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The Complete Guide to Guitar Scales and Modes

I think you’ll agree that learning guitar scales is an essential skill for any modern musician.

Learning scales and applying them to soloing situations greatly improves your ability to create solos on the fretboard.

Because they’re important tools, you may have started to learn how to play scales on the guitar.

You may even have applied scales to your guitar solos.

But, if you’re like many guitarists, you’ve struggled at some point to memorize scales on the guitar.

This doesn’t have to be the case as you don’t have to struggle to learn scales on the guitar.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to take one fingering, Lydian, and alter only one note at a time play 28 guitar scales and modes.

This system greatly reduces the time needed to learn and scales and modes on the fretboard.

As well, it builds on previous knowledge with each mode, eliminating wasted time in the practice room.

No matter what experience level you’re currently at in your playing.

From complete beginner to advanced guitarists.

Organizing guitar scales into an easy to understand system produces noticeable results in your playing.

This in-depth lesson guides you through the steps needed to master guitar scales, understand how they’re used, and provide you with examples of these devices in action.

All of the scales in this lesson are are either parent scales or modes derived from those parent scales.

To explore non-mode based scales, check out these lessons.

 

 

Note: I talk a lot about jazz in this lesson, because I’m a jazz guitarist. BUT these modes and exercises can be used by guitarists of any genre to open your fretboard and become a better soloist across the guitar. 

 

 

FREE Jazz Guitar eBook: Download a free guitar eBook that shows you how to solo over guitar chord progressions, play essential chord shapes, and walk basslines on guitar.

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Click on any link in the table of contents to jump directly to that topic in this guitar modes guide.

 

Introduction

 

 

Major Modes

 

 

Melodic Minor Modes

 

 

Harmonic Minor Modes

 

 

Harmonic Major Modes

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Use This Guitar Scales Guide

 

To begin, read about how this guide is organized, and how to best approach the material for your experience level.

The material in this guide are presented in a specific order so that you use previously learned material to build the next set of modes.

This means that you’ll begin by learning Lydian, then by altering one note at a time, learn all seven major modes.

Then, you alter one note at a time to create all seven modes for melodic minor, harmonic minor, and harmonic major.

Each parent scale is presented in the order of most common modes, major, to the least common modes, harmonic major.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t study the harmonic major modes.

It’s just that you want to get the most common modes under your fingers first, before exploring less common modes.

You don’t have to work these modes in the order given, especially for intermediate or advanced guitarists.

But, for beginners, it’s best to start at the beginning and work through the modes from that starting point.

Lastly, there’s a lifetime of study here, so there’s no rush to learn all 28 modes presented below.

Go slow, take the time to understand each mode, learn it on the guitar, and apply it to soloing exercises until you’ve internalized that mode to the point that you won’t forget it.

From there, move on to the next mode.

As well, if you forget a mode, or aren’t fully comfortable with one, return to that mode and review it in your studies.

 

 

Experience Levels and the Guide

 

As there’s a lot of information in this guide, it’s recommended that you set reasonable practice goals for your experience level.

To help you decide where to begin and set appropriate goals, here’s a breakdown of the lessons below.

 

Beginner

For players just starting to explore guitar scales, it’s best to proceed with the following approach to the guide.

 

  • Start with the Major Modes, in order, and work down from there.
  • Learn each mode in the given key.
  • Learn two fingerings for each mode, one from the 6th and one from the 5th string.
  • Solo over the backing tracks with those 2 fingerings.
  • Apply the practice patterns if comfortable.

 

 

Intermediate

Players with 1 year or more of experience can approach the guide with the following practice goals.

 

  • Review any modes you’ve studied previously.
  • Learn modes you haven’t studied before.
  • Learn all modes in 12 keys.
  • Learn all four fingerings for each mode.
  • Learn the practice patterns for each mode fingering.
  • Learn the sample lick for each mode.
  • Solo with the mode, practice pattern, and lick over the backing tracks.

 

 

Lesson Organization

 

After a short introduction and summary of each parent scale, the seven modes in that system are explored in detail.

For each mode, there are five sections:

 

Mode Fingerings and Application

In these sections, you’ll learn about how to solo with each mode, as well as learn background information on that mode.

Think of this section as a brief intro to the mode, and then that information is unpacked in the sections that follow.

 

Mode Interval Formula

Here, you’ll learn how to build each mode by altering one note from a previous mode you’ve learned in this guide.

 

Mode Fingerings

In this section you’ll learn four fingerings for each mode in the guide. There’s a backing track for every mode in this section, so you can practice soloing with each mode without having to leave the page.

 

Mode Practice Patterns

Here, you learn one practice pattern for each mode to increase memory and build your guitar chops at the same time.

Because each mode has a different practice pattern, you can take a pattern from one mode and apply it to other modes in your studies.

 

Guitar Licks

The last section provides a sample lick over a common chord progression. Each lick is presented with notation, TAB, and audio to make it easier to learn.

 

Further Reading

To learn more about how to organize an effective guitar practice routine, please check out these lessons.

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Parent Scale?

 

Before you learn these scales, you’ll need to understand exactly what a parent scale is.

Here’s a quick definition of a parent scale to help you understand what this term means.

 

A parent scale is a seven-note scale that produces one mode for each of those seven notes.

 

An example of a parent scale is the major scale, which produces seven modes, one from each note in that scale.

This means that if you play the major scale from the root to root, it’s the major scale.

But, if you play that scale from any of the other 6 notes in that parent scale, you produce 6 unique scales, which are called modes.

For example, if you play a C major scale from C to C, it’s the Ionian mode, first mode of the parent major scale.

But, if you play the C major scale from D to D, you get the D Dorian mode, the second mode of the major scale.

 

C Major – C D E F G A B C

D Dorian – D E F G A B C

 

As you can see, these two modes have the same notes, but sound different, because they contain a different interval structure.

If modes are a bit shaky for you right now, don’t worry, you’ll learn more about them in the next section.

The four most common parent scales, scales that produce modes, are:

 

  • Major Scale
  • Melodic Minor Scale
  • Harmonic Minor Scale
  • Harmonic Major Scale

 

In this guide, you’ll study those four parent scale systems and the seven modes built from each parent scale.

 

 

 

 

What’s a Mode?

 

Now it’s time to learn more about what a mode is and how it differs from a parent scale.

Here’s a short definition of a mode that will help get this theory under your belt.

 

Modes are built by playing parent scales from each note in that scale; they have the same notes as the parent scale, but a different interval structure.

 

As you read in the parent scale example above, if you play the C major scale from the notes D to D, you produce the Dorian mode.

Though the Dorian mode contains the same notes as the C major scale, they have distinct sounds when played on the guitar.

As you can see, the major scale and Dorian mode have different interval structures:

 

Major – R 2 3 4 5 6 7

Dorian – R 2 b3 4 5 6 b7

 

Because of this, though they share the same notes, the major scale and Dorian modes are applied to different chords in a soloing situation, major over maj7, and Dorian over m7 chords.

Here’s a quick guide to remember how modes differ from scales:

 

Parent scales and modes share the same notes, but are used to solo over different chord types.

 

This may still be a bit fuzzy, especially if you’re new to learning guitar scales and modes.

Not to worry, as you study the lessons below, this theory will become clear.

The most important thing is that you apply these modes to the guitar, both from a technical and improvisational standpoint.

Often times theory will be hard to understand on paper, but it makes total sense when played on the guitar.

 

 

 

Major Scale Modes

 

You’ll begin your study of the 28 guitar modes with the most popular, the seven major modes.

These seven modes are used to solo over m7, 7, maj7, and m7b5 chords, which covers a lot of ground in any soloing situation.

Because of their popularity in modern music, having a strong hold on the major modes is essential for any guitarist.

Take your time with these modes, applying them to both technical and improvisational situations in order to be able to use each mode in a practical, musical situation.

To help you practice soloing with these modes, you can use this major scale modes backing track playlist.

