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The Complete Guide to Jazz Guitar Scales and Modes

Jazz guitar scales are an essential tool for learning how to create accurate, melodic, and interesting solos on the instrument.

They aren’t the be all and end all of learning how to solo.

But.

Learning how to play scales and apply them to different soloing situations will greatly improve your ability to navigate chord changes in your solos.

 

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

You might even have applied these modes to your guitar solos.

But, if you’re like many other guitarists, you’ve struggled at some point to memorize, apply, and feel comfortable with scales on the guitar.

This doesn’t have to be the case.

You don’t have to struggle with learning scales on the guitar.

 

In this extensive lesson, you’ll learn how to take one fingering, the Lydian mode, and by altering only one note at a time play 28 Jazz guitar scales and modes.

 

This system will greatly reduce the time needed to learn and memorize scales and modes on the fretboard.

As well, it allows you to build on previous knowledge with each mode, rather than starting from scratch each time you learn a mode in the woodshed.

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

From complete beginner to advanced guitarists.

Organizing Jazz guitar scales into an easy to understand and reference system will produce noticeable results in your practice routine.

This in-depth lesson will guide you through the steps needed to do just that, master essential Jazz guitar scales on the fretboard, understand how they’re used in solos, and provide you with examples of these devices in action over popular chord progressions.

There are even some fun, outside sounding, classical modes at the end to explore in your playing.

 

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 Jazz 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

 

 

Other Guitar Modes

 

 

 

How to Use This Jazz Guitar Scales Guide

 

To begin, take a minute to read about how this guide is organized, as well as how to best approach the material for your level of guitar experience.

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

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

From there, you’ll 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 is not to say that you shouldn’t study the harmonic major modes, or that they can’t provide interest to your solos.

It’s just that you’ll want to get the most common modes under your fingers first before exploring modes that you might not use as much in your playing.

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

But, for beginners, or more advanced players that struggle with modes on the guitar, it’s best to start at the beginning and work through the modes from that starting point.

 

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

 

Go slow, take your time to understand each mode, learn how to play it on the guitar, and apply it to various soloing exercises until you feel 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 ever feel like you’re forgetting an important mode, or aren’t fully comfortable with it, you can always return to that mode and review it in your studies.

 

 

Experience Levels and the Guide

 

As there’s a lot of information presented in this guide, it’s a good idea to approach these modes with reasonable goals for your experience level on the guitar.

To help you decide where to begin your study of guitar scales, and set appropriate goals for your experience level, here’s a breakdown of the lessons for both beginner and intermediate guitarists.

 

Beginner

For those players just starting to explore modes on the guitar, 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 to begin, one only for now
  • Learn two fingerings for each mode, one from the 6th and one from the 5th strings
  • Solo over the backing tracks with those 2 fingerings
  • Apply the practice patterns only if comfortable

 

Intermediate

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

 

  • Review any modes you’ve studied previously
  • Move on to learning modes you haven’t studies 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 fingerings, practice pattern, and sample lick applied to backing tracks in your studies

 

Now that you know where to begin and what goals to set for your experience level, you can understand how each section of this guide is organized.

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

Within those mode lessons, there are five distinct sections, which are described here to give you an idea of what to expect from each mode section.

 

Mode Fingering and Application

In these sections, you’ll learn about how to apply each mode to a soloing situations, as well as learn background information on that mode to help set up your further study in the proceeding sections.

Think of this section as a brief introduction to the mode, and then that information will be unpacked and applied to the guitar in the following sections.

 

Mode Interval Formula

Here, you’ll learn how to build each mode, and for the vast majority of modes, learn how to build them on the fretboard by altering one note from a previous mode you’ve learned in this guide.

Because the modes in this lesson are mostly built by comparing them to other modes, if you’re new to guitar modes, make sure to work them out in the order presented in the lesson.

As well, you’ll get a chance to hear and play the new mode, and the mode it’s being compared to, in this section.

 

Mode Fingerings

Moving on to applying knowledge to the fretboard, in this section you’ll learn four fingerings for each mode in the guide.

As well, there is a backing track for every mode in this section, so you can learn a fingering and then immediately practice soloing with that mode without even having to leave the lesson page.

 

Mode Practice Patterns

In this section, you’ll learn one practice pattern for each mode that you can use in your studies in order to internalize the mode fingerings and build your guitar chops at the same time.

Because each mode has a different practice pattern, and some will repeat over the course of the guitar, you can take any pattern that you like over one mode and apply it to other modes in your studies.

Each practice pattern will come with an audio example of that pattern being applied to the first fingering from the previous section for each mode.

 

Mode Licks

The last section of each mode lesson provides a sample line with that mode being applied to a common Jazz chord progression.

You can learn the lick as is, and for more advanced players in 12 keys, as you practice it with a metronome and work on applying it to your solos as well.

Each lick will be featured with notation, TAB, and audio to make it easier to get under your fingers.

 

 

Further Reading

 

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

 

 

 

What is a Parent Scale?

 

Learning to play guitar solos means mastering guitar scales and modes, and to do that 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, and how it applied to modes.

 

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 note to the root note, it’s the major scale, also called the Ionian mode.

But, if you play that scale, in note order, from any of the other 6 notes in that parent scale, you’ll produce 6 unique sounding 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 those same notes of the C major scale from the notes D to D, you produce 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 on the guitar, because they contain a different interval structure.

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

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 of these commonly used parent scales.

 

 

Further Reading

 

To learn about parent guitar scales further, please refer to the following essential lessons.

 

 

 

What is a Mode?

 

Now that you’ve looked at what a parent scale is, and touched upon modes a bit in your reading, 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 of the seven notes in those scales; they have the same notes as the parent scale, but sound different.

 

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 both 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.

To help organize this difference in your thinking, here’s a quick guide to remember:

 

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 modes on guitar.

But, not to worry, as you learn how to play and apply these modes in the lessons below, this theory will become clearer.

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 by applying it to the fretboard it’ll make a lot more sense.

 

 

Major Scale Modes

 

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

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

Because of their common occurrence in Jazz standards, having a strong hold on the major modes is essential for any serious Jazz guitar student.

Take your time learning these modes, and make sure to apply them to both technical and improvisational practice situations in order to best prepare yourself 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 Jazz guitar 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 in your mind, and on the fretboard.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

By learning the Lydian mode first, the 4th mode of the major scale, you can then 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, will make this learning process easier as well as help solidify theses shapes on the guitar.

Rather than learning new shapes for each mode, you simply 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 that you can use as a reference sheet during your study of individual major modes in this lesson.

 

  • 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 have an introduction to the formula being used to create all seven major scale modes from the Lydian mode, by altering one note at a time, you are ready to apply this knowledge to learning 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 the Lydian mode 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.

When played in a guitar solo situation, 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 a bit of tension in your lines.

While some players enjoy this tension, it can take a bit of time to get used to, so make sure to work this scale from both a technical and soloing perspective in order to give your ears the best chance to get used to this important Jazz mode.

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 going to be your “starting position” for all of the other modes in this lesson, so it’s important to learn and memorize this formula.

Once you have this interval pattern down, you’ll be able to use it to create 27 more modes from one shape.

Pretty cool right?

Make sure to prioritize the Lydian mode in your studies to begin with, then when comfortable, move on to the other modes in the lesson.

 

 

Lydian Mode Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build the Lydian mode and how to apply it to your solos, here are four essential fingerings to learn on the fretboard.

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

To help you with that application, here’s a Cmaj7 backing track that you can solo over when learning one or all of the Lydian fingerings below.

