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Modal Forms/Fun

Bradley Smith (202) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Intermediate · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1

The following is an illustration of a very popular form for playing the Aolian mode scale (also called natural minor scale) in A in a pattern that is three notes per string on each string except the D string, which is two notes. I'm sure you know all the other modes laid out in this popular pattern set (three notes per string except one string (or both E strings) will have two notes). If not, go learn this way of looking at the patterns for all the 7 most common modes (Ionian through Locrian) and then come back.

I'm just going to show one idea in this lesson. We're going to do an exercise that will get you shifting between the three most common minor scales you can get from the modes (Aolian, Dorian and Phrygian) and relate them to A minor situations. You'll just be using what you already know, but you may start to see how the other modes relate too. If you like the idea, go use it on the other modes too. We'll do it in a dead-simple way that involves playing one octave scales one after another. Promises promises! Here we go. Starting with A on the 5th fret of the low E string, play one octave (8 notes) of the A Aolian mode scale. Then, starting with the last note (A on the 7th fret of the D string) play one octave (8 notes) of the A Dorian mode scale descending back to the low A. Then starting with the low A play one octave (8 notes) of the A Phrygian mode ascending back to the A on the D string. All together it should sound like the following:

I think you're starting to get the idea. But that's just the beginning. Let's do the same thing starting from the 3, 5 and 7 of the Aolian mode scale in A (A Aolian, Dorian and Phrygian share 1-3-5-7-8 are A,C,E,G and A). From the 3 of A Aolian: starting from the G string fifth fret C, play one octave (8 notes) of the C Ionian mode scale descending back to the 3rd fret A string C. (Because your root is the 3rd note of the Aolian mode, you're still fitting the A Aolian mode scale even though you're playing the C Ionian scale.) Then play one octave (8 notes) of the C Lydian mode scale ascending back to the higher C (works out that this fits A Dorian!). Then play one octave (8 notes) of the C Mixolydian mode scale from the higher C back to the lower C (You're fitting A Phrygian!) Those three things should sound like this.

You may have a hard time hearing the above scale exercises in relation to A minor without have an A minor chord play at the same time you play the above sequence, so you might want to tape yourself playing an A minor chord and then play over that to bring out how the sounds work together. Then move to the 5 of A Aolian. Starting on the 7th fret on the A string, play one octave (8 notes) of the E Phrygian mode scale from that E ascending to the next higher E, 9th fret G string. Then descend in E Aolian mode scale back to the lower E, then ascend in E Locrian mode scale back to the higher E. You still kept in A Aolian, A Dorian and A Phrygian respectively. Maybe you start to see what's going on.

Now to the 7th. Start on the 8th fret B string G. Play an octave of G Mixolydian mode scale descending down to the 5th fret G string G, then an octave of G Ionian mode scale ascending to the higher G, then an octave of G Dorian mode scale descending to the lower G. Yes, you were fitting over A Aolian, Dorian and Phrygian, respectively. It should sound like this.

So if you played these 4 position exercises back to back it should sound like this.

"So what?" So if you practice these perhaps in order at first (scales over 1, 3, 5 and 7 of the A Aolian mode scale), perhaps going to the same over scrambled orders of 1,3,5 and 7 later, you may start to get more comfortable with the fingerings you already know and analyzing modes by their 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th; also see how mode relativism works (different modes over a different root function relative to the root); and you may find it easier to switch between these popular minor scales (Aolian, Dorian, Phrygian) when you want to conjure up your next minor solo. Believe it: soon after repeating this exercise you will be better recognizing opportunities to change your formerly dull mode vocabulary into more variety. You can chop the exercise up and make confetti with it while soloing after you get the concepts. Take what you learn from this exercise and create the same exercise in the major scale universe using A Ionian, A Lydian and A Mixolydian. Take our same format and figure out the right modes patterns to play rooted against the 1,3,5 and 7 of those modal scales. (Hint: When you get to the 7ths, make sure to shift the note to get the correct note for Mixolydian). Take a second and give me a rating mark on this lesson so I get some feedback. Best, Newbie Brad