 

 

Major Modes Formula

 

Learning all 7 major modes can be tough, as there seems to be an endless number of possible fingerings to memorize.

It can seem daunting to memorize all those shapes and keep them organized on the fretboard.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

By learning Lydian first, the 4th mode of the major scale, you alter one note at a time to create all seven major modes.

Using previous knowledge, the Lydian mode, to create new knowledge, the other six modes, makes this learning process easier.

Rather than learning new shapes for each mode, you take a shape you know, lower one note, and voila, new mode.

Here’s the formula for applying this concept to the seven major modes.

 

  • Lydian (Starting Mode)
  • Ionian (Lydian with natural 4)
  • Mixolydian (Ionian with b7)
  • Dorian (Mixolydian with b3)
  • Aeolian (Dorian with b6)
  • Phrygian (Aeolian with b2)
  • Locrian (Phrygian with b5)

 

Now that you know the formula used to create all seven major modes from Lydian, you’re ready to learn how to play and solo with each mode on the guitar.

 

 

 

 

Lydian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

To begin your study of major scale modes, you’ll learn the Lydian mode, the 4th mode of the major scale.

Since Lydian is the 4th mode, it’s like playing a G major scale from the notes C to C, as you can see in the example below.

The Lydian mode is used to solo over Maj7 chords.

This mode outlines the #11 interval, written #4 in when referring to modes, which creates tension.

While some players enjoy this tension, it can take time to get used to.

To learn more about the Lydian mode, check out my lesson “How to Play the Lydian Mode for Jazz Guitar.”

 

 

Lydian Mode Interval Formula

 

The Lydian mode is built with the following interval pattern:

 

Root-2-3-#4-5-6-7

 

This is your “starting position” for all other modes in this lesson, so it’s important to memorize this formula.

Once you have this interval pattern down, you can use it to create 27 more modes from one shape.

Pretty cool right?

 

 

Lydian Mode Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build Lydian and how to apply it to your solos, here are four Lydian fingerings.

When learning these fingerings, work them with a metronome and take them to the soloing side of your practice routine.

Here’s a Cmaj7 backing track that you can solo over when learning these Lydian fingerings.

 

Click to jam over Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Lydian Fingerings

 

 

Lydian Mode Practice Pattern

 

You’ll now learn a Lydian practice pattern, which features ascending 4th intervals and can be applied to any shape you learn in this lesson.

 

Click to hear Lydian Mode 1

 

guitar-scales-1-lydian-pattern

 

After you’ve learned this pattern, solo with the Lydian mode and add the pattern to hear how it sounds in a soloing situation.

 

 

Lydian Mode Lick

 

Here’s a Lydian lick that you can study, work in 12 keys, and apply to your own guitar solos.

 

Click to hear Lydian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-2-lydian-lick

 

 

 

Ionian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

Now you’re going to alter one note from Lydian to create the Ionian mode, otherwise known as the major scale.

The Ionian mode is used to solo over Maj7 chords, in a similar way to Lydian, though with a “softer” sound compared to that mode.

Because it’s used over tonic maj7 chords, Ionian is one of the most important modes to learn.

Make sure to learn the fingerings, work the pattern, and take Ionian to the soloing side of your practice routine to fully grasp this mode.

To learn more about Ionian, visit my lesson “How to Play the Ionian Mode for Jazz Guitar.”

 

 

Ionian Mode Interval Formula

 

To build Ionian and its fingerings, you’re going to compare it to Lydian.

By adjusting the Lydian mode, you’re not starting from scratch with the Ionian mode.

This saves time, and makes it easier to visualize the modes as related to each other on the fretboard.

 

Ionian is built by lowering the 4th note of Lydian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

As you can, these two modes are closely related, only one note difference, but have a unique sound when played on the guitar.

 

Click to hear Ionian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Ionian Formula

 

Play through these modes back to back to visualize their similarities and differences on the guitar.

 

 

Ionian Mode Fingerings

 

With the knowledge of how to build and apply Ionian, you’ll now learn four fingerings for this mode on the fretboard.

Along with working with a metronome, practice soloing over the Cmaj7 backing track with the Ionian mode.

 

Click to jam over Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Ionian Fingerings

 

 

Ionian Mode Practice Pattern

 

In order to expand the Ionian mode in your practicing, here’s a pattern that you can work with a metronome on the fretboard.

 

Click to hear Ionian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-3-ionian-pattern

 

As well as working with a metronome, put on the Cmaj7 backing track and solo over that chord with Ionian, using this pattern to spice up your solos along the way.

 

 

Ionian Mode Lick

 

To help you take Ionian into the soloing side of your practice routine, here’s a ii V I lick that uses C Ionian over the Imaj7 chord.

After you’ve learned this phrase, work it in 12 keys, and then apply it to your guitar solos.

 

Click to hear Ionian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-4-ionian-lick

 

 

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

As was the case with Ionian and Lydian, you’re going to alter one note from Ionian to create Mixolydian, the 5th mode of the major scale.

Mixolydian is used to solo over 7th chords, which you find as the V7 chord in a ii V I and the I7, IV7, and V7 in a blues progression.

Because 7th chords are so common in modern music, having a handle on Mixolydian is essential for any developing guitarist.

Work Mixolydian in 12 keys and with patterns and soloing exercises to ensure you’re comfortable with this important guitar mode.

To learn more about Mixolydian, check out my article “How to Play the Mixolydian Mode for Jazz Guitar.”

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Interval Formula

 

As was mentioned earlier, you’re going to lower one note from Ionian to create Mixolydian.

 

Mixolydian is built by lowering the 7th of Ionian by a half step, one fret on the guitar.

 

As you can see, Ionian and Mixolydian are closely related on the fretboard, only one note differentiates these two modes.

 

Click to hear Mixolydian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Mixolydian Formula

 

After you’ve listed to the above example, play Ionian and then Mixolydian to visualize that one note moving between each mode.

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Fingerings

 

Now that you’ve built Mixolydian, and know that you use it to solo over 7th chords, you’ll take this mode to the guitar.

Here are four Mixolydian fingerings that you can work with a metronome at various tempos.

Here’s a C7 backing track that you can jam over with the Mixolydian mode in your studies.

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Mixolydian Fingerings

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Practice Pattern

 

Here’s a pattern that you can apply to any Mixolydian fingering to increase your fluidity on the fretboard.

This pattern is built by ascending triads through Mixolydian, and should be practiced in 12 keys with a metronome.

 

Click to hear Mixolydian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-5-mixolydian-pattern

 

After you’ve worked this pattern through any Mixolydian fingerings, put on the backing track and solo over C7, inserting this pattern from time to time.

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Lick

 

The last example is a sample line that uses the Mixolydian mode over the first four bars of an F blues progression.

After you’ve memorized this line, put on a jazz blues backing track and apply this line musical situation.

 

Click to hear Mixolydian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-6-mixolydian-lick

 

 

 

 

Dorian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

After practicing the three major-based modes, you can move on to minor  based modes, beginning with the Dorian mode.

Dorian is used to solo over m7 chords, including iim7 and Im7, two of the most commonly seen minor chords.

Dorian’s characteristic note, the natural 6th, distinguishes it from other minor modes in the major scale system, as the rest contain a b6.

To expand upon Dorian, check out my lesson “How to Play the Dorian Mode for Jazz Guitar.”

 

 

Dorian Mode Interval Formula

 

Though it may seem strange, you’re going to create this minor mode by altering one note of a major mode, in this case using Mixolydian to create Dorian.

 

Dorian is built by lowering the 3rd note of Mixolydian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

When learning Dorian compared to Mixolydian, it’s best to move the b3 to a lower string to make it smoother on the fretboard.

You can see this approach below, where the 3rd is transferred from the 5th to the 6th strings to create a smoother Dorian fingering.

 

Click to hear Dorian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Dorian Formula

 

After you’ve listened to the above example, play Mixolydian and back to bac to visualize the lowering of the 3rd to create the new mode.

