Modal Fingerings For Guitar
The Professor
Jul 17 2013, 06:16 PM
Theory Instructor
Posts: 888
Joined: 8-January 13
From: Manchester UK
Modal Scale Fingerings

Continuing our series exploring various ways to finger scales on the guitar, in today’s article we’ll be looking at one of the most common ways to organize scales on the fretboard, and the one that I first learned when I was starting out on the instrument.

Learning one fingering for each note in the major scale, or melodic minor or any other scale system, gives you seven fingerings for that scale across the entire fretboard. Though this may seem like a lot of material to learn, it does provide a detailed look at any scale or mode across the neck, and has a strong sense of logic behind it’s construction.

Basically, you take any scale or mode that you want to learn, say C major for example, and then you learn one fingering for each note in that scale, giving you seven shapes that cover the entire fretboard with that scale.

Because each of these shapes can also stand out on their own as modes, when applied to the major scale they each have a name, which you can see below. When you approach the Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor scales, some modes have names, or several, and others don’t. So, when thinking about each of the seven shapes for those families of scales, I tend to think of them as Melodic Minor 1, Melodic Minor 2 etc., to avoid confusion.

Below are each of the seven modal fingerings, one for each note in the major scale, written out for a C major scale. Check them out in the practice room and see how you feel about these fingerings.

This is a HUGE topic to dig into, so this article is just an introduction to these shapes, so don’t worry if you still have questions after checking them out. You can post questions below, and I will be writing more articles in the future on these scale shapes to dig further into their construction and usage.

I have included fingerings for each of these scales to help get you started. But, if you want to check out alternate fingerings, or just explore scale fingerings in general, visit the “Guide to Scale Fingerings for Guitar” page for more info.

As well, to view the other articles in this series, visit the “Scale Shapes for Guitar” page for links and other relevant info.

Ionian Fingering

This is the first modal fingering for the major scale, which you can think of as the C major scale starting on the root note, C.

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Dorian Fingering

The second fingering uses all the same notes as the C major scale, but this time it starts on the second note of the scale, D.

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Phrygian Fingering

The third shape runs the C major scale from the notes E to E, or the third to the third of the related major scale.

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Lydian Fingering

The fourth modal fingering runs the C major scale from F to F, the fourth to the fourth of the key center.

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Mixolydian Fingering

Moving on, we have the fifth to the fifth with the Mixolydian fingering, which is the C major scale from G to G.

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Aeolian Fingering

The second last fingering is the C major scale from A to A, otherwise known as the relative minor scale when played on it’s own.

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Locrian Fingering

The last fingering runs from B to B in the key of C major, the 7th to the 7th of the underlying key.

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If you want to explore these fingerings further, and dig into applying them to the Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor systems, check out my article “Mastering Modal Fingerings for Guitar.”

Do you use the modal fingering system? If so, what are your thoughts on this way of approaching scales on the guitar?

Got a question or comment about this lesson? Post it in the comments section below.

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