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Modes Of The Major Scale For Guitar

Today's lesson will teach you all about modes! Modes can open up your sonic creativity and make you smarter than your step dad. Let's dive in!

Prerequisite reading:
Learn to play guitar scales for beginners.
How to play Major and minor Scales all over the neck.
Major and minor Scales modes.

What is a mode?

A mode of a scale uses the exact same notes of the parent scale. However the tonality focus is switched from the root of the parent to the mode! So for instance, if you are playing in A Major but make your tonality focus to that of F# you would be playing in a mode.

As you may have already seen in my lesson How to play Major and minor Scales all over the neck that F# minor shares the exact same notes as A Major. F# minor (natural minor) is actually a mode. It's mode name is Aeolian.

A mode for every degree of the scale

Every degree of the scale can be thought of as the root note of a mode. Each mode has a unique name.

The names are: (and using notes of A Major scale)
A Ionian = 1st scale degree.
B Dorian = 2nd scale degree.
C# Phrygian = 3rd scale degree.
D Lydian = 4th scale degree.
E Mixolydian = 5th scale degree.
F# Aeolian = 6th scale degree (same as minor).
G# Locrian = 7th scale degree.

Below is a handy animation that highlights the root of each mode while showing you how the notes stay the same.

modes of major scale for guitar

Restart animation (to save, right click image then select "save image as")

When to use modes

You never have to use a mode. However, using modes is just like switching to entirely different key but without using any different notes than you are already using. For example, If you are playing in the key of A Major for a song but you make the chords and other notes switch tonality focus to the B note...then you are playing in B Dorian. Purposefully doing this sort of thing can lead to some interesting as well as exotic sounding music. Try it!

In summary

Modes provide a way to enter an alternate tonality from within a parent key/scale. Modes allow you to be even more creative while painting a sonic picture. You can write songs that are modal or improvise awesome guitar solos using them. If you ever thought practicing your scales was boring, start experimenting with your pallet of modes to create something entirely new and exciting.

modes of the major scale for guitar

Posted August 13, 2015, 2:31 pm in: Guitar lessons Related tags: scales


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