The Aeolian mode belongs to the VI chord!
Also known as the natural minor scale, the Aeolian mode is the most common minor mode.
When songs are referred to as ‘being in minor’, what musicians actually mean is that the VI chord is the home chord. This is where Aeolian lives.
The best way to approach this scale is to add two notes to the Minor Pentatonic. Study the diagram below and make sure you can see the connection between the Aeolian mode and the Minor Pentatonic scale.
Only two notes have been added, the 2nd and the b6th.
To learn how to write and improvise with Aeolian you must first learn all five shapes, take them around all keys and finally connect them.
Let’s start with the Em shape.
The Em shape
In the chordacus image, look for the chord shape and Minor Pentatonic.
Play along with the video lesson below. The exercise goes like this:
- Minor Pentatonic
- add 2
- Minor Pentatonic
- add b6
- Minor pentatonic
As with all chords, scales and arpeggios you have to play them everywhere on the neck to really learn the shapes. The full cycle of 4th sorts this out as you play the Em shaped Aeolian scale like this: Am – Dm – Gm – Cm – Fm – Bbm – Ebm – Abm –
The full cycle of 4th sorts this out as you play the Em shaped Aeolian scale like this: Am – Dm – Gm – Cm – Fm – Bbm – Ebm – Abm – Dbm – Gbm – Bm – Em.
The Am shape
The Am shaped Aeolian mode is almost as common as the Em shape.
Compare the scale to the chord shape and the Am shaped pentatonic shape using the chordacus image below.
Can you see all intervals when you play it?
The Dm shape
Below you find the Aeolian mode in a Dm shape, compare it with the Dm chord shape and Dm shaped Minor Pentatonic.
When you can play the shape as demonstrated in the video, take it around the full cycle of 4th.
The Gm shape
The Gm shaped Aeolian mode is really easy to phrase with, it falls so nicely under your fingers.
Compare chordacus image with matching chord shape and Minor Pentatonic.
Can you see the Gm shaped chord? Can you see the Minor Pentatonic?
You will after you practised as in the video!
The Cm shape
Start by comparing the chordacus image to the Cm chord shape and the matching Minor Pentatonic shape.
Also, make sure you can see the Cm7 chord in this scale shape.
Play along with the video lesson followed by all keys on your own to a click. Write down your BPM results and you shall soon never have to practise again!
This exercise connects all the shapes you’ve just learned. When you can play it in Am, move on to all other 12 keys. Remember to push the BPM!
In the advanced course, we do more with this scale than what you see here. For example, we play all exercises backwards. Starting at the highest point, moving down the neck instead.
We also look at changing the rhythm when playing it as well as playing it ‘in 3rds’.
When you take the advanced course I will, step by step, guide you to learning all modes, so much so that you will never forget them.
Cycle of 4th
This exercise takes the Aeolian mode and runs it through the cycle of 4th. Instead of going up and down the neck we move to the closest possible shape.
As always, this exercise should be pushed to high BPM levels for maximum effect.
The full pattern of the cycle of 4th exercise looks like this:
A Aeolian – Em shape
D Aeolian – Am shape
G Aeolian – Dm shape
C Aeolian – Gm shape
F Aeolian – Cm shape
Then, move up a semitone from where you started and play:
Bb Aeolian – Em shape
Eb Aeolian – Am shape
Ab Aeolian – Dm shape
Db Aeolian – Gm shape
Gb Aeolian – Cm shape
Here’s the video lesson demonstrating this.
This improvisation in uses the Aeolian mode.
Make sure you can see the Minor Pentatonic shapes as well as the added 2nd and b6th.
Also, can you hear the difference between this and the Dorian improvisation?
The Aeolian mode is easiest to learn, understand and play if you built it from a chord shape, into a pentatonic, then to the full mode.
By doing this you’ll know what each interval of the scale feels and sounds like.
First, you learn the five shapes, then you connect them up and down the neck. Finally, go to the closest shape possible through the cycle of 4th.
You’ll find out more about when and how to use Aeolian when you take the advanced guitar course.