Modal Thinking

Aug09

Last month I gave you guys an extensive study on intervals. A lot of people look at modes as if it were a big mystery, but they are really a fairly simple concept once you learn how to use them on guitar. There are seven tones to the major scale hence there are seven modes to the major scale. With the interval study I showed you last month how to make chords and scales. What you will do is take each note from the major scale and build a seven chord or triad over it. There is a formula for the harmonized major scale. This is the essence of modal thinking. For this study we will use the key of Cmaj. If you know the alphabet you will know C maj. A harmonized scale is the formation of triads or chords on each note of a scale so here is the chord pattern for a harmonized Cmaj scale.

Cmaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, Fmaj7, G7, Amin7, Bmin7b5

So the basic formula is maj7, min7, min7, maj7, 7, min7, min7b5. This works in every key. The harmonized scale is also what most composition is based off of. You will hear allot of jazz guys say that is a ii,v,i progression in C maj. What they are saying in essence is Dmin7, G7, Cmaj7. So that leads us to the modes of the major scale. In order to fully get the modes out you must have a chord or triad behind you. Otherwise you would simply be playing the scale. So here are the modes of the major scale.

Modes of the major scale

So as you can see it is a pretty simple concept. You simply take a note out of the major scale and play it as if that where the root. So if you start on C and end on C you are in C Ionian. Now to find your relative minor simply go down three scale degrees from your root or up five. The relative minor is the Aeolian, you can go down 3 frets on a guitar to find it. So the Relative minor of Cmaj is Amin. To find you relative major if you are in minor do the opposite. It also sounds really cool to play the major scale and it’s relative minor at the same time. This is called harmonizing. So really there is no mystery in modes or theory at all. The only reason why there is a so called mystery is because on guitar for some reason people start off learning songs and that is generally all they ever do is learn songs and copy licks instead of actually learning their instrument. If you follow my practice schedule and you study my columns I promise you will never need tablature as a crutch again. There are also modes to the harmonic and melodic minor scales. You can get a copy of these and more at the Guitar Grimoire book of scales and modes. It is a very extensive knowledge based book and I think that a law should be passed for every guitarist to own it. Now that you have the formula for modes try writing out the modes in every key. Also come up with as many progressions as possible, try a II, V, I, IV, VII, or a III, II, I, you can make up all kinds of progressions using modal thinking.

About Jimmy Hudson

Jimmy Hudson is the Head Guitar Instructor and Co-Founder of the American Guitar Institute. He spends most of his time studying music, recording, and creating new teaching concepts for the guitar. He has been teaching for almost ten years now and playing for well over fifteen. Jimmy has taught guitar on every level from private lessons in stores, studios, in clinics, on the web, and in school systems.

Comments [1]

  1. Very nice. Well put, and straight to the point.
    Tasty and informative
    Thank you
    M to the Dub

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