Guitar Modes and Scales

guitar-modes-and-scalesIn The Study of Theory,Guitar Modes and Scales Need Not Be That Difficult. Find That One Missing Element That Gets You Through This Quick!

Learning scales and modes is something all guitarists have to do at some point or the other as it is a great way to deepen one’s understanding of the guitar.

And just like notes and chords, scales and modes are fundamental building blocks of many a great tune. What? building blocks no way you say! For a moment lets be kids again and go take a look at some blocks we can play with.

Scales Are the Majority of Your Blocks

But what are these scales and modes? A scale is any sequence or group of notes with a start and an end. They are the organizing structure of any composition and have a tonal centre towards which the ear gravitates.

Traditionally, there are two main kinds of scales – the major scale (from where the modes come) and the minor scale, of which there are three (the Natural Minor Scale, the Harmonic Minor Scale and the Melodic Minor Scale).

Modes Have Far Less Blocks


A mode, on the other hand, is a type of scale derived from the major scale. So all modes come from a parent scale, which means that they all share the same notes. Despite this, however, each mode has a different sound quality.

How come you ask? Because the root note of each is different. So what actually define a mode’s sound are the notes it contains relative to the root note.

True, there are hundreds of different kinds of scale derivations, there are only seven modes. With origins in ancient Greek music (hence the Greek names of these modes are: Ionian,Dorian,Phrygian,Lydian,Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian) each mode has a different sound quality.

Guitar Lesson – Soloing – Scales and Modes

Modes Are Feelings of Your Blocks


While the Ionian and the Lydian modes are Happy Ones, the other four (Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian, and Locrian) are Sad Sounding. The Mixolydian mode, however, has a dominant bluesy tone.

And while modes may look like standard diatonic scales, their origins are different. For example, the Lydian mode, which looks a lot like the C major but is actually F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F rather than C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

This difference naturally means that C major is: whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half, while the Lydian mode is whole-whole-whole-half-whole-whole-half.

So why should you learn all these modes and scales? Because all our favorite genres of music like rock, pop, blues and country use scale patterns based on the pentatonic scale and the major scale. Practicing your scales daily will help you develop finger strength and dexterity.

As you might have well guessed, this does fall into Theory. And if you’re having a hard time connecting the dots, don’t worry it didn’t come easy to any of us. But before you hit up Youtube to solve this, see why I wouldn’t recommend  Free Music Theory Lessons Online.

Some Final Points

Learning your modes well will help you understand as well as improvise solos and help you write your own music. But most importantly, scales and modes are great fun once you learnguitar-modes-and-scales how to make music with them.

So, no matter what, talk to your Guitar Teacher, practice daily on your Guitar Modes and Scales.

And above all! don’t be afraid of making mistakes and trying new things or asking questions.

Question!  If you add a # to a Major, what do you get?

Sharing is Caring and please leave your answers and Comments below.


14 thoughts on “Guitar Modes and Scales

  1. Faye Constantino

    You’ve done an awesome job! I wish now that I had not given up my guitar because I could have finally learned to play from you. It was about 28 years ago, and I wanted to play and sing with my kids, just around the campfire, ya know? Anyway, well done and I love how your site isn’t just all about you. You link to other helpful sites and that is so important for people who are learning to play, or just learning more about music. I will definitely be back to check out your new stuff!

    1. Markus Post author

      Thank you Faye for stopping by. I’m sorry to hear that but you know what they say!
      Theres no better time then now to learn, with that said if you ever do want to play I’ll get you headed in the right direction.
      The complements are very welcomed I do try as music is very important to us as a society as a whole.
      It’s about the music for me, am just a simple guitar player. Playing simple six string music. Come back and see us.

      Thanks 🙂

  2. Vili

    As a fellow guitarist and music college graduate I can definitely verify that scales and modes are blocks that make up the foundation of music. I used to always describe it to my students as the backbone but blocks definitely work just as well. Each day I love learning about new modes especially none western modes. Me and scales on the other hand have never agreed. Thought they were a waste of time but in my later years have recognised the great importance they play in finding complete musical artistry.

    1. Markus Post author

      I know years ago when I was first introduced to modes I was like everyone else learning and practicing scales.
      Modes for that matter did put a different spin on the scales for me. Which in the long run helped with my playing.
      I was the opposite of you in that scales come easy and modes I had to force. But I finally got it.
      I have a few friends that love playing in those non western modes like:
      Hijaz Kar-C, Db, E, F, G, Ab,/ Nakriz-C, D, Eb, F#, G, A, Bb / Bayyati- D, E half-flat, F, G, A, Bb, C, D.
      Me I kinda like, Rast- C, D, E half-flat, F, G, A, B half-flat (up)-C, Bb, A, G, F, E half-flat, D, C (down)
      Learning them is one thing but to put them to a rhythm time sig. of 11/8-14/4-10/8-13/4. I like talking shop please stop back in.
      If your reading this now heres a link to Steve Vai working on such a time sig.

      Thanks 🙂

  3. Larry gove

    Thank you, Markus.
    Since I found your site I feel my knowledge and playing skills have got better.

