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Joined: 28 Aug 2008
United Kingdom
Lessons: 24
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Karma: 47

Major Scale and Modes Within

by JazzMaverick

4 Sep 2008
Views: 25895

This is the Major scale and the modes within. For those who don't know the modes...

If you play all of the major scale on the first string you'll see that each note you play is the start of another mode, until you come back to the first note. From this, you'll have Ionian (Major), Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian (Minor), and Locrian.

If you're not sure how to play it on the first string alone, it's G, A minor, B minor, C, D, E minor, F#diminished.

Remember that every position of the major scale modes plays the exact note all the way through, but in a different position, meaning starting on a different note to make it look like a different scale/position.

For the actual table... I'm using the roman numbers on the top. The I is the first note in the key/scale, which I hope you all know. If not, learn now! :D

This is really important to know, people. What you should understand with my little table here, is that underneith I've stated the Major scale and modes. I've also mentioned what style they're under.

Just incase you can't see it...

I Major = Ionian (Major Scale)
II Minor = Dorian
III Minor = Phrygian
IV Major = Lydian
V Major = Mixolydian
VI Minor = Aeolian (Minor scale)
VII Diminished = Locrian

The reason why there isn't an 8 (VIII) is because that is the octave. The first note but higher up.

Alright, when i say to look at the scale as one scale along the fret board, you DO NOT have to do that. I look at it a different way now. I see it with multiple values now. E.g. when you're improvising around the minor scale, it's also possible to play the melodic minor, the blues, minor pentatonic, harmonic minor, etc. This makes it more fun to improvise, also adds more possibilities while going outside of the original mode.

If this is still too difficult, picture the major scale on top of these modes and compare. The modal positions are just an alteration of the major scale. But it's still using the exact same notes in any mode (of that particular key).

Arpeggios are just chords. In time you'll be able to relate chords and arpeggios into the scale. They are bascally the sweet notes of the scale. Root, third, fifth and seventh are the most common arpeggios.

Send me a comment if you're stuck with something, and I'll gladly help out.


Also, check out my music listed on Sound Cloud (link below) if you like it follow me on facebook! :)

JazzMaverick on Sound Cloud
JazzMaverick Music




hehe the email kool


Yeah, thought it'd be easier to put it on here, for everyone.

It dawned on me that I could have done that in the first place haha.

  league the Major Modes are essentially different ways to play the Major scale.


i want to know how you penned such even lines and grids...


League; exactly. All of these "Modes" are just another starting point in the major scale.

So play the major scale, then play the second note in the major scale and continue to play the scale. From here, this is a starting point to a new mode - the Dorian. And so on with each other note you start on. Makes any sense?

Baudelaire; the trusty skills of a ruler =D


Does this make sense to anyone who hasn't seen this? Please let me know if it doesn't, and I'll explain it in more detail.


Sorry for bumping this old lesson, but this really helped. I was not really sure what to do with modes before this, since it just sounded like the major scale in a different place. But this, plus the 1,3,5,7 stuff, plus some old stuff I remembered from trumpet lessons, plus some fiddling around on the piano helped me realize that I could play these modes over the certain chords and it will sound good.

For example, I was playing in F, and whilst playing a C7, I realized I could use the C Mixolydian to make it sound like it fit together. When I played other chords I used the other modes, and it sounded good as well.

Thankye very much :D


Awesome, great to hear that it's working for you. Glad both lessons are helping. Keep up the great practicing!


holy **!!! thank you!! ive been looking for something like this to help me understand the oder of modes, sorry for the swear


You're welcome. :D swears are sensored anyway so it doesn't matter :P


** ** **! This is a good lesson, very clear.
Say, how do you get to know the fretboard well? I mean, when I'm playing in, let's say E major, and the song progresses to a bluesy riff in Am, which steps do you take? Have you memorized the different scales/positions till you dropped dead to the floor?


It just sort of came to me after a while, I played everything so much that it became second memory and I can just see where it is without needed to think about it.

