Guitar Modes – 6 Modes Explained

Guitar Modes

The Dorian Mode

The Dorian mode is the second of the modes. That means you have to start at the second note in the Major scale to play it. If you are not sure about the five Major scale forms, you should put it into your fingers.

The five major scale forms. Black dots are roots.

              

The Dorian mode sounds brighter that it’s Major and minor counterpart. Comparing a D Dorian to it’s major and minor we see the difference.

D Dorian

D_Dorian_Scale.jpg

D Major

D_Major_Scale.jpg

D Minor

D_minor_Scale.jpg

Compared to the D Major we see that the Dorian has a b3 and b7. Compared to the minor the only difference is the Major 6th in the Dorian. Comparing the sound of the three scales we hear that the Dorian sound brighter than it’s minor and Major counterparts.

How to Practice the Dorian

1. A good way to start is to use a pedal note or a chord. Record a D minor 7 chord vamp and play the D Dorian scale over it. This will familiarize you with it’s sounds.

2. Record some chord changes like D min7, G7 or G9, D min7, G7 or G9. Play over them and take special notice of the chord notes root, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9ths.You should know when playing them and they also make a good starting/ending point for a solo/melody.

3. Transpose everything to a new key and play again.

Remember: The modes only sound modal when you are playing them over the correct mode. A modal scale does little or nothing on it’s own.

The Aeolian Mode

The Aeolian mode is the sixth mode of the major scale. To play the Aeolian you start on the sixth of the major scale.

Before you go on you should make sure you have the major scale form under your belt, here it is again.

              

For the purpose of review, here are the modes of the major scale.

1. Ionian mode (the major scale)
2. Dorian mode
3. Phrygian mode
4. Lydian mode
5. Mixolydian mode
6. Aeolian mode (the natural minor scale)
7. Locrian mode

Here is the conversion table to find out what major scale to play to what modes and their chords.

Keyioniandorianphrygianlydianmixolydianaeolianlocrian
CCDEFGAB
GGABCDEF#
DDEF#GABC#
AA BC#DEF#G#
EEF#G#ABC#D#
BBC#D#EF#G#A#
F#F#G#A#BC#D#E#
C#C#D#E#F#G#A#B#
CbCbDbEbFbGbAbBb
GbGbAbBbCbDbEbF
DbDbEbFGbAbBbC
AbAbBbCDbEbFG
EbEbFGAbBbCD
BbBbCDEbFGA
FFGABbCDE
 maj7min7min7maj77min7min7b5

The Lydian Mode

The Lydian is the second major scale mode after Ionian, its tonic chord is a major triad.. It starts on the forth note of the major scale or a perfect 4th from the root of the major scale. Modern usage of the Lydian mode is often implied by certain chord spellings. For example, the chords D/C or Cmaj7#11 imply a C Lydian harmony. (D/C7 or C7#11 would both imply the Lydian dominant scale, which is the same as Lydian but with a b7th note).

Before you go on you should make sure you have the major scale form under your belt, here it is again.

              

For the purpose of review, here are the modes of the major scale.

1. Ionian mode (the major scale)
2. Dorian mode
3. Phrygian mode
4. Lydian mode
5. Mixolydian mode
6. Aeolian mode (the natural minor scale)
7. Locrian mode

Here is the conversion table to find out what major scale to play to what modes and their chords.

Keyioniandorianphrygianlydianmixolydianaeolianlocrian
CCDEFGAB
GGABCDEF#
DDEF#GABC#
AA BC#DEF#G#
EEF#G#ABC#D#
BBC#D#EF#G#A#
F#F#G#A#BC#D#E#
C#C#D#E#F#G#A#B#
CbCbDbEbFbGbAbBb
GbGbAbBbCbDbEbF
DbDbEbFGbAbBbC
AbAbBbCDbEbFG
EbEbFGAbBbCD
BbBbCDEbFGA
FFGABbCDE
 maj7min7min7maj77min7min7b5

The Lydian Mode

If we compare the F major and F Lydian scale we see the difference. It looks like a major scale with the exception of the raised 4th. The raised 4th gives the ear the sensation of momentum. Check out the F major 7 chord vamp at the end of this article, it should help you get your hands around the Lydian.

F Lydian

F_lydian_scale.jpg

F Major

F_Major_Scale.jpg

Lydian Chords: Here are the basic chords from the F Lydian, try to add the 7th, 9th and 11th your self.

F_lydian_chords.jpg
F_lydian_chords_boxes.jpg

The Mixolydian Mode

The mixolydian mode is the fifth mode of the major scale and is the only dominant mode of the major scale. To play the mixolydian you start on the fifth of the major scale.

Before you go on you should make sure you have the major scale form under your belt, here it is again.

              

For the purpose of review, here are the modes of the major scale.

1. Ionian mode (the major scale)
2. Dorian mode
3. Phrygian mode
4. Lydian mode
5. Mixolydian mode
6. Aeolian mode (the natural minor scale)
7. Locrian mode

Here is the conversion table to find out what major scale to play to what modes and their chords.

Keyioniandorianphrygianlydianmixolydianaeolianlocrian
CCDEFGAB
GGABCDEF#
DDEF#GABC#
AA BC#DEF#G#
EEF#G#ABC#D#
BBC#D#EF#G#A#
F#F#G#A#BC#D#E#
C#C#D#E#F#G#A#B#
CbCbDbEbFbGbAbBb
GbGbAbBbCbDbEbF
DbDbEbFGbAbBbC
AbAbBbCDbEbFG
EbEbFGAbBbCD
BbBbCDEbFGA
FFGABbCDE
 maj7min7min7maj77min7min7b5

Mixolydian

When comparing the G mixolydian to the G major scale, we see there is just one difference i.e. the minor seventh.

G Mixolydian

G_mixolydian.jpg

G Major

G_Major_Scale.jpg

Chords of the Mixolydian

G_mixolydian_chord_boxes.jpg
G_mixolydian_chords.jpg

The Phrygian Mode

The phrygian mode is dark and exotic sounding. The phrygian is the third mode and therefor starts on the third note of a major scale. If you use a C major scale as a basis for the mode you would start the scale on a E note. It can be tricky for some but the best way to get the sound of it in to your head is to play it over a E note or the E minor chord and get a feel for it’s structure.

Before you go on make sure you know the major scale form that I presented before, here it is again:

              

E Phrygian Mode

E_phrygian_scale.jpg

E Phrygian Chords

PhrygianChords_diagram.jpg
PhrygianChords.jpg

With the table below you can figure out what major scale to play for each mode and what chords the mode works over. In the case of E phrygia, you see that you have to play the C major scale form staring on the third note of E (E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E). You can also see what modes to play over particular chords. In the case of minor 7 chord, you can play phrygian, dorian and aeolian modes over it.

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