 

 

Dorian Mode Fingerings

 

Now that you’ve learned how to build and apply Dorian to your guitar playing, you’ll learn four Dorian fingerings on the fretboard.

Make sure to work these shapes in different keys with a metronome to keep a focus on solid rhythm in your mode study.

Play with the backing track below with C Dorian in order to take this mode to the soloing side of your guitar practicing.

 

Click to jam over Cm7 Cm7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Dorian Fingerings

 

 

Dorian Mode Practice Pattern

 

The following practice pattern, a 1234 pattern, is used to build your chops and your understanding of Dorian on the fretboard.

Once you have this pattern down, solo over a backing track with Dorian, using this pattern in your lines when appropriate.

 

Click to hear Dorian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-7-dorian-pattern

 

 

 

Dorian Mode Lick

 

To finish your introduction to the Dorian mode, here’s a sample lick over the first four bars to Blue Bossa.

Work this line in a few keys with a metronome, and then put on a Blue Bossa backing track and use this line in your solos.

 

Click to hear Dorian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-8-dorian-lick

 

 

 

Aeolian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

You’ll now explore the Aeolian mode, the 6th mode of the major scale system.

Aeolian is used to solo over m7 chords, mostly over Im7 chords as opposed to iim7 chords with Dorian.

Jazzers use Aeolian less than Dorian because the b6 in Aeolian doesn’t have that characteristic minor jazz sound.

It sounds more like rock than jazz, but it’s still be an effective mode to use over m7 chords.

To expand upon Aeolian, check out my lesson “How to Play the Aeolian Mode for Jazz guitar.”

 

 

Aeolian Mode Interval Formula

 

As is the case with every mode in this lesson, you’ll build Aeolian by comparing it to a previously mode, in this case Dorian.

 

Aeolian is built by lowering the 6th note of Dorian by a half step, one fret, on the guitar.

 

You can see and hear this formula in the following example.

 

Click to hear Aeolian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Aeolian Fingering

 

After listening to the example, play Dorian and Aeolian back to back to see how the 6th is lowered with Aeolian.

 

 

Aeolian Mode Fingerings

 

Moving on, here are four common Aeolian fingerings.

Begin by working one shape, then move on to the next one from there.

Practice these shapes at different tempos with a metronome in order to keep your rhythms tight with the Aeolian mode.

As well, jam with Aeolian over the Cm7 backing track to take this mode to the soloing side of your practice routine.

 

Click to jam on Cm7 Cm7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Aeolian Fingerings

 

 

Aeolian Mode Practice Pattern

 

Here’s a practice pattern you can apply to any Aeolian shape. This pattern applies four-note ascending arpeggios to Aeolian.

Apply any pattern from this article to your Aeolian practice routine to take this mode further in the woodshed.

 

Click to hear Aeolian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-9-aeolian-pattern

 

After you’ve worked this pattern with a metronome, put on the backing track and solo with Aeolian, inserting the pattern here and there to practice applying it to your solos.

 

 

Aeolian Mode Lick

 

Here’s a sample phrase that uses Aeolian over the Im7 chord in a minor ii-V-I progression.

Work this lick in Am first, before moving it to other keys.

When you’ve done that, write out a few Aeolian lines of your own to take this exercise further.

 

Click to hear Aeolian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-10-aeolian-lick

 

 

 

Phrygian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

The Phrygian mode, the 3rd mode of the major scale, is an interesting mode when applied to a solo.

While the most common use for Phrygian is over m7 chords, bringing a Flamenco sound to your lines, there’s another less common, but cool sounding, approach used in jazz.

If you want to add an altered sound to your dominant 7th lines, play Phrygian over any 7th chord.

When doing so, you produce the intervals b9, #9, and b13, but without the major 3rd interval.

Because it’s missing the 3rd, Phrygian has an “open” sound to it, and is a powerful alternative to the altered or Phrygian dominant scales over 7th chords.

To learn more about Phrygian, check out my lesson “How to Play the Phrygian Mode for Jazz Guitar.”

 

 

Phrygian Mode Interval Formula

 

Now, you’ll alter one note in Aeolian to create Phrygian fingerings on the guitar.

 

Phrygian is built by lowering the 2nd note of Aeolian by one fret, a half step.

 

You can see this formula, along with the interval layout for Phrygian, in the following example.

 

Click to hear Phrygian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Phrygian Formula

 

Play both fingerings back to back to see how they’re only one note different, but have a unique sound all their own.

 

 

Phrygian Mode Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build Phrygian, and apply it to your guitar solos, you can learn fingerings for this mode on guitar.

Here are four Phrygian fingerings that you can practice to take this mode to the fretboard.

As well as working these fingerings with a metronome, use this C7 backing track to practice soloing over a dominant chord with Phrygian.

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Phyrgian Fingerings

 

After working these shapes in the key of C, take them to other keys, all 12 if possible, to expand upon this mode in your studies.

 

 

Phrygian Mode Practice Pattern

 

Here’s a practice pattern based on ascending 3rd intervals that you can work with Phrygian in the woodshed.

Apply any other pattern from this article to your Phrygian practice routine to expand on this exercise further.

Lastly, put on a backing track and solo using Phrygian, inserting bits of this pattern where appropriate to spice up your improvisations.

 

Click to hear Phrygian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-11-phrygian-pattern

 

Phrygian Mode Lick

 

To finish your intro to Phrygian, here’s a phrase that you can learn as you apply C Phrygian to the V7  in a ii-V-I progression.

 

Click to hear Phrygian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-12-phrygian-lick

 

 

 

Locrian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

The final mode, the 7th mode of the major scale, is called Locrian.

Locrian is used to solo over m7b5 chords, which you often find as the iim7b5 chord in a minor ii V I progression.

To learn more about Locrian, check out my article, “How to Play the Locrian Mode for Jazz Guitar.”

 

 

Locrian Mode Interval Formula

 

Continuing your study of modes by comparing new fingerings to a previously learned mode in the major scale, you can think of the Locrian mode in comparison to the Phrygian mode.

 

Locrian is built by lowering the 5th note of Phrygian by one fret, a half step.

 

You can see this in the following example, where you take C Phrygian and lower the 5th by one fret in each octave to build a two-octave C Locrian mode.

 

Click to hear Locrian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Locrian Formula

 

Play both of these modes back to back in order to hear how they are very similar, though both have a distinct sound of their own.

 

 

Locrian Mode Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply Locrian, here are four fingerings to learn and apply to both the technical and improvisational section of your routine.

Make sure to use a metronome, and here’s a Cm7b5 backing track that you can solo over in your improvisational studies.

 

Click to jam over Cm7b5 Cm7b5 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Locrian Fingerings

 

Once you’ve learned the above fingerings in C, take them to other keys as you work them around the fretboard.

 

 

Locrian Mode Practice Pattern

 

To expand upon Locrian in your practicing, apply practice patterns, including every pattern you’ve seen so far in this article.

Here’s a new practice pattern that you can work over Locrian, or any, mode in the woodshed.

This pattern is built by playing up four-note arpeggios, then down four notes of the scale, which sets you up for the next arpeggio.

Don’t forget to solo over m7b5 chords with Locrian, using this pattern in your solos to bring a technical device into your improvisational studies.

 

Click to hear Locrian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-13-locrian-pattern

 

 

Locrian Mode Lick

 

To finish up your intro to Locrian, here’s a ii V I lick in G minor that you can learn and add to your soloing vocabulary.

After you’ve learned this lick, which uses A Locrian over the iim7b5 chord, take it to other keys around the fretboard.

Lastly, write out a few Locrian licks of your own as you expand upon this mode in your guitar practice routine.

 

Click to hear Locrian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-14-locrian-lick

 

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Modes

 

Now that you’ve learned all seven major scale modes, you can learn another essential scale system, melodic minor.

