Quick Tips for Learning the Modes Across the Fretboard with Chris Zoupa

Don't be scared of modes across strings and trying to memorise all of it. Here's a simple trick and pattern I use to hastily learn all diatonic scale patterns.

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A couple years back I was learning the modes across 6 strings. I went out of my way to learn all 7 of them and memorised them all as separate and non-interchangeable entities... However there were a few concepts and reoccurring themes I noticed when I studied it all more thoroughly. When getting around the fretboard using your standard diatonic scales and/or modes, it's important to remember that there's only 3 possible shapes for 3 notes per string scale patterns. Knowing this, and memorising the order that these shapes occur made modes and scales a lot easier for me. The 3 shapes used in diatonic scales: Shape 1 (M) Middle finger shape: Root, semi tone, full tone (Pointer, Middle, Pinky)
Shape 2 (R) Ring finger shape: Root, full tone, semi tone (Pointer, Ring, Pinky)
Shape 3 (S) Spread fingers shape: Root, full tone, full tone (Pointer, Spread Middle, Spread Pinky)
Here's the pattern I devised that shows the order relative to all modes. R R S S S M M R R S S S M M The pattern only works if you're ascending from the sixth string (low "E") to the first string (high "E"). If you wished to work from high to low in a descending manner then the pattern would be reversed. See below for the pattern for 6 String Modes ascending (In any key)
Ionian:     S S M M R R
Dorian:     R S S S M M
Phrygian:   M R R S S S
Lydian:     S M M R R S
Mixolydian: S S S M M R
Aeolian:    R R S S S M
Locrian:    M M R R S S
This formula also works if you start an ascending run from the 5th, 4th, 3rd and second string if you know roughly what key you're in. Check out this vid too:
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Hope this has helped guys! Please leave comments and any questions! By Chris Zoupa

21 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Thank you so much. I consider myself as a musically rather illiterate guitarist and now, after so many years of self-taught and constantly but slowly advancing playing I really appreciate teachers (like you are), who give out real answers and tools. You can't please all people though, but that's alright. Many of them might be just jealous, or fearing that you reveal "their" secrets, or thinking that someone should first pay a lot of money and listen to endless, confusing (and even unnecessary and wrong) information before being able to perform something they heard from a completely illiterate Spanish gypsy for example, haha!
    Your a great guitar player and an even better teacher. Thanks for taking the time to break down lessons and some of my favorite solos. My playing ability has doubled in two months from watching your videos and learning your methods. Thanks again Chris.
    This is dumb. (In my opinion) a proper way to teach them would be: Okay, you have your diatonic major scale aka Ionian. C D E F G A B C For example Lydian is #4 so you would get C D E F# G A B C Mixolydian is b7 so C D E F G A Bb Think of modes as modifications to your major/minor scales (which are also modes Ionian and Aeolian in themselves). Just google them and memorize how the modes differ in comparison to major/minor, then make the necessary alterations. I think that's a good way.
    Chris Zoupa
    That involves tackling each mode and it's characteristics individually which I'm all for. However this a short cut for understanding the patterns... But I can see how at a first glance it could look DUMB.
    Modes aren't patterns on the fretboard. Kinda disappointing considering how great you are at teaching songs.
    Chris Zoupa
    This isn't in depth modal usage. It's the ability to find different branches of scales so you can have relative shapes in every mode.
    I think I learnt this when it was called the CAGED method, didn't seem as complex however.
    I don't know what people are complaining about. Memorizing and then playing these patterns actually help me a lot in getting the feel of the modes and how they should sound like.
    Hi! thanx for the lesson ... last puzzle for me is how do I have to shift the frets in these patterns ... i dont see any logic, just memorize during practicing ? Ionian: S S M+1 M+1 R+2 R+2 Dorian: R S S S M+2 M+2 Phrygian: M R R S S+1 S+1 Lydian: S M+1 M+1 R+1 R+2 S+2 Mixolydian: S S S M+1 M+2 R+2 Aeolian: R R S S S+1 M+2 Locrian: M M R R S+1 S+1 is this even correct ?