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How to Play Modes in Fingerstyle Guitar

Learn how to play modes from guitarist Adam Smale in this online fingerstyle guitar lesson from Howcast.


The first thing that I'd like to mention about modes is, is that they don't really exist, sort of. Really if you already know your major scales, you already know your modes. They're one and the same. It's all in how you're looking at it or hearing it. I'll try to demonstrate.

So I'm going to stick with a C major scale to demonstrate. So I'll play a C major scale first. So that sounds like a C major scale. Now if I take the exact same notes of a C major scale, but I play it from D to D instead of from C to C, you're now hearing the C major scale in a new mode.

So believe it or not, it sounds different, but it is all the same note from a C major scale. So the notes I played for D, this new mode which happens to be D Dorian, is D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D. It doesn't sound like C major, but it's the same notes as C major. You can do the same thing from the next note of the scale.

So I'm going to play a C major scale from E to E and that's called Phrygian. The third mode in major. There we go, so now that's Phrygian. The next mode is Lydian. That's starting on the fourth note of the scale, so in this case it'll be F to F. The next mode is Mixolydian. That's playing in this case in the key of C, from G to G. That's the fifth mode.

So there we have Mixolydian. There are two more modes left. We have Aeolian, which is the sixth mode, from A to A in the key of C, and then lastly Locrian, from B to B. So every single mode that I played is just notes of a C major scale. So if you really want to think about it, it's just C major, but it's how you're hearing it and one way to actually hear it, is to understand that there are cords that match each mode.

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