Used to solo over m7, maj7, 7, and m7b5 chords, melodic minor modes are just as important in soloing as their major cousins.

They also introduce new harmonic colors into your playing, such as 7#11, maj7#5, and 7alt.

While the fingering system below allows you to transform any major mode into a melodic minor mode, it’ll take your ears some time to become used to these new sounds.

Make sure to solo with each new mode, as well as practice with a metronome, as you learn how to play and improvise with these important modes.

 

 

Melodic Minor Modes Formula

 

While you may know it’s important to learn melodic minor modes, it may seem daunting to learn seven new modes.

But, you can use previous knowledge, with small adjustments, to learn all seven melodic minor modes in no time.

To do so, you compare each melodic minor mode to a major scale mode, lowering one note of each major mode to produce all seven melodic minor modes.

To begin, here are the formulas for each melodic minor mode.

Feel free to refer back to this chart as you progress in your studies of melodic minor modes.

 

  • MM 1 (Ionian With b3)
  • MM2 (Dorian With b2)
  • MM3 (Phrygian With b1)
  • MM4 (Lydian With b7)
  • MM5 (Mixolydian With b6)
  • MM6 (Aeolian With b5)
  • MM7 (Locrian With b4)

 

Now that you have an introduction to how you will build melodic minor modes, it’s time to look deeper into each mode, how it’s built, and how you apply it to solos.

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings and Application

 

The first mode of melodic minor, referred to as simply the melodic minor scale, is used to solo over m7 chords.

When doing so, you’ll create a bit of tension with the raised 7th interval found in that mode.

While some find this tension harsh, others enjoy this sound, so experiment with this mode in to see how your ears react to this new sound.

When soloing with the first melodic minor mode, apply it to the iim7 chord in a major ii-V-I, or the Im7 chord in a minor ii-V-I, two common uses for this mode.

To learn more about the 1st melodic minor mode, visit my “Melodic Minor Mode 1 for Jazz Guitar” lesson.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Interval Formula

 

In order to build the first mode of melodic minor, you’re going to compare it to the Ionian mode.

When doing so, you lower one note in Ionian to form the new mode.

By altering a mode you know, you save time, as well as make it easier to learn this new mode on the fingerboard.

 

Melodic minor mode 1 is built by lowering the 3rd of Ionian by a fret, half step, on the guitar.

 

As you can see in this example, though they’re only one note different, both modes sound unique, as Ionian is major and MM mode 1 is minor.

Lastly, notice that the lowered note, the 3rd, is moved down a string in the first octave.

This is done to make the mode easier to finger on the fretboard.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - melodic minor modes 1

 

Play both modes back to back in order to feel how they sit on the fretboard, as well as how they sound.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings

 

With the knowledge of how to build melodic minor mode 1 down, you can learn how to play this important mode on guitar.

Here are four fingerings for C melodic minor that you can memorize, practice in 12 keys, and add to your solos.

As well, here’s a Cm7 backing track to solo over with any fingering below.

 

Click to jam over Cm7 Cm7 Backing Track

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 2

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Practice Pattern

 

With one or more fingerings down, add a practice pattern to your scale routine.

This pattern is built by playing descending 4th intervals through a C melodic minor mode 1 fingering.

Once you’ve worked out this pattern over the fingering below, take it to other melodic minor mode 1 fingerings you’re studying to expand this idea in your studies.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 2

 

guitar-scales-15-mm1-pattern

 

After you’ve worked this pattern with a metronome, put on a backing track and solo with this pattern and the melodic minor mode 1 in your practicing.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Lick

 

To finish your intro to the first melodic minor mode, here’s a lick that uses MM mode 1 over the iim7 in a ii-V-I progression.

Notice how the #7 interval creates tension, but then that tension is resolved as the line progresses, creating a cool, bebop sound along the way.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 3

 

guitar-scales-16-mm1-lick

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings and Application

 

A lesser known mode, the second mode of melodic minor brings tension to your dominant 7th lines, as you use it to solo over 7th chords.

When doing so, you highlight a 13sus(b9,#9) sound in your lines.

Not the most common sound, but a cool, outside sound that creates a quasi-altered sound without always relying on the altered scale.

To learn more about the melodic minor mode 2, visit my “Melodic Minor Mode 2 for Jazz Guitar” lesson.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Interval Formula

 

When learning to build the second mode of melodic minor, you’ll use previously learned material to create this new mode.

 

Melodic minor mode 2 is built by lowering the 2nd note of Dorian by a fret, half step, on the guitar.

 

Though it’s related to Dorian, as you can hear in the example below, both modes have a personality all their own.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 4

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 5

 

Play each mode back to back to get a feel for how the fingerings are related, but they sound unique on the guitar.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings

 

Armed with the knowledge of how to build and apply melodic minor mode two to your solos, here are four fingerings that you can learn to take that knowledge to the fretboard.

As well, here’s a C7 backing track to practice soloing with any of these shapes in your studies.

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 6

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Practice Pattern

 

With one or more of these fingerings under your belt, expand your practicing by adding a scale pattern to your studies.

Here’s a descending 321 pattern that you can practice over the second melodic minor mode with a metronome.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 5

 

guitar-scales-17-mm2-pattern

 

When you have this pattern under your fingers, solo over a backing track and add it to your soloing to hear how this pattern provides inspiration in your solos.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Lick

 

To finish your into to melodic minor mode 2, here’s a line that you can add to your solos.

In this G major ii-V-I, you use the 2nd melodic minor mode over the D7 chord in the second bar of the progression.

Notice the tension that mode creates over that chord, before resolving in the next measure.

After you can play this line in G, take it to other keys as you expand the line over the fretboard.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 6

 

guitar-scales-18-mm2-lick

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Fingerings and Application

 

You’ll now learn how to build, play and apply the only Maj7 mode in melodic minor, the third mode, otherwise referred to as  Lydian augmented.

This mode features a #4 and #5 interval, giving it the name Lydian (#4) augmented (#5).

Because it also has a major 3 and 7, you use this mode to solo over maj7 chords when you want to bring tension to your lines.

To learn more about the melodic minor mode 3, visit my “Melodic Minor Mode 3 for Jazz Guitar” lesson.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Interval Formula

 

Now that you’re getting the hang of lowering one note of major modes to produce melodic minor modes, you’re going to throw a wrench into the works.

The third mode of melodic minor follows the same formula, you lower one note of Phrygian to form this mode, only it’s a strange note to lower.

 

Melodic minor mode 3 is built by lowering the 1st note of Phrygian by a fret, half step, on the guitar.

 

As you can see, you’ll need to lower the root note to produce the new mode fingering.

This means that to play the third mode of melodic minor from C, you lower the of Db Phrygian to form that fingering.

Here’s how that would look if you take a C Phrygian and compare it to C third mode of melodic minor.

When doing so, you’re playing the same notes in the shape; it’s just that the root has been lowered to create the new mode.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 7

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 9

 

Once you’ve listened to the example, play through both shapes to hear how they fit together but have a unique sound all their own.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build the third mode of melodic minor, you can learn how to play this mode on guitar.

Here are four fingerings for the third mode of melodic minor that you can learn in C and other keys in your studies.

As well, here’s a Cmaj7 jam track that you can use to practice soloing with this scale in the woodshed.

 

Click to jam on Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 10

 

When you have one or more of these fingerings down, put on a backing track and solo with these fingerings over Maj7 chords and full tunes from there.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Practice Pattern

 

As well as running the scale with a metronome, here’s a pattern that you can use to elevate your technique and understanding of the third mode of melodic minor.

The pattern features descending triads played up and down the mode in the key of C.

Work this pattern in other keys, as well as use it in your solos to hear how it sounds when applied to a musical situation.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 8

 

guitar-scales-19-mm3-pattern

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Lick

 

To finish your intro to the third mode of melodic minor, here’s a line that you can apply to your solos.

