How to Practice ModesMarch 8, 2019December 25, 2019F. W. Lineberry

There are many good ways to practice modes.

Start in a major scale position and alter the notes in that position to get the modes:

Lydian – raise the 4th

Ionian – return the 4th to natural

Mixolydian – lower the 7th

Dorian – lower the 3rd and 7th

Aeolian – lower the 3rd, 6th and 7th

Phrygian – loser the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th

Locrian – lower the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th

Do this for every major scale position you know.

Start with pentatonic scales and add the missing notes to get the modes:

Major pentatonic = 1 2 3 4 5 6

Ionian – add 4 and 7

Lydian – add #4 and 7

Mixolydian – add 4 and b7

Minor pentatonic = 1 b3 4 5 b7

Dorian – add 2 and 6

Aeolian – add 2 and b6

Phrygian – add b2 and b6

Locrain – lower the 5 and add b2 and b6

Do this in every pentatonic position you know.

Play each mode over a pedal tone. Use your low E string as a pedal and practice switching between various E modes. Use the order I listed above:

E Lydian – E Ionian – E Mixolydian – E Dorian – E Aeolian – E Phrygian – E Locrian

You can tune the low E to different pitches to practice in different keys.

All of the above exercises are working with the modes in parallel – they all start from the same pitch. This is the most important way to work with modes in order to get the sound and interval formulas in your ears and under your fingers.

Once you’re comfortable with each mode, you can go on youtube and find backing tracks for each mode in a variety of keys. Noodle over the backing track with whichever mode is appropriate. Work the mode up and down the entire fingerboard. Spend a lot of time working up and down the strings rather than across the strings in a pattern.

For derivative mode practice, you can practice scale harmony and modes at the same time. You have to know scale harmony, though.

In C, you would play:

Cmaj chord – Cmaj7 arpeggio – C Ionian

Dmin chord – Dmin7 arpeggio – D Dorian

Emin chord – Emin7 arpeggio – E Phrygian

Fmaj chord – Fmaj7 arpeggio – F Lydian

Gmaj chord – G7 arpeggio – G Mixolydian

Amin chord – Amin7 arpeggio – A Aeolian

Bdim chord – Bmin7b5 arpeggio – B Locrian

Cmaj again

Do this ascending and descending and in every key.

Change the order of the chords/arps/modes to Cmaj – Fmaj – Bdim – Emin – Amin – Dmin – Gmaj – Cmaj.

Do this in every key.