Modal Solo (all 7 modes of C major scale)

by Emir Hot

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  • Hello everybody! I am sure that many of you know modes of a major scale especially of C major scale. I am not sure whether there was a lesson like this before but I will show you how I connect modes all over the guitar neck using V position system.

    For those who might not be familiar with major scale modes here is an introduction. We know that major scale has 7 notes and its formula is made of intervals in order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Here is the description of these numbers which we call INTERVALS (distance between 2 notes).

    1 – unison
    b2 – minor second
    2 – major second
    b3 – minor third
    3 – major third
    4 – perfect fourth
    #4/b5 – augmented fourth / diminished fifth
    5 – perfect fifth
    b6 – minor sixth
    6 – major sixth
    b7 – minor seventh
    7 – major seventh
    8 – octave (this is not included in a scale formula as this is the same note as 1)

    If we take the second note of C major scale (note D) and set that as our new root but continue to play C major scale notes until the next D note - we played a mode of C major scale (D Dorian). From here we can conclude that a major scale has 7 modes (including the major scale itself). Their names are: Ionian (major scale), Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. Each of these modes has its own formula and a relative chord when the mode is harmonized. Those modes and their formulas are explained on the picture below.

    Harmonization of C major scale into 4 note chord.

    The term harmonization in musical context means superimposing intervals of the scale on top of each other - in this case 3rd on top of 3rd and so on. To harmonize C major scale into 4 note chord we would take the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th (5th is 3rd away from 3rd and 7th is 3rd away from 5th). If we take that formula and apply on C major scale we would get the following notes: C, E, G, B and this will give us "maj7" chord. If we apply this chord formula on the second mode of C major scale (D dorian) whose scale formula is: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7 – we would get a chord formula 1, b3, 5, b7 or D, F, A, C which gives us a minor7 chord. If we play these 4 notes one after another (not at the same time), we played a minor 7 arpeggio. All 7 chords from harmonized C major scale would be: Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7, Am7, G7, Bm7b5 (see picture below).

    About the lesson:

    In this lesson I played a solo over all 7 chords mentioned above using relative mode for each chord. Each chord is one bar long and I included on screen writing so you don’t get confused. My way of modal improvising works the best if I use V position scale system. See the diagram bellow showing 5 position system for major scale. Once you learn this, you actually know all modes of a major scale in all 5 positions. If you are playing C major scale in position I, you are actually playing D Dorian mode in position V, and so on. Every mode has its own V positions but the pattern looks the same as for the major scale. Just be careful where you set your root and the patterns are all the same. In this lesson I played many modal licks to show you how I connect these V positions on the guitar neck in order to make a melody that makes sense.

    I hope you will find this topic useful and have fun with modal improvising.



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