Try and arpeggiate the scales all around the fretboard, that should help you out a lot. In time you shouldn't be stuck at all, even if it's something basic, you'll be playing something that's right instead of just "sweeping" everywhere.


ok. modes have been kickin my ass. i am a little confused. i understand your little lesson here totally without any questions, but there is one prob. that is really got me goin out of my mind. lets use Gmaj. as an ex. Im assuming that the Ionian=1,2,3,4,5,6,7 / Dorian= 1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7 / Phrygian=1,b2,b3,4,5,b6,b7 so on and so on..... are just the changes in the positions that the notes(G,A,B,C,D,E,F#) in any given mode are compared to the original position (Ionian). Correct? but the real kicker is, is that on the guitar scales tab (the one that has the fretboard that you can get any scale to show up on) they actually flat the notes not the positions. Ex. G ionian 1=G, 2=A, 3=B, 4=C, 5=D, 6=E, 7=F# / But in dorion mode, 1=G, 2=A, b3=Bb(A#), 4=C, 5=D, 6=E, b7=F. I hope you can understand what i said. if you can please explain because that thing goes against every thing your lesson is about and it is confusin' the ** out of me. And if it is wrong then they need to fix it because people like me are usin' it and learnin' the wrong stuff.



Yeah, I get what you mean. It's because you're starting on the same note, when it should be A Dorian, not G. Because you're in G Major.

To explain this properly without all the major theory it's like this:
G Major = G(1), A(2), B(3), C(4), D(5), E(6), F#(7)
A Dorian = A(2), B(3), C(4), D(5), E(6), F#(7), G(1)
B Phrygian = B(3), C(4), D(5), E(6), F#(7), G(1), A(2)
C Lydian = C(4), D(5), E(6), F#(7), G(1), A(2), B(3)
D Mixolydian = D(5), E(6), F#(7), G(1), A(2), B(3), C(4)
E Aeolian = E(6), F#(7), G(1), A(2), B(3), C(4), D(5)
F# Locrian = F#(7), G(1), A(2), B(3), C(4), D(5), E(6)
All you're actually doing is just starting on a different note of the exact same scale. We're just calling them modes because if you use them properly they can technically be the same but sound entirely different.

Does that make more sense? I hope it does, but if not tell me what you don't get and I'll try and simplify it. :)


it just hit me like a ton of bricks. i feel like an idiot now. thank you for your time


Nah don't worry about it, it takes ages for everyone to figure that out. The good news is that you actually understood it :D So keep asking questions and you'll be catching up in no time.


just found this ste and came across this post. all i got to say is thank you, from the novice "knows nothing" to the Vet who "knows a lot but not all". this post was very well done and the epiphany i has by looking "not reading it" was amazing, I look forward to more posts from you THANKX!


Thanks man, it's a good lesson. Love the pictures )
But i got question, i know the modes and how they work, and i also know th ebasic position of em, but, when it gets to memorizing them over the entire fretboard i always find myself forgetting the positions. But i just don't know whats better, learning modes by positions or by notes which are within that, and then perfectly knowing the fretboard? What do you do? You are probably a but more advanced than me in that point,ha.
Until now i just repeated the modes when i needed them for writing solos over songs i wrote.
And like on th eother hand, for example my guitar teacher says, modes are bull****, they are not worth the effort of learning them over the entire fretboard, he says arpeggios are the way..well, don't know about that

Well it'd be nice to hear your opinion on that.


Great lesson. It has totally helped me understand modes and it will definitely help me in creating my own music. I was wondering, since I have learned the major scales modes, are there other scales that can be used and applied to this, or because the major scale is the center of it all that's the only one. I know quite a few scales but it seems like they are just modes of the major scale. Oh, I just had the though of the harmonic minor. If so, how many scales can use this technique? I would like to learn them all. Thanks


Everyone learns in their own way... but to have a teacher who's restricting you from learning something is completely wrong, and he's also wrong for saying they're a waste of time. It just proves he's a very limited musician.

For me, I see the board in multiple values, and for you, this will take a very long time, but will be well worth the effort. Start off learning the basic mode positions, then take a look at the modes and arpeggios lesson i wrote, learn arpeggios for each mode, and gradually start learning them in different positions all along the fret board.

When it comes to solos, I see more than one scale in one position, because i've spent so much time learning all of them, it allows me to know exactly where i'm going and i know exactly where to come back into the original scale should i venture outside and experiment.

Anyway, this takes a lot of time. If you're willing to spend hours studying and allying what you learn then you'll be there in no time.

There are many many scales far beyond the major scale! Loads are listed on this time, but don't rush ahead and learn them all at onces, take your times and slowly work your way around. Start off with the major, then harmonic minor, melodic minor, diminished, etc. The most popular in the western side of the world anyway. And then once you've truly studied them, you can then experiment and learn what you want. It's down to the musician's taste though, so make sure you know what you want.


fantastic post(s), JazzMavric.



Ah okay, thanks. I will work on getting the major scale down completely, and then I'll work on the harmonic minor, since I use that one quite a bit. Appreciate it.


It is confusing. Do You meen that if I play a solo over chords G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, I am in tune if I play G major scale over whole nack?


