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Guitar Scales and Modes – The Complete Performance Guide

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

Learning scales and applying them to soloing situations greatly improves your ability to improvise on guitar.

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

You may even have applied scales to your guitar solos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

From complete beginner to advanced guitarists.

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

This lesson shows you the steps needed to master guitar scales, understand how they’re used, and give examples of scales and modes in action.

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

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

 

 

Note: I talk 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. 

 

 

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Table of Contents

 

Click on any link to jump directly to that topic in this guitar scales and modes guide.

 

Introduction

 

 

Major Modes

 

 

Melodic Minor Modes

 

 

Harmonic Minor Modes

 

 

Harmonic Major Modes

 

 

 

 

 

How to Use This Guitar Scales Guide

 

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

You begin by learning Lydian, then alter one note at a time to learn all seven major modes. Then, you alter one note at a time to create every mode of melodic minor, harmonic minor, and harmonic major.

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

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t study harmonic major modes. It’s just that you want to get the most common modes under your fingers first.

You don’t have to work these modes in the order given, especially for intermediate or advanced guitarists. But, for beginners, it’s best to start from the top.

Lastly, there’s a lifetime of study here, so there’s no rush to learn every mode right away.

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

From there, move on to the next mode.

As well, if you forget a mode, return to that mode and review it in your studies.

 

 

Experience Levels

 

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

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

 

Beginner

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

 

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

 

 

Intermediate

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

 

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

 

 

Lesson Organization

 

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

 

1. Fingerings and Application

In this section, you learn how to solo with each mode, and background information for that mode. This section as a brief intro to the mode, and then it’s unpacked in the sections that follow.

 

2. Interval Formula

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

 

3. Fingerings

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

 

4. Practice Patterns

Here, you learn one pattern for each mode to increase memory and build your chops at the same time. You can also take a pattern from one mode and apply it to other modes in your studies.

 

5. Guitar Licks

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

 

Further Reading

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

 

 

 

 

What is a Parent Scale?

 

Before you learn these scales, you need to understand exactly what a parent scale is. Here’s a definition of a parent scale to help you understand this term.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

But, if you play the C major scale from D to D, you get D Dorian, 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 D

 

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

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

The four most common parent scales are:

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

What is a Mode?

 

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

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

 

Modes are built by playing parent scales from each note; they have the same notes as the parent scale, but use different intervals.

 

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

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

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

 

Major – R 2 3 4 5 6 7

Dorian – R 2 b3 4 5 6 b7

 

Because of this, the major scale and Dorian are applied to different chords in a soloing situation, major over maj7 and Dorian over m7.

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

 

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

 

This may still be a bit fuzzy, especially if you’re new to learning guitar scales and modes. Not to worry, as you study the lessons below, this theory will become clear.

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

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

 

 

 

Major Scale Modes

 

You begin your study of modes with the most popular, the seven major modes. These seven modes are used to solo over m7, 7, maj7, and m7b5 chords, covering a lot of harmonic ground.

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

Take your time with these modes and apply them to both technical and improvisational situations.

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

 

 

Major Modes Formula

 

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

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

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Lydian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

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

Since Lydian is the 4th mode, it’s like playing a G major scale from the note C, as you can see in the example below, and it’s used to solo over Maj7 chords.

This mode outlines the #11 interval, written #4 in when referring to modes, which creates tension. While some players enjoy this tension, it can take time to get used to.

 

 

Lydian Mode Interval Formula

 

The Lydian mode is built with the following interval pattern:

 

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

 

This is your “starting position” for all other modes in this lesson, so it’s important to memorize this formula. Once you have this interval pattern down, you can create 27 more modes from one shape.

Pretty cool right?

 

 

Lydian Mode Fingerings

 

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

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

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

 

Click to jam over Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Lydian Fingerings

 

 

Lydian Mode Practice Pattern

 

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

 

Click to hear Lydian Mode 1

 

guitar-scales-1-lydian-pattern

 

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

 

 

Lydian Mode Lick

 

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

 

Click to hear Lydian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-2-lydian-lick

 

 

 

Ionian Mode Fingerings and Application

 

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

Ionian is used to solo over Maj7 chords, in a similar way to Lydian, though with a “softer” sound. Because it’s used over tonic maj7 chords, it’s one of the most important modes.

