As I’ve said in previous posts, modes are a very good way to introduce melodies / lead lines / solos into your songs.  I’ll outline each mode and the type of sound or ‘feel’ that each mode has.

As a guitarist, ideally you want to learn each mode in different positions on the fretboard.  This is not an easy achievement.  As I’ve said before, I’m not a music teacher but learning patterns is one way to help you to remember, you just need to be careful that you don’t get stuck in a rut of only using the notes in only that position and being too mechanical. But you need to start somewhere and it can be a good starting point.

One of the main ways to learn is to really experiment with the modes (refer to my previous post on phrasing and developing your own style).  If you play all the notes in sequence up and down each mode you will learn the pattern and how it sounds but you really need to experiment with phrasing to get the most out of each mode.  This is to hear how the notes sound against different chords and intervals between chords, whether notes resolve or raise tension etc. You won’t develop this feeling if you approach them too mechanically.

The Ionian mode is the first mode and is also called the Major scale. It is the most commonly used one in music and would be described as having a happy sound.  You can hear it in pretty much every style of music.

If we take the Key of C, the Ionian mode (aka Major Scale is): C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C   For guitar, if we start on the E string, the basic pattern is as follows:

 c major scale (2)

Of course you are not limited to this position, it can be moved around the fretboard as you want to.  The picture below shows notes on a guitar fretboard so you can of course start the major scale at any of these C notes.

guitar-fretboard-notes-chart-page-0This diagram uses the Helmholtz pitch notation which denotes an octave starting at C and ending at B.  It’s a really useful system as it uses differing notation to represent different octaves.  The octave  C D E F G A B  is two octaves below middle C; the octave  c d e f g a b c  is one octave below middle C; the octave  c’ d’ e’ f’ g’ a’ b’  starts on middle C and the octave  c” d” e” f” g” a” b”  is one octave above middle C.  This is really useful when you start making your own patterns so you know what octave range the note you are using is in.  There is a really good explanation and further details at  which is where I got the diagram from.  The site also has some very good fretboard visualisation techniques which are well worth reading.

Another technique to familiarise yourself with the scale is to play it using a repeating pattern, an example of which is shown below:


On a keyboard, it’s a little easier.  The C Major scale  is all the white notes starting at the C note.