Learning Modes

author: gnomegod date: 03/25/2011 category: guitar scales and modes
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Modes tend to freak people out when they first see them or try to figure out how to apply them to the fretboard. I remember when I first started learning them in my college theory classes, it wasn't pretty. Yet, with much study and a basic understanding of how major/minor scales work, it became much easier through time and practice. There are 7 modes we use (not including the hypo-modes). They are as follows: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian There are multiple ways to memorize the order. The one I learned when I was in school was: I Dont Punch Like Muhammed A Li. You maybe able to think of your own variation and that's awesome!, as long as it helps you to memorize the order of the modes. Now that you know the mode names and have a catchy way to memorize them, let's take a look at what each mode is. Also note, learning how a major and minor scale work will help dramatically to learn these rather than just trying to catch the concept, but I will do my best to explain it to people who don't understand what major and minor scales are composed of. If you don't know a major scale there are 2 ways to learn fast: 1. If you know the keys of a keyboard, start on C and go on only white keys all the way to the next C. BAM! Ionian mode or major scale. If you don't know the keys of a keyboard or don't own a piano but own a guitar or bass, pick ANY FRET on the fretboard (Try to keep it towards the nut because you may run out of space!). Take that note, go up 2 frets or a "whole step"; from that note go up another whole step; from there go 1 fret or a "half step"' from there go a whole step; again a whole step; one more whole step; and lastly a half step. you Should be on the same note you started just an octave (12 frets) higher. If not, go back and make sure you counted correctly. it should be whole,whole,half,whole,whole,whole,half For a minor scale, use the same note you chose to start on for the major scale and I'm going to shorten a Whole step to just W and and a Half step to just H. Now the order is: W,H,W,W,H,W,H. This is called a natural minor scale. There are other minor scales out there but for this lesson, just worry about the natural minor for now. Each mode will have its own specifics such as lowered(b) 2nd or a raised(#) 6th. What these numbers mean are the different degrees of the scale. There are 8 notes in most traditional scales (major or minor) and you just count the notes till you hit the number it specifies and do what it says. And when you raise or lower a note, you are only going a half step. So if I started on C and it says to raise the 6th note (like Dorian mode), I look at the type of scale (major or minor) use the correct notes in the scale and do what the mode tells to do. C Dorian is a MINOR scale with a RAISED(#) 6th. So I start on C and continue in MINOR all the way up till I hit the specified notes. It looks like C, D, Eb, F, G, A(this note in C minor is Ab but the Dorian mode says to raise it because its the 6th note), Bb, C. And there ya go! Ionian is literally your regular major scale. If you know any major scale, that's one mode in the bank! Stepwise it looks like: WWHWWWH Dorian is the natural minor scale with a raised(#) 6th. WHWWWHW A famous song that uses the Dorian mode is "So What" By Miles Davis Phrygian is the natural minor scale with a lowered(b) 2nd. HWWWHWW Alot of metal songs employ phrygian or phrygian dominant. Example: Death - Lack of Comprehension Lydian is a major scale with a raised 4th. WWWHWWH A famous song using Lydian is the "Simpsons" intro music. Mixolydian is a major scale with a lowered 7th. WWHWWHW Alot of rock and pop use this mode Example: John Petrucci - Glasgow kiss. Aeolian is just a natural minor scale. WHWWHWH Locrian is the natural minor scale with a lowered 2nd and lowered 5th HWWHWWW The main riff of "Enter Sandman" is in Locrian but not the whole song. Modes takes time. You have to look at each mode independently. Play each mode starting on the same note (I'm using C) and listen to how each mode sounds. The ZYABLA^HUYABLAZYABLA^HUYABLA's should have either a W or H above them and sometimes the text doesn't work out right, so adjust accordingly. The reason I'm repeating what I've already stated is to put some actual notes to it all. Hope this helps
Ionian: Major Scale. WWHWWWH 
 w w h w w w h
Dorian: Minor scale, raised 6th. WHWWWHW
 w h  w w w h  w        
Phrygian: Minor scale,Lowered 2nd.HWWWHWW 
 h  w  w w h  w  w
Lydian: Major scale,raised 4th. WWWHWWH
 w w w  h w w h
Mixolydian: Major, lowered 7th. WWHWWHW
 w w h w w h  w
Aeolian: Natural Minor scale. WHWWHWH
 w h  w w h  w  h
Locrian: Minor,lowered 2nd,5th.HWWHWWW
 h  w  w h  w  w  w
I really hope this helped out those who were having trouble with modes. It took me forever to type lol. Have any questions or suggestion or even corrections, just leave a comment and I'll try to respond ASAP. -gnomegod
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