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

 

 

Ionian Formula

 

To build Ionian and its fingerings, you’re going to compare it to Lydian. By adjusting the Lydian mode, you’re not starting from scratch with the Ionian mode.

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

 

Ionian is built by lowering the 4th of Lydian by one fret on the guitar.

 

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

 

Click to hear Ionian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Ionian Formula

 

 

 

Ionian Fingerings

 

You’ll now learn four fingerings for this mode on the fretboard. Along with working with a metronome, practice soloing over the Cmaj7 backing track with this mode.

 

Click to jam over Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Ionian Fingerings

 

 

Ionian Mode Practice Pattern

 

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

 

Click to hear Ionian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-3-ionian-pattern

 

As well as working with a metronome, put on the Cmaj7 backing track and solo over that chord with this pattern.

 

 

Ionian Lick

 

Here’s a ii V I lick that uses C Ionian over the Imaj7 chord. After you’ve learned this phrase, work it in 12 keys, and then apply it to your guitar solos.

 

Click to hear Ionian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-4-ionian-lick

 

 

 

 

Mixolydian Mode

 

You’re going to alter one note from Ionian to create Mixolydian, the 5th mode of the major scale.

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

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

 

 

 

Mixolydian Formula

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear Mixolydian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Mixolydian Formula

 

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

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Fingerings

 

Here are four Mixolydian fingerings that you can work with a metronome at various tempos, and a C7 backing track that you can jam over in your studies.

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Mixolydian Fingerings

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Practice Pattern

 

Here’s a pattern that you can apply to any Mixolydian fingering to increase your fluidity on the fretboard. This pattern is built by ascending triads through Mixolydian.

 

Click to hear Mixolydian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-5-mixolydian-pattern

 

 

 

Mixolydian Mode Lick

 

Here’s a line that uses Mixolydian over the first four bars of an F blues progression. After you’ve memorized this line, put on a jazz blues backing track and apply this to your solos.

 

Click to hear Mixolydian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-6-mixolydian-lick

 

 

 

 

Dorian Mode

 

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

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

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

 

 

Dorian Mode Interval Formula

 

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

 

Dorian is built by lowering the 3rd of Mixolydian by one fret on the guitar.

 

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

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

 

Click to hear Dorian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Dorian Formula

 

 

 

Dorian Mode Fingerings

 

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

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

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

 

Click to jam over Cm7 Cm7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Dorian Fingerings

 

 

Dorian Pattern

 

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

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

 

Click to hear Dorian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-7-dorian-pattern

 

 

 

Dorian Lick

 

Here’s a lick over the first four bars to Blue Bossa. Work this line in a few keys with a metronome, and then put on a Blue Bossa backing track and use this line in your solos.

 

Click to hear Dorian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-8-dorian-lick

 

 

 

Aeolian Mode

 

You’ll now explore the Aeolian mode, the 6th mode of the major scale system. Aeolian is used to solo over m7 chords, mostly over Im7 chords as opposed to iim7 chords with Dorian.

Jazzers use Aeolian less than Dorian because the b6 doesn’t have that characteristic minor jazz sound. It sounds more like rock than jazz, but it’s still be an effective mode to learn.

 

 

Aeolian Formula

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear Aeolian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Aeolian Fingering

 

 

 

Aeolian Mode Fingerings

 

Moving on, here are four common Aeolian fingerings. Begin by working one shape, then move on to the next one from there.

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

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

 

Click to jam on Cm7 Cm7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Aeolian Fingerings

 

 

Aeolian Mode Practice Pattern

 

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

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

 

Click to hear Aeolian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-9-aeolian-pattern

 

 

 

Aeolian Lick

 

Here’s a phrase that uses Aeolian over the Im7 chord in a minor ii-V-I progression. Work this lick in Am first, before moving it to other keys.

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

 

Click to hear Aeolian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-10-aeolian-lick

 

 

 

Phrygian Mode

 

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

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

If you want to add an altered sound to your dominant 7th lines, play Phrygian over any 7th chord. When doing so, you produce the intervals b9, #9, and b13, but without the major 3rd.

