Using Modes To Compose Solos

This is a little lesson I made on modes. Just take a look at some of them and get a feel for what they sound like. They can really help with your solos.

6
A type of scale useful to know other than the major and minor variants is called the mode. There are seven types of modes in western playing, and you may be surprised to learn that modes pre-date the diatonic scales (major and minor), which didnt evolve until the 17th century. The modal system can be traced back to Ancient Greek times. During the middle ages, it was taken up by the christian church, where it dominated western music for several hundred years. Like diatonic scales, each of the seven modes comprises eight notes from root to octave. The notes used by all of the modes equate directly to the white notes of a piano keyboard- hence the notes of a C major scale. You may be wondering what practical use modes have for you. That's a resonable question. It's been asked countless times on here. Originally, the modes were veiwed as a fixed series of pitches and notes, not a set of relative intervals. Modern usage, however, has reinterpreted a mode merely as a scale with it's own set of intervals. Therefore, it is possible to transpose any of these modes into any key, creating seven new types of scales, each with it's own unique set of characteristics. After you play all of the modes I will tab, you should be able to recognise that the Ionian mode is in fact, the Major scale by another name. Also, the Aeolian mode uses the same set of intervals as the Natural Minor scale. If you've gotten familiar with other types of scale positions in your guitar playing carreer, but have never tried modes, you should have very little trouble getting to grips with the seven types of modes. Below this, you will see seven tabs. Each one shows the correct fret and string of the mode outlined above the staff. The intervals are typed under the specific mode. I've tabbed these all in the key of A.
The Ionian Mode in A:
E[----------------------------------------------------
B[----------------------------------------------------
G[----------------------------------------------------
D[--------------------4--6--7-------------------------
A[---------4--5--7------------------------------------
E[--5--7----------------------------------------------
Tone, Tone Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone

The Dorian Mode in A:
E[----------------------------------------------------
B[----------------------------------------------------
G[----------------------------2-----------------------
D[----------------2--4--5-----------------------------
A[-----2--3--5----------------------------------------
E[--5-------------------------------------------------
Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone

The Phrygian Mode in A:
E[----------------------------------------------------
B[----------------------------------------------------
G[----------------------------------------------------
D[------------------------5--7------------------------
A[-------------5--7--8--------------------------------
E[--5--6--8-------------------------------------------
Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone

The Lydian Mode in A:
E[----------------------------------------------------
B[----------------------------------------------------
G[----------------------------------------------------
D[---------------------4--6--7------------------------
A[----------4--6--7-----------------------------------
E[--5--7----------------------------------------------
Tone, Tone, Tone, Semtitone, Tone, Tone, Semitone

The Mixolydian Mode in A:
E[----------------------------------------------------
B[----------------------------------------------------
G[----------------------------2-----------------------
D[----------------2--4--5-----------------------------
A[-----2--4--5----------------------------------------
E[--5-------------------------------------------------
Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone

The Aeolian Mode in A:

E[----------------------------------------------------
B[----------------------------------------------------
G[----------------------------2-----------------------
D[-----------------2--3--5----------------------------
A[------2--3--5---------------------------------------
E[--5-------------------------------------------------
Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone

The Lochrian Mode in A:
E[----------------------------------------------------
B[----------------------------------------------------
G[----------------------------------------------------
D[-------------------------5--7-----------------------
A[--------------5--6--8-------------------------------
E[--5--6--8-------------------------------------------
Semitone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone

93 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Apology.
    Chavagnatze : Actually the notes for F major ar F G A bB C D E F
    A# and Bb are the same thing!!!
    dethhead
    Apology. wrote: Chavagnatze : Actually the notes for F major ar F G A bB C D E F A# and Bb are the same thing!!!
    He said A not A#...
    shred masta
    Can someone email me and help me with modes!? Im lost still like ino it helps your soloing, bassically i only use the harmonic minor and the pentatonic minor. Can someone add me on msn... adamlajoie660@hotmail.com
    speedinc
    You should re-name this lesson "modes for Dummies" (because you were able to teach me!!} I just wish that you put the three strings in there.. good job though!
    AssassinLoki090
    Apology. wrote: Chavagnatze : Actually the notes for F major ar F G A bB C D E F A# and Bb are the same thing!!!
    They are not the same thing. They are different notes, just enharmonic.
    brokenanthem
    OK lesson except for the first bit about the modes pre-dating major and minor scales. What's this? The majar and natural minor scales are both modes. For instance, a C Major scale is a C Ionian scale; they're one and the same. Just the same as an A minor scale is the same as an A Aeolian scale. And you didn't really define what a mode is. You put all of them in A (and you messed that up, they're not even all in the key of A but in several different keys), but you don't play a mode (unless it's Ionian-the Major scale) around the tonal center of the key you're in. For instance, if you're in C Major, you start on C for Ionian, D in Dorian, E in Phrygian, F in Lydian, G in Mixolydian, A for Aeolian, B for Locrian. The seven modes correspond to each degree in the Ionian mode or the Major scale. This lesson's good for people who understand the theory but are just looking for the fingerings. For people who don't understand theory though, it's just confusing. 2.5/5
    Riffrider666
    alright, so I already know my modes. But I thought this article shows you how to actually use them to compose solos. any help?
    tonefreak5
    this may help jumpstart you on modes but you cant solo in e phrygian over just any chord progression and have it sound good.
    neznam88
    These modes are all in A if i want to play them other note do i just change position or the whole pattern changes
    notsee
    Not to be a critic, but those are just basic modes for natural major and minor scales. . . . with slight alterations(I would assume you would know it to be everything other than Ionian and Aeolian) but yes, modes can be formed by any scale and encompass any scale. . . . you can take the melodic minor and create modes with it and you can do the same with harmonic minor and any other scale, just remember, think of it more as the chords found from the scale rather than just modes, it helps the formation of solos and such. . . . . but I guess it could help explain it for a beginner or something. . . I know this is an old post and I am bringing it up, but yeah. . . . I just got on here, I'm used to metaltabs
    RATicuZZ
    ah great! now I know all about modes but i forgot how to play guitar...
    Washburn_29
    deos anyone know a site or anothe lesson on here that shows all the modes in minor or major this would help lot thanks
    paulowther01
    ive found using a mode, like say the dorian, durin a pentatonic solo can really add some colour to your solos, try it over a bluesy song and ull find u can sound alot like Satriani and Vai. my favs are the dorian and mixolydian but some modes dont work so jus try em all out
    musiclover2399
    n0e wrote: oh, for example... Red House by Jimi Hendrix is in the key of B major, but he uses the B aeolian mode over it to give it the unique sound. He could have used g# blues scales, but that would have given it a different feel.
    i think that was a good example
    n0e
    oh, for example... Red House by Jimi Hendrix is in the key of B major, but he uses the B aeolian mode over it to give it the unique sound. He could have used g# blues scales, but that would have given it a different feel.
    n0e
    all he talked about was relative modes... each mode has a unique sound. yes e aeolian is the same as g ionian, but try using g aeolian over a gm7, gm9, gm11, or gm13 thats how you get the cool sounds from the mode. it won't sound out of key as long as you play the right mode over the right chords
    Glen'sHeroicAct
    man. this did not deserve the title it was given. why did they even accept it with that title??? the word solo isnt even IN THE LESSON! how can this possibly have anyting to do with composing solos.....
    Arycama
    It explains what modes are clearly, but the title of the lesson was "using modes to compose solos". The lesson didn't have anything about actually using the modes in your playing.
    Joshmv
    Oswald wrote: Sorry that I been talking shit about you before, Zamboni. I wonder why you did not tab the other 3 strings, the E,B and G. THat maybe is a stupid question but is it because of the octave intervals? So modes are just in one octave, or else I am really confused?
    Just to clear one thing. There are two octave modes... Here's the two octave E Locrian scale Easiest for me -----12----- -----13-15----- -----12-14-15----- --- --12-14-15----- -----12-13-15----- -12-13-15----- I hope the tab is right because I am not that great with tablature
    Peter Nanayon
    Wrong. The dorian mode should start at the 7th fret of lof E string which in key of A afaik. Whick is G
    gibsonite
    I have a question! In a progression in the key of C, do I have the option to play C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian, etc... or does it work like I can use C Ionian, C Dorian, C Phrygian, C Lydian, etc.? Basically are C Lydian and C Mixolydian, for example, in the same key? SO I have the option which one, In "C" to use? SOMEONE PLEASE HELP!
    Guitarguy127
    @gibsonite: C Lydian and C Mixolydian are not in the same key but C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian are. all the modes in the key of C contain the same notes and they are individualized by the degree, or which note of the C scale they begin on.
    omerfayyaz2001
