Modes - where are they? 

This tutorial provides a systematic and simple approach to learning to play modes / modal scales / modal styles on guitar, complete with free backing tracks to jam with and practice, whilst you explore modes on your guitar.

The following video covers what modes are and why you might need them. It shows you how to locate the various modal box positions and includes tips for how to relate to them and how to identify the small differences between each of them. I strongly recommend that you watch it with your guitar in hand, ready to pause it whilst relating what you are learning to your instrument....You need to create the knowledge for yourself.

The remainder of the tutorial has diagrams of each mode, including where they are located in relationship to each other. There are also free backing tracks to practice each mode along with.



Fig one and Fig two, below, show an 18 fret length of guitar neck along the middle, with box positions for the seven modes above and below.

This is so that you can see how the modes relate to each other. You can also click here to download a pdf file showing modal boxes, for printing out.

 
Fig one


Fig two
Here are some tips for taking a systematic approach to becoming familiar with playing modes:

1) Learn the Aolian mode - most of us know this scale as the natural minor scale.

Play it until you're completely familiar with it. Practice it over my Rock Anthem (Am) backing track, from the 5th fret. The track can be played from my site-wide player at the base of this page. Simply use the skip buttons to locate it.



2) Learn the Dorian mode.

Notice that there is only one note difference between the Aolian and Dorian modes. Draw the two as box positions so that you know how to play this small difference. Practice over the following backing track in the key of Am, from the 5th fret.




 

3) Learn the Phrygian mode.

Notice that there is only one note difference between the Aolian and Phrygian modes. Draw the two as box positions so that you know how to play this small difference.

and practice over the below backing track in the key of Am, from the 5th fret..


 


4) Play the Ionian mode and you'll realise you probably know it already - the major scale.

Practice the Ionian position, as shown here, over the following backing track in the key of A.

 


5) Learn the Mixolydian mode.

Practice over the below A7 riff.

Notice that there is only one note difference between the Ionian and Mixolydian modes. Draw the two as box positions so that you know how to play this small difference.





Don't bother with the Lydian or Locrian modes unless you want to be a guitar teacher (or you are into the likes of Frank Zappa and Steve Vai!)

...........alternatively, simply search YouTube, as there are now a plethora of good quality backing tracks uploaded.

Practice each mode in a single key (parallel approach), then play all the modes derived from a single major scale (derivative approach) - For example G Ionian, A Dorian, B Phrygian, C Lydian, D Mixolydian, E Aolian and F# Locrian.

You'll find many suitable backing tracks on my Backing Tracks page.

To truly master it, I encourage you to teach someone else the modal system :)
 
Related posts:
The dorian mode
Introduction to the harmonic minor scale
Introduction to major blues soloing
Diminished for dummies

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