 

Click to jam over Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Lydian Fingerings

 

 

Lydian Mode Practice Pattern

 

You’ll now explore a practice pattern over the Lydian mode, which features ascending 4th intervals through the fingering, and can be applied to any shape you’ve learned in this lesson.

As well, to build your chops further, you can apply any practice pattern in this article to the Lydian mode in your studies.

 

Click to hear Lydian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Lydian Pattern

 

After you’ve learned how to play this pattern with a metronome, put on the Cmaj7 backing track and solo with the Lydian mode, adding in the practice pattern from time to time to hear how it sounds in a soloing situation.

 

 

Lydian Mode Lick

 

To help you take the Lydian mode from the practice room to the bandstand, here’s a sample phrase that you can study, work in 12 keys, and apply to your own guitar solos.

 

Click to hear Lydian Mode 2

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Lydian Lick

 

Ionian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

Now that you’ve got the Lydian mode under your fingers, you’re going to alter one note in that mode to create the Ionian mode, otherwise known as the major scale.

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

Because it’s used to solo over Imaj7 chords, which are the tonic chords in any major key, the Ionian mode is one of the most important modes to learn when studying Jazz guitar.

Make sure to take your time with this mode, learn the fingerings, work the practice pattern, and take it to the improvisational side of your practice routine in order to fully grasp this mode in your studies.

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

 

 

Ionian Mode Interval Formula

 

In order to build your Ionian mode and its fingerings, you’re going to compare it to the Lydian mode that you previously learned.

By adjusting previously learned material, the Lydian mode, you aren’t starting from scratch with new material, the Ionian mode.

This will save time in the woodshed, and make it easier to visualize the modes as interconnected and related to each other on the fretboard.

 

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

 

As you can hear and see in the example below, these two modes are very closely related on the fretboard, only one note difference, but they have their own unique sound when played on the guitar.

 

Click to hear Ionian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Ionian Formula

 

Play through both of these modes back to back in order to begin visualizing their similarities and differences on the guitar in your studies.

 

 

Ionian Mode Fingerings

 

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

Along with working them with a metronome, you can practice soloing over Maj7 chords with the Ionian mode in the woodshed.

Here’s a Cmaj7 backing track that you can use to jam over in your Ionian mode studies on the guitar.

 

Click to jam over Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Ionian Fingerings

 

 

Ionian Mode Practice Pattern

 

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

 

Click to hear Ionian Mode 2

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Ionian Pattern

 

As well as working this pattern with a metronome, through any of the fingerings you learned above for Ionian, you can put on the Cmaj7 backing track and solo over that chord with the Ionian mode, using this pattern to spice up your solos along the way.

 

 

Ionian Mode Lick

 

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

After you’ve learned this phrase, work it in 12 keys, then put on a backing track and practice applying this line to your guitar solos.

 

Click to hear Ionian Mode 3

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Ionian Lick

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

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

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

Because Dominant 7th chords are so commonly used in modern music, having a strong handle on the Mixolydian mode is essential for any developing guitarist.

Take your time with Mixolydian, work it in 12 keys and through various practice patterns and soloing exercises in order to ensure you’re comfortable with this important guitar mode on the fretboard.

To learn more about the Mixolydian mode, 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 fingerings on the fretboard.

 

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

 

As you can see and hear in the following example, Ionian and Mixolydian are very 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, practice playing up and down Ionian and then Mixolydian back to back in order to visualize that one note moving on the fretboard between each mode.

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Fingerings

 

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

Here are four Mixolydian mode fingerings that you can work out in your practice routine, with a metronome at various tempos for a complete approach to the exercise.

To help you take these Mixolydian fingerings to your soloing practice, here’s a C7 backing track that you can jam over when learning any of the shapes below, as well as any exercise in this section of the article.

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Mixolydian Fingerings

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Practice Pattern

 

Here’s a practice pattern that you can apply to any Mixolydian mode fingering in order to build your chops with these fingerings in the woodshed.

This pattern is built by ascending triads through the Mixolydian mode, both up and down the fingering, and can be practiced in 12 keys with a metronome to get the full benefits of the exercise.

 

Click to hear Mixolydian Mode 2

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Mixolydian Pattern

 

After you’ve worked this pattern through any of the Mixolydian fingerings above, put on the backing track and solo over C7 using the Mixolydian mode, inserting this pattern from time to time to create interest in your lines.

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Lick

 

The last example in this section is a sample line that uses the Mixolydian mode to outline the F7 and Bb7 chords in 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 to a practical, musical situation in your studies.

 

Click to hear Mixolydian Mode 3

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Mixolydian Lick

 

 

Dorian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

After practicing the three major-based modes in your studies, you can move on to the minor modes, beginning with the most commonly used minor mode, the Dorian mode.

The Dorian mode is used to solo over m7 chords in just about every Jazz or Fusion situation, including both iim7 and Im7 chords, two of the most commonly seen minor chords in the repertoire.

Dorian’s characteristic note, the natural 6th interval, distinguishes it from all of the other minor modes in the major scale system, as they all contain a b6 in their interval makeup.

As this is the most popular minor mode, it’s worth spending as much time as you can with this mode in order to nail it in your technical and improvisational studies.

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

 

 

Dorian Mode Interval Formula

 

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

 

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

 

When learning and visualizing the Dorian mode in this fashion, compared to Mixolydian, it’s best to move the b3 to a lower string with some fingerings to make it smoother on the fretboard.

You can see this approach in the example below, where the 3rd note is lowered by a fret, then transferred from the 5th to the 6th strings to create a smoother fingering for Dorian.

 

Click to hear Dorian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Dorian Formula

 

After you’ve listened to the above example, play both the Mixolydian and Dorian fingerings back to back on the guitar.

This will allow you to visualize the lowering of the 3rd on the fretboard to create the new mode, as well as hear the difference that one lowered note makes in each mode.

 

 

Dorian Mode Fingerings

 

Now that you’ve learned how to build and apply the Dorian mode to your Jazz guitar playing, you can begin to learn four essential Dorian fingerings on the fretboard.

After you’ve learned any of these fingerings, makes sure to work them in different keys and with a metronome to keep a focus on solid rhythms in your mode study.

You can also play the backing track below and solo over the Cm7 chord with the C Dorian mode in order to take this mode to the soloing side of your Jazz 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, can be used to build your guitar chops, as well as develop your understanding of Dorian mode fingerings on the fretboard.

As well as working this pattern, you can work any pattern from this article over Dorian fingerings to expand this exercise in the woodshed.

Once you have this pattern under your fingers with a metronome, put on a backing track and solo over those changes with the Dorian mode, using this pattern to create motives in your lines when appropriate.

 

Click to hear Dorian Mode 2

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Dorian Pattern

 

 

Dorian Mode Lick

 

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

Work this line in a few keys in your routine, with a metronome, and then put on a Blue Bossa backing track and use this line in your solos over that tune to take this exercise to a musical situation.

 

Click to hear Dorian Mode 3

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Dorian Lick

 

Aeolian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

Moving on to the second minor mode in your study, you can now explore the Aeolian mode, the 6th mode of the major scale system.

Though not as commonly used in Jazz as the Dorian mode, Aeolian can be used to solo over m7 chords in your lines, mostly over Im7 chords as opposed to iim7 chords with Dorian.

The reason that Aeolian is used less often than Dorian, is that the b6 interval in Aeolian doesn’t have that characteristic minor Jazz sound that you’re used to hearing.

In a modern context, it sounds more like Rock than Jazz, but it can still be an effective mode in your arsenal to use over m7 chords.

