Advanced Scales

To learn all modal scales is essential to fully understand music and mastering the guitar

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Easy to follow modal guitar exercises

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On this page, you’ll find a link to all the video lessons you need to learn the modes.

Before you get your teeth into these you must first understand what a mode is, as well as know all your pentatonic scale shapes.

Once this is in place there is nothing stopping you from entering this deeper level of musical consciousness where you can fully engage with music.

With this in mind, let’s first find out, what is a mode?


What is a mode?

A mode is a part of a scale. Using the major scale (Ionian) as your starting point, all other modes can be found. This is a great way to understand how they came about and how to use them.

Go to what is a mode? to find out more.

However, to learn modes on the guitar there is a much better way.

This way relates to how your hands understand the modes on the guitar neck, it’s unique to Spy Tunes and is called the pentatonic modes.


Major Pentatonic modes

The Major Pentatonic can act as a framework to build all the major modes. That’s the Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian mode.

If you can already play a new Major Pentatonic when a chord change, adding a couple of notes and going modal really isn’t that difficult.

Go to major pentatonic modes and see how they are all very similar, yet so different.


Minor Pentatonic modes

You’ve guessed it, it’s the same with the minor modes!

Aeolian, Dorian and Phrygian are very similar, the most important thing to remember is that if you can swap minor pentatonic scales, you can swap modes.

All you need to know is which chord has what scale connected to it.

Go to minor pentatonic modes to find out more.


Ionian – Chord I

Ionian is the modal name for the major scale. You already know it, it’s the Do – Re – Mi – Fa – So – La – Ti – De one.

To learn it on the guitar you need to start with a chord shape, add a Major Pentatonic and then two more intervals.

Ionian will only appear naturally over chord I.


Dorian – Chord II

We can easily build the Dorian mode from the Minor Pentatonic, which is great as you already know it!

Even better, only one note differ between Aeolian and Dorian so when you can play one it is easy to learn the other.

Most commonly, you can use the Dorian mode whenever you play over chord II, which appears in most song!


Phrygian – Chord III

phrygian-thumbThe third mode that comes from the major scale is the flamenco sounding Phrygian mode.

Just like with Dorian we build the mode by adding notes to the Minor Pentatonic.

Most commonly, you use the Phrygian mode over chord III.

Chord III is a minor chord, in some songs it has been modified into a major or IIIx chord. The scale change then as well.


Phrygian Dominant – Chord IIIx

This is the odd one out, a Phrygian Dominant scale is connected with chord IIIx, which comes from chord III (Phrygian).

Just like the chord has gone from minor to major, so has the scale.

When it comes to the actual scale shape we build the Phrygian Dominant scale from a minor scale shape, then change the third.


Lydian – Chord IV

Another mode is Lydian, this is a scale that appears when you play from chord IV. (Ionian was chord I)

Similar to Ionian in that we build it by first playing a chord shape, then a Major Pentatonic, then add two notes.

Only one of those two notes differs between Ionian and Lydian so if you know one, it’s easy to learn the other!


Mixolydian – Chord V

Mixolydian is another major mode, very similar to the Ionian mode (that’s the major scale again).

When practising this we again first play a chord shape, a major pentatonic and then the last two notes to create this mode which will always work over chord V.

By doing it this way you start to hear the different intervals, this, in turn, tunes your ear to the sound of each mode.


Aeolian – Chord VI

To learn the Aeolian mode we start by first playing a Minor Pentatonic shape.

From this point, we add the two intervals that give the Aeolian scale its distinctive sound.

The Aeolian mode is also known as the natural minor scale or just ‘minor’. It is the second most common mode, after Ionian (the major scale) and appears naturally over chord VI.


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