The 2 ways to using guitar scales and modes

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The reason behind learning guitar scales and all modes for guitar is of course to use them. Guitar scales in western music are played along with triads or "Chords", this process is called harmony, so what is harmony anyway?

Harmony is anything that's played along with a melody, in other words, harmony is "melody + chord". When we harmonize the major scale for example, we get 7 different chords from it in this order: MAJ - MIN - MIN - MAJ - MAJ - MIN - DIM, so if it's the C major scale, we get: CMAJ - DMIN - EMIN - FMAJ - GMAJ - AMIN - BDIM.

The most common scales that guitarists use are: The major scale and its modes, the minor scales (natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor), pentatonic guitar scales (major and minor) and blues guitar scales.

The most common way for beginners when improvising or soloing over a specific chord progression is to play one scale over all the chord progression, the key to find the scale is to find what chord this chord progression resolves to, if you discover this chord you can play the most appropriate mode or scale to it.

Note: This method is only if you're just starting and the only reason that makes great guitarists use it is with rapid chord changes.

The second and the more professional way is to play 1 scale or mode per chord, this means when the chord changes in a chord progression you have to play the corresponding scale to it (if you have 4 chords in a chord progression you have to play 4 different modes or scales).

The combination:

To make your playing perfect you have to use both of them, because sometimes you come across a fast chord change in chord progression, so you have to use the first one.

Modes for guitar: The Locrian mode (the 7th and the last mode)

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The Locrian mode is the 7th and the last mode of the major scale, it is based on the 7th note of any major scale and it's the less used among all modes for guitar. This mode has a very dissonant sound because it has a lot of flats in it. The interval structure of the Locrian mode is: 1 - b2 - b3 - 4 - b5 (diminished 5th) - b6 - b7.

The Locrian mode is considered as a minor mode or scale because it has the b3 note in it and it is used in some heavy metal songs. Because it doesn't have a perfect fifth that gives the scale stability, it's very hard to use it alone so most musicians use it with the Phrygian mode. If you want to know what is the major scale of the Locrian mode you're playing you just have to go 1 half step forward and that's it!

The whole and half steps formula of the Locrian mode is: H - Wh - Wh - H - Wh - Wh - Wh.

You can play the Locrian mode especially over m7b5 chords because it's the triad that contains the most notes of that scale, unfortunately you will not be using that chord much.

Major scale   G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G

The seventh and last mode (Locrian mode), we begin with the seventh and the last note of the G major scale F#

E---------------------------------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------------------
D------------------------------------------------14---16-----
A----------------------------14---15---17------------------
E---------14---15---17-------------------------------------

Now you have a clear picture of the modes of the major scale and their use, while they have the same notes of the major scale, they sound very different, because what makes the difference is the order of the notes not the notes themselves.

A small advice from me:

I advice you to learn and apply these modes (when and how to play them all over the neck) and not only playing one octave. Learning guitar scales is the secret to understanding the theory, so by the time you've learned some scales and all modes for guitar, you'll be able to write your own songs in a specific key that will blow your friends or audience's minds.


See also: All Modes For Guitar

1- The Ionian mode "The major scale" (The first mode).
2- The Dorian mode (The 2nd mode).
3- The Phrygian mode (The 3rd mode).
4- The Lydian mode (The 4th mode).
5- The Mixolydian mode (The 5th mode).
6- The Aeolian mode "The natural minor scale" (The 6th mode).
7- The Locrian mode (The 7th mode).
 

Modes for guitar: The Aeolian mode "Natural minor" (the 6th mode)

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The Aeolian mode or the natural minor scale is the 6th mode of the major scale, it is based on the 6th note of the major scale, as its name refers to, the Aeolian mode is a minor mode and has 3 differences with the major scale: b3, b6, b7. The interval structure of the Aeolian mode (the natural minor scale) will be: 1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - b6 - b7.

In music the 6th note of the major scales is considered the relative minor of that major scale, so if you want to know what is the relative major of the natural minor scale you're playing you have to go 1 whole step and 1 half step forward (3 half steps), or 4 whole steps and 1 half step (9 half steps).

The whole and half steps formula of the Aeolian mode is (Wh - H - Wh - Wh - H - Wh - Wh).