To expand upon the Aeolian mode in your studies, 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 the Aeolian mode by comparing it to a previously learned mode, in this case the Dorian mode.

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear Aeolian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Aeolian Fingering

 

After listening to the example, play both the Dorian and Aeolian modes on the guitar back to back in order to see how the 6th is lowered with Aeolian.

You’ll also notice that though they are only one note different, Aeolian and Dorian both have distinct sonic personalities that you can play with in your Jazz guitar solos.

 

 

Aeolian Mode Fingerings

 

Moving on in your studies, you can now learn four common Aeolian fingerings on the fretboard.

Begin by working one of these shapes in your practicing, then moving on to the next one from there.

When practicing these shapes, make sure to work them at different tempos with a metronome in order to keep your rhythms tight with the Aeolian mode.

As well, you can jam with any Aeolian exercise from this section of the lesson over the following Cm7 backing track in order 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

 

To help you build your chops and learn the Aeolian mode at the same time, here’s a practice pattern you can apply to any Aeolian mode fingering in the woodshed.

This pattern applies four-note ascending arpeggios to the Aeolian mode, which you can see and hear in the example below.

As well as working this pattern, you can also 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

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Aeolian Pattern

 

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

 

 

Aeolian Mode Lick

 

To help you take the Aeolian mode to a soloing situation, here’s a sample phrase that uses the A Aeolian mode over the Im7 chord in a minor ii-V-I progression.

Work this lick in Am first before moving it to other keys around the fretboard in your practicing.

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

 

Click to hear Aeolian Mode 3

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Aeolian Lick

 

Phrygian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

The Phrygian mode, the 3rd mode of the major scale system, is an interesting mode when applied to a Jazz soloing context.

While the most common use for this mode is to solo over m7 chords, bringing a Flamenco sound to your minor 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, you can play the Phrygian mode over any 7th chord in your solos.

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

Because it’s missing the 3rd, Phrygian has a more “open” sound to it when applied to 7th chord lines, and is a powerful alternative to the Altered or Phrygian Dominant scales when creating tension over 7th chords.

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

 

 

Phrygian Mode Interval Formula

 

Continuing your use of previous modes to create new mode fingerings, you’ll alter one note in the Aeolian mode to create Phrygian mode fingerings on the guitar.

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear Phrygian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Phrygian Formula

 

After you’ve listened to the example, play both fingerings back to back on the fretboard to see how they are only one note different, but have a unique sound all to their own.

 

 

Phrygian Mode Fingerings

 

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

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

As well as working these fingerings with a metronome, you can use this following C7 backing track to practice soloing over a Dominant chord with the Phrygian mode.

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Phyrgian Fingerings

 

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

 

 

Phrygian Mode Practice Pattern

 

To help you take the Phrygian mode deeper into your practice routine, here’s a practice pattern based on ascending 3rd intervals that you can work with a metronome in the woodshed.

As well, you can apply any other practice pattern from this article to your Phrygian mode technical practice routine to expand on this exercise further.

Lastly, after you’ve learned this pattern, put on a backing track and solo using the Phrygian mode, inserting bits of this pattern where appropriate to spice up your improvised lines.

 

Click to hear Phrygian Mode 2

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Phrygian Pattern

 

 

Phrygian Mode Lick

 

To finish up your intro to the Phrygian mode, here’s a sample phrase that you can learn, in this key first then all 12, as you apply a C Phrygian mode to the V7 chord in a ii-V-I progression.

 

Click to hear Phrygian Mode 3

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Phrygian Lick

 

Locrian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

The final mode, the 7th mode of the major scale system, begins on the 7th note of the major scale and runs up from there, and is called the Locrian mode.

In the case of C Locrian, you would play the Db major scale from the notes C to C, as you can see in the examples below.

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

To learn more about this mode, check out my in-depth 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.

 

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

 

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

 

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.

As well, visualize the 5th in Phrygian and then watch it “move” on the fretboard as you alter it by a fret to create the Locrian mode.

 

 

Locrian Mode Fingerings

 

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

Make sure to use a metronome when working them from a technical standpoint, and here’s a Cm7b5 backing track that you can solo over with these fingerings in your improvisational studies.

 

Click to jam over Cm7b5 Cm7b5 Backing Track

 

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Locrian Fingerings

 

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

 

 

Locrian Mode Practice Pattern

 

To expand upon the Locrian mode in your practicing, you can apply practice patterns to this mode, including all of the patterns you’ve seen so far in this article.

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

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

Don’t forget to put on a backing track and solo over m7b5 chords with the Locrian mode, using this pattern from time to time in your solos to bring a technical device into the improvisational side of your playing.

 

Click to hear Locrian Mode 2

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Locrian Pattern 1

 

 

Locrian Mode Lick

 

To finish up your introduction to the Locrian mode, here is a ii V I lick in G minor that you can learn and add to your Jazz guitar vocabulary in your studies.

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

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

 

Click to hear Locrian Mode 3

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Locrian Lick

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Modes

 

Now that you’ve learned all seven major scale guitar modes, you can move on to another essential parent scale collection, 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, as they begin to introduce new chord colors into your lines, such as 7#11, maj7#5, and 7alt.

While the fingering system below will allow you to quickly transform any major mode into a mode of melodic minor, it’ll take your ears a bit longer to become used to these new sounds in your studies.

Make sure to take time to solo with each of these modes, as well as practice them with a metronome, as you learn how to play and improvise with these seven important modes.

 

 

Melodic Minor Modes Formula

 

While you may know it’s important to learn and apply melodic minor modes to your playing, it may seem daunting to have to learn seven new modes in your practice routine.

But, as was the case with the major scale modes you just learned, you can use previous knowledge, with simple adjustments, to learn to play all seven Melodic Minor Modes in no time.

To do so, you’ll compare each melodic minor mode to a mode of the major scale, lowering one note of each major mode to quickly produce all seven melodic minor modes on guitar.

To begin, here are the formulas for each melodic minor mode, as compared to the seven major modes, to study before going into detail for each of these modes below.

Feel free to use these formulas as a reference chart to refer back to as you progress in your studies of melodic minor modes on guitar.

 

  • 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 in relation to the seven major scale modes, it’s time to look deeper into each mode, how it’s built, how you can apply it to your soloing, and how you can practice it on the fretboard.

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings and Application

 

The first mode of the melodic minor scale, often 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 will find this tension too much for their tastes, others will enjoy the sound it creates, so have fun experimenting with this mode in your playing to see how your ears react to this sound.

When soloing with the first melodic minor mode, you can begin to apply it to the iim7 chord in a major ii-V-I, or the Im7 chord in a minor ii-V-I, two commonly used applications of 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, the first mode of the major scale system that you learned earlier in this article.

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

By altering a mode you already know, you’ll save time in the practice room, as well as make it easier to quickly learn this new mode on the fingerboard.

 

The first melodic minor mode is built by lowering the 3rd note of the Ionian mode by a fret, half step, on the guitar.

 

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

Lastly, notice that the lowered note, the 3rd, is moved to a lower string in the first octave of the mode.

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

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - melodic minor modes 1

 

 

Once you’ve listened to the audio, play both modes back to back on the guitar in order to feel how they sit on the fretboard, as well as how they sound on your guitar.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings

 

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

Here are four fingerings for C melodic minor that you can memorize, practice in 12 keys, and add to your solos as you take this mode further in the woodshed.

As well, here’s a Cm7 backing track that you can use to solo over with any mode that you learn from this section of the lesson.

 

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, you can add a practice pattern to your scale routine in order to further your understanding of this mode and provide you with melodic material to solo with in your playing.