Sorry. meen=mean, nack=neck. I mixed Swedish and English...


so thats what modes truly are....... im disappointed. I had hear that before, that modes were only playing a scale strarting not on the root note. i thought it would actually be a lil deeper. lol. now i know what modes are.


Oh no no no! Modes can become your best friend! There's a lot more to learn about modes Soy! I mean, the greats know crap loads more than just the modal positions, if you dive in and take a small gulp, you'll definitely come back for more.

EncaLapenca, pretty much, yeah. But when it comes to soloing, it requires understanding of what you're playing. So, even though you know what chords you're soloing over, try and compliment those chords by soloing alongside that individual chord. It'll make all the solos sound better.


Thanks. I understand that. I have never learned theory, can’t read notes or tabs (playing by ear, harder way). So I took “Reverse scales” tool on this site for testing Hendrix “Hey Joe” so as I am playing that.
Major chords C, G, D, A, E. Solo between 12 and 17 fret. “Reverse scales” tool says that scale is G Ionian (A Dorian, B Phrygian, C Lydian, D Mixolydian, E Aeolian, Fis Locrian, D Dominant 7th). That is why I am confused now when I am trying to learn some theory.
Sorry about bad English.


Don’t answer my question. My stupidity is really huge. Your lessons explain all things I was wondering about, but my loss of knowledge made that I didn’t understood that.

Hendrix began this solo on tone C (bend to E).

So, (show me if I am wrong) if I know tones included in a key, I can play solo beginning on witch position on fret board I wish. Only I don’t strike some tones out of this key.

I am not glad for this:-)

It means that it will take years of practicing to learn how to use this if I want to play solos over several different chords at same position on the fret board, so as Hendrix made it in this song.

Tanks for great lessons.


Sorry, it is D (bend to E).


Thanks to lessons on this site I understand modes now.
Transcribing songs by ear earlier I have used modes without understanding that, but making own solos without this knowledge was always difficult.

For my own learning and memorizing I have made scale charts over some scales/modes.
Please, take a look at scales.htm . (I uploaded those files at my company’s site temporarily). As you can see I have sorted modes in 5 boxes in hope that I should memorize it easier (maybe wrong way).

My question to you who have much bigger knowledge and experience of scales/modes is:
Can you explain way for using pentatonic or blues scales over the same chord progression? For example if playing C Ionian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian over C,F,G chord progression, what to do when using pentatonic scales?

If you don’t understand my question and wonderings: looking at boxes (modes), for major scales and pentatonic scales, they are sharing tones 1,2,3,5,6, but playing pentatonic scales at the same positions as F Lydian and G mixolydian over F and G chords seems to sounds bad.
I’m sorry if answer on this question is in lessons but I failed to find it.
Thank you in advance!


[b]@ EncaLapenca[/b]
"If you don’t understand my question and wonderings: looking at boxes (modes), for major scales and pentatonic scales, they are sharing tones 1,2,3,5,6, but playing pentatonic scales at the same positions as F Lydian and G mixolydian over F and G chords seems to sounds bad."

you've opened Pandora's Box, i see.
*hang on tight* ;~)

heres the deal :
...Modes are everywhere! even within 5-note scales (Pentatonic)

Minor Pent(atonic) is by far and away the mot common of the 5 (see a pattern?) Pent Mode/Scales.
its formula = 1 - b3 - 5 - b7
it works well with your "regular" modes; in Minor Pents case these would = Dorian, Phygian, and Aeollian
(me? ... i like to smash it and (diminished)Locrian together, but i aint right in the head , as we say down here, lol)

your next Pent mode/scale = Major
it = 1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 6 (using the second degree of the Minor-Pent as a jumping off point to Mode-land)
its also easy (applying this formula) to find ITS "regular" mode buddies and play then.
simply look at your scale (M-Pent) and apply the theory used with Miner-Pent and cipher what scale degrees/notes are shared
M-Pent goes nicely with the Major Modes =) groovy, huh?

there are 3 'added' (that magic 5 again) 'modes' to Min-Pent(dominant Pent)
they are simple called 3, 4, and 5 - OR - Pent 3, 4, 5

3 = 1, 2, 4, 5, b7

4 = 1, b3, 4, #5, b7

5 = 1, 2, 4, 5, 6

i hope that help ya ou a little.




sorry y'all (dunno where the edit button is)

I LEFT OUT the - 4 - in the Min-Pent

it SHOULD read 1, b3, 4, 5, b7.......



sorry again *grumps the grumpy geezer* BUT i should have made note
in the BIG POST two above, that the same method can also be used with the Maj-Pent Scale, i tend to work off the Minor but IF you'd like and "in" on the Maj-Pent scales/modes just holler,

thanks fer bein' patient y'all!


