Modal Theory for Guitar Players



Guitar Tab

Modal Theory for Guitar Players - Part 2

Modal Theory for Guitar Players - Part 2
By Simon Duff

Playing the Modes

When I used to use this pack with students, I provided them with a CD which contained a backing track for each of the modes. This enabled them to practive getting the sounds and shapes under their fingers. In this version you will be provided with the harmonised scale for each mode, and from this you can construct your own grooves and backing tracks to do the same thing. I am assuming that you know, or can easily work out the names of the notes on the neck so the scale maps you will be presented are not anchored in any one place on the neck. Once you know where the root note is for each scale you can then move that note to suit whatever scale you want to play. Please note that some of the modes are for different scales, but this is only so that you don't learn everything in C, but do try to get used to using other root notes.

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The Ionian Mode
As we have already discussed, the Ionian mode is the major scale, so anything that you know about the major scale, you know about the Ionian mode. We have looked at the structure of the scale, which hopefully was familiar, and the next thing we’ll consider is what chords you can build on the major scale. I am going to assume that this is something you know and that it won’t come as a surprise that if we take the C Ionian scale, and build 7th chords on each scale degree, we will get the following chords

C Major 7
D Minor 7
E Minor 7
F Major 7
G Dominant 7
A Minor 7
B Minor 7 flat 5

These chords are constructed from the notes contained within the C Ionian scale, so the C Ionian will fit over any of these chords. Now, this is technically true, but as you will know from your playing, some notes work better than others, and for some people’s ears. You can also play the arpeggios of these chords.

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The Dorian Mode
As you will know from the previous discussion of theory, C Dorian differs from C Ionian by having the third and seventh of the scale flattened, thus, C Dorian consists of:

C D Eb F G A Bb

The seventh chords built upon these notes are as follows;

C Minor 7
D Mionr 7
Eb Major 7
F Dominant 7
G Minor 7
A Minor 7 flat 5
Bb Minor 7

To play something a little more familiar you can also use the C Minor pentatonic as this is using notes which are in the C Dorian scale, namely,

C, Eb, F, G, A, and Bb.

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The Phrygian Mode
You can use the previous theoretical discussion to work out how the G Phrygian differs from G Ionian. Just to recap, G Ionian consists of the notes G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#. The Phrygian mode differs from the Ionian by the second, third, sixth, and seventh degrees of the Ionian scale being flattened. So, G Phrygian consists of:

G Ab Bb C D Eb F

The seventh chords built upon these notes are as follows:

G Minor 7
Ab Major 7
Bb Dominant 7
C Minor 7
D Minor 7 flat 5
Eb Major 7
F Minor 7

Along with these you can interweave the arpeggios and the G Minor pentatonic is made up of notes from the G Phrygian scale, so you can use that too.

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The Lydian Mode
You should be able to work out how G Lydian will differ from G Ionian. Remember that the Lydian has a 4th degree which is sharpened, and the 4th degree of G Ionian is C, thus, G Lydian consists of the following notes.

G A B C# D E F#

The seventh chords built upon this scale are:

G Major 7
A Dominant 7
B Minor 7
C# Minor 7 flat 5
D Major 7
E Minor 7
F# Minor 7

You can also use the various arpeggios and the G Major pentatonic in this situation.

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The Mixolydian Mode
You should be able to work out how G Mixolydian will differ from G Ionian. Remember that the Mixolydian has a 7th degree which is flattened, and the 7th degree of G Ionian is F#, thus, G Mixolydian consists of the following notes.

G A B C D E F

The seventh chords built upon this scale are:

G Dominant 7
A Minor 7
B Minor 7 flat 5
C Major 7
D Minor 7
E Minor 7
F Major 7

You can also use the various arpeggios and the G Major pentatonic in this situation.

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The Aeolian Mode
You should be able to work out how B Aeolian will differ from B Ionian. Remember that the Aeolian has third, sixth and 7th degrees which are flattened, and the third, sixth and 7th degrees of B Ionian are D#, G#, and A# thus, B Aeolian consists of the following notes.

B C# D E F# G A

The seventh chords built upon this scale are:

B Minor 7
C# Minor 7 flat 5
D Major 7
E Minor 7
F# Minor 7
G Major 7
A Dominant 7

You can also use the various arpeggios and the B Minor pentatonic in this situation.

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The Locrian Mode
You should be able to work out how B Locrian will differ from B Ionian. Remember that the Locrian has third, sixth and 7th degrees which are flattened, and the second, third, fifth, sixth and 7th degrees of B Ionian are C#, D#, F#, G#, and A# thus, B Locrian consists of the following notes.

B C D E F G A

The Locrian is interesting because it is actually a half-diminished scale.

The seventh chords built upon this scale are:

B Minor 7 flat 5
C Major 7
D Minor 7
E Minor 7
F Major 7
G Dominant 7
A Minor 7

You can also use the various arpeggios and the G Major pentatonic in this situation.

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Epilogue
The study of the guitar is a lifetime’s work, and even then you won’t know everything, won’t be able to play everything, and still have skills that you could develop further. There’s nothing wrong with that as you don’t need to have a perfect understanding of anything to be able to be creative and skilled. Part of the enjoyment is the journey, the process of learning. Hopefully this handbook has provided you with the tools to start your exploration of the modes, and with the knowledge contained herein you can go off and build further tools which let you express yourself as you want to. Good luck.

Simon duff

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"A barre chord is created when you use one finger to fret more that one note at a time. For example your first finger may be required to barre across all six strings to help form a chord." - Riffmaster

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