    If you add a # to a major what do you get??

    When I look at the circle of fifths I’m guessing I’m using the 1-3-5.
    Minor: B,A,G

    It don’t look right, LOL!! Fun stuff!!


    1. Markus Post author

      Whats up Larry? Thanks for showing up again. Your funny lol, you get an Augmented. Ok so here it is I’ll give it my best shot.
      When your looking at the step in between any 2 tones (ref to as 1/2 steps). These half steps are called Intervals (the distance between 2 tones)
      Intervals are divided into 2 sets. 1 set is called the Majors. 1 set is called Perfects.
      Majors are: 2-3-6-7 Perfects are: 1-4-5-8. 1 would be like two guitars playing the same thing. 8 would be two guitars playing in octaves.
      By adding sharps or flats to these 2 intervals (Majors and Perfects) you change them to Minor, Diminished and Augmented.

      Look at it this way: Flat a Major get a Minor. Flat the Minor get a Diminished, Sharp a Major get an Augmented. Sharp a Perfect get an Augmented.
      Flat the Perfect get a Diminished. The whole set of your Majors and Perfects Intervals are what is called Diatonic Intervals.

      There you have it’s Augmented. So taking your Major chord of G to Augment that you would Sharp the 5. You would have G-B-#D
      The chord would be wrote out as G+ or Gaug or G(#5). The way you’d chord it would be: 1st finger 4th string 1st fret. 2nd finger 5th string 2nd fret.
      3rd finger 6th string 3rd fret. 4th finger 1st string 3rd fret = G Augmented.

      Hope you got this Larry 🙂 I’m not really good at teaching guitar as you can see.
      But I would suggest to you to go hook up with Tim Pierce he gives great guitar lessons free. He’s going to be highlighted on the next post.
      Or also check out Marty Schwartz as he does a real good job teaching and also has some free lessons available.
      I look forward to your next visit until then keep practicing.

      Thanks 🙂

  4. Adrian

    You’ve got such awesome information here and I loved the picture in the beginning of that flaming guitar!! I’ve learned quite a bit about how important it is to have this data about modes and scales!

    This has kind of revived my interest in playing guitar again.

    Thank you for that!

    1. Markus Post author

      Your very welcome Adrian and thanks. I’m glad you found the information on Guitar Modes and Scale helpful.
      And I do hope that your interest peaks and you start playing again.
      Come back and see us again anytime but especially when your ready to start playing again.

      Thanks 🙂

  5. Carolyn

    Hi Markus,
    I read a few articles here on your website and found interesting information and thought I could try and ask for song suggestion for a beginner like me.
    I never took guitar lessons and preferred browsing the web and find video tutorials to learn new songs I heard on the radio. I do have some basic knowledge about playing pop music chords but not much about the mathematics of music. I used to intentionally avoid learning it 🙂
    When I read your post I realized that music’s theory and emotions can’t be separated and that I will have to learn some theory to improve the way I play. I love the sound of ballads like More than words from Extreme or Dust in the wind but this is waaaaay too complicated for me to play yet 🙂 Do you have any suggestions of songs that are good to start with and still have a nice ballad to learn?

    1. Markus Post author

      Hello Carolyn, glad you stopped by.There are a lot of songs out there that are basic and perfect for beginners to play.
      And when we’re first learning it is the best way to keep our attention by learning these types of songs.
      It might surprise you that most songs don’t have much more than 5 or 6 chords all together, some of the others you hear are related chords.
      More Than Words is played in the Key of G (if memory serves me: G-C9-Am7-C-D-Dsus something like that lol) and Dust in The Wind is in the Key of C.
      Both are very nice songs,I like your taste. Although these are simple to play, just not so much for beginners.
      Learning theory for me was like learning math (I’d rather be stabbed in the eye). But it did help me understand music and my instrument better, as it will for you.
      You can find a couple songs I think are good for beginners here. And if your interested in studying music (guitar) more, these two platforms for beginners are on my Renowned Teachers Page.
      Glad you came by Carolyn and I do hope this helped in some way and I look forward to you dropping in again. If I can help you out in anyway please contact me.

      Thanks 🙂

  6. Dustin

    Hey! I was just searching through the web when I came across your site. Learning how to play guitar has always been one of my goals that i’ve never come around to actually do. It always intimidated me because I know guitar is a very complicated instrument. Thank you for sharing this article! It inspired me to try and take lessons 🙂 maybe you can do an article on how to start?

    1. Markus Post author

      Hello Dustin,that is a good goal to work on. Playing music and especially the guitar can be very satisfying and some what uplifting to your soul.
      Music and guitar playing can get some what complicated but it doesn’t have to be, especially when you first begin to learn.
      Thats why I always say to get a guitar teacher to teach you the basics. Once you learn the basics the right way, then the other stuff online makes more sense.
      Dustin I wish you luck on getting some guitar lessons. I did an article on where to start guitar lessons at What The Beatles Could Learn From Online Guitar Teachers.
      You’ll be able to find some direction there as well as my recommended guitar teachers. Come back and let me know how you progressI look forward to it.

      Thanks 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *