Play The 7 Modes in 7 Days (Tabs Incl.)

Photo by Marta Monleón
Modes are used in all kinds of musical styles like Jazz, Rock, Metal, Flamenco, etc. They create a certain mood or feel to your playing.

If you feel like you are stuck playing solos using just Major/Minor or Pentatonic/Blues scales all the time, you’re ready to call on the modes and dive a little deeper.

When I first got introduced to modes I was a little bit overwhelmed, but also excited to explore this whole new world of boundless possibilities.

I soon realized it’s all about the journey and not the destination, so enjoy the process!

There are 7 modes which can be derived from the major scale:

1 – Ionian
2 – Dorian
3 – Phrygian
4 – Lydian
5 – Mixolydian
6 – Aeolian
7 – Locrian

Each mode starts and stops on a different note within the major scale.
E.g.: The Dorian mode starts on the second degree of the major scale all the way up to an octave higher, the Phrygian mode starts on the third degree of the major scale up to an octave higher, the Lydian mode starts on the fourth degree of the major scale up to an octave higher and so on.

In this post we take the C major scale to explain the modes, but you can derive the 7 modes from any major scale in any key.

For example:
C Major = C D E F G A B
C Major modes are: C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian, B Locrian.
G Major = G A B C D E F#
G Major modes are: G Ionian, A Dorian, B Phrygian, C Lydian, D Mixolydian, E Aeolian, F# Locrian.
F Major = F G A Bb C D E
F Major = F Ionian, G Dorian, A Phrygian, Bb Lydian, C Mixolydian, D Aeolian, E Locrian.
Bb Major = Bb C D Eb F G A
Bb Major = Bb Ionian, C Dorian, D Phrygian, Eb Lydian, F Mixolydian, G Aeolian, A Locrian.

I challenge you to understand the basics and work your way through each mode in 7 days.

I give you 2 fingerings to play each mode, the notes, mode formula, whole/half step formula, mood and the associated chord type.

DAY 1
C IONIAN
The first mode, the Ionian mode is starting from the root note/tonic in the scale.
So the Ionian mode and the major scale are basically the same.
The (C Ionian) notes are: C D E F G A B C
Mode formula = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Whole/half step formula = 1 – 1 – 1/2 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1/2
Mood: Happy / upbeat.
Chord type = Maj or Maj7 (so in this case CMaj or CMaj7)

C Ionian starting from the E-string
e:--------------------------------------------8-------------------------|
B:-------------------------------------10-12----------------------------|
G:----------------------------9-10-12-----------------------------------|
D:-------------------9-10-12--------------------------------------------|
A:----------8-10-12-----------------------------------------------------|
E:--8-10-12-------------------------------------------------------------|
 
C Ionian starting from the A-string
e:----------------------------------------5-7-8-------------------------|
B:---------------------------------5-6-8--------------------------------|
G:-------------------------4-5-7----------------------------------------|
D:-----------------3-5-7------------------------------------------------|
A:---------3-5-7--------------------------------------------------------|
E:----------------------------------------------------------------------|

Assignment 1:
Learn the C Ionian mode starting from the E and A string.
Assignment 2:
Play each mode a half step up.

 

DAY 2
D DORIAN
The second mode is the Dorian mode and starts on the second degree of the major scale.
The (D Dorian) notes are: D E F G A B C D
Mode formula (compared to the major scale) = 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 8
Whole/half step formula = 1 – 1/2 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1/2 – 1
Mood: Minor Jazzy feel.
Chord type = min or min7 (so in this case Dmin or Dmin7)

D Dorian starting from the E-string
e:-----------------------------------------------10---------------------|
B:-----------------------------------------12-13------------------------|
G:-------------------------------10-12-14-------------------------------|
D:---------------------10-12-14-----------------------------------------|
A:-----------10-12-14---------------------------------------------------|
E:--10-12-13------------------------------------------------------------|
 
D Dorian starting from the A-string)
e:-----------------------------------------7-8-10-----------------------|
B:---------------------------------6-8-10-------------------------------|
G:-------------------------5-7-9----------------------------------------|
D:-----------------5-7-9------------------------------------------------|
A:---------5-7-8--------------------------------------------------------|
E:----------------------------------------------------------------------|

Assignment 1:
Learn D Dorian mode starting from the E and A string.
Assignment 2:
Play the modes in different keys through the cycle of 4ths.
Assignment 3:
Play the Ionian modes as well.

 

DAY 3
E PHRYGIAN
The third mode is the Phrygian mode and starts on the third degree of the major scale.
The (E Phrygian) notes are: E F G A B C D E
Mode formula = 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
Whole/half step formula = 1/2 – 1 – 1- 1- 1/2 – 1 – 1
Mood: Spanish, Flamenco.
Chord type = min or min7 (so in this case Emin or Emin7)

E Phrygian starting from the E-string
e:-----------------------------------------------12---------------------|
B:-----------------------------------------13-15------------------------|
G:-------------------------------12-14-16-------------------------------|
D:---------------------12-14-15-----------------------------------------|
A:-----------12-14-15---------------------------------------------------|
E:--12-13-15------------------------------------------------------------|
 
E Phrygian starting from the A-string
e:------------------------------------------8-10-12---------------------|
B:---------------------------------8-10-12------------------------------|
G:-------------------------7-9-10---------------------------------------|
D:-----------------7-9-10-----------------------------------------------|
A:---------7-8-10-------------------------------------------------------|
E:----------------------------------------------------------------------|
 

Assignment 1:
Learn E Phrygian mode starting from the E and A string.
Assignment 2:
Play each mode up a half step all the way up to the 12th fret and back again.
Assignment 3:
Take a break and make yourself a hot cappuccino.
Assignment 4:
Play the Ionian and Dorian modes as well.

 

DAY 4
F LYDIAN
The fourth mode is the Lydian mode and starts on the fourth degree of the major scale.
The (F Lydian) notes are: F G A B C D E F
Mode formula = 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 8
Whole/half step formula = 1 – 1 – 1 – 1/2 – 1 – 1 – 1/2
Mood: Dreamy, floating.
Chord type = Maj or Maj7 (so in this case FMaj or FMaj7)

F Lydian starting from the E-string
e:--------------------------------------1-------------------------------|
B:---------------------------------3-5----------------------------------|
G:-------------------------2-4-5----------------------------------------|
D:-----------------2-3-5------------------------------------------------|
A:---------2-3-5--------------------------------------------------------|
E:--1-3-5---------------------------------------------------------------|
 
F Lydian starting from the A-string
e:-----------------------------------------------10-12-13---------------|
B:-------------------------------------10-12-13-------------------------|
G:----------------------------9-10-12-----------------------------------|
D:-------------------9-10-12--------------------------------------------|
A:----------8-10-12-----------------------------------------------------|
E:----------------------------------------------------------------------|
 

Assignment 1:
Learn the F Lydian mode starting from the E and A string.
Assignment 2:
Play each mode up a whole step all the way up to the 12th fret and back again.
Assignment 3:
Go for a run and take a nice shower.
Assignment 4:
Practice the Ionian, Dorian and Phrygian modes.

 

DAY 5
G MIXOLYDIAN
The fifth mode is the Mixolydian mode and starts on the fifth degree of the major scale.
The (G Mixolydian) notes are: G A B C D E F G
Mode formula = 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 8
Whole/half step formula = 1 – 1 – 1/2 – 1 – 1 – 1/2 – 1
Mood: Bluesy
Chord type = Maj or Dominant7 (so in this case GMaj or G7)

G Mixolydian starting from the E-string
e:--------------------------------------3-------------------------------|
B:---------------------------------5-6----------------------------------|
G:-------------------------4-5-7----------------------------------------|
D:-----------------3-5-7------------------------------------------------|
A:---------3-5-7--------------------------------------------------------|
E:--3-5-7---------------------------------------------------------------|
 
G Mixolydian starting from the A-string
e:--------------------------------------------------12-13-15------------|
B:-----------------------------------------12-13-15---------------------|
G:-------------------------------10-12-14-------------------------------|
D:---------------------10-12-14-----------------------------------------|
A:-----------10-12-14---------------------------------------------------|
E:----------------------------------------------------------------------|
 

Assignment 1:
Learn the G Mixolydian mode starting from the E and A string.
Assignment 2:
Play each mode in turn randomly in different keys.(E.g.: E-string in the key of Bb, A-string in the key of C, E-string in the key of F, A-string in the key of G, etc.)
Assignment 3:
Meditate for 20 minutes.
Assignment 4:
Practice the Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian and Lydian modes.