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 any other melodic minor mode 1 fingering you are studying to expand upon this idea in your studies.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 2

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 3

 

 

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

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Lick

 

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

Notice how the #7 interval creates a bit of 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

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 4

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings and Application

 

A lesser known and not often used mode, the second mode of Melodic Minor can bring a sense of tension to your dominant 7th chord lines as you can use it to solo over 7th chords.

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

Not the most common chord sound, but a cool, outside sound that can be used to create a quasi-altered sound in your lines without relying on the old faithful Altered scale at the same time.

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 how to build the second mode of Melodic Minor, you’ll use previously learned material to create this new mode on the guitar.

Not only will this save you time learning the new mode, it’ll make it easier to visualize the second mode of Melodic Minor on the neck when you learn fingerings for this mode below.

 

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

 

Though it’s related fingering wise to the Dorian mode, as you can hear in the example below, and when you apply it to your playing, that both modes have a personality all their own.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 4

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 5

 

Play each of these modes back to back on the fretboard in order to get a feel for how the fingerings are related, but the sounds are unique when played on the guitar.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings

 

Armed with the knowledge of how to build and apply the Melodic Minor mode two to your soloing lines, here are four common fingerings for this mode that you can learn in order to take that knowledge to the fretboard.

As well, here’s a C7 backing track that you can use 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 mode fingerings under your belt, you can expand your practicing by adding a scale pattern to these shapes in your studies.

Here’s a descending 321 pattern that you can practice over the second Melodic Minor mode with a metronome, first in the key of C and then working it in other keys from that starting point.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 5

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 7

 

When you have this pattern comfortably under your fingers with a metronome, put on a backing track and add it to your soloing in order to hear how this pattern can provide inspiration in your guitar solos as well.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Lick

 

To finish your into to the Melodic Minor mode 2, here’s a sample line that you can learn and add to your solos as you explore this mode further in your studies.

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

Notice the amount of tension that mode creates over that chord, before resolving back to the diatonic changes in the next measure.

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

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 6

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 8

 

 

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 the Lydian Augmented scale.

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 in its construction, you can use this mode to solo over maj7 chords when you want to bring a bit of 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 how to lower one note of any major mode to produce its equivalent Melodic Minor mode, you’re going to throw a wrench into the works.

The third mode of Melodic Minor follows the same formula you’ll lower one note of Phrygian to form this mode; only it’s a strange note to lower.

 

The third melodic minor mode is built by lowering the 1st note of the Phrygian mode 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 the root C, you’d lower the root note 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 all the same notes in the shape; it’s just that the root note 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 on the guitar to see and hear how they fit together, only one note different, 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 begin to learn how to play this mode on the guitar.

Here are four common fingerings for the third mode of Melodic Minor that you can learn in C as well as take to other keys in your technical studies.

As well, here is 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 begin to solo with these fingerings over Maj7 chords and full tunes from there.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Practice Pattern

 

As well as running the plain scale with a metronome for practice, here’s a scale pattern that you can use to elevate your technique and understanding of the third mode of Melodic Minor in the woodshed.

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

Make sure to 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 as well as a technical exercise.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 8

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - melodic minor modes 11

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Lick

 

To finish your intro to the third mode of Melodic Minor, here is a sample line that you can learn and 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 over that chord, 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, and applying it to your soloing over full songs in your studies.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 9

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 12

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Fingerings and Application

 

You’re now going to learn how to build, play, and apply one of the most commonly used modes in Jazz and Fusion, 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 the Lydian Dominant mode in both the melody and throughout the solos.

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 the Lydian Dominant fingerings on guitar, you’ll alter one note of the Lydian mode.

 

The fourth melodic minor mode is built by lowering the 7th note of the Lydian mode by a fret, half step, on the guitar.

 

You can now see why this mode is called Lydian Dominant; it has all the characteristics of a Lydian mode, with the b7 interval that comes from Dominant 7th chords.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 10

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 13

 

To hear how this mode can be used in your solos, play C Mixolydian and C Lydian Dominant back to back over the C7 track below, which will give you an idea of how the two Dominant 7 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 common fingerings for the Lydian Dominant mode that you can learn and solo with in your improvisations.

As well, for each fingering that you learn, put on the jam track below and practice soloing 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 practice pattern that you can add to any mode fingering you’ve learned to this point in your studies.

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 scale pattern, put on a backing track and add this pattern to your solos in order to run it with both your technical and improvisational practice routines.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 11

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 15

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Lick

 

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

Memorize this line, apply it to your soloing ideas, and then write out a few lines of your own using this mode over various chord progressions and tunes.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 12

 

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 16

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings and Application

 

The fifth mode of melodic minor is related to the Mixolydian mode, and therefore is used to solo over Dominant 7th chords in your improvisations.

When adding this mode to your solos, you’re creating a 7b13 sound in your lines, which creates a bit of modern tension over any 7th chord you apply it to in your solos.

If you want to hear this mode in action, check out Adam Rogers’ solo on Bobo, which is a modern sounding F Jazz Blues tune.

To learn more about the 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’ll alter one note of the Mixolydian mode, using previously learned material to build a new mode that you can use to solo over 7th chords.

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 13

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 17

 

After you’ve learned the fingerings below, play Mixolydian and Mixolydian b6 back to back in order to hear how they both sound like a Dominant 7th chord, but the melodic minor mode has a more modern sound as compared to the major mode.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 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 the Mixolydian b13 mode that you can practice and work out in multiple keys across the fretboard.

After you’ve learned any of these fingerings, put on the backing track below and jam along using the fifth mode of melodic minor to create your lines over that change.

 

Click to jam on C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 18

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Practice Pattern

 

To work out the fifth melodic minor mode from a technical perspective, here’s a scale pattern that you can add to any fingering for this mode in 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 soloing lines in order to work it in a soloing situation as well as a technical one.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 14

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 19

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Lick

 

To complete your intro to this mode, here’s a sample phrase that features the fifth mode of melodic minor over each chord in the first four bars of an F Jazz Blues chord progression.

After you’ve learned this sample line, write out a few of 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

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 20

 

 

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 effective alternative to Locrian, your first choice mode over m7b5 chords, it can also 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 when soloing over the chord, so make sure to take your time, learn the sample line, and go slow with this mode at home before taking it to your next 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 will alter one note from the Aeolian mode to create this new mode on the guitar.

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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 how to play this mode on the guitar.

To get you started, here are four fingerings for this mode that you can learn and apply to both your technical and soloing study of the sixth mode of melodic minor.

 

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 practice scale pattern that you can apply to any fingering you’ve learned for this mode so far in your studies.

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

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 23

 

Once you’ve practiced this pattern over any melodic minor mode 6 fingering, in a few different keys with a metronome, 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 practice, here’s a sample lick that uses this mode over the iim7b5 chord in a minor ii-V-I progression.

Lear the lick in the original key, then work it around the fretboard in other keys, before applying it to your solos to hear how it sounds over a tune in your playing.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 18

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 24

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings and Application

 

One of the most popular Jazz modes on any instrument, the seventh mode of melodic minor is also known as the Altered Scale, which is how you’ll refer to this mode for the rest of this section.

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

It’ll take a bit of time to get used to all the tension found within this mode, but with time and study you’ll be able to 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 will alter one note of the Locrian mode on the fretboard.

 

The Altered Scale is built by lowering the 4th note of the Locrian mode by a fret, half step, on the guitar.

 

As was the case with the sixth mode, though this mode is related to the Locrian fingering, you will apply it to Dominant 7th chords, where you want to bring in the b9,#9,b5, and #5 intervals.