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

 

 

Phrygian Formula

 

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

 

Phrygian is built by lowering the 2nd of Aeolian by one fret on the guitar.

 

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

 

Click to hear Phrygian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Phrygian Formula

 

 

 

Phrygian Fingerings

 

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

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

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Phyrgian Fingerings

 

 

 

Phrygian Pattern

 

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

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

 

Click to hear Phrygian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-11-phrygian-pattern

 

 

 

Phrygian Lick

 

Here’s a phrase that you can learn as you apply C Phrygian to the V7  in a ii-V-I progression.

 

Click to hear Phrygian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-12-phrygian-lick

 

 

 

Locrian Mode

 

The final mode, the 7th mode of the major scale, is called Locrian. Locrian is used to solo over m7b5 chords, which you find as the iim7b5 chord in a minor ii V I progression.

 

 

 

Locrian Formula

 

You can think of the Locrian mode in comparison to Phrygian.

 

Locrian is built by lowering the 5th of Phrygian by one fret on the guitar.

 

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

 

Click to hear Locrian Mode 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Locrian Formula

 

 

 

Locrian Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings to learn and apply to both the technical and improvisational section of your routine.

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

 

Click to jam over Cm7b5 Cm7b5 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Locrian Fingerings

 

 

 

Locrian Pattern

 

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

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

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

 

Click to hear Locrian Mode 2

 

guitar-scales-13-locrian-pattern

 

 

Locrian Lick

 

Here’s a ii V I lick in G minor that you can add to your soloing vocabulary. After you’ve learned this lick, take it to other keys around the fretboard.

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

 

Click to hear Locrian Mode 3

 

guitar-scales-14-locrian-lick

 

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Modes

 

Now that you learned the major scale modes, you can explore another essential scale system, melodic minor.

Used to solo over m7, maj7, 7, and m7b5 chords, melodic minor is just as important as its major cousin. These modes also introduce new harmonies, such as 7#11, maj7#5, and 7alt.

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

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

 

 

Melodic Minor Modes Formula

 

You may know it’s important to learn melodic minor modes, but it can be daunting to learn seven new shapes.

To make this easier, you can use previous knowledge to learn these new modes in no time. To do so, you lower one note of each major mode to produce all seven melodic minor modes.

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

 

  • 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 intro to how you build melodic minor modes, you’ll look deeper into each mode, how it’s built, and how you apply it to solos.

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1

 

The first mode of melodic minor is used to solo over m7 chords. When doing so, you create tension with the raised 7th found in that mode.

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

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

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Interval Formula

 

To build the first mode of melodic minor, you’re going to compare it to Ionian. When doing so, you lower one note in Ionian to form the new mode.

 

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

 

Though they’re only one note different, both modes sound unique, as Ionian is major and MM mode 1 is minor.

Lastly, notice that the lowered note, the 3rd, is moved down a string in the first octave. This is done to make the mode easier to finger on the fretboard.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 1

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - melodic minor modes 1

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings

 

With the knowledge of how to build melodic minor mode 1 down, you can learn how to play it on guitar. Here are four fingerings for C melodic minor that you can memorize.

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

 

Click to jam over Cm7 Cm7 Backing Track

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 2

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Pattern

 

This pattern is built by playing descending 4th intervals through a C melodic minor fingering. Once you’ve worked this pattern over the fingering below, take it to other shapes to expand this idea in your studies.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 2

 

guitar-scales-15-mm1-pattern

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Lick

 

Here’s a lick that uses MM mode 1 over the iim7 in a ii-V-I. Notice how the #7 interval creates tension, then that tension is resolved, creating a cool, bebop sound along the way.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 3

 

guitar-scales-16-mm1-lick

 

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2

 

The second mode of melodic minor brings tension to your dominant 7th lines. When doing so, you highlight a 13sus(b9,#9) sound.

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

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Formula

 

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

 

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

 

Though it’s related to Dorian, both modes have a personality all their own.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 4

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 5

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings that you can learn to take this mode to the fretboard. As well, here’s a C7 backing track to solo 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 Pattern

 

With one or more of these fingerings down, add a scale pattern to your studies. Here’s a descending pattern that you can practice with a metronome.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 5

 

guitar-scales-17-mm2-pattern

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Lick

 

In this G major ii-V-I, you use the 2nd melodic minor mode over D7 in the second bar. Notice the tension this creates over that chord, before resolving in the next measure.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 6

 

guitar-scales-18-mm2-lick

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3

 

You’ll now learn how to build, play and apply the third mode of melodic minor, otherwise known as  Lydian augmented.

