Penta Modal Method Pt I

Hey... wuz up? I appreciate you stopping by Guitarz and checking out some of the killer lessons that I'm publishing. This lesson is a must for lead guitarist. My good friend and awesome guitar player Paul Tauterouff offered to cover this subject with my readers because he believes that learning these basic principles will help you the guitarist open your brain to new ideas, help increase your musical vocabulary, and to help you go where no man has gone before!


Penta-modal Method – Part I

Easy Modal Application for Lead Guitarists - Part I by Paul Tauterouff

Note: Prior knowledge of the five Minor Pentatonic box patterns and the 7 modal shapes is helpful for understanding this lesson, but not absolutely necessary.

Objective: To help guitarists already familiar with the pentatonic scale to learn and utilize the modes in their lead guitar playing.

As a guitarist, I am primarily self-taught and didn’t have any formal music theory training in the early stages of my playing. The first scales that I learned were the five positions or box patterns of the minor pentatonic scale. I wrote the diagrams out by hand, and would play (and draw) them constantly.

When I was first exposed to the seven modes of the major scale, I did the same thing; sketched the fretboard diagrams studied how the shapes fit together, etc.

Even after I had the modal shapes memorized, I was still having a difficult time actually applying them to my lead playing. Seven shapes just seemed like too many after becoming so accustomed to the five box patterns of the pentatonic scale.

Then I came up with an idea: What if I divided the modes of the major scale up into 5 scale chunks, based on the five Minor Pentatonic box patterns that I was already comfortable with? This way I would only have to add a couple of new notes to each of the 5 pentatonic boxes! For lack of a better name, I’ve decided to call this the Pental Modal idea.

To demonstrate, let’s work out an example for a scale which is commonly used in rock guitar lead playing - the 6th mode of the Major Scale, Aeolian mode (a.k.a. the Natural Minor scale). The following examples are in the key of A minor.

Here is our 1st Penta-modal shape, Aeolian Mode:

Aeolian Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 1 notes circled

We will skip Locrian, the mode which normally follows Aeolian, since its first note (B, low E string 7th fret) does not align with our A Minor Pentatonic scale box pattern.

This brings us to Penta-modal Pattern #2, Ionian Mode:

Note: Keep in mind that even though we may have skipped over the Locrian Mode, its notes are still available for us to use in our soloing via patterns 1 and 2, we just aren’t thinking of it as its own individual shape or box pattern.

Continuing in order, Pattern #3 consists of the Dorian shape:

Next is Pattern #4, which includes the Phrygian mode:

We will skip the mode that would normally follow Phrygian, (Lydian) because its first note does not align with the Minor Pentatonic scale box pattern in our A Aeolian-based example.

This brings us to our 5th and final pattern, using the Mixolydian mode:

Key Points:

1. Remember, we’re still playing all of the notes of the seven modes, we’ve just chosen to break them up into 5 box patterns – like our minor pentatonic scales.

2. The above patterns will also work for a C Ionian (Major) root, since it is the relative major of A Aeolian Mode.

3. Depending on which mode we choose to be our #1 (root) or parent scale, different modes may be skipped over. For example, if A Dorian minor was our #1 scale, we would skip Phrygian (at B, the 7th fret of the low E string) and Lydian would be our #2 shape, at the 8th fret (the C note).

4. This is a “quick-and-dirty” method for assimilating the modes into your playing. Once you become familiar with using these shapes, I highly recommend also working out and memorizing the three note-per-string patterns for the modes. Box patterns are great for breaking ideas into small, easily digestible pieces, but you don’t want to be limited by them either.

Thank you for reading my article. I hope it helps you to integrate the modes into your lead guitar playing. Happy soloing! If you have any questions or comments, or wish to inquire about guitar lessons, please contact me .


©2006 Paul Tauterouff All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

About Paul Tauterouff:

Paul Tauterouff is a professional guitarist/ guitar teacher currently residing and teaching in Binghamton, New York.


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