 

DAY 6
A AEOLIAN
The sixth mode is the Aeolian mode and starts on the sixth degree of the major scale.
(Aeolian mode is the same as the natural minor scale)
The (A Aeolian) notes are: A B C D E F G A
Mode formula = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
Whole/half step formula = 1 – 1/2 – 1 – 1 – 1/2 – 1 – 1
Mood: Sad, somber, unhappy.
Chord type = min or min7 (so in this case Amin or Amin7)

A Aeolian starting from the E-string
e:--------------------------------------5-------------------------------|
B:---------------------------------6-8----------------------------------|
G:-------------------------5-7-9----------------------------------------|
D:-----------------5-7-9------------------------------------------------|
A:---------5-7-8--------------------------------------------------------|
E:--5-7-8---------------------------------------------------------------|
 
A Aeolian starting from the A-string
e:---------------------------------------------------13-15-17-----------|
B:-----------------------------------------13-15-17---------------------|
G:-------------------------------12-14-16-------------------------------|
D:---------------------12-14-15-----------------------------------------|
A:-----------12-14-15---------------------------------------------------|
E:----------------------------------------------------------------------|
 

Assignment 1:
Learn the A Aeolian mode starting from the E and A string.
Assignment 2:
Practice each mode in different keys.
Assignment 3:
Take a 30 minute break and pour yourself some hot green tea with nice biscuits.
Assignment 4:
Practice the Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian modes.

 

DAY 7
B LOCRIAN
The seventh mode is the Locrian mode and starts on the seventh degree of the major scale.
The (B Locrian) notes are: B C D E F G A B
Mode formula : 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 8
Whole/half step formula = 1/2 – 1 – 1 – 1/2 – 1 – 1 – 1
Mood: Dark, sinister.
Chord type = dim or m7b5 (so in this case Bdim or Bm7b5)

B Locrian starting from the E-string
e:--------------------------------------7-------------------------------|
B:---------------------------------8-10---------------------------------|
G:-------------------------7-9-10---------------------------------------|
D:-----------------7-9-10-----------------------------------------------|
A:---------7-8-10-------------------------------------------------------|
E:--7-8-10--------------------------------------------------------------|
 
B Locrian starting from the A-string
e:---------------------------------------3-5-7--------------------------|
B:---------------------------------3-5-6--------------------------------|
G:-------------------------2-4-5----------------------------------------|
D:-----------------2-3-5------------------------------------------------|
A:---------2-3-5--------------------------------------------------------|
E:----------------------------------------------------------------------|
 

Assignment 1:
Learn the B Locrian mode starting from the E and A string.
Assignment 2:
Practice each mode up a whole step all the way to the 12th fret and back again.
Assignment 3:
Practice all the other modes as well.
Assignment 4:
Take a nap.

 

Well done! Give yourself a pat on the shoulder. You can be proud of yourself!

You managed to play all the scales/modes up and down the fretboard in different keys.

Learn to understand the basics and play the modes in 7 days. It’s a great place to start off.
From there you can start your journey through the vast possibilities of improvising and soloing with modes.

If you want know more about modes check out Frank Gambale’s “Modes no more mystery”

Give it your best and you’ll benefit!

If you like this post, please share it on Stumbleupon. I'd appreciate it.

    43 Responses to “Play The 7 Modes in 7 Days (Tabs Incl.)

    • Jeff:

      Nice post, its always nice to have it presented in a simple condensed format, and along with a plan! I like the text tabs too, easier to print / save / etc. without headache. Thanks!

    • Manuel:

      I’m confused, I’ve learn that the tonic or the base note of each mode is in a different place, for example: In the locrian mode the base or tonic note is the second note on the E string, but in your post the base or tonic note is the first one on the E string. That’s why I’m confused, in my way to see it, the locrian mode that you posted isn’t B but C. Maybe I’m wrong.. can you explain me? thank you.

    • Hi Manuel,

      You’re right, the B Locrian mode starting on the A-string obviously starts on a B note.
      Something got messed up with writing out all the tabs. I corrected the mistake. It’s fine now.

      Thanks for noticing.

      Klaus Crow

    • Steve:

      Perfect!

      Now I remember as well!
      Thank You Very Much!

