Guitar Modes: Easy Theory, Chords & Licks For The Scale Challenged.
So you wanna learn your modes? Well you came to the right place!
In this lesson, we will go over some theory on how modes work, how to construct chords that will fit with the modes, and then we will tackle some licks that accentuate the important intervals in each mode.
Modes are just the intervals of a parent scale that have been re-arranged. If you know that a half step (H) is 1 fret on the guitar and a whole step (W) is 2 frets, you can see these patterns in any scale you play. The parent scale in the video is C major scale and its interval pattern is WWHWWWH. If you take that pattern and omit the first W, you get this: WHWWWHW, and we call that collection of intervals Dorian Mode. If you omit the first two WWs, you get HWWWHWW and that would garner you Phrygian mode.
There are 7 modes, the first being Ionian (also called major scale, the parent scale we are using for our examples today), then Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. I suggest you memorize the names of these modes and their interval structures:
Ionian – 1234567
Dorian – 12b3456b7
Phrygian – 1b2b345b6b7
Lydian – 123#4567
Mixolydian – 123456b7
Aeolian – 12b345b6b7
Locrian – 1b2b34b5b6b7
I have provided the parent scale in the key of C major in a single position along with 4 other modes in the same position (see PDF below).
The next step to learning these modes is to get them in your ears via playing over chord progressions that highlight the unique aspects of each mode. We will accomplish this via modal chord construction which is fairly simple. Take the IV and V chords of the parent scale/key and put the bass note (root) of whatever mode you want to play over in the bass and voila, modal chord progression.
Chords in C are as follows Cmaj, Dm, Em, Fmaj, Gmaj, Am, Bdim. If you use roman numerals, you would have Imaj, IIm, IIIm, IVmaj, Vmaj, VIm, and VIIdim. Why would you use roman numerals? Because this information is transferable to any major scale key, not just C. For example, in G, the chords would be Gmaj, Am, Bm, Cmaj, Dmaj, Em, and F#dim.
Anyway, the IV chord in the key of C is Fmajor and the V chord in the key of C is G major. If we wanted to hear a Dorian progression (D Dorian), we would simply put the D in the bass and make sure we use the Fmaj alternating with the G maj triads on top of that bass note (see PDF below).
Finally I have written 8 licks for you, 2 in each mode. Learn these licks and play over the chord progressions I have demonstrated for you. Write some of your own and memorize them, and most importantly, have fun!