This mode has a #4 and #5, giving it the name Lydian (#4) augmented (#5). Because it also has a major 3 and 7, you use this mode to solo over maj7 chords.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Formula

 

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

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

 

Melodic minor mode 3 is built by lowering the root of Phrygian by a fret on the guitar.

 

As you can see, you lower the root note to produce the new mode fingering. This means that to play the third mode of melodic minor from C, you lower the root of Db Phrygian.

Here’s how that looks with C Phrygian and 3rd mode melodic minor. When doing so, you play the same notes in the shape, but the root has been lowered to create the new mode.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 7

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 9

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings for the third mode of melodic minor that you can learn in your studies. As well, there’s a Cmaj7 jam track that you can use to practice soloing with this scale.

 

Click to jam on Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 10

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Pattern

 

Here’s a pattern that you can use to elevate your technique and understanding of the third mode of melodic minor. The pattern features descending triads.

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

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 8

 

guitar-scales-19-mm3-pattern

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Lick

 

Here’s a line that you can apply to your solos. The line uses the third mode of melodic minor over the Imaj7 chord in a G major ii V I.

Notice the tension it creates, which is resolved to avoid sounding too outside over the Imaj7 chord. Practice the lick in the given key as well as taking it to other keys.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 9

 

guitar-scales-20-mm3-lick

 

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4

 

You’re now going to learn to play, and apply the Lydian dominant scale, the 4th mode of melodic minor. This mode is used to solo over 7th chords, bringing a #11(#4) sound to those chords.

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

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Formula

 

To build a Lydian dominant fingering, you alter one note from Lydian.

 

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

 

You can see why this mode is called Lydian dominant; it has the #4 from Lydian and the b7 from dominant 7th chords.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 10

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 13

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings for Lydian dominant that you can learn and solo with in your improvisations. As well, put on the track below and solo with these shapes over C7 in your studies.

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 14

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Pattern

 

Here’s a pattern that you can add to any fingering you’ve learned so far. The pattern is built by playing 4321 from each note in the mode, then 5678 descending that same mode.

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

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 11

 

guitar-scales-21-mm4-pattern

 

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Lick

 

Here’s a line that uses this mode over each chord in the first four bars of an F blues progression.

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

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 12

 

guitar-scales-22-mm4-lick

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5

 

The fifth mode of melodic minor is related to Mixolydian, and is used to solo over dominant 7th chords. When adding this mode to your solos, you create a 7b13 sound over 7th chords.

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Interval Formula

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 13

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 17

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings for Mixolydian b13 that you can work out across the fretboard. After you’ve learned these fingerings, put on the backing track and jam over that chord.

 

Click to jam on C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 18

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Pattern

 

Here’s a pattern that you can add to your practice routine. The pattern is uses descending arpeggios through the mode, both ascending and descending.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 14

 

guitar-scales-23-mm5-pattern

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Lick

 

Here’s a phrase over the first four bars of an F blues progression. After you’ve learned this line, write out your own, before taking this idea to other areas of your soloing practice routine.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 15

 

guitar-scales-24-mm5-lick

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 6

 

The second last mode of melodic minor, the 6th mode, is used to solo over m7b5 chords. While it can be an alternative to Locrian, it’s tough to use this mode and not sound like a mistake.

As you’ll see in this section, the natural 9 can be tough to navigate. So, take your time, learn the sample line, and go slow with this mode at home before taking it to a jam session.

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Formula

 

To build the sixth mode of melodic minor, you alter one note from Aeolian.

 

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

 

Though the fingering is related to Aeolian, you use the sixth mode of melodic minor to solo over m7b5 chords.

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

This causes tension, and sounds like a mistake if not done right. So, make sure to experiment with this mode over m7b5 chords at home before bringing it to a gig.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 16

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 21

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build the sixth mode of melodic minor, you can learn this mode on the guitar. Here are four fingerings that you can learn and apply to your studies.

