What is a Mode?

In a recent post I mentioned some myths about modes, and promised I'd try to give my own account of this often-confusing idea. If you've read the first chapter of Scale and Arpeggio Resources then you'll know exactly what a mode is, but I thought I'd try a brief and slightly different explanation here in case either you found that chapter difficult or you don't have the book. Although it's a bit more abstract than most, I hope those of you who are confused about modes will find it enlightening.

Some 2-String Ladder Patterns for Diminished Scales

"Ladder" patters are patterns that climb up or down the neck rapidly using only a small number of strings. Since I'm posting a lot about symmetrical scales at the moment, here are some ladder patterns for the Whole-Half and Half-Whole Diminshed scales. Remember that these scales are modes of each other, so which scale you're playing will be determined by where you play these patterns on the fretboard in relation to the background tonality.

Coscale Symmetries

Continuing from the previous post about reflexive symmetries within and between scales, here we look at another kind of symmetry which I call the "coscale relationship". As with the previous post, at this stage this material is purely theoretical.

Scale Reflections

I was thinking about symmetrical scales last night and this morning I woke up with not one but two ideas for other kinds of symmetry a scale can have besides the usual one. Here I'll describe the first one, which I call "reflection".

Some Sweep Picking Patterns for the Whole Tone Scale

Playing around with the Whole-Tone scale today I came up with a few patterns that involve raking across groups of three strings and moving up or down the neck. I hadn't thought of playing the scale this way before so I thought I'd share them with you here.

Harmonic Minor Modes: The Augmented Scale

We've been examining the modes of the Harmonic Minor scale over the past few days, and we've come to the Augmented scale, which is just the same as the Major scale but with a sharpened fifth. It doesn't sound too exciting at first, but we'll look at some of the arpeggios it contains that can yield some interesting results.

Feed Your Ears: Elliott Sharp

A big part of my teaching approach is to introduce my students to music they might not know about. Sometimes that means pushing their boundaries with something they might hate, but listening closely and repeatedly can be a true revelation. This "lesson" simply consists of some videos of performances by Elliott Sharp, with a few notes and comments.

5 Myths about Modes

When I was writing the Scale and Arpeggio Resources I was aware that a lot of guitar students find the idea of modes very confusing. I spent a bit of time working out a sensible way for guitarists (and others) to think about them, and it wasn't that hard. It therefore continues to amaze me that lots of guitarists -- even experienced teachers -- often say things about modes that are either incorrect or very confusing.

Harmonic Minor Modes: The Lydian #2

We've started working on the Harmonic Minor modes, and today we'll take a look at the Lydian #2. The main application for this scale is over a major seventh type of chord. Assuming you know your Major scale modes then you already have two ways to play over this type of harmony: the Major itself and the Lydian. Neither of these, though, is all that exciting.

Fretboard Roadmaps

All guitarists need fretboard roadmaps -- ways to find their way quickly and easily around the fretboard. The word "roadmap" suggests that these should be visual; that's partly because the guitar lends itself to visual learning methods in ways that the sax, say, doesn't.