Tanks for your answer "carlsnow".
I understand what you are saying. I will study that.
Before I found this site and opened Pandora’s Box (it’s right name:-), I played vertical patterns of major, minor, major pentatonic, minor pentatonic and blues scales.
Sometimes it sounds great but there were chord progressions with difficulties to put together those scales into something sensible (or it took a lot of time).
Learning scale modes at old time (better late than never) hopefully will get more joy at my playing, even if those few scales is only a drop in the ocean:-).


1st off, glad i could be of assistance to ya =)

2nd; in my opinion ya don't need and ocean of notes, certainly not scales to move mountains, Enca; hell, just listen to Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers, Albert & BB King, Bill Frissel and so forth and so on; long beautiful tones .. i think Son House would, if not too drunk to see, look at us Theory Headed Teachers and non-teaching shredders and grunt up some sorta "Uhhh .. wtf? Mode-WHAT? Huh!? hahah!" thang
long way of saying , lol, the tone resides in the fingers, the tune resides in our calculating heads but the heart! the Heart is where the song lives and bares its improve SOUL .. Dig?


(btw that was not @you or intentionally snarky, and apologize in advance if it comes off that way to anyone)

PS: when i get "over teaching-ed" and everything feels like an add11/aug4 carrying a kid playing 1/8 note triplets in Ionian (worse yet, Pent-lol) or if i get asked (its friday one of the three busiest daze here sooo) i put on an album every damned, self-respecting merry Plankster, should own :
[b]Blind Willie Johnson ~ Praise God I'm Satisfied[/b]
i was astonished/not-s-surprized(same time) to find THE ORIGINAL! on YouTube



dunno why amazon is under my name .. no. dont wwork fer them lol


my ? is on soloing with the modes; so if i was soloing GM, Cm ,DM. I would use G-ionian ; C-lydian ; D-mixolydian; and i could use the relective E minor ; TO SOLO OVER THOSE CHORDES RIGHT? thanks haveing troulble here ;


Do you mean G major or G minor. I'm assuming you mean G minor (because G major is written as only "G"). You could play A# Ionian, C Dorian, D Phrygian, D# Lydian, F Mixolydian, G Aeolian and A Locrian. You could also play D Aeolian, that would sound neat.


I'm sorry, I meant to say Bb Ionian not A# Ionian.


Well, when you solo over these chords it's best that you compliment these chords, that way your solo would sound melodically correct and just plain cool.

When I say complimenting I mean by playing the notes which are in those chords/mode, that way you truly justify the solo. If you want, you can look at the "Scales and Arpeggios Practice" lesson and that'll help explain why you should solo to the modes.




I am a novice when it comes to modes but I am fighting :-)

Some things I will believe I have learn me looking at the lessons on this site and thanks to answers on my questions I get:

1.Look at the chords you are playing – using Circle of fifth’s see which key your chords are belonging to,

2.All modes in that key sounds rather right with your chords,

3.Try to play an E-mode over a E-chord, B-mode over a B-chord an so on, as longer these modes are belonging to the native key of your song,

I hope that I haven’t misunderstood lessons, if so, please, show me corrections fast.


That's right :) Keep practicing and you'll start discovering things on your own. Also, constantly learn other songs so you can improve every day. Learn a new chord every day and study it, find out what scale it belonds to and why. For now, just study the basic chords until you're ready to look at other scales.


I know that things I have learn is only a drop in the ocean:-), but it have already much improved my soloing. Other thing is that I understand what I was playing all of those years transcribing songs (I mean, with knowledge about modes, memorizing of solos should goes easily).


Thanks a lot. This has been a great help!


jazz in the major scale box you write out c# major with only 5 #
i thought c# major had 7 or all # in the scale.

Ps the box with yhe a beside it


jazz on the other hand i have read all of your lessons on this site and you are the easyest to learn from you know your music very well rock on.Keep the good lessons coming to.

I am very new to music therory but this stuff i need to learn and its funny cause i have try to learn it before with no success so i am thankful for all your lessons


Hey Craig, Thanks for the compliments, I'm glad I was able to help you out. About the sharps in C#... I know everything is a sharp in C#Major, BUT B# is C and E# is F I just thought I'd write it like that for the beginners because they have a difficult time understanding it any other way.