The line uses the third mode of melodic minor over the Imaj7 chord in a G major ii V I progression.

Notice the tension it creates, which is resolved to avoid sounding too outside over the Imaj7 chord.

Practice the lick in the given key as well as taking it to other keys in your studies.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 9

 

guitar-scales-20-mm3-lick

 

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Fingerings and Application

 

You’re now going to learn how to build, play, and apply the Lydian dominant mode, fourth mode of melodic minor.

This mode is used to solo over 7th chords, bringing a #11(#4) sound to those chords in your improvisations.

If you’re looking for an example of this mode in action, check out the Sonny Rollins tune “Blue Seven,” which uses Lydian dominant mode in the melody.

To learn more about the melodic minor mode 4, visit my “Melodic Minor Mode 4 for Jazz Guitar” lesson.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Interval Formula

 

To build Lydian dominant fingering, you alter one note of Lydian.

 

Lydian dominant is built by lowering the 7th note of Lydian by a fret, half step, on the guitar.

 

You can see why this mode is called Lydian dominant; it has the characteristics of Lydian, with the b7 interval from dominant 7th chords.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 10

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 13

 

To hear how this mode is used in your solos, play C Mixolydian and C Lydian dominant over the C7 track below, giving you an idea of how the two modes sound over that chord.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply this mode to your playing, it’s time to take it to the fretboard.

Here are four fingerings for Lydian dominant that you can learn and solo with in your improvisations.

As well, for each fingering you learn, put on the track below and solo with these shapes over C7 in your studies.

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 14

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Practice Pattern

 

In order to use Lydian dominant to build your chops, here’s a pattern that you can add to any fingering you’ve learned so far.

The pattern is built by playing 4321 from each note in the mode, then 5678 descending that same mode on the fretboard.

Once you can play this pattern, put on a backing track and add this pattern to your solos.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 11

 

guitar-scales-21-mm4-pattern

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Lick

 

To finish your intro to Lydian dominant, here’s a line that uses this mode over each chord in the first four bars of an F blues progression.

Memorize this line, apply it to your solos, and then write out lines of your own using this mode over various chord progressions.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 12

 

guitar-scales-22-mm4-lick

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings and Application

 

The fifth mode of melodic minor is related to Mixolydian, and is used to solo over dominant 7th chords.

When adding this mode to your solos you create a 7b13 sound, which creates tension over 7th chords.

To learn more about melodic minor mode 5, visit my “Melodic Minor Mode 5 for Jazz Guitar” lesson.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Interval Formula

 

To build the fifth mode of melodic minor, you alter one note from Mixolydian.

 

Melodic minor mode 5 is built by lowering the 6th note of Mixolydian by a fret, half step, on the guitar.

 

Here’s how those two modes look so that you can compare them from a fingering and auditory perspective.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 13

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 17

 

Play Mixolydian and Mixolydian b6 back to back to hear how the melodic minor mode has a more modern sound compared to the major mode.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply this mode, it’s time to take it to the fretboard.

Here are four fingerings for Mixolydian b13 that you can work out in multiple keys across the fretboard.

After you’ve learned any of these fingerings, put on the backing track and jam with the fifth mode of melodic minor over that chord.

 

Click to jam on C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 18

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Practice Pattern

 

To work the fifth melodic minor mode from a technical perspective, here’s a pattern that you can add to your practice routine.

The pattern is based on playing descending arpeggios through the mode, both ascending and descending the fingering.

After you have this pattern down, apply it to your solo lines.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 14

 

guitar-scales-23-mm5-pattern

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Lick

 

To complete your intro to this mode, here’s a phrase over the first four bars of an F blues progression.

After you’ve learned this line, write out your own over the same changes, before taking this idea to other areas of your soloing practice routine.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 15

 

guitar-scales-24-mm5-lick

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Fingerings and Application

 

The second last mode of melodic minor, the 6th mode, is used to solo over m7b5 chords.

While it can be an alternative to Locrian, your first choice over m7b5 chords, it can be tough to apply to those chords and not sound like a mistake.

As you’ll see in this section, the natural 9 can be tough to navigate.

So, take your time, learn the sample line, and go slow with this mode at home before taking it to a gig or jam session.

To learn more about the melodic minor mode 6, visit my “Melodic Minor Mode 6 for Jazz Guitar” lesson.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Interval Formula

 

In order to build the sixth mode of melodic minor, you alter one note from Aeolian to create this new mode.

 

Melodic minor mode 6 is built by lowering the 5th note of Aeolian by a fret, half step, on the guitar.

 

Though the fingering is related to Aeolian, you use the sixth mode of melodic minor to solo over m7b5 chords, where you bring a natural 9 sound to your lines.

When doing so, you need to be careful how you use that natural 9, as that note is the natural 3 of the key center when playing a minor ii-V-I progressions.

This can cause tension, and sound like a mistake if not done right, so make sure to experiment with this mode over m7b5 chords at home before bringing it to a jam or gig.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 16

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 21

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build the sixth mode of melodic minor, and how to apply it to your solos, you can learn this mode on the guitar.

To get you started, here are four fingerings that you can learn and apply to your technical and soloing studies.

 

Click to jam over Cm7b5 Cm7b5 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 22

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Practice Pattern

 

In order to use the sixth melodic minor mode to build your chops, here’s a pattern that you can apply to any fingering you’ve learned for this mode.

The pattern is built by working descending 3rds through the scale, as you can see and hear in the example below.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 17

 

guitar-scales-25-mm6-pattern

 

Once you’ve practiced this pattern, put on a backing track and add this pattern to your solo to hear how it sounds in an improvisational setting.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Lick

 

To help you apply the 6th melodic minor mode to your soloing, here’s a lick over the iim7b5 chord in a minor ii-V-I progression.

Learn the lick in the original key, then work it in other keys, before applying it to your solos.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 18

 

guitar-scales-26-mm6-lick

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings and Application

 

One of the most popular modes on any instrument, the seventh mode of melodic minor is also known as the altered scale.

Used to create tension over 7th chords, this mode is used over both major and minor ii-V-I’s, blues, rhythm changes, and just about any progression you can think of.

It’ll take time to get used to the tensions in this mode, but with time you’ll apply this mode with confidence to your solos.

To learn more about the melodic minor mode 7, visit my “Melodic Minor Mode 7 for Jazz Guitar” lesson.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Interval Formula

 

To build the altered scale, you alter one note of the Locrian mode on the fretboard.

 

The altered scale is built by lowering the 4th note of Locrian by a fret, half step, on the guitar.

 

Though this mode is related to Locrian, you apply it to dominant 7th chords where you want to bring in b9,#9,b5, and #5 intervals.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 19

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - melodic minor modes 25

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings

 

Now that you know to build and apply the altered scale, you can now learn how to play it on guitar.

Here are four fingerings to get you started with this mode on the fretboard.

Make sure to work these shapes in different keys, as well as apply them to the jam track to get a feel for how they sound on guitar.

 

Click to jam over C7alt c7 alt backing track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 26

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Practice Pattern

 

To bring this mode into your technical practice, here’s a pattern that you can apply to any of fingerings for the Altered Scale that you’ve learned so far.

The pattern is built by alternating four scale notes with arpeggios, ascending and descending the fingering with that pattern.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 20

 

guitar-scales-27-mm7-pattern

 

Once you have this pattern under your fingers, apply it to your soloing over various chords in order to hear how it sounds in an improvisational setting.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Lick

 

To finish your intro to the altered scale, here’s a lick that you can us over the V7alt chord in a minor key ii-V-I.

Work this line in a few different keys, and then put it into your soloing over a song you know or are working on in the woodshed.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 21

 

guitar-scales-28-mm7-licks

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Modes

 

After you’ve worked on major and melodic minor modes, you can expand into harmonic minor modes.

These seven modes offer outside the box sounds, such as the Maj7#9 and Maj7#5nat4 sound, to explore in your playing.

