modes (your article implies that it is important to practice modes in the first place, but that is a different matter). The mode you play has nothing to do with the note you happen to play first, or place your first finger on in whatever box pattern you confine yourself to. CarlosFerrao is correct.
      rockgodman
      The mode you play has nothing to do with the note you happen to play first, or place your first finger on in whatever box pattern you confine yourself to.
      Modes are defined by the intervals from the root. If you are playing without another instrument or pedal tone to give harmony, then a melody in a mode is likely to be defined (if it must be defined) by the ending note or possibly mi do or so do type cadence. But you are right, technically defining a mode has nothing to do with what box you are in.
      Hemisfears
      Can someone tell me if i can use the accidentals of a mode in my playing to just give it a hint of modal play? I know that when i flat the 6th and 7th in a minor scale that it is very recognizably in the melodic minor scale (but still resolving to the root), I was wondering that if i sharp the 4th, whether it would give it a vaguely (and valid) lydian tonality
      Hydra150
      You can use any note in any key. In the key of A minor it is perfectly fine, just as valid, to use the major 6th (F#), if that is the sound you want to create. There is no need to explain this as being in any way 'Dorian', that is just complicating things with irrelevant names. Keys =/= Scales. The key is where it resolves, defined by the chords, nothing more. I'll say again, you can use any note/accidental in a major key, you can use any note/accidental in a minor key, and there is no need to complicate things with the names of ancient Greek kingdoms. Using an accidental does not give a hint of modal play, it indicates tonal play. With modality, you have restrictions - with tonality you have the freedom to use whatever notes and create whatever sounds you want.
      rockslide86
      in the natural minor you already have a flat 6 and flat 7, i believe you meant that if you naturalise the 6th and 7th degree in a minor scale then you get a melodic minor tendancy
      Fred18
      Hydra you are the most correct. modal playing is based upon the interval. Does not matter the scale or position or word value givin to scale. if you are playing in key of A minor and want to keep the aeolian modal tone, you would place you emphasis on a number of factors: 1=Am is composed of notes A, C, and E, C being your differential in major to minor 2=minor intervallic structure of minor to major tonality which is also present in your Dm, Em, and Bm of this key. All would work to keep modal tone. 3=if u change key u would keep same rule, example: if switched keys you would transition through the common tones to new key then settle back on your minor to major modal tones. Thank you all, a fun topic.
      shredder1980
      It's interesting to see the comments and I think I may have been misunderstood. This wasn't created as a definitive guide or for people with current modal knowledge. It is primarily for beginners who have trouble memorising and linking box shapes together. One of the major troubles of learning scales is you can be caught out if someone wants you to play a different scale than what you are used to, especially in a different area of the neck. This method just helps your linking and positional play. We have no trouble playing 3 notes per string up and down the strings out of context as it is simply an exercise. Just as this is. Once you are comfortable being able to move shapes around the neck, then you can progress to 'hearing' the modes and learning how to use them over chords etc.
      shredder1980
      The scale is comprised of different modal positions/boxes. Yes it is only a snippet but that's how I first learned what modes were and the intervals.