As you can see, and hear later on, this mode creates a lot of tension in your lines, which you can apply to any Dom 7th chord, but with a bit of caution at first, and with full resolution of that tension in those lines.

 

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 the guitar.

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

Make sure to work these shapes in different keys, as well as apply them to the jam track below to get a feel for how they sound in a soloing and technical situation.

 

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 is a scale pattern that you can apply to any of the fingerings for the Altered Scale that you’ve learned so far.

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

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 20

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 27

 

 

Once you have this pattern under your fingers, practice applying it to your soloing lines and phrases over various chord changes 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 is a sample lick that you can use that uses this mode over the V7alt chord in a minor key ii-V-I.

Work this line in a few different keys with your metronome, 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

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 28

 

 

Harmonic Minor Modes

 

After you’ve worked out the major and melodic minor modes, you can expand your horizons into the harmonic minor modes.

These seven modes offer outside the box sounds that you can add to your soloing, such as the Maj7#9 and Maj7#5nat4 sound, both uncommon but interesting modes to explore in your playing.

Besides the more exotic sounds, you’ll find classics such as the first mode, harmonic minor, and the fifth mode, Phrygian dominant, which are a staple of Jazz, Fusion and many other popular genres of music.

Check these modes out, you might not use them all in your playing, but you never know what jewels you’ll discover within these new modal colors and chords.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Modes Formula

 

Though not as commonly used in Jazz or other popular musical genres as the major and melodic minor modes, there are a few essential harmonic minor modes that you need to learn and add to your playing.

As well, though they aren’t as popular as other modes, there are some very interesting sounds produced by the modes of the harmonic minor scale, sounds that can expand your soloing in totally new directions on the fretboard.

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

You can use the following chart as a reference point when exploring the Harmonic Minor modes and their musical applications below.

 

  • 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 by altering one note in the seven major modes, you can take that knowledge to the fretboard in your studies.

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings and Application

 

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

As it is the parent mode in a minor system, it is used to improvise over m7 chords in your playing, which highlights a #7 interval within that mode.

Because of this, it’s not the most commonly used mode in Jazz, it’s more Malmsteen than Montgomery in sound, but it can be used to spice up your m7 soloing lines.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Interval Formula

 

The first step to learning the first mode of harmonic minor is to learn how you can take a previously learned mode and alter one note to create this new minor mode on the fretboard.

 

The 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 the b6 and #7 intervals, which creates a very unique sound when applied to m7 chords in your soloing lines and phrases.

Because of this, the melodic minor mode 1 and Dorian modes tend to be used in Jazz guitar soloing lines much 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 not to overdo it, as it’ll create a Rock feel when applied too often over m7 chords in your soloing.

Here are those two modes back to back, HM 1 and Aeolian, so that you can hear and see how that 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

 

Once you’ve listened to the audio example, play both shapes on the guitar back to back in order to get a feel of how they sit on the fretboard in comparison to each other, before moving on to 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 to your playing, here are four common shapes that you can learn in order to apply that knowledge to the fretboard.

In order to get the most out of your harmonic minor mode 1 shape practice, make sure to jam along with the backing track after you’ve learned any or all of these shapes on the fretboard.

For an extra challenge, you can 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

 

When working on this, or any, mode in the woodshed, one of the best ways to internalize the shapes, and build your chops, is to apply a practice pattern to any shape you’re working on in your studies.

Here is a practice pattern that you can apply to the first mode of the harmonic minor scale in your studies.

The pattern is built by ascending 3rd intervals through the shape, ascending that pattern as you play up and down the mode shape in this, and other, keys on the guitar.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 2

 

harmonic minor Jazz guitar modes 3

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Lick

 

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 3

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 4

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings and Application

 

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

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

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Interval Formula

 

As it is used to solo over m7b5 chords, the second mode of Harmonic Minor is directly related to the Locrian mode, and is built by altering one note of that popular major scale mode on the guitar.

 

The second mode of Harmonic Minor 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 see and hear how that one note makes a big difference in the sound of each mode on the guitar.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 4

 

Harmonic Minor Jazz Guitar Modes 5

 

Once you’ve listened to the example, play through each mode on your own in order to visualize how each mode is related from a fingering standpoint, but different from an auditory standpoint, on the fretboard.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings

 

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

Work each fingering with a metronome as you work out these shapes on the fretboard, and then add in the practice 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 fingers down, you can put on the Am7b5 backing track and practice soloing over that chord using any or all of these mode fingerings.

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

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Practice Pattern

 

To extend your chops with this mode, here is an A HM 2 mode with a descending 3rds practice pattern applied to the 6th-string root fingering.

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 5

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 7

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Lick

 

Though it is a rare mode, you can hear and play an example lick that features the HM 2 mode used over the iim7b5 chord in a ii V I in G minor.

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

But, it is the 3rd of the next chord, D7alt, and so it sounds as though you are playing over that chord for two bars in the line.

This type of hearing can be helpful when applying an uncommon mode such as HM 2 to your solos.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 6

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 8

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Fingerings and Application

 

You’ll now explore a mode that will bring a new sound to your maj7 soloing lines, the third mode of harmonic minor.

This mode is used to solo over maj7 chords, where you want to bring in a #5 sound to that mode.

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

Though here, there’s a natural 4 interval, making it related closely to Ionian, as compared to Lydian, which was the case with the third mode of MM.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Interval Formula

 

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

 

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 hear and see how they are similar and different when compared to each other 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 on the guitar to begin visualizing how the HM 3 mode is related fingering wise to the Ionian made, but has a distinct sound all its own.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Fingerings

 

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

After you’ve learned any, or all, of these fingerings, put on the backing track and practice applying them to a soloing situation as you begin experimenting with this modal 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 in a practice scale pattern to any of the fingerings that you’ve learned so far for the third mode of harmonic minor.

This practice pattern is built by alternating 3rd intervals through the mode, which you can see and hear in the example below.

Once you’ve learned this pattern through the sample fingering, and in the given key of A, take it to other keys and fingerings as you take this chops builder further in your studies.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 8

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 11

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Lick

 

To help you take this mode into a soloing situation, here’s a sample lick that you can learn 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

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 12

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Fingerings and Application

 

Though not a first choice scale when soloing over m7 chords, the fourth mode of harmonic minor can add a nice bit of tension to your lines over m7 chords.

Built in comparison to the Dorian mode, the HM 4 mode features a #4 interval, which is the tension note that makes this mode sound unique when compared to Dorian.

Make sure to practice this mode with both a metronome and add it to your solos over a backing track in order to hear how this mode sounds in a musical situation.

 

 

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.

 

The fourth mode of Harmonic Minor 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 in order to hear them compared on the fretboard.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 10

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 13

 

After listening to the above example, play through both fingerings back to back in order to visualize how they are similar on the fretboard, 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 that you can learn for this mode and apply to the fretboard.

Once you have one or more of these shapes under your fingers, you can put on the backing track and begin applying 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

 

To help you use this mode to build chops in the woodshed, here is a practice scale pattern that you can use over any harmonic minor mode 4 fingering in your studies.

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

Once you have this pattern comfortable over any HM 4 fingering, you can also apply it to your soloing lines to bring this pattern to an improvisational situation in your playing.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 11

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 15

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Lick

 

Here’s a sample lick that you can study and apply to your solos in order to hear this mode used in a musical situation, over the iim7 chord in a ii V I progression.

Notice how the #4 interval is used in a scale pattern in that bar, which helps to insert that tension note, without drawing too much attention to it in the overall context of the line.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 12

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 16

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings and Application

 

Moving on, you will now study the most commonly used harmonic minor mode in Jazz and Fusion, or any popular musical genre, the fifth mode.

