Posted by Ian Mayes - Tagged
Guitar modes can confuse a lot of guitarists. This is generally because they do not understand their major scale properly. If you do not know your major scale well on guitar then check out my free blog lesson on the major scale here.
If you do know your major scale then below are a couple of exercises to help get you get started on the modes.
The thing to remember here is that we are seeing the modes as an inversion of the major scale. If you do not know what an inversion is, check out this free blog lesson on inversions here.
1) Learn the names of these modes off by heart.
Below is a list of the modes in the key of C. Next to each mode is the scale type, and a rhyme to help you learn the modes!
C Ionian (Major Scale) (I)
D Dorian (Minor Scale) (Don’t)
E Phrygian (Minor Scale) (Particularly)
F Lydian (Major Scale) (Like)
G Mixolydian (Dominant Scale) (Modes)
A Aeolian (Minor Scale) (A)
B Locrian (Half Dimished Scale) (Lot)
2) Play the modes within position one of your major scale.
Start in the key of C major, and play one octave of your C major scale, from the E string to the D string. Name the notes out loud as you do this (C D E F G A B C)
Next play the same scale position, but start from the next note in the scale, D. Play up to the D note in the next octave. Again say the notes out loud (D E F G A B C D) You are now playing the D Dorian mode!
Repeat this step for all the notes in the scale, always playing up one octave. You should finish by playing the second octave of C (D string) to the third octave of C (E string)
3) Put on a corresponding backing track for each mode, and play from each root note against the backing track. For example, if you play a D Dorian backing track, play from D to D. For an F Lydian backing track, play from F to F. The idea is to hear how these inversions of our C major scale sound against the different modal backing tracks.

This is a good first exercise for hearing the modes and starting to see how they work in relation to the major scale. There are many more exercises you can do for the modes, and a lot more in depth theory needed to fully unpick them and use them in context. You can find more of this information in Modes part 2. 

I am a guitar teacher based in Chichester, West Sussex. I offer guitar lessons to all ages and abilities.
Rock Guitar Lessons - Ian playing guitar


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