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Beginner’s Introduction to the Modes for Guitarists

Here is a simple and easy method to get started with the Modes of the major Scale. It is a great way of being introduced the sounds of the modes and a simple yet effective way to use them. We will go through each Mode step by step. By the end of the lesson, you will be able to play along with your band or backing track using the modes.

First, let’s look at the modes and their relationship to a major scale.

A major scale has 7 modes








The modes in C Major will be

C Ionian C D E F G A B C

D Dorian D E F G A B C D

E Phrygian E F G A B C D E

F Lydian F G A B C D E F

G Mixolydian G A B C D E F G

A Aeolian A B C D E F G A

B Locrian B C D E F G A B

As you can see the notes in C Ionian are the same notes as all the other modes listed.

Using 3 notes per string a Major scale or Ionian Mode is played like this







Next step is to name the fingers on your hand that you use when playing the major scale as shown in the image above.

The first finger when played on 6E string is Ionian

The second finger when played on 6E string is Dorian

The fourth finger when played on 6E string is Phrygian

The first finger when played on 5A string is Lydian

The second finger when played on 5A string is Mixolydian

The fourth finger when played on 5A string is Aeolian

The first finger when played on 4D string is Locrian

If you wanted to play C Ionian you would place your (Ionian) Finger on the C note 8th fret on the low E string then play using the notes in the normal scale positions.

To play D Dorian, place the Second Finger or newly named (Dorian) finger on D note 10th fret on the low E string and use the notes in the normal major scale shape. You can also use the C-Note 8th fret on the low E. As the notes in D Dorian are the same notes a C major.

To play in E Phrygian place the little finger or (Phrygian) finger on the E note 12th Fret and use the notes as per the normal Major scale shape. Of course, the C and D note can also be used.

Now to play F Lydian mode place your 1st finger (Lydian) finger on F 8th fret A string then continue playing a major scale noting that you’re already using the notes starting on the A String so the actual scale position would be the same as C major starting on 8th Fret low E string.

To play G Mixolydian, place your second finger (Mixolydian) finger on G 10th fret A string and play the major scale as though I was playing C Major

I think you should have the idea now, but let’s finish all the modes

To play AAeolian I would place my 4th finger (Aeolian) finger on the G note 12th fret on the A String and play the notes as if I was playing C major starting on the low E string 8th Fret.

To play in B Locrian mode you would place you 1st finger (Locrian) on the G string 9th fret D string.

OK, now this is where the fun starts.

If we want to play in G Dorian mode I would place my second finger on the g note on the low E string 3rd fret and use all the notes in the scale shape I learned for the C scale. Note I can also use the F note 1st fret on the low string but for the purpose of the lesson you will start on the G note 3rd fret







The thing to remember is the scale shape remains the same, you just start the mode the whichever note the mode is asked for:

C Phrygian = 4th finger on the 8th fret Low E string

E Lydian = 1st finger on the 7thfret A string

D Aeolian = 4th Finger on the 5thfret A string

By using this method, you will able to use the modes and experience the different tonalities created using the modes.

Do understand though you must be playing the scale over a chord that has root note same as the mode.

To Play D Dorian mode you should be playing over a Dm7th chord.

Simple chords to hear the tones.

Ionian – Major Chord or 5 Chord

Dorian – Minor 7th Chord

Phrygian – Minor or Minor 7th

Lydian – Maj 7th, Maj7th#11

Mixolydian – Dominant 7 or 9 chord

Aeolian – Minor or Minor 7th chord

Locrian Diminished chord or m7th flat 5

Hope that you find this useful.

Please note this is an introduction to using the modes in your playing.