Kamis, 13 September 2012

Guitar Modes - Basic Theory and Application

Earlier this month I was encouraged to write something about Guitar Modes and their application. There is so much to say when it comes to Guitar Modes that I could probably write an entire book on the subject. However, I have neither the time, nor the inclination for that right now. Instead, I will just try to cover some basic principles regarding how modes are related to playing the guitar.

Before going any further let me just say that it's important to have a good understanding of guitar scales and the Circle of Fifths if you really want to get a grip on guitar modes. So, I suggest learning as much as you can about these two areas first, especially if you have trouble following the information I provide in this article.


The 7 Guitar Modes of the Major Scale are:

1. Ionian

2. Dorian

3. Phrygian

4. Lydian

5. Mixolydian

6. Aeolian

7. Locrian

Each Guitar Mode is based on the corresponding degree of the Major Scale. For example, the degrees of the C Major are: C D E F G A B C

1st Degree = C = Ioninian Mode

2nd Degree = D = Dorian Mode

3rd Degree = E = Phrygian Mode

4th Degree = F = Lydian Mode

5th Degree = G = Mixolydian Mode

6th Degree = A = Aeolian Mode

7th Degree = B = Locrian Mode


Playing from the 2nd degree of the C Major Scale (which is D) through to the octave (which is also D) creates a D minor scale, referred to in this case as the Dorian Mode.

Tones > D E F G A B C D

The pattern of whole steps and half-steps > W 1/2 W W W 1/2 W

Here is how to play the Dorian Mode in first position on guitar...







The root of this 8 tone scale begins with D on the 4th string and ends with D on the 2nd string. However, the other strings can be played too if they contain any of the same tones.

Soloing over chords is a fun way to practice playing modes and scales. You can use the example above to practice soloing over the Am7 and Em7 chords.

The D Dorian Guitar Mode can be played in various other positions on the fretboard as well. Why not challenge yourself a little and see if you can play it up one octave from the D on the 5th string at the 5th fret to D on the 3rd string at the 7th fret.


To construct the E Phrygian Mode from a C Major Scale you would follow the same process explained above, except the mode would begin and end on the tone E. Simply repeat this process for each consecutive mode.


There are 12 Major Keys. The 7 modes of a given Key are constructed from the 7 degrees of the related Major Scale and share the same Key Signature as well.

I hope that makes sense... At least a little!

Kathy Unruh is the webmaster of AbcLearnGuitar. She has been providing guitar lessons to students of all ages for over 25 years.

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