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How To Learn Major Scale Modes The Easy Way

Trying to learn major scale modes for guitar is an essential, though sometimes daunting, skill for any modern guitarist to possess, which is why I put together this guitar scales made easy series of articles.

With so many different fingerings to choose from, as well as learning to organize and memorize each of the 7 different modes, getting these modes on the guitar can sometimes seem overwhelming, or at the very least, frustrating.

In the following video lesson, and accompanying PDF, I lay out a fun and easy way to learn, memorize, organize and apply all of the 7 modes of the major scale on the guitar,

With this simple exercise, you will not only learn how to play all of these modes on the guitar, but you will learn how they are related to each other and how you can organize them from the brightest to darkest sounding mode in order to learn them quickly and retain them as you move forward in your development.

To read how to apply these modes to a solo, please read my article “Modes of the Major Scale and Their Application.”

To explore this exercise further, check out my article “Jazz Guitar Scales Made Easy: Deriving 28 Modes from One Shape” to apply this idea to all of the modes of the Major, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor and Harmonic Major scales.

Click to download the PDF for this lesson.

Have a question or comment about this lesson? Share it in the How to Learn Major Scale Modes Thread in the MWG Forum.


Learn Major Scale Modes Video Lesson


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Do you have a question about how to learn major scale modes using this easy formula? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  1. netgui, February 15, 2012:

    pdf link broken :-)

  2. Matthew Warnock, February 15, 2012:

    Sorry about that, it was working a minute ago. I fixed it up and it should work now. Here it is as well.

  3. netgui, February 15, 2012:

    thx a lot !

  4. sailor, February 15, 2012:

    Awesome…nice lesson!!

  5. Matthew Warnock, February 15, 2012:

    Thanks Sailor. I’m going to follow it up in the coming weeks with video lesson talking about applying this exercise to Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor and Harmonic Major Scales.

  6. jackieboy, February 21, 2012:

    you have to much sustain haha

  7. Matthew Warnock, February 21, 2012:

    ha, yeah I noticed that after I posted it, I turned down the gain for the next videos

  8. Nicolas Leclair, February 27, 2012:

    Hello matt, your approach is very interresting. I work on a similar manner starting on the major scale, and relate the other mode directly from it. One fingering adapting to the other modes, ex, myxolidian = major scale (ionian) with the 7 th degree flattened, lydian= major scale with a sharp 4, Etc. It’ s a mix I have made of my lecture of chris standring jazz course (all starting on the major scale) and tom kolb music theory book. I also bought yout ebook. I like your approach of exercises, ex. : the different ways of working arppegio. Learning scales pattern without understanding the structure was useless for me. Working with the comprehension of the degrees was the flash that helped me understand. After that, i relate to those degree by the notes name ( do re mi fa sol la si ) Best regards from a city you seem to know : montreal. Nicolas

  9. Matthew Warnock, February 27, 2012:

    Hi Nicolas,
    Thanks for checking out my site and ebook. yeah, you can start on major if you want as well, then go “brighter” for lydian and then rest of the modes are “darker”, that approach works well too. I don’t think that where you start with the modes is that important, whatever is comfortable for you, but it’s more important to see how the shapes move to morph from one mode to the other. Some people like to start on Dorian for minor sounds, or even Mixolydian for dominant sounds and move things around from there, so whatever seems to work should be fine as long as the fundamental formula is understood. Hope Montreal is treating you well!

  10. JasonWerner, July 27, 2012:

    Nice! Very comprehensive.Thank you for the insight on one octave scales. I’m going to go practice right now…

  11. Matthew Warnock, July 27, 2012:

    No problem Jason, glad you dug the article have fun with these shapes!

  12. Rich, October 18, 2012:

    I noticed your finger approach

    I use only my thumb

    You are using your thumb and index fingers on lower strings

    What is your thinking using this approach



  13. Matthew Warnock, October 18, 2012:

    Hey Rich

    I like to use my thumb sometimes on the lower strings because I find I can get a better tone that way. If you use your thumb only you can certainly do it, but you might want to experiment with one or two fingers to see how that feels.

  14. Nelson Branco, January 3, 2013:

    Obrigado Matt!!!
    Faz um tempo que eu tentava relacionar as posições com os modos gregos de uma forma prática… e então me deparei com sua video-aula!!! um show!!! em 15 min ficou gravado na minha mente que nunca mais vou esquecer… assim quem me pedir… “oh Nelsão manda um um Si bemol mixolídio”… não vai levar dois segundos para sair…. valeu cara!!!!
    NB from SCS BRAZIL

  15. Larry Garnett, June 6, 2013:

    Greatly appreciated Matt Thank you.

  16. alfred, February 2, 2015:

    Thank you for this very informative guide… hope I can see frustratios go away… ????

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