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Major Scales, Modes and the Fretboard...

Discussion in 'Tab & Music Forum' started by AxemanVR, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR I appreciate, therefore I am... Strat-Talk Supporter

    Feb 8, 2014
    Minnesota USA
    I recently read a thread regarding confusion about modes and their relationships in tonal music, so I decided to add some visual aids in the hopes that it will help to make some of the connections make sense.

    First of all, this is NOT a quick fix sort of thing, but rather, a direction towards learning through concept and iteration (a.k.a.: PRACTICE!).

    Secondly, this is not suppose to be the best approach for improvisation, but more of a way to "connect the dots" so to speak.

    Furthermore, each chart shows the "primary" mode pattern on the left along with additional notes that intertwine with adjacent mode patterns (shown on the right as references and labeled closest to their presumed roots).

    And lastly, always remember that they are ALL just notes from the IONIAN mode (Major scale) unless their roots are used to move the piece in a different direction. *(Note: I have added additional posts further down this thread regarding the importance of roots if anyone is interested).

    I chose to emphasize Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian and Aeolian patterns here, since Lydian and Locrian tend to be less useful overall...

    a) Ionian.jpg
    b) Dorian.jpg
    c) Phrygian.jpg
    d) Mixolydian.jpg
    e) Aeolian.jpg

    So, if starting with the Ionian Mode pattern for example, you can work the notes around it to expand that scale, but, unless the root position has been changed, they are still in the Ionian mode, which brings on an added point: You can use this to effectively learn "all the positions" of the Major scale as well as the individual modes.

    Some people label them as the Major scale's "Position 2, Position 3..." etc, but you can also call them the "Dorian Position" or "Phrygian Position" if that helps you to remember them - just keep in mind this important point: If the roots are from "Ionian" then all the notes and positions are "Ionian"...

    Once you practice and memorize the notes for any particular mode then you can easily use them to experiment and understand how best to use them in various situations.

    While practice and memorization may not yield instant understanding, they are unfortunately necessary evils that will eventually pay off after the effort is made.

    Hope this helps and Good Luck!

    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
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  2. DickBanks

    DickBanks Strat-Talker

    May 2, 2017
    Olathe, KS
    That's precisely how I made sense of it all. Move the root, play the same patterns, and note the tonal differences.
    That, and comping to known modal tracks.
    Good post.

  3. Rastus

    Rastus Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 1, 2014

    If you can play the Major scale, you can play all the modes.

    (The Lydian & Locrian modes "should" be your first alternate choices when playing over a I-chord or V-chord respectively)...



  4. heltershelton

    heltershelton ASKED TO LEAVE THE STAGE Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jun 5, 2013
    Not Florida
    or mixo
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  5. fezz parka

    fezz parka Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2011
    Play the modes that work in relationship to the chord.

    Cmaj7 - 1-3-5-7

    So in the parent scale/key center of C major play the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th modes.
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  6. heltershelton

    heltershelton ASKED TO LEAVE THE STAGE Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jun 5, 2013
    Not Florida
    here we go again huh?:p
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  7. Dadocaster

    Dadocaster Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter


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  8. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR I appreciate, therefore I am... Strat-Talk Supporter

    Feb 8, 2014
    Minnesota USA

    The tritones in these scales can make them sound a little peculiar, but then again they are also used in the infamous “blues scale” - although the effect can be easily overused imo.

    I tend to use these #4ths or b5ths more as chromatic alterations or passing tones (I think of the Lydian and Locrian modes as more like altered Ionian and Phrygian scales) and you can use it to add an interesting twist as long as you don’t linger on that particular note too long... so by all means go for it!

    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
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  9. fattboyzz

    fattboyzz Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Sep 24, 2017
    Newnan ,Ga.
    This is how I got my feet wet on modes .

    Then I kinda did something I didn't know was right ,but only days later Helter was talking about overlaying on here. .

    So I had stumbled onto something good ,was doing it and then he confirmed it for me :0)
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  10. Boognish

    Boognish Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 31, 2011
    Thanks for posting this....I'm going to come back to this tonight after work and check it out!!! Great Post!
    AxemanVR likes this.

  11. jeff h

    jeff h Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 13, 2017
    Right, but for those of us who are just lazy, the Cmin Pentatonic fits fine as well. :whistling: Less pesky notes to deal with.

    But to your point about soloing over the chord, I do like the effect of shifting pantatonic scales based on the chord being played behind it. It does keep you on your toes though trying to follow the rhythm.
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  12. davidKOS

    davidKOS Musician, Composer, Teacher Strat-Talk Supporter

    May 28, 2012

    I do not agree.