Used to solo over 7th chords, this mode brings a 7b9,b13 sound to your lines, which creates a good level of tension in your solos that will need to be resolved as you proceed through the changes.

Because it is closely related to a Phrygian scale, but used to solo over 7th chords, it’s often referred to as the Phrygian Dominant Scale, which is how you’ll see it written as below.

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, and to refer to it as the Phrygian Dominant scale, you can learn how to build this mode by comparing it to a previously learned major mode on the fretboard.

 

The Phrygian Dominant scale 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

 

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

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings

 

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

Here are four fingerings for this mode that you can learn and work with both a metronome and over the backing track to tackle this important mode from a technical and soloing standpoint in the woodshed.

 

Click to jam over A7 A7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 18

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Practice Pattern

 

To help you build your chops with the Phrygian Dominant scale, here is an ascending 3rds pattern that you can apply to any fingering with a metronome in your studies

After working this pattern with a metronome, jam with it over a backing track in order to hear how it can elevate your lines when applied to a soloing situation.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 14

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 19

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Lick

 

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

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

The Phrygian Dominant scale can be a powerful tool in your soloing repertoire, but if it’s not resolved properly in your lines, it can sound out of place and even wrong in your solos.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 15

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 20

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Fingerings and Application

 

Though this mode, the sixth of harmonic minor, produces a maj7#9 sound, it can be used more often than you might think in our solos.

Because the #9 note can also be thought of as a b3 interval when applied to a maj7 chord in your solos, you can use this mode to bring a quasi-blues sound to your lines over maj7 chords.

While it may not become a regular mode in your solos, the sixth mode of harmonic minor can be a nice addition to your list of second choice maj7 modes in your melodic repertoire.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Interval Formula

 

As this mode is used to solo over maj7 chords, where you want to highlight the #2 interval, you can built this mode on the fretboard by comparing it to a major mode that you’ve already studies, in this case Lydian.

 

The sixth mode of Harmonic Minor 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 begin seeing how they are similar on guitar, but sound different from a sonic perspective.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 16

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 21

 

Once you’ve listened to the above example, play those modes back to back on the guitar in order to visualize how they are only one note different, but produce unique sounds all their own on the instrument.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Fingerings

 

After learning how to build and apply the sixth mode of harmonic minor to your playing, you can learn how to play this interesting sounding mode on guitar.

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, put on the backing track below and 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 that you’ve learned so far for the sixth mode of harmonic minor.

Here’s a sample application of that pattern to start with, and move on to other fingerings from there.

Make sure to work this pattern in multiple keys, with a metronome, and then move on to soloing over maj7 chords and adding this pattern to your lines and phrases from there.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 17

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 23

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Lick

 

To finish your study of the sixth mode of harmonic minor, here is a sample line that uses this mode over the Imaj7 chord in an A major ii V I progression.

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

This is where you’ll be able to use this mode most effectively, when you want to bring a bluesy sound to your maj7 chord, but want a new, fresh approach to the blues sound over that chord.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 18

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 24

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings and Application

 

This mode, the seventh of harmonic minor, is another strange one, both from a fingering and application standpoint.

It’s used to solo over dim7 chords, where you are looking for a second choice scale over that chord, and is related fingering wise to the Mixolydian mode, but with an altered root note.

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

If you take any Mixolydian mode you know, lower the root by one fret in each octave, you will produce the 7th mode of harmonic minor.

They aren’t related as far as application, but you can relate them fingering wise 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 to your soloing down, you can know 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.

 

As you can see, this is another weird one, like Phrygian b1, that makes sense from a fingering standpoint but may be tough to think about at first when applying it to 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

 

After you’ve listened to the above example, play through those modes back to back in order to see how they are related fingering wise, but have a completely different sound when compared to each other on the guitar.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings

 

Now that you’ve got the theory behind how to build and apply this scale under your belt, you can learn to play this unconventional mode on the fretboard.

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

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

 

Click to jam on Adim7 Adim7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 26

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Practice Pattern

 

To work this mode further in your practice routine, here’s an alternating 3rds practice pattern that you can apply to any fingering for this mode that you’ve learned so far.

After you can play this pattern with a metronome, make sure to take it to the backing track and use it in your soloing practice as well.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 20

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 27

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Lick

 

To finish your study of this mode, here is a sample line that uses the seventh mode of harmonic minor over an Adim7 chord in a descending chord progression.

Though it won’t sound as conventional as the normal diminished scale, it can be a nice second choice option when soloing over changes such as these.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 21

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 28

 

 

Harmonic Major Modes

 

The harmonic major parent scale isn’t the most common modal system when it comes to modern improvised music, such as Jazz.

But.

This mode system does produce a few essential sounds that you will need to explore in your playing, as well as a few less common modes that might inspire you to explore new melodic avenues in your solos.

Take your time when working on these harmonic major modes, you might not see or hear an immediate application for some of these modes in your playing,

But, with time, new doors will open up, and you might find that a few of these less common modal sounds begin to creep into your soloing lines and phrases.

 

 

Harmonic Major Modes Formula

 

As was the case with every system in this article, you’ll learn the seven modes of harmonic major by comparing them to previously learned modes, in this case the modes of the major scale.

By taking all seven major modes, and altering one note at a time, you’ll create all seven harmonic major modes on the fretboard.

You can use this chart as a handy guide when working on harmonic major modes and their musical applications in your guitar practice routine.

 

  • 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 that you know how each mode will be related to a relative major scale mode, it’s time to take the harmonic major modes to the fretboard as you learn how build each individual mode, how to apply it to your solos, and how to practice these modes with scale patterns and sample licks.

 

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Fingerings and Application

 

The first mode of harmonic major is one of the most used modes in this melodic system.

Used to solo over maj7 chords in a Jazz setting, when you want to bring in a b6 sound to those lines, this mode makes for a good second choice device over maj7 chords.

When first learning this new mode, solo over maj7 chords and move between Ionian and the first mode of harmonic major as you compare those two sounds in an improvisational setting.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Interval Formula

 

With the knowledge of how to apply the first mode of harmonic major to your solos, you can now learn how to alter the Ionian mode to create this new shape on the fretboard.

 

The first mode of harmonic major 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 and hear how they are similar on the fretboard, but sound different when played on the guitar.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 1

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 1

 

After you’ve listened to the example above, play through both fingerings back to back in order to visualize how the Ionian mode is altered slightly to form the harmonic major mode 1, while producing a unique sound in both modes.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Fingerings

 

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

To get you started, you can learn the following four fingerings, one at a time, to study the harmonic major mode 1 across the fretboard.

Here’s a jam track that you can use to practice soloing with any, or all, of these harmonic major mode 1 fingerings in your improvisational studies.

 

Click to Jam on Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 2

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Practice Pattern

 

To take this mode to your technical practice routine, 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, put on a backing track and work on adding this pattern to your solos, as well as using it to build your guitar chops.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 2

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 3

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Lick

 

To finish your introduction to the first mode of harmonic major, here’s a sample line that uses this mode over the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I in C major.

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

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 3

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 4

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Fingerings and Application

 

Moving on to the second mode of harmonic major, you can learn to play and then apply this mode to your m7 soloing lines and phrases.

Because it’s related to the Dorian mode, it outlines a m7 sound when applied to a Jazz guitar solos.

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

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Interval Formula

 

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

 

The second Harmonic Major mode 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 for you to hear and then play through to get a context of how these two shapes are related on the fretboard, 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 you’ve learned how to build and apply the 2nd mode of harmonic major, you can take it to the fretboard using the following four fingerings as guidelines to help you get started.