Hey jazz i have a ? not sure how to ask but here goes.
C major w w h w w w h
t t s t t t s

as you go into modes is the a way to memorize the relationship of the position tone and semi tones versea all the notes on the fret board

For instance A minor t s t t s t t

as long as i know were my tonic starts can i apply the different tone semi tone relationship for the different modes.

it may sound if i am trying to cheat my way through learning the whole fret board but there are a lot position per scales and tonic notes on the fret board it blows my mind to have learn all this

all i have done is study for 3 weeks i have not even pick up my giutar yet


Well, I'll say right away; pick up your guitar and apply what you're learning now otherwise you'll struggle. I got so carried away with studying that when it actually came to playing, I played like a noob.

I don't quite understand your question... The tone and semitone consept is to explain the spaces between notes. A-B is a tone (2 notes) and B-C is a semi-tone (1 note). It's just a way to understand the intervals.


back to my question still not sure how to ask it lol.

The minor pentatonic scale 1 b3 4 5 b7 has five position on the fret board until it repeat its self. It maintains these five pattern for basicly for all keys, just change the start position. then pattern 1 is the same two is the same,they are on different position on the neck depending on what key your in.

wow this is hard to explain

so back to yesterdays question

So when it comes to modes and the pattern they create is the relationship the same is the dorian mode for exaple in the key of D does it have five patterns that repeat themself up the fretboard.

this may sound crazy to you.
but it only took a day to learn the five patterns in minor pentatonic scale back in the day.

I realize that all the modes are just different start positions of the major scale which creates the pattern w w h w w w h
and again as you go up the fretboard they create differrent patterns on the neck to maintain the tone in the scale.

Is a way to tab out all the modes psition on the neck and what key that would make them in.

Still not sure i am asking what is in my head lol i love learning this ******** **it thow

I pick up the guitar thow thanks for that advice


Hey thnx for the lesson it was really helpful [as anyone says]

Apart from keys and modes how can i use other notes that harmonize well in each key?

for example i know blues scales with the 5b, the harmonic minor with 7#
but i see in songs that i study that there are used some other notes not only in chords [such as dom 7#9 which hendrix uses] but also in keys.
For example in stockholm syndrome played by muse i think the key is D minor in verse but he also uses some notes out of the key which sound good.
What do i have to study to learn these?


ugh im confused i cant even get passed the firsti ntro sentences on ur lesson...can u just post tabs of the diff modes so i can compare them and find out like that?


Tabs are a very poor way of learning music, as simple as it is for others, I recommend you learn how to read notation rather than TABs. Ontop of that, if you are finding this lesson THAT difficult, I recommend that you check out simpler lessons first - this is too advanced for you right now. (For your own sake just check out the major scale right now)


What exactly are the T's and S's?


I try to answer this Josh, if Jazz is busy. It means Tone and semitone. Im not sure if it reffers to Whole step, half step stuff.


Yeah, Empirism is right; it means tone and semitone and in America Tone and Semitone are known as Whole step and Half Step.

I am very busy with Uni right now, so apologies for the slow replies!


Dude reading your posts are cool, you have a very good way of explaining things.... wish the girlfriend had that quality....

ha ha thank you for the lesson...



Thanks man =) Lucky your girlfriend doesn't know your online alias! haha


amazing lesson man! just gotta work on getting all this in my head... it could take a while.


Patience Tom =) it'll pay off in the end if you take your time with this - don't rush through it even if it may seem boring at times.


Yeah, i know. I'll just have to take my time. Thanks again for the lesson Jazz!


I remember it with a catchy phrase:


Major, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian Minor, and Locrian.

It may not make a whole lot of sense (kind of creepy?) but it helps me remember the order...


I don't understand much of this, sorry -_- hopefully you can help. The only bit i THINK i understand is modes in the key of C. (Now I'll probably sound like a noob in all of this) i play exactly what you've written there but i don't think i''m meant to play every note in the scale's? I'm self taught so I'm trying to learn theory and this site has helped me a lot so far and I'm trying to get my head around this. I don't know if I'm suppose to start and end on certain notes, or just play the whole scale. If you could help I'd greatly appreciate it.


You can play whatever you want man. The scales and modes are just guidlines. You don't have to play every note in the scale, or play them in order.


Please look at post number 14. I wrote a little example explaining the positions of the scale and the modes inside it.

You're supposed to play every single note in the scale, because the scale is what makes the modes - the only thing that's different is that you're starting on a different note of that scale.

Now, by looking at that previous post, does it make more sense? =)


I must have misunderstood the context of that question, apologies if I caused any confusion.


gmack, my favorite is,

I Don't Park Little Midgets Along Lakes

Don't ask how my friend and I convinced our teacher to write it on the board...

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