 

Click to jam over Cm7b5 Cm7b5 Backing Track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 22

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Pattern

 

Here’s a pattern that you can apply to any fingering you’ve learned for this mode. The pattern is built by working descending 3rds through the scale.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 17

 

guitar-scales-25-mm6-pattern

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Lick

 

Here’s a lick over the iim7b5 chord in a minor ii-V-I progression. Learn the lick in the original key, then work it in other keys, before applying it to your solos.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 18

 

guitar-scales-26-mm6-lick

 

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7

 

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

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

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

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Formula

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 19

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - melodic minor modes 25

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings to get you started with this mode on the fretboard. Work these shapes in different keys, and apply them to a jam track to get a feel for how they sound on guitar.

 

Click to jam over C7alt c7 alt backing track

 

Jazz Guitar Modes - Melodic Minor Modes 26

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Pattern

 

Here’s a pattern that you can apply to any of fingerings for the Altered Scale. The pattern is built by alternating four scale notes with arpeggios.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 20

 

guitar-scales-27-mm7-pattern

 

 

 

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Lick

 

Here’s a lick that you can us over the V7alt chord in a minor key ii-V-I. Work this line in different keys, and then put it into your soloing over a song you know or are working on.

 

Click to hear melodic minor modes 21

 

guitar-scales-28-mm7-licks

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Modes

 

After you’ve worked on major and melodic minor, you can expand into harmonic minor. These modes offer outside the box sounds to explore, such as the Maj7#9 and Maj7#5nat4.

Besides the exotic sounds, you find classics such as the 1st and the 5th mode, which are a staples of jazz, fusion and other popular musical genres.

Check these modes out, you might not use every one, but you never know what you’ll discover with these new modal colors.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Modes Formula

 

Though not as common as major and melodic minor, there are essential harmonic minor modes. There are also interesting sounds sounds that push your soloing in new directions.

To begin, here are formulas for harmonic minor modes as compared to their major mode counterparts. Use this chart when exploring the harmonic minor modes on guitar.

 

  • 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 formulas for building every harmonic minor mode, you can take that knowledge to the fretboard.

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1

 

This is the parent scale from which all harmonic minor modes are built, and it’s used to improvise over m7 chords, highlighting a mMaj7 sound.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Interval Formula

 

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

 

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

 

This mode has both b6 and #7 intervals, creating a unique sound when applied to m7 chords. Because of this, melodic minor and Dorian are used more often in jazz guitar.

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

Here are those two modes back to back to see how one note makes a big difference with this mode.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 1

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 1

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply this mode, here are four shapes that you can apply to the fretboard. To get the most from your practice, jam with the track after you’ve learned these shapes.

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

 

Click to jam over Am7 Am7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 2

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Pattern

 

One of the best ways to internalize shapes is to apply a pattern to any scale you’re working on. Here’s a practice pattern that you can apply to the first mode of harmonic minor.

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 2

 

guitar-scales-29-hm1-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Lick

 

Here’s a lick you can learn over an Am7 chord, which uses A harmonic minor to create tension.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 3

 

guitar-scales-30-hm1-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2

 

You’ll now explore a lesser-used harmonic minor mode, but one that adds interest to your m7b5 lines. As it contains the intervals 1-b3-b5-b7, it’s used to solo over m7b5 chords.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Formula

 

The second mode of harmonic minor is related to Locrian, and built by altering one note of that mode.

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 4

 

Harmonic Minor Jazz Guitar Modes 5

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply this mode, here are four fingerings for the HM 2 mode. Work each fingering with a metronome, and then add in the pattern below when you’re ready.

 

Click to jam on Am7b5 Am7b5 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 6

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Pattern

 

To extend your chops with this mode, here’s a descending 3rds pattern applied to the 6th-string fingering. Work this pattern with a metronome, and take it to your solos when ready.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 5

 

guitar-scales-31-hm2-pattern

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Lick

 

Here’s a lick that features the HM 2 mode over the iim7b5 chord in a ii V I in G minor. Notice how the F#, #6, stands out in the line.