    the thing is people often confuse the "usage" of modes with its parent scales or diatonic theory cuz most players explain it with the key of C major example. the problem is once one has a progression is in "1" key due to its number of chords or whatever then you can only play 1 scale over it no matter what mode you select in that scale. the usage of modes comes when you seperate the modes from its parent scales. i use it in 2 things.1) how i interpret a progression if it is left undefined e.g im just playing C & D power chords. ok both chords have 3rd note undefined(so u cant tell whether its a major or minor chord). now i can take the 2 as C ionian/D dorian & play that over the entire neck. Another person says ok i interpret that as C Dorian/D phrygian & plays that over the entire neck. ok hes sounding different than me. reason hes using another key cuz of the modes he selected . one says ok i interpret them as C lydian/D myxolydian. last one says C myxolydian/D aeolian. once you play all these ul recognize The feel that each mode gives & depending on what you want the audience to feel you can change ur key based on ur mode(since modes are more easy to remember than scales). This stuff is used in improvising and when ur composing. 2) when ur using the Pitch axis theory in practice then modes come in handy as well. Why? simple.since your constantly modulating from one key into another by just keeping the Tonic Note the same and using different chords of the tonic note so modes come into play. ur using different modes (not scale) of the same tonic key to make the listeners feel weird due to the constant key change. The key point is how to Think of Modes & scales as seperate beings instead of just one. once you have seperated both entities then ul realize the difference
    nrgze13
    If I am in the key of a mode, say C Dorian or Locrian or something, and I wanted to construct arpeggios from the notes of the scale (similar to how in C major you can use C major, d minor, e minor, F Major, G Major, a minor, and b diminished scales,) how would I go about taking the notes of the the aforementioned C Dorian or Locrian scale and basing arpeggios on them?
    kcanto
    so question - what's the benefit of conceptualizing modes vs. just playing a c major scale over all degrees in the key of c - for example, if I'm soloing over a c and i switch to dm i have trouble thinking"I'm now playing the dorian mode" and instead I think "i'm still playing the c maj scale" - any benefit of changing my thinking and if so any ideas on how to do so?
    demonized2k7
    hey please help me on modes... what if someone played these chords, a c# d... what mode shud i use?? A ionian, A dorian.... but how about when the chord changes to C# or D??? shud i change the scale to C# ionian for c chord, or D ionian for d chord??? or shud i just stick to "A" modes, since those notes (a,c#,d) are located in the "A" scale???
    bulger2503
    sential wrote: okay so something is in the key of say "a", so I start with a in my solo right? But Is it up to me which mode to choose, how do you know? Then I'm still having problems deciding which key a chord progression is in.
    You don't have to start on the root note. The easiest way, I found, when beginning with the Modes is to write a simple progression, so in C major C major E minor G major A minor Now if you were soloing over that progression: C Ionian, E Phrygian, G Mixolydian, and A Aeolian. So the mode matches the Chord. Or you could just staying in C Ionian or A Aeolian
    fagelamusgtr
    Thanks man. And i mean a lot. Before this lesson, I was completely screwed up about modes. Now i understand them, and think I can even apply them after just a little practice. This lesson was just what I was looking for.
    fleh
    Oswald wrote: Sorry that I been talking shit about you before, Zamboni. I wonder why you did not tab the other 3 strings, the E,B and G. THat maybe is a stupid question but is it because of the octave intervals? So modes are just in one octave, or else I am really confused?
    the siplest way that i find u can put it is that the modes are the same notes from a different starting position. Ifyou called the Aeolian mode (major scale) the 1st mode then that gives you 18 notes you can play that will be in key (well one octave but 3 per string) all the other modes are are shapes to let you play the SAME notes from different starting points. If course you need to know the order and where to start.eg the Gmaj scale starting at the 3rd fret on the E then you can move up to the 5th fret and play the dorian mode which will contain all the sme notes. If you learn the modes in order then all you do is change teh starting point and that gives you all the notes you can hit on the whole fretboard without going out of key.
    Chinchilla641
    i agree with Arycama It explains what modes are clearly, but the title of the lesson was "using modes to compose solos". The lesson didn't have anything about actually using the modes in your playing. anyways, i liked it. i didn't even know modes existed. this really helped and like you said, knowing scales helped a lot. good lesson, i got it down in no time.
    mattgab1
    brokenanthem wrote: OK lesson except for the first bit about the modes pre-dating major and minor scales. What's this? The majar [sic] and natural minor scales are both modes. For instance, a C Major scale is a C Ionian scale; they're one and the same.
    They are co-incidentally so, simple one. Each mode was first based on a Greek tetrachord, each named after different regions in Greece. At this time, there was no such think as a diatonic scale as we know it. If one applies the Ionian structure to a C note, one arrives at what we know as the C major scale (with no accidentals). If you apply the Aeolian structure to A, one arrives at the A minor natural scale (also with no accidentals). As time went on, modal music fell out of style in favor of a musical key which was based on a central triad (e.g., A-C-E) instead of a central tone. Bach's music is viewed as the most one can get out of modes. Do some research before spouting off as such.
    ScythePuppet
    "Using Modes to Compose Solos" I felt that this article was just an in-depth definition about modes and didn't really say anything about soloing. Sorry dude but this wasn't that good a lesson.
    bulger2503
    Oswald wrote: Sorry that I been talking shit about you before, Zamboni. I wonder why you did not tab the other 3 strings, the E,B and G. THat maybe is a stupid question but is it because of the octave intervals? So modes are just in one octave, or else I am really confused?
    All scales are an octave long so the A Aeolian scale is A B C D E F G A Then you repeat it if you want to cover all the strings.
    srvkicks@$$
    so you show us seven modes but only show 3 strings for each and you call it using modes to compose solos this lesson sucks @$$
    tinn
    I still a bit confused u know the song, Canon Rock (in D) by JerryC the song is actually in key of D but in the last chorus he uses D dorian in his solo isn't that right? if it's right. i think i get it then
    acousticflute
    come on guys use your heads, im a high school student and i think this makes perfect sense. good job zamboni, im a flautist as well as a guitarist and this lesson has helped my soloing on both instruments. good stuff
    acousticflute
    come on guys use your heads, im a year nine student and i understand this stuff. great lesson zamboni, im a flautist as well as a guitarist and this has helped my soloing on both instruments. good stuff
    james999
    can somebody give me a more in depth explanation as to what modes are and how to use them!