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One of my favorite ways to explore new riffs, chord patterns and melodic figures is to take one of the seven fundamental modes and use its structure as a guideline.
In doing so, I often discover new chord shapes or melodic ideas that I may not have otherwise come across. Using this modal approach also offers a systematic way to take existing riffs or chordal ideas and tweak them in new and different harmonic directions.
The seven fundamental modes are built from the major scale, also known as the Ionian mode, which is spelled, intervallically, one (the root), major second, major third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, major sixth, major seventh. Starting on each successive note, or degree, of the major scale and ascending one octave through that same set of notes forms a different, unique mode.
As a kid, I found this very confusing.