      Steve

    • Hi Jeff and Steve,

      You’re welcome.
      Have fun with it!

      Best regards,
      Klaus Crow

    • Riley:

      Thanks man, learning guitar is a vast adventure and this is sure to help me sing a couple of tunes alonng the way

    • It sure is Riley and that’s what I like about guitar playing. The learning never stops.

      Klaus

    • Michael:

      hey man, good exercises. you say ‘there are seven modes in music’, this is incorrect. there are seven modes of any seven note scale, six modes of any six note scale, etc. So, there are really infinitely many ‘modes in music’ because there are infinitely many constructible scales (if one allows further subdivision of the octave).

    • Hi Michael,

      You’re right about that.
      Of course I was referring to the 7 modes of the Major scale, which are the most prominent ones for people who are starting out with modes.

      Thanx for the comment. I appreciate it.
      Klaus Crow

    • pole:

      You wrote:

      E Phrygian starting from the E-string
      e:———————————————–12———————|
      B:—————————————–13-15————————|
      G:——————————-12-14-16——————————-|
      D:———————12-14-15—————————————–|
      A:———–12-14-15—————————————————|
      E:–12-13-15————————————————————|

      As I feel it’s much easier but not really sure about it why not like following?

      E Phrygian starting from the E-string
      e:———————————————–12———————|
      B:————————————–12-13-15————————|
      G:——————————-12-14———————————-|
      D:———————12-14-15—————————————–|
      A:———–12-14-15—————————————————|
      E:–12-13-15————————————————————|

      Cheers and many thanks for your work making us enjoying more and more our hobby which is one of the best medecine against any ill you may have. From Tokyo.

    • Michelle:

      YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS =]

    • Doad:

      I never will understand why people display the 7 modes in different keys first! Makes no sense whatsoever. It only complicates matters. Why not just play them all from, say the key of ‘G’? One would be able to accurately identify each and every mode by position and pattern rather than just pattern!

    • Ignited We Stand:

      Using these exercises have helped out immensely already. I will continue to practice these everyday. Thank you!

    • Great stuff, Klaus! I was introduced to the modes at Ohio U. in Music 101 (for non-majors!), and it blew my mind to realize that there are 144 keys! It was like one of those math problems that seems intractable until you pop through to the other side and look back and say, “That is so simple and so logical, and so beautiful!). Keep the great posts coming!

    • Jake:

      I feel like I understand a lot about music, but I’ve never understood the value of modes. It seems to me that you just showed 7 ways to play a major scale. Even if you played parallel modes like, say, C aeolian and C mixolydian, you’re really just playing in C major and then G major. Am I missing something?

    • Jake:

      *ionian, not aeolian.

    • Kieran:

      Hi Klaus
      This is great stuff. Many thanks.
      Rgds
      Kieran

    • Students get confused with modes! Thank you for this outline of clarity.

      Zac
      @FretZeroMusic

    • I like the biscuit & tea breaks. Gives my brain time to steep…

    • Any suggestions for modes in different drop tunings, such as Drop C or Drop B? Or how about an 8 string tuned to drop F#?

    • jah bless:

      jake: modes alter the feel of a chord progression. although they are based off of a major scale, they do add a different tone to a melody than a major scale played over a root major chord

    • Well this is extremely helpful everybody else try’s to explain modes and wants to start on some wierd scale or minor junk but starting on the C major and explain it from there every thing comes easy because your able to comprehend it without confusion I just do not understand why all these other just want to confuse you so if you want to learn modes this is the place to be and I want to thank the person who made this website because you are the best teacher of all so all you other teachers out there go back to school.

    • Modes alter the sound and mood so if you are playing one mode then switch to another you change the sound so it’s like when you are listening to some good solo you hear one pitch then something a little different in another pitch that is modes at work this site has greatly improved my guitar thanks.

    • Jordan:

      Seriously appreciate all this :) Going to quit my guitar lessons and just come here everyday.

      You should have a donate button

    • Hi Klaus,
      Interesting stuff made clear to the even the semi starter. But your website is a bit of a cock up. Too many half tab that have to joined up an if you print double side forget it. Now this maybe my PC I do not know but I finally got it so I did not have to cut and splice to many tabs, maybe you have to tweak it a bit.

      Keith.