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 6

 

guitar-scales-32-hm2-lick-2

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3

 

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

It’s similar to the third mode of melodic minor that you saw earlier. Though here, there’s a natural 4th, relating it to Ionian as well.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Formula

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 7

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 9

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings for the third mode of harmonic minor. After you’ve learned these fingerings, put on the backing track and solo as you experiment with this new sound.

 

Click to jam over Amaj7 Amaj7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 10

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Pattern

 

To expand on this mode, you’ll add a pattern to the fingerings you’ve learned so far. This pattern alternates 3rds, which you can see and hear in the example below.

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 8

 

guitar-scales-33-hm3-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Lick

 

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 9

 

guitar-scales-34-hm3-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4

 

The fourth mode of harmonic minor adds tension to your m7 lines. Similar to Dorian, HM 4 has a #4, which makes it sound unique compared to Dorian.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Formula

 

You’ll now learn how to build the fourth mode of harmonic minor by comparing it to Dorian.

 

Harmonic minor mode 4 is built by raising the 4th of Dorian by one fret on the guitar.

 

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 10

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 13

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings to apply this mode to the fretboard. Once you have one or more of these shapes down, apply them to a soloing situation.

 

Click to jam over Am7 Am7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 14

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s a pattern that you can use over any harmonic minor mode 4 fingering. The pattern is built by alternating descending and ascending  3rds over each note in the scale.

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 11

 

guitar-scales-35-hm4-pattern

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Lick

 

Here’s a lick to hear this mode used over the iim7 chord in a ii V I. Notice how the #4 is used in a pattern, using tension without drawing too much attention to that note.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 12

 

guitar-scales-36-hm4-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5

 

You’ll now study the most commonly used harmonic minor mode, the fifth mode. Used to solo over 7th chords, this mode brings a 7b9,b13 sound to your lines.

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

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Formula

 

Now that you know how to apply this mode, you can learn how to build this mode by comparing it to Phrygian.

 

Phrygian dominant is built by raising the 3rd of Phrygian by one fret on the guitar.

 

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 13

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 17.1

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how to build and apply this mode, it’s time to take it to the fretboard. Here are four fingerings that you can work with both a metronome and over the backing track.

 

Click to jam over A7 A7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 18

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s an ascending 3rds pattern that you can work with a metronome and jam with over a backing track to hear how it sounds in your solos.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 14

 

guitar-scales-37-hm5-pattern

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Lick

 

Here’s a lick that uses Phrygian dominant over the A7 chord in a ii V I. Notice how this mode creates tension over the V7 chord, which is resolved on the Imaj7.

Phrygian dominant is a powerful tool, but if it’s not resolved, it sounds out of place in your solos.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 15

 

guitar-scales-38-hm5-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6

 

The sixth of harmonic minor produces a maj7#9 sound. Because the #9 note is also a b3, this mode brings a blues sound to your solos.

While it may not become a regular mode in your solos, it’s a nice second choice maj7 mode to explore.

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Interval Formula

 

You build this mode by comparing it to Lydian.

 

Harmonic minor mode 6 is built by raising the 2nd of Lydian by one fret on the guitar.

 

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 16

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 21

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings that you can use with your study of this mode on the fretboard. After learning these shapes, solo 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 Pattern

 

You’ll now apply a descending 3rds pattern to the sixth mode of harmonic minor. Make sure to work this pattern in multiple keys, with a metronome, and in your solos.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 17

 

guitar-scales-39-hm6-pattern

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Lick

 

Here’s a line that uses this mode over the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I. Notice how the #2 stands out, but it sounds bluesy in this context.

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 18

 

guitar-scales-40-hm6-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7

 

The seventh of harmonic minor is a strange one. It’s used to solo over dim7 chords, and is related to Mixolydian, but with an altered root.

As was the case with Phrygian b1, this can be tricky, so think of it as a fingering option. If you take any Mixolydian shape, and lower the root by a fret, you get the 7th mode of harmonic minor.

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

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Formula

 

With the theory of how to apply this mode down, you’ll learn how to build the 7th mode of harmonic minor by altering one note of Mixolydian.

 

The 7th mode of harmonic minor is built by raising the root of Mixolydian by one fret on the guitar.

 

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 19

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 25

 

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings

 

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

Make sure to run them with a metronome and solo over the backing track to take these shapes to the improvisational side of your studies.