Chords that you can play the Aeolian mode over them are: Minor chords, m7 and m9, because they have the b3 and b7 intervals. It is considered as the most minor mode of all modes for guitar. If you want to mix it up with minor pentatonic guitar scales, go ahead.

Major scale   G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G

The sixth mode (Aeolian mode or natural minor scale), we begin with the sixth note E

E---------------------------------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------------------
D------------------------------------------------12---14-----
A-----------------------------12---14---15-----------------
E----------12---14---15------------------------------------

The Aeolian mode is probably the most used mode among others, it has that dark minor sound that's used in almost every song, it's so important because we can harmonize it to obtain 7 chords in a minor key.

I personally use the Aeolian mode or the natural minor scale so much and i advice you to do the same by learning how and when to apply it when learning guitar scales.

See also: All Modes For Guitar


1- The Ionian mode "The major scale" (The first mode).
2- The Dorian mode (The 2nd mode).
3- The Phrygian mode (The 3rd mode).
4- The Lydian mode (The 4th mode).
5- The Mixolydian mode (The 5th mode).
6- The Aeolian mode "The natural minor scale" (The 6th mode).
7- The Locrian mode (The 7th mode).

Modes for guitar: The Mixolydian mode (the 5th mode)

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The Mixolydian mode is the 5th modes of the major scale, It is also considered a major mode or scale as the Lydian mode because it has one only difference with the major scale, which is the flatted 7th (b7). So the interval structure of the Mixolydian mode would be: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - b7.

Because it has only one different note with the major scale, it doesn't mean that they sound the same, the Mixolydian mode sounds very different from the major scale. From all modes for guitar, this particular scale is played over Dominant 7th, 9th and 13th chords because it has a b7 note in it.

The Mixolydian mode has this whole and half steps formula: Wh - Wh - H - Wh - Wh - H - Wh. If you want to know what is the major scale of the Mixolydian mode you are playing, just move back 1 half step and 3 whole steps (7 half steps).

Major scale   G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G

The fifth mode (Mixolydian mode), we begin with the fifth note D

E---------------------------------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------------------
D---------------------------------------9---10---12---------
A---------------------9---10---12---------------------------
E--------10---12---------------------------------------------

So with this D Mixolydian mode you can play a D7 chord. In general the Mixolydian mode is played along with the 5th chord of a specific key since its Root note is the 5th note of the major scale.

Once again, these modes for guitar will give you a better understanding of the theory, so make sure to understand and apply them properly when learning guitar scales, because they will help you with your solos and also when writing your own songs.

See also: All Modes For Guitar


1- The Ionian mode "The major scale" (The first mode).
2- The Dorian mode (The 2nd mode).
3- The Phrygian mode (The 3rd mode).
4- The Lydian mode (The 4th mode).
5- The Mixolydian mode (The 5th mode).
6- The Aeolian mode "The natural minor scale" (The 6th mode).
7- The Locrian mode (The 7th mode).

Modes for guitar: The Lydian mode (the 4th mode)

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The Lydian mode is the 4th  mode of the major scale, It is considered a major mode because it has only one difference with the major scale, which is the raised 4th (Flatted 5th). The interval structure of the Lydian mode is: 1 - 2 - 3 - #4 - 5 - 6 - 7.

The Lydian mode is probably the most close mode to the major scale (Ionian mode), from all the modes for guitar, it is played mostly along with Major 7th chords. The #4 note gives the mode a special flavor over Major 7th chords.

Note: We can play the full major scale (Ionian mode) over Major 7th chords too.

The whole and half step formula for the Lydian mode is: Wh - Wh - Wh - H - Wh - Wh - H. If you want to know what is the major scale of the Lydian mode you're playing, you have to move back 1 half step and 2 whole steps (5 half steps or semitones).

Major scale   G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G

The fourth mode (Lydian mode), we begin with the 4th note C

E---------------------------------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------------------
D-----------------------------------7---9---10---------------
A-------------------7---9---10-------------------------------
E--------8---10-----------------------------------------------

Modes for guitar are very important when learning the theory, they will help you in you solos, learning guitar scales is also important because it will give you a lot of choices when you become a songwriter.

See also: All Modes For Guitar


1- The Ionian mode "The major scale" (The first mode).
2- The Dorian mode (The 2nd mode).
3- The Phrygian mode (The 3rd mode).
4- The Lydian mode (The 4th mode).
5- The Mixolydian mode (The 5th mode).
6- The Aeolian mode "The natural minor scale" (The 6th mode).
7- The Locrian mode (The 7th mode).

Modes for guitar: The Phrygian Mode (the 3rd mode)

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Phrygian mode is the 3rd mode of any major scale, it is a very used mode especially in heavy metal, rock and even jazz. The Phrygian mode among all modes for guitar sounds very exotic and heavy and it's played in most cases along minor and minor 7th chords.

All modes for guitar are just variations of the major scale (The Ionian mode), so all you have to do is to learn and practice the major scale and each time you start from other notes than the first note to play all the modes for guitar.

The Phrygian mode is very unique among other modes, it begins with a half step interval, and here is the whole and half step formula for the Phrygian mode: (H - W - W - W - H - W - W). The Phrygian mode is the same as the Aeolian mode (natural minor scale) but with a b2nd. If you want to know what is the major scale of the Phrygian mode you are playing, you just move back 2 whole step or 4 half steps: If you are playing the B Phrygian mode, then its major scale is G major scale.


Major scale   G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G

The third mode (Phrygian mode), we begin the mode with the third note B

E---------------------------------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------------------
D-----------------------------------------7---9----------------
A-------------------------7---9---10-------------------------
E---------7---8---10-----------------------------------------

Learning guitar scales and modes is necessary if you want to be a better guitar player, modes for guitar are very important in music so you should learn them all and learn where they are used. With this knowledge and some tips for songwriting, you'll become a great songwriter.

See also: All Modes For Guitar


1- The Ionian mode "The major scale" (The first mode).
2- The Dorian mode (The 2nd mode).
3- The Phrygian mode (The 3rd mode).
4- The Lydian mode (The 4th mode).
5- The Mixolydian mode (The 5th mode).
6- The Aeolian mode "The natural minor scale" (The 6th mode).
7- The Locrian mode (The 7th mode).

Modes for guitar: The Dorian Mode (the 2nd mode)

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A lot or rock or blues fans when learning guitar scales and especially when learning modes for guitar, make their first mode that they want to learn "Dorian mode", that's because it's used a lot in this type of music. As we explained before, modes are just variations of the major scale, you just have to start from a different note rather then the root note.

The Dorian mode is the 2nd mode of the major scale after the Ionian mode (the major scale itself), so if you know how to play the major scale all over the guitar neck then you can play all the other modes. If you want to know what is the major scale of a specific Dorian mode you are playing, you just move back one whole step or two half steps: If you are playing the D Dorian mode, then its major scale is C major scale.

Dorian mode is most used in minor keys in addition to aeolian mode (natural minor scale), sometimes you can play it all over the chord progression, or just over 1 or 2 chords, it is also considered as a minor mode or scale so you can use it also with minor chords.

Dorian mode has these intervals: (1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - b7), with these intervals it appears that it combines the major and minor pentatonic guitar scales (it has all the notes in both of them). So when minor and major pentatonic guitar scales are used with a chord progression, you can use the Dorian mode as well. The Dorian mode of the G major scale is the A Dorian mode.

Major scale   G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G

Dorian mode  A - B - C - D - E - F# - G - A

The whole and half step formula of the Dorian mode is: wh-h-wh-wh-wh-h-wh

The second mode (Dorian mode), we begin with the second note A

E---------------------------------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------------------
D---------------------------------4---5---7-------------------
A------------------------5---7---------------------------------
E----------5---7---8------------------------------------------

Is you want to move to the next level of guitar playing you have to understand the modes for guitar when learning guitar scales, because they will make your playing very rich especially when you're writing your own songs.

See also: All Modes For Guitar


1- The Ionian mode "The major scale" (The first mode).
2- The Dorian mode (The 2nd mode).
3- The Phrygian mode (The 3rd mode).
4- The Lydian mode (The 4th mode).
5- The Mixolydian mode (The 5th mode).
6- The Aeolian mode "The natural minor scale" (The 6th mode).
7- The Locrian mode (The 7th mode).