Guitar Modes

Guitar Modes Demonstrated!

For those of you who have completed the beginner guitar course and learned all your minor and major pentatonic scales you usually face this hurdle:

Shall I now start practicing arpeggios or modes and by the way, what is a mode?

Move with the chords

The idea of playing guitar using modes is simply to follow the chord progression, understanding that if we are in the key of A we need to play B Dorian when over chord II, the Bm.

Once we understand that it is this movement that matters, not that you play all notes of he B Dorian scale in a row, we have unveiled the real secret of how to play using modes.

You could in fact play a B minor pentatonic, or an B min7 arpeggio, or the full Dorian mode, or maybe you’ll end up playing just one note. If this note is a G#, a 6th in relation to B, then you are definitely playing Dorian.

The reason you are playing Dorian when you play an G# over an Bm chord is because only Dorian has this note. Neither the Bm7 arpeggio or the B minor pentatonic contain a 6th. Neither do any of the other minor modes!

Still, it is the movement, the way that you think Bm, chord II that puts you in the category of someone who play using modes.

A practical example of how to use modes

Sometimes it is not until you try a modal experiment that you fully understand this modal movement concept, so let’s do that, let’s look at a practical example of how to play using modes!

To demonstrate this I’m playing over a jam track from our latest and hugely appreciated product the 2 Chord Loops.

The 2 chord loop I’m gonna use in this modal demonstration use the two chords A and D.

The bass and guitar on this jam track use no 7th extensions (it adds 6′s instead, see 6 chord for more) so there is no way to tell what the correct modes you should apply are.

The chords A and D could be one of three things:

  1. A is chord I, D is chord IV, A Ionian, D Lydian
  2. A is chord V, D is chord I, A Mixolydian, D Ionian
  3. A7 is chord I7, D is chord IV7, like in a Blues

As the SWS show, both these two major chords are available in the key of A (as I and IV) or it could be in the key of D (as chord V and I).

When the progression is A7 – D7 we are still on I – IV but in Blues territory, lots more note choices available here!

Video example using modes

In order to get friendly with the modes you have to always work out what number a chord has, in a song using the chords A and D only, you could check if the melody hits either a G# or a G. This would tell you if in A (G#) or D (G).

However, in the case of this loop you make this decision. There is nothing in the jam track that play either G or G#, so modal experimentation is possible.

This means you get a golden opportunity here to see what it feels like playing over the same chords using different modes.

When you get comfortable with one movement, say I – IV, try switching to thinking V – I as I do in the video.

Once you get the hang of it, video response your version for feedback!

Practice the modes using the 2 Chord Loops

When you practice this your self over the 2 chord loops, ensure you do it in all positions followed by as many keys as you can using the remaining loops.

In your next practice session, continue where you left off when going through keys. Do this with one idea at a time, don’t mix the scales up until you’ve done the basic homework of each scale in each area.

Using this scientific and organized approach you will soon be able to see, hear and find any mode, for any chord progression.

To become successful when playing using modes, all you need to do is see this concept through with regular practice.

If you enjoyed this article on how to play guitar using modes, leave a comment below and share it on your favorite social network.

And don’t forget to video response for feedback!

Until next time, keep practicing

Dan (your guitar guru)

Guitar Conspiracy

About Guru

I have made up my mind: You Can Learn Guitar!
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