Learning guitar scales: Modes of the major scale

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I'm sure that many of you have heard the word "Modes" before. "Modes of the major scale" is the most popular subject discussed by new guitarists, and most beginner guitarists are afraid of it because they think it's a very hard subject to learn, believe me it's not true, modes are very easy to learn and very important in learning guitar scales.

Modes are simple variation of the major scale. We know that the major scale have seven "7" notes in it, each note of these is associated with a mode of the major scale (seven modes).

These modes of the major scale appear always in the same order and have different "interval" structure that makes each mode very unique.

Basically, a mode is when we pick a major scale in a given key and start to play from other notes then the root note, conserving the structure of the major scale (WH, WH, H, WH, WH, WH, H), where the first whole step is always between the first note and the 2nd of the major scale (i know that this seems a little complicated, but you will understand it well when you continue reading).

Let's take the example of the C Major scale:

C -wh- D -wh- E -h- F -wh- G -wh- A -wh- B -h- C again.

wh: whole step.
h: half step

If we begin our scale from the second note "D" and continue the same order of notes without changing the structure of the whole and half steps, we get:

D -wh- E -h- F -wh- G -wh- A -wh- B -h- C -wh- D again

If we bagin with E we get:

E -h- F -wh- G -wh- A -wh- B -h- C -wh- D -wh- E again

And so on........

The seven modes of the major scale that represent the seven notes of it are: (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian), to memorize this i will give you a simple phrase where every beginning letter of the words in it represents a mode, this phrase is "I DON'T PARTICULARLY LIKE MODES A LOT"

I : Ionian (1st mode).

DON'T: Dorain (2nd mode).

PARTICULARLY: Phrygian (3rd mode).

LIKE: Lydian (4th mode).

MODES: Mixolydian (5th mode).

A: Aeolian (6th mode).

LOT: Locrian (7th mode).

in the key of C we get:

Ionian            C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C

Dorian               D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D

Phrygian                 E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E

Lydian                        F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F 

Mixolydian                     G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G   

Aeolian                              A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A

Locrian                                  B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B

The structure with the whole and half steps will be:

Ionian            wh-wh-h-wh-wh-wh-h-

Dorian                 wh-h-wh-wh-wh-h-wh

Phrygian                    h-wh-wh-wh-h-wh-wh

Lydian                           wh-wh-wh-h-whwh-h

Mixolydian                           wh-wh-h-wh-wh-h-wh

Aeolian                                      wh-h-wh-wh-h-wh-wh

Locrian                                            h-wh-wh-h-wh-wh-wh


1- The ionian mode is the same as the major scale because it represents the root note.

2- The aeolian mode is the same as the natural minor scale.

Learning guitar scales is a very accurate process, so make sure to learn scales gradually from the beginning, and when you master some level move to the next one.

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