 

Click to jam on Adim7 Adim7 Backing Track

 

harmonic minor jazz guitar modes 26

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Pattern

 

Here’s an alternating 3rds pattern that you can apply to any fingering for this mode. After you play this pattern with a metronome, use it in your soloing practice as well.

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 20

 

guitar-scales-41-hm7-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Lick

 

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

 

Click to hear Harmonic Minor Modes 21

 

guitar-scales-42-hm7-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Modes

 

Harmonic major isn’t the most common modal system, but this it produces essential sounds that you need in your playing.

Take your time when working these guitar scales, as you might not see immediate application for these modes in your playing,

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

 

 

Harmonic Major Modes Formula

 

You learn the seven modes of harmonic major by comparing them to modes of the major scale. By taking each major mode, and altering one note, you create all seven harmonic major modes.

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1

 

The first mode of harmonic major is one of the most popular modes in this system, and is used to solo over maj7 chords. When doing so, you create a maj7b6 sound in your solos.

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

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Formula

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 1

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 1

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Fingerings

 

Now that you know how build the first mode of harmonic major, take that knowledge to the fretboard. To begin, learn the following fingerings to study harmonic major mode 1 across the fretboard.

Here’s a jam track to practice soloing with any this mode in your studies.

 

Click to Jam on Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 2

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Practice Pattern

 

Here’s an ascending 3rds pattern to work over this mode with a metronome. After you can play this pattern with a metronome, add it to your improvised solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 2

 

guitar-scales-43-hmaj1-pattern

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Lick

 

Here’s a line that uses this mode over the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I. Notice how the b6 stands out, but resolves to sound outside only for a split second in the line.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 3

 

guitar-scales-44-hmaj1-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2

 

Moving on to the second mode of harmonic major. Because it’s related to Dorian, it outlines a m7 chord in your guitar solos.

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

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Formula

 

You’ll now learn how to build the second mode of harmonic major as compared to Dorian.

 

Harmonic major mode 2 is built by lowering the fifth of Dorian by one fret on the guitar.

 

Here are those two modes back to back to see how these shapes are related, but have unique sounds all their own.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 4

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 5

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Fingerings

 

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

When you can play these fingerings from memory, solo over the Cm7 track 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 Pattern

 

Here’s a descending 3rds pattern to help build your chops with the second mode of harmonic major. After you’ve worked this pattern over the following fingering, take it to other shapes.

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

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 5

 

guitar-scales-45-hmaj2-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Lick

 

Here’s a line that uses that mode to outline the Cm7 chord in a ii V I in Bb. Notice how the b5, Gb, sounds like the blues.

This is the reason this mode is worth learning, it sounds like Dorian meets blues over m7 chords.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 6

 

guitar-scales-46-hmaj2-lick

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3

 

One of the more common harmonic major modes, the 3rd mode is used over 7th chords. When doing so, you highlight the b9, #9, and b13 intervals.

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

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Formula

 

You alter one note from Phrygian to create the third mode of harmonic major.

 

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

 

Here are those two modes back to back so that you can hear how they sound on the guitar.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 7

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 9

 

Play through both modes back to back to visualize their similarities, and hear their differences.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Fingerings

 

Now learn one or more of the following fingerings to take that mode to the fretboard. After you’ve worked out any fingering, put on the C7 backing track and solo with these shapes.

 

Click to jam over C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 10

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Pattern

 

Now practice an alternating 3rds pattern over any fingering for the 3rd mode of harmonic major.

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

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 8

 

guitar-scales-47-hmaj3-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Lick

 

You can also study a sample line that features the third mode of harmonic major over the V7 chord in a ii V I. Notice how much tension is created by this mode, which is resolved on the Imaj7 chord.

This mode is a fun choice over 7th chords, but it creates a lot of tension. So work on resolving this mode so it keeps that hip sound and doesn’t sound like a mistake.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 9

 

guitar-scales-48-hmaj3-lick

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4

 

The fourth mode of harmonic major is used to solo over m7 chords when you want to go beyond Dorian. When doing so, you bring the #4 interval, a blues note, into your lines.

