Ultimate Guitar Lesson


VIII. Modes

Major Scale Modes

I Ionian 1234567
II Dorian 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
III Phrygian 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
IV Lydian 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
V Mixolydian 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
VI Aeolian 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
VII Locrian 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7

Memorize the order of the modes with their numbers (I-VII to the left of the names above).

After this there are two perspectives to know. The first is easier. The second takes longer to learn but is more important.

1. Learn to spell the scale steps of the modes. This is straight memorization of the numbers to the right of the names.

2. Be able to state the major scale from which a mode is derived. For example, say you want to play F Mixolydian. You know that Mixolydian is mode V. Make F the 5th degree of a major scale and count back by the proper whole and half steps to find I. The major scale you find is equal to the desired mode.

F Mixolydian equals Bb major

Bb C D Eb F
I II III IV V

More examples:
Bb Dorian equals Ab major

Ab Bb      
I II      

B Locrian equals C major

C D E F G A B
I II III IV V VI VII

Melodic Minor Scale Modes

Melodic Minor 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7  
Dorian b2 1 b2 b3 4 5 6 b7  
Lydian #5 1 2 3 #4 #5 6 7  
Lydian b7 1 2 3 #4 5 6 b7 aka Lydian Dominant
Mixolydian b6 1 2 3 4 5 b6 b7  
Locrian #2 1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 (it’s really a natural 2)
Altered 1 b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 b7 aka Superlocrian

 

Harmonic Minor Scale Modes
There is variety in the naming conventions, mostly because the 5th mode, Phrygian Dominant, is the only one most players use. Learn it, and you will get the sounds of the others over changing chords.

Harmonic Minor 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
Locrian Natural 6 1 b2 b3 4 b5 6 b7
Harmonic Major 1 2 3 4 5 b6 7
Dorian #4 1 2 b3 #4 5 6 b7
Phrygian Dominant 1 b2 3 4 5 b6 b7
Lydian #2 1 #2 3 #4 5 6 7
Superlocrian bb7 1 b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 bb7