Besides the more exotic sounds, you’ll find classics such as the first and the fifth mode, which are a staples of jazz, fusion and many other popular musical genres.

Check these modes out, you might not use them all, but you never know what you’ll discover within these new modal colors.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Modes Formula

 

Though not as common as major and melodic minor modes, there are essential harmonic minor modes that you need to add to your playing.

As well, there are interesting sounds produced by the modes of harmonic minor, sounds that can expand your soloing in new directions on the fretboard.

To begin, here are formulas for all seven harmonic minor modes as compared to their major scale mode counterparts.

Use the following chart as a reference when exploring the harmonic minor modes and their musical applications.

 

  • HM 1 (Aeolian With #7)
  • HM 2 (Locrian With #6)
  • HM 3 (Ionian With #5)
  • HM 4 (Dorian With #4)
  • HM 5 (Phrygian With #3)
  • HM 6 (Lydian With #2)
  • HM 7 (Mixolydian With #1)

 

Now that you’ve explored the formulas for building all seven harmonic minor modes, you can take that knowledge to the fretboard.

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings and Application

 

The first mode of harmonic minor, this is the parent scale from which the other harmonic minor modes are derived.

As it’s the parent mode in a minor system, it’s used to improvise over m7 chords, highlighting a #7 interval within that mode.

Because of this, it’s used to spice up your m7 soloing lines.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Interval Formula

 

The first step is to learn how to take a previously learned mode and alter one-note to create this new minor mode.

 

Harmonic minor mode 1 is built by raising the 7th note of Aeolian by a half step, one fret, on the guitar.

 

As you can see, this mode has both b6 and #7 intervals, creating a unique sound when applied to m7 chords in your solos.

Because of this, melodic minor and Dorian tend to be used in jazz guitar more often than harmonic minor mode 1.

That’s not to say you can’t use it in a jazz context, but you need to be careful as it creates a rock feel when applied to m7 chords.

Here are those two modes back to back, HM 1 and Aeolian, so that you can see how one note makes a big difference in the sound of the HM 1 mode.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 1

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 1

 

Play both shapes back to back in order to get a feel of how they sit on the fretboard, before exploring the HM 1 mode further in your studies.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply the first mode of harmonic minor, here are four shapes that you can learn to apply that knowledge to the fretboard.

To get the most out of your practice, jam along with the backing track after you’ve learned any of these shapes.

For an extra challenge, take these shapes to other keys in your practicing.

 

Click to jam over Am7 Am7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 2

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Practice Pattern

 

One of the best ways to internalize shapes, and build your chops, is to apply a pattern to any scale you’re working on.

Here’s a practice pattern that you can apply to the first mode of harmonic minor.

The pattern is built by ascending 3rds through the shape in this, and other, keys on the guitar.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 2

 

guitar-scales-29-hm1-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Lick

 

To finish your intro to the first mode of harmonic minor, here’s a lick you can learn over an Am7 chord, which uses A harmonic minor to create tension over that chord.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 3

 

guitar-scales-30-hm1-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings and Application

 

You’ll now explore a lesser-used harmonic minor modes, but one that adds a new sense of interest to your m7b5 soloing lines.

As it contains the intervals 1-b3-b5-b7, it’s used to solo over m7b5 chords when you want to step away from Locrian in your solos.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Interval Formula

 

As it’s used to solo over m7b5 chords, the second mode of harmonic minor is related to Locrian, and built by altering one note of that major scale mode.

 

The harmonic minor 2nd mode is built by raising the 6th note of Locrian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

Here are those two modes back to back so that you can hear how that one note makes a big difference in the sound of each mode.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 4

 

Harmonic Minor Jazz Guitar Modes 5

 

Once you’ve listened to the example, play through each mode to visualize how each mode is related yet different on the fretboard.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply this mode, here are four fingerings to practice applying the HM 2 mode to guitar.

Work each fingering with a metronome, and then add in the pattern below when you’re ready to take your chops further.

 

Click to jam on Am7b5 Am7b5 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 6

 

Once you have one or more of these shapes down, put on the Am7b5 backing track and solo over using any or all of these fingerings.

From there, work these fingerings in 12 keys as you expand them in your practice.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Practice Pattern

 

To extend your chops with this mode, here’s a descending 3rds practice pattern applied to the 6th-string fingering.

Work this pattern with a metronome, and then take it to your solos as you use the pattern for inspiration in your solos and a chops builder.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 5

 

guitar-scales-31-hm2-pattern

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Lick

 

Now, you can play a lick that features the HM 2 mode over the iim7b5 chord in a ii V I in G minor.

Notice how the F#, #6, stands out in the line.

It’s the 3rd of the next chord, D7alt, so it sounds as though you’re playing over that chord for two bars.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 6

 

guitar-scales-32-hm2-lick-2

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Fingerings and Application

 

You’ll now explore a mode that brings a new sound to your maj7 soloing lines, where you want to bring in a #5 sound to your solos.

It’s similar to the third mode of melodic minor that you saw earlier.

Though here, there’s a natural 4th interval, relating it closely to Ionian as well.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Interval Formula

 

Now that you know how to apply the third mode of harmonic minor, you’ll alter one note in the major scale to form this new mode.

 

Harmonic Minor mode 3 is built by raising the 5th note of Ionian by a half step, one fret, on the guitar.

 

Here are those two modes back to back so that you can see how they’re similar and different when compared on the fretboard.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 7

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 9

 

After listening to the example above, play through both modes to visualize how the HM 3 mode is related to the Ionian made, but has a distinct sound.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings for the third mode of harmonic minor that you can add to your vocabulary.

After you’ve learned any, or all, of these fingerings, put on the backing track and solo with this mode as you experiment with this sound in your playing.

 

Click to jam over Amaj7 Amaj7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 10

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Practice Pattern

 

To expand on this mode in your studies, you’ll add a pattern to the fingerings you’ve learned so far.

This pattern alternates 3rd intervals, which you can see and hear in the example below.

Once you’ve learned this pattern, take it to other keys and fingerings as you expand this chops builder in your studies.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 8

 

 

guitar-scales-33-hm3-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Lick

 

Here’s a lick featuring the third mode of harmonic minor over the Imaj7 chord a ii V I in the key of A major.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 9

 

guitar-scales-34-hm3-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Fingerings and Application

 

The fourth mode of harmonic minor adds tension to your m7 lines.

Built in comparison to Dorian, HM 4 has a #4 interval, which makes this mode sound unique compared to Dorian.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Interval Formula

 

You’ll now learn how to build the fourth mode of harmonic minor, which you’ll do by comparing it to the Dorian mode, which comes from the major scale system.

 

Harmonic minor mode 4 is built by raising the 4th note of Dorian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

Here are those two modes back to back to compare on the fretboard.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 10

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 13

 

Play through both fingerings back to back to visualize how they’re similar, but produce unique sounds on the guitar.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply the fourth mode of harmonic minor, here are four fingerings to apply this mode to the fretboard.

Once you have one or more of these shapes down, apply them to a soloing situation in your practice routine.

 

Click to jam over Am7 Am7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 14

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s a pattern that you can use over any harmonic minor mode 4 fingering.

The pattern is built by alternating descending and ascending 3rd intervals over each note in the scale.

Once you have this pattern down, apply it to your solos to bring this pattern to an improvisational situation.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 11

 

guitar-scales-35-hm4-pattern

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Lick

 

Here’s a sample lick in order to hear this mode used over the iim7 chord in a ii V I progression.

Notice how the #4 is used in a pattern, which inserts that tension note without drawing too much attention in the overall context of the line.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 12

 

guitar-scales-36-hm4-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings and Application

 

You’ll now study the most commonly used harmonic minor mode, the fifth mode.

Used to solo over 7th chords, this mode brings a 7b9,b13 sound to your lines.

Because it’s closely related to Phrygian, but used over 7th chords, it’s referred to as  Phrygian dominant.