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

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Interval Formula

 

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

 

The 4th mode of harmonic major is built by lowering the third of Lydian by one fret on the guitar.

 

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

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 10

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 13

 

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Fingerings

 

Here are four fingerings that you can study and learn in 12 keys. Once you can play these fingerings, solo over Cm7 with the fourth mode of harmonic major to work it in a soloing context.

 

Click to jam over Cm7 Cm7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 14

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Pattern

 

Here’s an alternating 3rds pattern to apply to the 4th mode of harmonic major in order to build your guitar chops as you learn this mode.

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

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 11

 

guitar-scales-49-hmaj4-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Lick

 

Here’s a lick featuring the fourth mode of harmonic major over the Im7 in a minor ii V I. This mode creates tension over any m7 chord, and it needs to be resolved when applied to your solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 12

 

guitar-scales-50-hmaj4-lick

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5

 

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

As it’s related to Mixolydian, move between both modes in your solos to build this new sound in your ears.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Formula

 

You’ll now learn how to build the fifth mode of harmonic major by comparing it to Mixolydian.

 

Harmonic major mode 5 is built by lowering the 2nd note of Mixolydian by one fret on the guitar.

 

Here’s Mixolydian and fifth mode harmonic major back to back to hear how they compare.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 13

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 17

 

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

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Fingerings

 

You’re now ready to learn 5th mode harmonic major fingerings. Once you’ve learned these fingerings, solo over C7 to hear how it sounds when applied to an improvisation.

 

Click to jam on C7 C7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 18

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Pattern

 

Here’s an ascending 3rds pattern that you can apply to other fingerings in your practice routine. After you’ve worked this pattern with a metronome, add it to the soloing side of your studies.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 14

 

guitar-scales-51-hmaj5-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Lick

 

You can now learn a line that features the 5th mode of harmonic major in a ii V I. Notice how similar this mode is to Mixolydian, but the one note difference creates interest in your solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 15

 

guitar-scales-52-hmaj5-lick

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6

 

The 6th mode of harmonic major is used to solo over maj7 chords where you highlight the #9, #4, and #5. Because of those intervals, this mode is tense and should be treated with caution.

If you choose to use this mode, work on resolving those tensions so they don’t sound like mistakes in your lines.

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Interval Formula

 

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

 

Harmonic major mode 6 is built by lowering the root of Aeolian mode by one fret on the guitar.

 

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

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 16

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 21

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Fingerings

 

Take this mode to the fretboard by learning the following four fingerings. Once you’ve worked out these shapes, put on the backing track and take them to your solos.

 

Click to jam over Cmaj7 Cmaj7 Backing Track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 22

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Pattern

 

Here’s a descending 3rds pattern that you can apply to 6th mode harmonic major shape. After you’ve learned it with a metronome, put on a backing track and use this pattern in your solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 17

 

guitar-scales-53-hmaj6-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Lick

 

Here’s a lick with the 6th mode of harmonic major used to outline the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I. Notice that by resolving the #5 interval up to the 6th, the line ends on an inside sound.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 18

 

guitar-scales-54-hmaj6-lick

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7

 

To finish up harmonic major, you’ll learn a little used, but cool sounding, mode that’s applied to dim7 chords. With any rare mode, dip your toes into this sound, see how it sounds to you, and go from there.

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

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Formula

 

To build the seventh mode of harmonic major, you compare it to Locrian.

 

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

 

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

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 19

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 25

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Fingerings

 

With the knowledge of how to build and apply this mode, you’ll learn how to play the 7th mode of harmonic major. As well, put on the backing track and solo using the fingerings from this section.

 

Click to jam over Cdim7 cdim7 backing track

 

Harmonic Major Jazz Guitar Modes 26

 

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Pattern

 

Here’s an alternating 3rds pattern to build your chops with this mode. After you can play this pattern, put on the backing track and apply it to your solos.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 20

 

guitar-scales-55-hmaj7-pattern

 

 

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Lick

 

In this line, you apply 7th mode harmonic major to the Cdim7 in a passing diminished progression. This mode won’t sound as natural as the diminished scale, but it’s a nice second choice.

 

Click to hear harmonic major jazz guitar scales 21

 

guitar-scales-56-hmaj7-lick



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