The 7 Guitar Modes – A simple explanation

The seven modes of the diatonic scale are:

  1. Ionian (also known as the major scale) – This is the most basic of the seven modes and is the same as the standard major scale. It has a happy and upbeat feel to it. The formula for the intervals in this mode is: W-W-H-W-W-W-H (W = whole step, H = half step).
  2. Dorian – This mode has a minor tonality and is similar to a natural minor scale with a raised 6th scale degree. It has a slightly melancholic feel to it. The formula for the intervals in this mode is: W-H-W-W-W-H-W.
  3. Phrygian – This mode has a strong Spanish or Middle-Eastern feel to it and is similar to a natural minor scale with a lowered 2nd scale degree. The formula for the intervals in this mode is: H-W-W-W-H-W-W.
  4. Lydian – This mode has a bright and cheerful feel to it and is similar to a major scale with a raised 4th scale degree. The formula for the intervals in this mode is: W-W-W-H-W-W-H.
  5. Mixolydian – This mode has a bluesy or rock feel to it and is similar to a major scale with a lowered 7th scale degree. The formula for the intervals in this mode is: W-W-H-W-W-H-W.
  6. Aeolian (also known as the natural minor scale) – This mode has a sad and serious feel to it and is the same as the standard natural minor scale. The formula for the intervals in this mode is: W-H-W-W-H-W-W.
  7. Locrian – This mode has a dissonant and unstable feel to it and is similar to a natural minor scale with a lowered 2nd and 5th scale degrees. The formula for the intervals in this mode is: H-W-W-H-W-W-W.

To play in a specific mode, you start and end on the corresponding scale degree while playing the scale. For example, to play in Dorian mode, you would start and end on the second note of a major scale while playing the scale.

It’s worth noting that Modes can be used over different chords or chord progressions, but each mode gives a different feeling or atmosphere to the listener, and each one can be useful in different situations, and is a great way to add variety to your music and solos.

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