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Guitar Modes

Guitar Modes 4 Beginners - your composition or song writing talents will increase if you learn modal basics. This lesson will point you in the right direction but you must make the effort to carry thru and master Modes. Use some ideas presented here, or take it to the extreme like Satriani - his 1st albums were totally modal based. This lesson includes a free MP3 backing track and solo demo.

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Guitar Modes Please print this out to speed things up a bit. Understanding modes is like having an Instant Atmosphere Button at your disposal. This lesson deals mostly with solo-ing, but these ideas apply to any aspect of music.   

There are 7 modes. The Greeks discovered them over 2,000 years ago. Pythagorus named them and these 7 ancient tags have stuck. This is what he came up with:

  • 1  >   Ionian mode
  • 2  >  Dorian mode
  • 3  >  Phrygian mode
  • 4  >  Lydian mode
  • 5  >  Mixolydian mode
  • 6  >  Aeolien mode
  • 7  >  Locrian mode

Handy huh? Not! Here's how I remember them... I D P L M A L

I Don't Play Licks My Auntie Likes.

Each mode conjures up a different flavor, style or mood to the music.                                                       

For our example we'll use the same notes of a standard 2 Octave C Major Scale to solo with. This is also called C Ionian in modal speak. - Same notes different name.


Guitar Scale width=182 height=138

Oh, and this is equal to all the white notes on a piano, could come in handy elsewhere.

Yep, the old DO RE ME scale. Everybody knows it. This is the Mother Scale of conventional western music.

Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do   >>> Play

  • Guitar Lesson Study Tip For these guitar lessons and the whole site actually, it's best to keep your Media Player open and ready to go.

It's helps if we number the oul Doh, Re, Me... scale for a moment.

                                        1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1

Ex.1 C Major Scale example    C D E F G A B C

(don't worry it does gets more exciting).

As you can see above, The C Major scale starts on number #1, Doh!

Guitar Modes - 2nd Scale Sequence Tone

If we start and end on the next note (D) in the SAME Major scale sequence, which is also Re #2, it looks and sounds like this:


Guitar Diagram width=572 height=138

Re Me Fa So La Ti  Do   Re   >>> Play (2 Octave)

2   3    4    5    6  7    1   2

D   E    F    G   A  B    C   D

Starting and ending on a different number/note each time, produces a different mini-scale. Our first was C Ionian Mode and the second D Dorian Mode - Same note pattern, different root note and favour for each one. (The favour is a lot clearer on our upcoming demo).

You can then extend these mini-scales over the entire fretboard/keyboard. Here's our D Dorian "Carlos" Mood in full. Still all the white notes on the piano.


Guitar Scale width=572 height=138

Tip > Look for familiar Chord Constellations.

Here's the two chords and forms used in the example:






Guitar Chart Diagram width=198 height=161
       D Minor 7


Guitar Chart Diagram width=286 height=161



That second chord is called G slash D - a G chord with a D bass note. That's what's playing in our example. You can hear the D Dorian Scale/Mode first and then a  few ideas and the general feel of this sophisticated mode.

Guitar Lesson Special - Modes/Backing Track

So now you have a simplified and basic version of how to build a mode. Your next step is play 'em against some juicy chords, and get to know how they drive. This is the fun part of the guitar lesson.

We won't go into theory here but play your D-Dorian mode over the backing track and get a feel for it. I just want to give you the general idea...Ok let's start in D Dorian Mode.

"Switching to Dorian-Mode,Captain".. "Dam'it Spock, I'm a doctor not a Latino"... "Gentlemen, Please.."

Relax lads, remember it's just all those lovely little white notes ...a standard C major scale with a D root.

You'll hear on the sample, how the guitar and keyboards zones in on the D Root.

Guitarists, you could try dial in a heavy >>> "Carlos" Sound. Please check out our Guitar Effects and Pedals if you need a hand. Keyboards: Use an old electric piano sound and let them keys flyyyy - I like an Electric Rhodes type patch for this type of style. 

music note width=32 height=32 D Dorian Backing Track Don't forget to loop it in your media player, and practice and solo to your hearts content.

music note width=32 height=32 DorianBlue MP3 <<< Here's one I made earlier using the Dorian mode to solo.

After you've solo with them for a while, you'll get each unique modal-sound in your head. Eventually you'll be able to recognize them by sight and smell.

The best way to use the backing track effectively, and progress at a rapid rate, is to first print out the D Dorian Mode above, and start getting it into your head. Practice with and away from the guitar.

When your practising your guitar lessons away from your instrument, you could draw out little sections from memory and so on. Remember you will have to transpose it, so bear that in mind when selecting markers.

Guitar Lesson Special - Modes Roundup

So that's a quick look at Modal Madness and the doors it can open for you. Another handy, nay essential tool for the guitar player and musician.





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