When you can play any of these fingerings from memory, put on the backing track and practice soloing over the Cm7 chord 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 is a descending 3rds practice pattern that you can use to help build your guitar chops with the second mode of harmonic major in the woodshed.

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

Then, when comfortable, apply this practice pattern to your solos to hear how it sounds in a soloing context as well as a technical context in your playing.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 5

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 7.1

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Lick

 

To finish your study of the second harmonic major, here’s a sample line that uses that mode to outline the Cm7 chord in a ii V I in Bb major.

Notice how the b5 from the second mode sounds like a Blues note in this context, which is the main reason this uncommon mode would make an appearance into your playing, it sounds like Dorian meet Blues over m7 chords.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 6

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 8

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Fingerings and Application

 

One of the more common harmonic major modes, the 3rd mode of this scale system can be used to solo over 7th chords in your guitar improvisations.

When doing so, you’ll highlight the b9, #9, and b13 over those 7th chords.

As you can see, this mode creates a lot of tension in your solos, and so working on resolving that tension will be just as important as learning how to play and apply this mode in your studies.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Interval Formula

 

In order to build fingerings for this new mode on the guitar, you’ll alter one note from a previously learned major mode to create the third mode of harmonic major.

 

The third mode of Harmonic Major 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 on the fretboard so that you can build a comparison with how they sound and sit on the guitar.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 7

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 9

 

After listening to the example, play through both modes back to back in order to begin visualizing their similarities on the fretboard, as well as hearing how different they sound when played on the guitar.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build the third mode of harmonic major, and that you can apply it to 7th chords in your solos, you can learn one or more of the following fingerings in order to take that knowledge to the fretboard.

After you’ve worked out any fingering, put on the C7 backing track and begin applying 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

 

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

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

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 8

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 11

 

 

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

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 12

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Fingerings and Application

 

The fourth mode of harmonic major can be used to solo over m7 chords when you are looking for a second choice mode to go beyond the Dorian mode in your playing.

When doing so, you’ll bring the #4 interval, Blues note, to your lines, which is why this mode can bring a cool new sound to your m7 soloing lines.

After you’ve learned a fingering or two for this new mode, put on a m7 backing track and solo over that chord as you alternate Dorian and fourth mode harmonic major to compare those two sounds in a soloing situation.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Interval Formula

 

In order to quickly build the fourth mode of harmonic major on the guitar, you’ll lower one note from the Lydian mode, which you learned earlier, to create this new mode on the fretboard.

 

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 so you can see how they are closely related fingering wise, but produce two totally different sounds on the guitar.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 10

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 13

 

After you’ve listened to the above example, play through each fingering in order to begin comparing each mode on the guitar, and hearing how they have unique sounds all their own.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Fingerings

 

To help you take this mode to the fretboard, here are four fingerings for the fourth mode of harmonic major that you can study and learn in 12 keys around the fretboard.

Once you can play any of these fingerings from memory, even in one key, put on the backing track below and practice soloing over Cm7 with the fourth mode of harmonic major to work it in a soloing context in your studies.

 

Click to jam over Cm7 Cm7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 14

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Practice Pattern

 

Here is an alternating 3rds practice pattern that you can apply to any fingering of the fourth mode of harmonic major in order to internalize those fingerings, as well as build your guitar chops at the same time.

Once you have this pattern under your fingers, put on a backing track and practice applying it to your soloing lines and phrases.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 11

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 15

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Lick

 

To complete your introduction to this mode, here is a sample line that you can learn featuring the fourth mode of harmonic major over the Im7 chord in a ii V I in the key of C minor.

Again, this mode will create tension over any m7 chord, and that tension needs to be resolved when applied to a soloing line or phrase.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 12

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 16

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Fingerings and Application

 

This is the most commonly used harmonic major mode by far in modern music, as the fifth mode can be used to solo over 7th chords when you want to highlight only the b2 (b9) interval in your solos.

As this mode is so closely related to Mixolydian, after you’ve learned how to play any fingerings for fifth mode harmonic major, put on a backing track and move between both modes in your solos in order to begin building this new sound up in your ears.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Interval Formula

 

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

 

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

 

Here are the Mixolydian and fifth mode harmonic major back to back in order to hear how they sound side by side, as well as look on the fretboard in comparison.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 13

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 17

 

After listening to the example above, play through both fingerings in order to begin comparing these shapes, and their sounds, in your own playing.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply this mode to your playing, you’re ready to apply that knowledge to the guitar by learning any or all of the four fifth mode harmonic major fingerings below.

Once you’ve learned any of these fifth mode harmonic major fingerings, put on the backing track below and practice soloing 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

 

Moving on to the technical side of things, here’s an ascending 3rds pattern that you can learn over this fingering, and apply to other fingerings in your guitar practice routine.

After you’ve worked this pattern out with a metronome, put on a backing track and practice bringing 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

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 19.1

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Lick

 

You can now learn a sample line that features the fifth mode of harmonic major to outline the V7 chord in a ii V I progression in the key of F major.

You’ll notice how similar this mode sounds to Mixolydian, but how the one note difference stands out and creates an added level of interest that you can bring to your guitar solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 15

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 20

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Fingerings and Application

 

The sixth mode of harmonic major is a rare, and not often used, mode that is used to solo over maj7 chords where you want to highlight the #9, #4, and #5 intervals in your solos.

As you can see, because of those raised intervals, this mode can be very tense sounding when applied to a soloing situation and should be treated with caution in your lines and phrases.

If you do choose to use this mode in your improvisations, make sure you work on properly resolving those tension notes so that they don’t sound like mistakes, and act as tension notes as you intended.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Interval Formula

 

As with every modal system, beyond major, there is always one strange fingering where the root note is raised or lowered by a fret, and this is that mode for harmonic major.

 

The sixth mode of Harmonic Major 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 so that you can begin to visualize their relationship on the fretboard, as well as hear how unique they sound as compared to one another.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 16

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 21

 

After listening to the example above, play through both modes on your guitar to get an idea of how they are similar from a fingering standpoint, but produce a unique sound all their own.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Fingerings

 

Moving in, you can take this mode onto the fretboard by learning any of the following four fingerings for the sixth mode of harmonic major.

Once you’re worked out any of these shapes, which can be tricky due to stretches and odd fingerings, put on the backing track and take those mode shapes to your soloing practice.

 

Click to jam over Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 22

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Practice Pattern

 

To help you transfer this mode into the chop building side of your practice routine, here’s a descending 3rds pattern that you can apply to any of the fingerings that you’ve learned so far for the sixth mode of harmonic major.

After you’ve learned this pattern with your metronome, over this or any other mode shape, put on a backing track and practice applying this pattern to your soloing lines over maj7 chords.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 17

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 23.1

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Lick

 

To finish up your intro to this odd-sounding, yet interesting, mode, here’s a sample lick with the sixth mode of harmonic major used to outline the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I in C major.

Notice that be resolving the #5 interval up to the 6th, the line ends on a more inside sound, which can be an effective way of adding this tense mode to your maj7 soloing.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 18

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 24

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Fingerings and Application

 

To finish your study of the seven harmonic major modes, you can learn a little used, but otherwise cool sounding, mode that can be applied to dim7 chords in your soloing.

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

You never know when an uncommon mode might make it’s way into your playing, so try those mode out and see how it fits into your ears and fingers.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Interval Formula

 

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

 

The 7th mode of Harmonic Major 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

 

After listening to the above example, you can play each mode yourself on the guitar to begin visualizing how they’re related fingering wise, but sound completely different when played on the fretboard.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Fingerings

 

With the knowledge of how to build and apply this mode to your solos under your belt, you can learn how to play the seventh mode of harmonic major on the guitar.

