Effective Tips to Play Modes on Guitar

One of the most confounding parts of guitar solo playing is the idea of scale modes. You’ll see some effective tips to play modes on guitar.

What Are Modes

Modes are different ways to organize the notes of a musical scale. The traditional way to use the major scale is to play the notes starting from the tonic C (in the case of C major).

The seven notes in the traditional C major scales are the following: C, D, E, F, G, A, B.

However, this is not the only way to use a scale. One can use the scale in a different way by shifting the tonic to a different note.

For example, if you shit the tonic to D, then you have a new scale using the same notes: D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

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The Secrets of Beginner Guitar Scales

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Names of Scales and Modes on Guitar

Because the major scale is so important, different modes of this scale were given special names:

  • The first mode is called Ionic, and is the same as the traditional major mode.
  • The second mode is called doric, and the tonic starts in the second note of the major scale.
  • The third mode is Phrygian, and it starts on the third note of the major scale.
  • The fourth mode is the Lydian, starting in the forth note of the major scale.
  • The fifth mode is the Mixolydian, and starts on the fifth node of the major scale.
  • The sixth mode is the Eolian, starting on the sixth note (this is the same as the natural minor).
  • And the last mode is the Locryan, which starts in the last not of the major scale.

Modes in Other Keys

We gave the example of modes using the C major scale, but notice that we can do the same in any key.

For example, in the E major key, the notes are E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#. You can create a dorian mode starting the scale on the second note (F#). The result is F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E.

To practice the construction of modes, you should practice all modes and all keys.

How to Play Modes on the Guitar

Guitar players are very lucky to play a symmetrical instrument (unlike the piano). This means that, when you learn any scale, you can just move it around the guitar neck and use the same pattern for other keys.

This applies to modes too. First of all, a mode contains the same notes as a major key, so you just need to find the major key related to that mode. For example, Eolian on the F key is the 6th degree of Ab. This mean that you just need to use the notes of Ab major, but starting on F. You can reuse all patterns you already learned for the major scale.

For practice, you need to play each of these combination of key and mode, and make sure that you’re comfortable.

Also Read:

Guitar Slide Techniques

Playing Blues Solos Like BB King

Video Lesson

If you want to get some more information about the topics covered above, I suggest the following video lesson that covers several aspects of modes for guitar.


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