    A I chord is based off of the basic Ionian mode - major scale. The V chord would use the same major scale off the 5th degree, like Mixolydian mode.

    Lydian mode implies a strong #4. Unless you are playing modern jazz and love adding #11's to tunes. Similar with/ Locrian mode, which implies at least a diminished triad.

    I do see why you would suggest these blanket usages.

    This I can get behind much more...adding an "interesting twist" can be very welcome musically, as long as it is properly prepared and resolved.

  13. davidKOS

    davidKOS Musician, Composer, Teacher Strat-Talk Supporter

    May 28, 2012
    Perhaps it's time to stop being lazy and learn to use those other "pesky" notes :D

  14. Bighump

    Bighump Strat-Talk Member

    Aug 1, 2017

  15. jeff h

    jeff h Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 13, 2017
    Nah, I don't see that happening. Not my style. except for a few songs, all of my solos are improvised blues style riffs. I don't' need those pesky 1/2 step notes. They just get in the way. :D The only other note I really use is the #4th from the blues scale.
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  16. davidKOS

    davidKOS Musician, Composer, Teacher Strat-Talk Supporter

    May 28, 2012
    Well, you know your needs better than I do, so have fun!:thumb:

    but those half-steps can be cool in blues...all those bends BB did from scale degree 2 to the m3rd...sweet
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  17. fezz parka

    fezz parka Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2011
    What about the major pent? That would fit better over a Cmaj7 (1-3-5-7 CEGB). C minor pent has Eb, Bb, and F in it. They're not pesky, they aren't even part of the C major scale. The C and G would work. The C major pent has CDEGA. That works fine. They're right there in the C major scale. CDEFGAB.
    There's laziness....and there's just not getting it. C Minor pent over a Cmaj7 is just not getting it. ;)
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
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  18. Bob the builder

    Bob the builder Senior Stratmaster

    May 2, 2016
    Cranston, Rhode Island
    To me, that made alot more sense than using them other words. I just can't keep the names straight but saying it by the numbers gives me a much more complete understanding

  19. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR I appreciate, therefore I am... Strat-Talk Supporter

    Feb 8, 2014
    Minnesota USA
    Just so people don't get stuck thinking that each mode has one defining pattern, I have worked out some extra diagrams that hopefully display the "outside the box" way of thinking about how the notes can be seen across a wider range on the fretboard:

    a) Ionian 2.jpg

    b) Dorian 2.jpg

    c) Phrygian 2.jpg

    d) Mixolydian 2.jpg

    e) Aeolian 2.jpg

    Of course you can play any of the white dots as well, since they are also part of the same scale.

    That said, the main takeaway here is to pay attention to where the roots are when playing any given pattern, since they will define the tonal center, thus prividing any given mode a place to gravitate to.

    Sure, there seems like a lot of stuff to learn, so taking small steps would be a good place to start. Then you can work your way farther from the "main" pattern (for lack of a better word).

    I suggest making your own diagrams as you expand each mode across the fretboard.

    I also highly recommend getting some sort of recording device or looper and try recording chords to play these modes over, after all, knowing patterns and making music are two different things...

    and once again... Good Luck!

    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018

  20. fezz parka

    fezz parka Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2011
    Try this: The 7 modes based on the major scale.

    Understanding modes, and their usage as they relate to a diatonic scale ( they build harmony) is simple. All you need to do is count to seven.

    The modes in the key center of C:

    1. The C major (Ionian) scale (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C)
    2. The D Dorian mode (D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D) ...
    3. The E Phrygian mode (E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E) ...
    4. The F Lydian mode (F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F) ...
    5. The G Mixolydian mode (G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G) ...
    6. The A Aeolian mode (A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A) ...
    7. The B Locrian mode (B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B)
    Now here's the fun part. Pay attention to the intervals and their numerical identification. Then pay attention to the numerical identification for the chords, then the modes. 1-7.

    CDEFGAB = C Ionian 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.
    EFGABCD = E Phrygian 3,4,5,6,7,1,2.
    GABCDEF = G Mixolydian 5,6,7,1,2,3,4.

    I. CEG - C major 1-3-5
    ii. DFA - D minor 2-4-6
    iii. EGB - E minor 3-5-7
    IV. FAC - F major 4-6-1
    V. GBD - G major 5-7-2
    iv. ACE - A minor 6-1-3
    vii°. BDF- B dim. 7-2-4

    3 "scales". 1 chord progression.

    Add the 7th mode B locrian and you get major 7th, minor 7th and m7b5.

    More fun:

    Look at the notes (and their numerical identity in the major scale) for each triad. What three modes will work over each chord (triad)?
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
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