To learn more about this mode, check out my “Phrygian Dominant Scale for Jazz Guitar” lesson.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Interval Formula

 

Now that you know how to apply this mode, you can learn how to build this mode by comparing it to a major mode on the fretboard.

 

Phrygian dominant is built by raising the 3rd note of Phrygian by one fret, one half step, on the guitar.

 

Here are those two modes back to back on the fretboard for comparison.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 13

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 17.1

 

After listening to the above example, play through each mode to hear how they sound different, but are only one note different on the fretboard.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply this mode, it’s time to take Phrygian dominant to the fretboard.

Here are four fingerings that you can work with both a metronome and over the backing track.

 

Click to jam over A7 A7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 18

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s an ascending 3rds pattern that you can apply to any fingering in your studies

After working with a metronome, jam with it over a backing track to hear how it sounds when applied to a soloing situation.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 14

 

guitar-scales-37-hm5-pattern

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Lick

 

Here’s a sample lick that uses Phrygian dominant over the A7 chord in a ii V I chord progression.

Notice how this mode creates tension over the V7 chord, which is resolved to the Imaj7 chord.

Phrygian dominant is a powerful tool in your soloing repertoire, but if it’s not resolved properly, it sounds out of place and even wrong in your solos.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 15

 

guitar-scales-38-hm5-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Fingerings and Application

 

The sixth of harmonic minor produces a maj7#9 sound, and is used more often than you might think in your solos.

Because the #9 note is also a b3 when applied to a maj7 chord, this mode brings a blues sound to your solos.

While it may not become a regular mode in your solos, it’s a nice second choice maj7 modes in your melodic repertoire.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Interval Formula

 

You will build this mode by comparing it to a major mode that you’ve already studied, in this case Lydian.

 

Harmonic minor mode 6 is built by raising the 2nd note of Lydian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

Here are those modes back to back to see how they’re similar, but sound different.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 16

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 21

 

Play these modes back to back to visualize how they’re one note different, but produce unique sounds on the instrument.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings that you can use to begin your study of this mode on the fretboard.

After learning one or more of these shapes, practice soloing with these fingerings in your practice routine.

 

Click to jam over Amaj7 Amaj7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 22

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Practice Pattern

 

You can now apply a descending 3rds pattern to any fingering of the sixth mode of harmonic minor.

Make sure to work this pattern in multiple keys, with a metronome, and add this pattern to your solos and from there.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 17

 

guitar-scales-39-hm6-pattern

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Lick

 

Here’s a line that uses this mode over the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I progression.

Notice how the #2 interval stands out, but that it sounds bluesy when put into the context of a line.

This is where you’ll use this mode most effectively, when you want to bring a blues sound to a maj7 chord.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 18

 

guitar-scales-40-hm6-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings and Application

 

The seventh of harmonic minor is a strange one.

It’s used to solo over dim7 chords, and is related to Mixolydian, but with an altered root.

As was the case with Phrygian b1, this can be tricky, so think of it as a fingering option.

If you take any Mixolydian shape, and lower the root by one fret, you produce the 7th mode of harmonic minor.

They aren’t related as far as application, but you relate them on the fretboard to make it easier to learn this new mode.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Interval Formula

 

With the theory of how to apply this mode down, you can learn how to build the seventh mode of harmonic minor by altering one note in a related major mode.

 

The 7th mode of harmonic minor is built by raising the root note of Mixolydian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

Here are those modes side by side to compare on the fretboard.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 19

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 25

 

Play through those modes back to back to see how they’re related fingering wise, but have a different sound on the guitar.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings

 

Now you can learn to play this unconventional mode on the fretboard.

Here are four fingerings to begin studying the seventh mode of harmonic minor on the guitar.

Make sure to run these patterns with a metronome, and solo over the backing track to take these shapes to the improvisational as well as the technical side of your studies.

 

Click to jam on Adim7 Adim7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 26

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s an alternating 3rds pattern that you can apply to any fingering for this mode.

After you play this pattern with a metronome, use it in your soloing practice as well.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 20

 

guitar-scales-41-hm7-pattern

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Lick

 

Here’s a line that uses the seventh mode of harmonic minor over an Adim7 chord.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 21

 

guitar-scales-42-hm7-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Modes

 

Harmonic major isn’t the most common modal system when it comes to modern music.

But, this system produces essential sounds that you need in your playing.

Take your time when working harmonic major modes, you might not see immediate application for these modes in your playing,

But, with time, new doors will open up, and you’ll find that these less common sounds creep into your solos.

 

 

Harmonic Major Modes Formula

 

You’ll learn the seven modes of harmonic major by comparing them to modes of the major scale.

By taking each major mode, and altering one note at a time, you create all seven harmonic major modes.

Use this chart as a guide when working on harmonic major modes and their musical applications.

 

  • HMaj 1 (Ionian With b6)
  • HMaj 2 (Dorian With b5)
  • HMaj 3 (Phrygian With b4)
  • HMaj 4 (Lydian With b3)
  • HMaj 5 (Mixolydian With b2)
  • HMaj 6 (Aeolian With b1)
  • HMaj 7 (Locrian With b7)

 

Now it’s time to take the harmonic major modes to the fretboard as you build each mode, apply it to your solos, and practice patterns and licks.

 

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Fingerings and Application

 

The first mode of harmonic major is one of the most popular modes in this system, and is used to solo over maj7 chords when you want to bring a b6 sound to your lines.

After learning this mode, solo over maj7 chords and alternate Ionian and the first mode of harmonic major as you compare these sounds in your playing.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Interval Formula

 

You’ll now learn how to alter the Ionian mode to create this new shape on the fretboard.

 

Harmonic major mode 1 is built by lowering the 6th note of Ionian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

Here are both of those modes side by side to see how they’re similar, but sound different when played on the guitar.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 1

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 1

 

Play through both fingerings back to back to visualize how the Ionian mode is altered to form harmonic major mode 1.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how build the first mode of harmonic major, take that knowledge to the fretboard.

To begin, learn the following fingerings, one at a time, to study harmonic major mode 1 across the fretboard.

Here’s a jam track to practice soloing with any of these harmonic major mode 1 fingerings in your studies.

 

Click to Jam on Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 2

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s an ascending 3rds practice pattern that you can work out with a metronome in your studies.

After you can play this pattern with a metronome, add this pattern to your solos over chords and full tunes.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 2

 

guitar-scales-43-hmaj1-pattern

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Lick

 

Here’s a line that uses this mode over the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I in C major.

Notice how the b6 stands out over that chord, but resolves to not sound wrong, just outside for a split second in the line.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 3

 

guitar-scales-44-hmaj1-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Fingerings and Application

 

Moving on to the second mode of harmonic major, you apply this mode to m7 lines and phrases.

Because it’s related to Dorian, it outlines a m7 chord when applied to your guitar solos.

But, what makes this mode worth learning is the b5 interval, which brings a blues vibe to your lines, as b5 is a blues note.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Interval Formula

 

You’ll now learn how to build the second mode of harmonic major as compared to a major scale mode you already know.

 

Harmonic major mode 2 is built by lowering the fifth note of Dorian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

Here are those two modes back to back to get a context of how these shapes are related, but have a unique sound all their own.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 4

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 5

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Fingerings

 

After learning how to build and apply the 2nd mode of harmonic major, take it to the fretboard using the following four fingerings.

When you can play any of these fingerings from memory, solo over the Cm7 track with this mode, before taking it to other keys in your studies.

 

Click to jam on Cm7 Cm7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 6

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s a descending 3rds pattern to help build your chops with the second mode of harmonic major.

After you’ve worked this pattern over the following fingering, take it to other fingerings of this mode.

When comfortable, apply this pattern to your solos to hear how it sounds in a soloing context.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 5

 

guitar-scales-45-hmaj2-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Lick

 

Here’s a line that uses that mode to outline the Cm7 chord in a ii V I in Bb major.