As well, put on the backing track below and solo over that chord using the fingerings from this section in order to begin applying this mode to a soloing situation on the guitar.

 

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 that you can practice to use the seventh mode of harmonic major to build your chops and increase your technique in the woodshed.

After you can play this pattern over any of the fingerings from this lesson, put on the backing track and apply it to your improvised solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 20

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 27

 

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 chord progression.

This mode won’t sound as natural over these changes as the pure diminished scale would, but it can make a nice second choice when you want to step outside the box in your solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 21

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 28.1

 

Modes of Limited Transposition

 

First published in his book “The Technique of My Musical Language,” French composer Olivier Messiaen created a series of 7 symmetrical scales that are often referred to as the Modes of Limited Transposition.

These modes are so named because you can only play them in a small number of keys before you start to repeat the notes.

These seven modes are built with symmetrical intervals, meaning they have a pattern of intervals that repeats itself throughout the scale.

You might have seen this approach to building a scale before with the Whole-Tone scale, built using only whole-tones as the symmetrical interval.

Or, you might have played the Half-Whole Diminished Scale (alternating half and whole-steps) and its cousin the Whole-Half Diminished scale (using alternating whole and half-steps).

Though some of these modes are probably not new to you, especially the first two, numbers three through seven are fairly uncommon in the Jazz language.

But, their cool sounds and harmonic-melodic possibilities make them worth checking in the context of Jazz improvising, composing, arranging, and comping.

Since these scales weren’t originally written with the guitar in mind, I’ve written each mode out here with two separate fingerings for the guitar.

As well, each mode has a short description laying out its interval structure with a short synopsis of where you could use each scale in a musical situation.

Check these guitar modes out.

They aren’t very common modes, but they can open your ears up to new sonic possibilities.

And, maybe just give your solos and tunes the harmonic twist they need to reach the next level of creativity and personalization.

 

 

Modes of Limited Transposition 1 (Whole-Tone Scale)

 

Interval Structure: Whole-Whole-Whole-Whole-Whole-Whole-Whole

 

More commonly referred to as the Whole-Tone Scale, this mode can be used to improvise and create chords over any Dominant 7th sound with a #11 and/or #5 interval.

Because it has both a #11 and #5, this scale is a nice companion to the fourth mode of melodic minor, which is used over a 7#11 chord as well.

Use this scale over dominant chords in a ii-V-I progression, or even over a Jazz Blues progression.

You won’t like it in every instance, but you’ll find some harmonic situations where this scale sounds great to your ears, allowing you to use it in your improvising and comping.

 

Click to hear modes of limited transposition 1

 

modes of limited transposition 1

 

 

Modes of Limited Transposition 2 (Half-Whole Diminished)

 

Interval Structure: Half-Whole-Half-Whole-Half-Whole-Half -Whole

 

Otherwise known as the Half Whole Diminished Scale, this mode fits well over an altered Dominant chord, such as 7b9 or 13b9.

The main difference between this scale and the fifth mode of harmonic minor, which is also used over 7b9 chords, is that this scale has a natural 13th.

The 13b9 chord is a favorite of players such as Herbie Hancock and guitarists like Lenny Breau, Ed Bickert and Jim Hall.

Check this sound out in any situation that you would normally gravitate towards the altered scale, it’ll give you a second layer of melodic material to use when you reach for these chords.

 

Click to hear modes of limited transposition 2

 

modes of limited transposition 2

 

 

Modes of Limited Transposition 3

 

Interval Structure: Whole-Half-Half-Whole-Half-Half-Whole-Half-Half

 

Here you’ll find a cool sounding mode that outlines a 7#9#11 chord, as well as a #9#11b13 chord.

It’s similar to the second mode, except that it highlights the #9 interval instead of the b9 in the previous mode.

Though you could also think of the Eb as a passing note between the 9th, D, and the third, E, and use over a normal 9th chord as well.

The extra 7th, B natural, can be thought of as a passing note between the b7, Bb, and the tonic, C, in the same way you would think of a passing note in the Dominant Bebop Scale.

This scale is highly chromatic and it hides the ninth, third and seventh, depending on which notes you want to accent in your line.

So, it opens up a ton of possibilities harmonically in your guitar solos when applied to different chord progressions.

Check out this scale for any situation where you would normally play an Altered scale, such as 7alt, or the V7 in a ii-V-I progression.

Not only will it give you an extra color to choose from in these instances, but it’ll get you away from the Altered Scale cliches that you’ve learned up until this point in your playing.

 

Click to hear modes of limited transposition 3

 

modes of limited transpositon 3

 

 

Modes of Limited Transposition 4

 

Interval Structure: Half-Half-m3rd-Half-Half-Half-m3rd-Half

 

This mode is a quirky one because it has a b9 and natural 9, as well as a b5, natural 5 and b6 (#5).

Because of this, it’s a tricky mode to insert into a guitar solo, unless you see a chord that is written specifically for this type of sound, a maj7 chord with a b9, 9, #11, b13.

Ouch, that’s a lot of alterations!

Check this scale out for the purpose of exposing your ears to a new collection of notes.

You may be inspired to use this mode in one of your own compositions, where you can write a chord or chord progression to fit this unique set of tones.

 

Click to hear modes of limited transposition 4

 

modes of limited transpositon 4

 

 

Modes of Limited Transposition 5

 

Interval Structure: Half-m3rd-Half-Half-m3rd-Half

 

Here’s a mode that, again, is used with a maj7 sound, only this time a maj7 with a b9, #11 and nat 5.

You might be able to squeeze this sound into a solo in a more modern context, such as a long maj7 vamp you could use it to spice up your lines, going beyond normal Ionian and Lydian sounds.

It could also inspire you to write or arrange a tune using this mode, so check it out.

 

Click to hear modes of limited transposition 5

 

 

modes of limited transposition 5

 

 

Modes of Limited Transposition 6

 

Interval Structure: Whole-Whole-Half-Half-Whole-Whole-Half-Half

 

Here you have a more usable mode, one that can be used over a maj7 or 7 chord in the right context.

This mode has both a natural and #11 interval, as well as a #5 and both the b7 and natural 7.

For these reasons,  you could conceivably use this mode to improvise over either a maj7 or 7 chord, because of the double 7’s found in the scale.

Check this mode out over both chords and see how your ears take to each different approach.

It will sound more natural over a 7th chord.

But you never know, your ears might gravitate towards using this collection of notes of a maj7 chord if found in the right context.

 

Click to hear modes of limited transposition 6

 

modes of limited transposition 6

 

 

Modes of Limited Transposition 7

 

Interval Structure: Half-Half-Half-Whole-Half-Half-Half-Half-Whole-Half

 

This mode is full of chromatic harmony.

First, you have R-b2-2-b3, then 4-b5-5-b6 and finally 6-7-R again.

Because of these highly chromatic groups of notes, you can try to use this scale over a mMaj7 chord, highlighting the R, b3, 5 and 7 intervals.

You’d then use the other notes as passing tones to connect these arpeggio notes.

This scale sits very nicely on the guitar, and with the four notes in a row you can really tear through it when you want to.

So it’s worth checking out and seeing if you can find a place to use it in an improvisational or compositional context.

 

Click to hear modes of limited transposition 7

 

 

modes of limited transpositon 7

 

 

Do you have any questions about Jazz guitar scales? Share them in the comments section below.



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