Modal Scales For Dummies

Category : Blog, Guitar Theory For Dummies, modes, podcast, scales

The major scale has seven degrees, and technically any one of them can function as the tonal center, or primary pitch, of the scale. The sound and feel of the scale changes depending on which scale degree is heard as the starting point.

Ionian Mode
When you play the major scale over music that centers on the first scale degree and chord, you create the sound of Ionian mode, which is better known as the plain major scale. Think any song based on a standard I-IV-V type chord progression, like “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, which uses the notes and chords of the G major scale, centering on the first scale degree and chord, G.

Dorian Mode
When you play the very same notes and patterns over music that centers on the 2nd degree and chord in the major scale, you produce Dorian mode, a type of jazzy minor scale. Think “Oye Como Va” by Santana, which uses notes and chords drawn from the G major scale, but centering on the second degree, A, and chord, Am.

Seven Major Scale Modes
And so it is that each scale degree produces a different sound when it’s used as the tonal center of a piece of music. Each mode has its own Greek name. In all the seven modes in the major scale are called Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian.

Modal Scale Patterns
Playing modal scales doesn’t require you to learn new patterns, only that you know how to properly apply major scale patterns. And guitar players usually prefer to apply modes right inside of familiar pentatonic boxes.

Free Guitar Lesson
Listen to this podcast episode to hear examples of using major scales on guitar. Click on the link below to start the audio or go to the Guitar Theory podcast at iTunes.

Podcast Episode 34: Modal Scales For Dummies

Guitar Theory For Dummies

This free guitar lesson is based on my book, Guitar Theory For Dummies, Chapter 13. Click the link to learn more about the book and watch a free video trailer. Continue Reading

Tonics, Keys, and Modes For Dummies

Category : Blog, Guitar Theory For Dummies, modes, podcast

Major and Minor Keys
Every piece of music has a tonal center called a tonic. The tonic is the primary pitch or chord that everything else revolves around. It’s where a piece of music sounds resolved or complete and usually where the music begins and ends. Generally speaking, the tonic also determines a song’s key. When music centers on a major chord, it’s said to be in a major key. When music centers on a minor chord, it’s said to be in a minor key.

Guitar Modes
Traditionally, music has been taught as being in either the major or minor scale. The major scale is based on the first degree, and the minor scale, the 6th. But in fact, any degree (or any chord) in the major scale can function as the starting point and serve as the tonic. Because the major scale has seven degrees and chords, it also has seven possible starting points, or modes. Each mode has a unique sound and special Greek name. You may have heard of Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian modes.

Free Guitar Lesson
Listen to this podcast episode to hear examples of modal scales. Click on the link below to start the audio or go to the Guitar Theory podcast at iTunes.

Podcast Episode 29: Key Changes For Dummies Continue Reading

Podcast Episode 22: Guitar Theory For Dummies book

Category : Blog

In my guitar theory podcast episode 22 I share a few audio tracks from my book, Guitar Theory For Dummies, and then explain how the book, which I authored for Wiley Publishing, is similar to Fretboard Theory and Fretboard Theory Volume II. One of the audio tracks is a play-along jam track A Dorian mode. Continue Reading

Phrygian and Phrygian Dominant Guitar Scales in Rush’s YYZ

Category : Blog

Rush’s YYZ has a section at 2:25 that is Phrygian and Phrygian Dominant guitar scales. Continue Reading

Podcast Episode 18: Lead Patterns With Major Scales and Modes

Category : Blog

In a previous podcast episode I explained how you may narrow your focus down from pentatonic scales that cover the complete neck to smaller sections like the lead patterns and riff boxes that many players commonly use. In this, the 18th episode of my guitar theory podcast, I demonstrate how to use these same lead patterns for major scales and modes. I also explain how the pentatonic scale relates to major and minor scales. Continue Reading

Podcast episode 13: Numbering Scales, Chord Progressions and Modes

Category : Blog

In episode 13 of Desi Serna’s guitar theory podcast you take a listen to the interval structure of the different modes of the major scale and hear how musicians would number chord progressions that are modal. This involves naming the tonic pitch in a mode “1” and then numbering its other degrees and chords from there with consideration given to any change in interval structure. This information is needed in order to study advanced concepts like modal interchange and borrowed chords because you must identify chords that are out of key by how they relate to the tonic chord on hand and not by their position in their own parent keys. Continue Reading

Podcast episode 12: What is the key of a song?

Category : Blog

This free audio lesson taught by Desi Serna answers the question “What is the key of a song?” You learn about tonic pitches, relative major and minor, modes and key signatures. You see that the key of a song doesn’t always reflect the true parent major scale and it’s up to you to go beyond the basic details and sort out the other components at play. Popular songs are used as examples. Listen directly using the embedded mp3 below or visit one of the websites that hosts the whole podcast. Continue Reading

Alive by Pearl Jam Chords and Scales

Category : Blog

A podcast listener sent me a question about the song “Alive” by Pearl Jam. It was in regard to how four major chords fit together to form the chorus and guitar solo progression E-G-D-A and why the E minor pentatonic scale works over the whole thing. Continue Reading

Riders on the Storm Chords, Tab, Modes and Theory

Category : Blog

“Riders on the Storm” by The Doors is a good example of Dorian mode and modal interchange. The song begins in the key of E minor, but with notes and chords relative to D major, which produces E Dorian mode. In the PDF guitar tab below, which is a guitar arrangement based on my own interpretation, you can see E-Gt 1 playing a bass line that outlines Em and A chords. Continue Reading

Two Tickets to Paradise Mixolydian Mode

Category : Blog

“Two Tickets to Paradise” by Eddie Money is a great example of using guitar modes. The song uses notes and chords from the D major scale, but with the fifth, A, functioning as the tonic. When the fifth degree of a major scale is the tonal center of a piece of music, it produces Mixolydian mode. Continue Reading