August 2013

Guitar Modes – Basic Theory and Application

What are Guitar ModesEarlier this month I was encouraged to write something about Guitar Modes and their application. There is so much to say when it comes to Guitar Modes that I could probably write an entire book on the subject. However, I have neither the time, nor the inclination for that right now. Instead, I will just try to cover some basic principles regarding how modes are related to playing the guitar.

Before going any further let me just say that it’s important to have a good understanding of guitar scales and the Circle of Fifths if you really want to get a grip on guitar modes. So, I suggest learning as much as you can about these two areas first, especially if you have trouble following the information I provide in this article.


The 7 Guitar Modes of the Major Scale are:

1. Ionian

2. Dorian

3. Phrygian

4. Lydian

5. Mixolydian

6. Aeolian

7. Locrian

Each Guitar Mode is based on the corresponding degree of the Major Scale. For example, the degrees of the C Major are: C D E F G A B C

1st Degree = C = Ioninian Mode

2nd Degree = D = Dorian Mode

3rd Degree = E = Phrygian Mode

4th Degree = F = Lydian Mode

5th Degree = G = Mixolydian Mode

6th Degree = A = Aeolian Mode

7th Degree = B = Locrian Mode


Playing from the 2nd degree of the C Major Scale (which is D) through to the octave (which is also D) creates a D minor scale, referred to in this case as the Dorian Mode.

Tones > D E F G A B C D

The pattern of whole steps and half-steps > W 1/2 W W W 1/2 W

Here is how to play the Dorian Mode in first position on guitar…







The root of this 8 tone scale begins with D on the 4th string and ends with D on the 2nd string. However, the other strings can be played too if they contain any of the same tones.

Soloing over chords is a fun way to practice playing modes and scales. You can use the example above to practice soloing over the Am7 and Em7 chords.

The D Dorian Guitar Mode can be played in various other positions on the fretboard as well. Why not challenge yourself a little and see if you can play it up one octave from the D on the 5th string at the 5th fret to D on the 3rd string at the 7th fret.


To construct the E Phrygian Mode from a C Major Scale you would follow the same process explained above, except the mode would begin and end on the tone E. Simply repeat this process for each consecutive mode.


There are 12 Major Keys. The 7 modes of a given Key are constructed from the 7 degrees of the related Major Scale and share the same Key Signature as well.

I hope that makes sense… At least a little!

Author Bio:
Kathy Unruh is the author of the AbcLearnGuitar eBook.

She has been teaching guitar to students of all ages for over 25 years.

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Who Is Bobby Z?

Bob DylanI like to refer to my favorite folk singer as Bobby Z (A.K.A. Bob Dylan) whose real name is Robert Zimmerman. He changed his last name to Dylan (after the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas) very early in his career. One of his most popular songs, Knockin On Heaven’s Door, was written for a movie score about Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid…

One of the reasons I like Bob Dylan, is because he isn’t afraid to speak his mind. His lyrics can be painfully honest and very convicting too. They make an impact on the listener, often providing them with a different perspective to consider.

Bob often stuck his neck out on controversial issues during the Civil Rights movement and the Viet-Nam War era which caused a great divide among people. They either loved him, or hated him, but no one could ever ignore him. He, himself doesn’t really seem to care what anyone thinks. He just does his own thing and remains who he is. There is no hype.

Like all musician/songwriter’s, Dylan’s songwriting drew from people he admired, the most important influence in his early years being the American folk singer Woody Guthrie. Woody was a man who cared about and spoke for the people of his generation through songs like This Land Is Your Land.

Woody’s son, Arlo Guthrie, was a contemporary of Dylan’s who also became famous during the sixties. Arlo wrote the song “Alice’s Restaraunt” among others, and was one of the many well known rock icons who performed at the Woodstock festival.

In 1979 Dylan declared that he had become a “born-again Christian” and was heard playing harmonica on the album “No Compromise” with the popular contemporary-Christian recording artist Keith Green. Dylan later went on to win his first Grammy Award that same year with a Contemporary Chirstian album of his own called “Slow Train Coming.”

Bob Dylan’s influence on the direction of popular music is legendary. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. During the ceremony Bruce Springstein said Bob Dylan…

“broke through the limitations of what a recording artist could achieve, and changed the face of rock and roll forever.”

Other notable artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, Eric Clapton, Gun’s and Roses, have covered Dylan’s songs and re-created their own hit versions of…

All Along the WatchtowerJim Hendrix

Hey Mr. Tambourine ManThe Byrds

Knockin On Heavens DoorEric Clapton / Guns and Roses

Undoubtably, the songs that Bob Dylan gave us will continue to inspire musicians and songwriters for years to come.


Kathy Unruh is the author of the AbcLearnGuitar eBook. She has been teaching guitar to students of all ages for over 25 years.
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These Top-Rated Guitarists Have Something In Common

Top Rated GuitaristsDid you know that some of the top-rated guitarists of all time have something in common? That something just happens to be the Blues. As you probably know, the typical 12 Bar Blues guitar format provides an excellent structure for learning how to play lead guitar and improvise over chords.

So, it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that such famous guitarists as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and others, were able to develop their superb lead guitar techniques by first learning how to play the blues.

Some of the Most Commonly Known Top-Rated Guitarists of All Time Include…

Jimi Hendrix: In the early days of his music career Hendrix performed in backing bands for various soul, R&B, and blues musicians. He developed his own unique guitar playing style by listening to blues giants such as B. B. King, Albert King, T-Bone Walker, and Muddy Waters.

B.B.King: Began as a singer and disc jockey. He was nicknamed Beale Street Blues Boy which was later shortened to Blues Boy. Eventually he became known simply as B.B. and he’s gone by that name ever since. B.B. met T-Bone Walker during his time as a DJ and that’s when he just knew he had to have an electric guitar.

Carlos Santana: Santana’s sound features melodic blues-based guitar lines set against percussive Latin and African rhythms.

Jeff Beck: Beck has a heavy-sounding blues, and rhythm and blues guitar style which has had a major influence on popular music.

Johnny Winter: An American blues guitarist. He is best known for his late 1960s and 1970s high-energy blues-rock albums and live performances,.

Robert Johnson: It has been said that “no guitarist has had a greater impact on modern blues and rock guitar than Robert Johnson.” He laid the groundwork for Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and many others.

Eric Clapton: His guitar playing was influenced from an early age by listening to blues records. He learned chords by playing along with the music.

Eddie Van Halen: Claimed that his main guitar influence was Eric Clapton. When Eric Clapton was in the band Cream, Eddie had learned to play almost all of Eric’s solos “note for note”.

Jimmy Page: Page said his musical tastes were “basically..: a mixture between rock and blues.” He liked the blues sounds of Elmore James, B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin.

Don’t you think that anyone who has a desire to play electric lead guitar would want to follow in the footsteps of the top-rated guitarist of all time? That makes perfect sense to me. After all, this is part of the legacy they have left us and what better example could we have?

Author Bio:
Kathy Unruh is the author of the AbcLearnGuitar eBook.

She has been teaching guitar to students of all ages for over 25 years.

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