Notice how the b5, Gb, sounds like the blues in this context.

This is the reason this mode makes an appearance into your playing, it sounds like Dorian meets blues over m7 chords.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 6

 

guitar-scales-46-hmaj2-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Fingerings and Application

 

One of the more common harmonic major modes, the 3rd mode is used to solo over 7th chords.

When doing so, you highlight the b9, #9, and b13 over any 7th chord.

As you can see, this mode creates tension, so working on resolving that tension is just as important as learning how to play and apply this mode.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Interval Formula

 

You now alter one note from a previously learned major mode to create the third mode of harmonic major.

 

Harmonic major mode 3 is built by lowering the 4th note of the Phrygian mode by a half step, one fret, on the guitar.

 

Here are those two modes back to back so that you can build a comparison with how they sound on the guitar.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 7

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 9

 

Play through both modes back to back to visualize their similarities, and hear how different they sound on the guitar.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Fingerings

 

Now learn one or more of the following fingerings in order to take that mode to the fretboard.

After you’ve worked out any fingering, put on the C7 backing track apply these shapes to the soloing side of your practice routine.

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 10

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Practice Pattern

 

Now practice an alternating 3rds pattern over any fingering for the third mode of harmonic major, starting with the fingering below.

After you’ve worked this pattern with a metronome, practice bringing this pattern to your improvised solos over 7th chords.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 8

 

guitar-scales-47-hmaj3-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Lick

 

Once you’ve worked on the fingerings and practice pattern for this mode, you can study a sample line that features the third mode of harmonic major over the V7 chord in a ii V I in F major.

You’ll notice how much tension is created by this mode, which is then resolved into the Imaj7 chord during the next bar.

This mode is a fun choice over 7th chords, but it does create a large amount of tension, and so be sure to work on resolving this mode in your playing so it keeps the hip sound and doesn’t sound like a mistake in your lines.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 9

 

guitar-scales-48-hmaj3-lick

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Fingerings and Application

 

The fourth mode of harmonic major is used to solo over m7 chords when you want to go beyond the Dorian mode in your playing.

When doing so, you bring the #4 interval, a blues note, into your lines.

After you’ve learned this mode, put on a m7 backing track alternate Dorian and fourth mode harmonic major to compare these sounds in a soloing situation.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Interval Formula

 

In order to quickly build the fourth mode of harmonic major, lower one note from the Lydian mode, which you learned earlier.

 

The fourth mode of harmonic major is built by lowering the third of Lydian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

Here are those two modes back to back to see how they’re related fingering wise, but produce different sounds on the guitar.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 10

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 13

 

Play through each fingering to compare each mode on the guitar.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings for the fourth mode of harmonic major that you can study and learn in 12 keys.

Once you can play any of these fingerings, put on the backing track solo over Cm7 with the fourth mode of harmonic major to work it in a soloing context.

 

Click to jam over Cm7 Cm7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 14

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s an alternating 3rds pattern to apply to the fourth mode of harmonic major in order to build your guitar chops at the same time as you learn this mode.

Once you have this pattern under your fingers, put on a backing track and apply it to your solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 11

 

guitar-scales-49-hmaj4-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Lick

 

Here’s a line featuring the fourth mode of harmonic major over the Im7 chord in a minor ii V I.

This mode creates tension over any m7 chord, and that tension needs to be resolved when applied to your solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 12

 

guitar-scales-50-hmaj4-lick

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Fingerings and Application

 

This is the most common harmonic major mode, as it’s used to solo over 7th chords when you want to highlight only the b2 (b9) interval.

As it’s related to Mixolydian, after you’ve learned the fifth mode of  harmonic major, move between both modes in your solos to build this new sound in your ears.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Interval Formula

 

You’ll now learn how to build the fifth mode of harmonic major by comparing it to a similar major scale mode on the fretboard.

 

Harmonic major mode 5 is built by lowering the second note of Mixolydian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

Here’s Mixolydian and fifth mode harmonic major back to back to hear how they sound side by side for a comparison.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 13

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 17

 

Play through both fingerings back to back to compare these shapes, and their sounds, in your playing.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Fingerings

 

You’re now ready to learn the four fifth mode harmonic major fingerings below.

Once you’ve learned any of these fingerings, solo over the C7 chord with the this mode to hear how it sounds when applied to an improvisational context.

 

Click to jam on C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 18

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s an ascending 3rds pattern that you can learn over this fingering, and apply to other fingerings in your practice routine.

After you’ve worked this pattern with a metronome, bring this pattern to your solos as you transfer it to the improvisational side of your studies.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 14

 

guitar-scales-51-hmaj5-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Lick

 

You can now learn a line that features the fifth mode of harmonic major in a ii V I progression.

Notice how similar this mode sounds to Mixolydian, but the one note difference creates new interest that you can bring to your solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 15

 

guitar-scales-52-hmaj5-lick

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Fingerings and Application

 

The sixth mode of harmonic major is used to solo over maj7 chords where you want to highlight the #9, #4, and #5 intervals.

Because of those intervals, this mode is tense sounding and should be treated with caution in your solos.

If you choose to use this mode, work on resolving those tensions so they don’t sound like mistakes, and create the sounds you intended.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Interval Formula

 

With every modal system beyond major, there’s always one fingering where the root note is raised or lowered, and this is that mode for harmonic major.

 

Harmonic major mode 6 is built by lowering the root note of the Aeolian mode by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

Here are both of those modes back to back to visualize their relationship on the fretboard, as well as hear how they sound as compared to one another.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 16

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 21

 

Play through both modes to get an idea of how they’re similar from a fingering standpoint, but produce a unique sound.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Fingerings

 

Take this mode onto the fretboard by learning the following four fingerings.

Once you’ve worked out any of these shapes, put on the backing track and take this mode to your soloing practice.

 

Click to jam over Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 22

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s a descending 3rds pattern that you can apply to any of the fingerings for the sixth mode of harmonic major.

After you’ve learned this pattern with a metronome, put on a backing track and apply this pattern to your solos over maj7 chords.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 17

 

 

guitar-scales-53-hmaj6-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Lick

 

Here’s a lick with the sixth mode of harmonic major used to outline the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I.

Notice that by resolving the #5 interval up to the 6th, the line ends on an inside sound, which is an effective way of adding this tense mode to your solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 18

 

 

guitar-scales-54-hmaj6-lick

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Fingerings and Application

 

To finish your study of harmonic major, you’ll learn a little used, but cool sounding, mode that’s applied to dim7 chords in your solos.

As is the case with any rare mode, dip your toes into this sound, see how it applies to your playing, and go from there.

You never know when an uncommon mode makes it’s way into your playing, so see how this mode fits into your ears.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Interval Formula

 

To build the seventh mode of harmonic major, you compare it to a major scale mode that you’ve learned previously, in this case Locrian.

 

Harmonic major 7th mode is built by lowering the 7th note of Locrian by one fret, a half step, on the guitar.

 

Here are those two modes back to back for you to practice and listen to as a comparison on the guitar.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 19

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 25

 

Play each mode to visualize how they’re related fingering wise, but sound completely different on the fretboard.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Fingerings

 

With the knowledge of how to build and apply this mode to your solos, you’ll learn how to play the seventh mode of harmonic major.

As well, put on the backing track and solo using the fingerings from this section to apply this mode to a soloing situation.

 

Click to jam over Cdim7 cdim7 backing track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 26

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s an alternating 3rds pattern to build your chops and increase your technique in the woodshed.

After you can play this pattern, put on the backing track and apply it to your improvised solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 20

 

guitar-scales-55-hmaj7-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Lick

 

In this sample line, you’ll apply the seventh mode of harmonic major to the Cdim7 chord in a passing diminished progression.

This mode won’t sound as natural as the diminished scale, but it makes a nice second choice in your solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 21

 

guitar-scales-56-hmaj7-lick



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