    • jgraham:

      in the mode formula what are the b’s mean

      Mode formula = 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
      basic or tonic?

      and what are the #’s in the mode formula mean

      F LYDIAN
      The fourth mode is the Lydian mode and starts on the fourth degree of the major scale.
      The (F Lydian) notes are: F G A B C D E F
      Mode formula = 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 8

      I know I am asking a dumb question but humor me…just starting to understand all of this…

    • DeVoG:

      Nice lesson. Very interesting.

    • Jack:

      Thanks so much man been tryna learn this for years, makes so much sense now

    • Sabby:

      Hi, my name is Sabby. I am a Singer and Composer. Well, I am trying to learn guitar, so that certain things that I have in mind I can do it my self. well i know the theory part of the guitar but when it comes in playing I really can’t do it. And I am in Intermediate level I believe. I am stuck. Could you please guide me. Except for Major Scale I dont know how to go about. Please guide me.
      Thanks,
      Sabby

    • Hi Sabby,

      It really depends what kind of skills you already have, what you want to learn and what you’re into. There are so many things you can learn on guitar. If you’re into blues, rock, country and you want to learn soloing then the pentatonic/blues scale is the perfect scale to start with but also to expand on it if you’re intermediate. The possibilities with the pentatonic/blues scale are infinite and can be challenging for both beginners and advanced. You can also transcribe solos from your favorite artists and learn many things from that.

      The major scale is great for music theory purposes, but if you’re starting out with soloing I would recommend the pentatonic scale over the major scale. If you want something else, then you could consider learning to improvise using the major scale. You might also want to improve your rhythm guitar skills or get more into fingerpicking style and expanding your chord vocabulary and building chord progressions.
      I think it’s a good thing to focus on various aspects of guitar playing.

      Best regards,
      Klaus Crow

    • J:

      why does the scale change when you play starting on the E and starting on the A?

    • J:

      so if these are all major sounding for the most part if someone for example is playing a chord progression with A minor as the root. would you start with the dorian scale on the the 5th fret on E string and go through the modes from there?

    • Hi Klaus
      I’m Marta Monleón, the girl who took the photo of this post. I discovered by chance my photo here. I appreciate you put links to my flickr, that is well done, though not ask me ;-)
      I have several pictures with guitars, I invite you to visit my website: http://www.martonaphotography.com on this website you will also find my flickr.
      I don’t care that you put pictures of me whenever you put the name and link to my flickr or my web. You just watch with which I have assigned to Getty Images, these are only for Getty. I would like if you hang a picture what I communicate it, I very interested in the topic of your blog and I could advertise my photography facebook also to talk about my picture. What do you think?

    • Sartono:

      Thank for your theory,
      This is very help me to playing my guitar.

    • Hello and thank you, Klaus, for this excellent summary of modes. I thought I needed a refresher, so found this on Google. I remember studying this from Guitarist magazine. One tends to use modes without recognising exactly what they are — so, it’s nice to be informed!

    • aashish:

      Hello sir,I still dont get it that how we actually apply modes in the songs or progressions..
      for e.g for a progression root is Am,others chords used are Gmajor and Fmajor…
      In this what mode to use where ??

    • michelle:

      I am taking guitar lessons and my instructor introduced me to scales last week. I wanted to know more so I did a google search and this is awesome and exactly what I have been looking for. Thank you!

    • nick:

      thanks buddy it is really fuckin great , clear and easy to understand
      in this page , very useful things which i was trying to learn from very long time , thank you so much…\m/

    • Good explanation and practice. The 3 notes per string modes chart at the following URL is a nice combo with your lesson: http://www.guitar.ch/en/info/scales/3notes_harm_min_dots.html

    • Meant to post the 3 notes per string modes for A minor, not the harmonic minor link. Here’s the correct link that corresponds with your lesson plan (for those who like dots > tab notation). http://www.guitar.ch/en/info/scales/3notes_min_dots.html

    • John P:

      Hi nice lesson. Besides knowing some cool scales, what can I do with them?

    • peter:

      The one thing that im confused about is.
      When you say play each mode up a half step.are you referring to after playing a mode ,move it up a half step and continue. I think i just answerd my own question. Lol.

    • Hi, Awesome posting. Likely to issues with your web site inside web browser, could analyze this kind of? Web browser ‘s still the market head and a large section of people leaves from the excellent composing because of this challenge.

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