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Jazz Guitar Lessons: Modes of the Major Scale

One of the keys to jazz improvisation is getting comfortable with the modes of the Major Scale:  Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian.

Each of these modes work for any scale by moving the first degree of the scale up one step or half step depending on where it falls in the scale. 

In the key of C, for example, the Dorian mode would start one full step up, making D the first degree of the scale. This is called D Dorian.  The rest of the scale would follow the original pattern for C, meaning that half steps would fall on the third and the seventh note in the scale, rather than the fourth and eighth.

Jazz Guitar Lessons with Andreas ObergThe Phrygian mode moves the first degree up two steps, making E Phrygian, and so on up through the modes to Locrian.

In using these modes to play over chord progressions in the key of C, you can stack thirds within the mode to create triads (chords outlines created by adding a third up from the root and then a third up from the third).  

You can also stack fourths and fifths and create arpeggios of the modes in the scale as you play over chords in the key of C.

In the above video, Andreas Oberg plays the scales, triads, arpeggios, stacked intervals and chromatics for each of the modes in the key of C as an exercise to get comfortable playing the modes over chords.

Watch Andreas' Free Guitar Lessons

These modes and the various approaches to the modes are a key part of becoming a facile jazz improv guitarist and they are all taught at Andreas’ ArtistWorks Jazz & More Guitar School. There are several free jazz guitar lessons available here for you to explore.

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