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Guitar Scales and Modes Explained – Easy Shapes, Licks,


and Patterns

Guitar Scales and Modes Explained –


Easy Shapes, Licks, and Patterns
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I think you’ll agree that learning how to play guitar scales and modes is essential for any
modern musician.

Learning scales and applying these patterns to soloing situations greatly improves your
ability to improvise on guitar.

Because they’re important tools, you may have started to learn how to play scales and
modes already.

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You may even have applied scales and modes to your guitar solos.

But, if you’re like many guitarists, you struggled at some point to memorize scales on
guitar.
This doesn’t have to be the case, as you don’t have to struggle to learn guitar scales and
modes.

In this lesson, you learn how to take one fingering, Lydian, and alter one note at a time to
create 28 guitar scales and modes.

This system greatly reduces the time it takes to learn scales and modes on the fretboard.

As well, it builds on previous knowledge with each mode, preventing wasted time in the
practice room.

No matter what experience level you’re currently at in your playing.

From complete beginner to advanced guitarists.

Organizing guitar scales into an easy to understand system produces huge results in
your playing.

This lesson shows you the steps needed to master guitar scales, understand how they’re
used, and give examples of scales and modes in action.

All of the scales in this lesson are are either parent scales or modes derived from parent
scales.

To explore non-mode based scales, check out these lessons.

Complete Guide to the Diminished Scale


(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/diminished-scale)
Pentatonic Scales – The Ultimate Guide
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/pentatonic-scales)

How to Play Blues Scales for Guitar (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/blues-scales)


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Complete Guide to Bebop Scales (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/bebop-scale)


Note: I talk about jazz in this lesson, because I’m a jazz guitarist. BUT these modes and
exercises can be used by guitarists of any genre to open your fretboard and become a
better soloist. 

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Table of Contents
Click on any link to jump directly to that topic in this guitar scales and modes guide.

Introduction

How to Use This Guide TOP

What is a Parent Scale?


What is a Mode?
Major Modes
Major Modes Intro
Ionian Mode
Dorian Mode
Phrygian Mode
Lydian Mode
Mixolydian Mode
Aeolian Mode
Locrian Mode

Melodic Minor Modes


Melodic Minor Intro
Melodic Minor 1
Melodic Minor 2
Melodic Minor 3
Melodic Minor 4
Melodic Minor 5
Melodic Minor 6
Melodic Minor 7

Harmonic Minor Modes


Harmonic Minor Intro
Harmonic Minor 1

Harmonic Minor 2 TOP

Harmonic Minor 3
Harmonic Minor 4
Harmonic Minor 5
Harmonic Minor 6
Harmonic Minor 7

Harmonic Major Modes


Harmonic Major Intro
Harmonic Major 1
Harmonic Major 2
Harmonic Major 3
Harmonic Major 4
Harmonic Major 5
Harmonic Major 6
Harmonic Major 7

How to Use This Guitar Scales Guide


The material in this guide is presented in a specific order so that you use previous
material to build the next set of modes.

You begin by learning Lydian, then alter one note at a time to learn all seven major modes
(http://www.guitarworld.com/jazz-guitar-corner-learn-all-seven-major-modes-easy-way).

Then, you alter one note at a time to create every mode of melodic minor
(http://www.guitarworld.com/jazz-guitar-corner-melodic-minor-modes-made-easy),
harmonic minor, and harmonic major.

Each scale is presented in order of most common, major, to least common, harmonic
major.

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This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t study harmonic major modes.

It’s just that you want to get the most common modes under your fingers first.
You don’t have to work these modes in the order given, especially for intermediate or
advanced guitarists.

But, for beginners it’s best to start from the top.

Lastly, there’s a lifetime of study here, so there’s no rush to learn every mode right away.

Go slow, take the time to understand each mode, learn it on the guitar, and apply it to
soloing exercises until you’ve internalized that mode to the point that you won’t forget it.

From there, move on to the next mode.

As well, if you forget a mode, return to that mode and review it in your studies.

Experience Levels
As there’s a lot of information in this guide, it’s recommended that you set reasonable
practice goals for your experience level.

To help you decide where to begin, here’s a breakdown of the lessons below.

Beginner

For players just starting to explore guitar scales and modes, it’s best to proceed with the
following approach.

Start with major modes, in order, and work down from there.
Learn each mode in the given key.
Learn two fingerings for each mode, one from the 6th and one from the 5th string.
Solo over the backing tracks with both fingerings.

Apply the practice patterns if comfortable. TOP

Intermediate
Players with 1 year or more of experience can approach the guide with the following
goals.

Review any modes you’ve studied previously.


Learn modes you haven’t studied.
Learn all modes in 12 keys.
Learn all four fingerings for each mode.
Learn the patterns for each mode.
Learn the lick for each mode.
Solo with the mode, pattern, and lick.

Lesson Organization
After a short introduction and summary of each parent scale, the seven modes in that
system are explored in detail.

For each mode, there are five sections.

1. Fingerings and Application

In this section, you learn how to solo with each mode, and background information for
that mode. This section is a brief intro to the mode, and then it’s unpacked in the
sections that follow.

2. Interval Formula

Here, you learn how to build each mode by altering one note from a previous mode you
learned in this guide.

3. Fingerings TOP

In this section, you learn four fingerings for each mode. There’s a backing track so you
can practice soloing without having to leave the page.
4. Practice Patterns

Here, you learn one pattern for each mode to increase memory and build your chops at
the same time. You can also take a pattern from one mode and apply it to other modes in
your studies.

5. Guitar Licks

The last section provides a sample lick over a common progression. Each lick is
presented with notation, TAB, and audio to make it easier to learn.

Further Reading
To learn more about how to organize an effective guitar practice routine, please check
out these lessons.

The Jazz Guitar Practice Guide (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/ebooks/jazz-guitar-


practice-guide)
The Definitive Guide to Starting Guitar Lessons
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/the-definitive-guide-to-starting-jazz-guitar-lessons)
How to Develop a Positive Approach to Guitar Practicing
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/positive-approach-to-jazz-guitar-practice)
How to Play Jazz Guitar – A Practice Guide (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/how-
to-play-jazz-guitar-a-practice-guide)
Easy Guitar Scales and Modes (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/ebooks/easy-
guitar-scales-modes/)

What is a Parent Scale?


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Before you learn these scales, you need to understand exactly what a parent scale is
(http://www.justinguitar.com/en/SC-507-CalculatingPMS.php).
Here’s a definition of a parent scale to help you understand this term.

A parent scale is a seven-note device that produces one mode for each of those seven
notes.

An example of a parent scale is the major scale, which produces seven modes, one from
each note in that scale.

This means that if you play the major scale from the root to root, it’s the major scale.

But, if you play that scale from any of the other 6 notes, you produce 6 unique scales,
which are called modes.

For example, if you play a C major scale from C to C, it’s the first mode of the parent
major scale, Ionian.

But, if you play the C major scale from D to D, you get D Dorian, the second mode of the
major scale.

C Major – C D E F G A B C

D Dorian – D E F G A B C D

As you can see, these two modes have the same notes, but sound different, because
they contain a different interval structure.

If modes are a bit shaky for you right now, don’t worry, you’ll learn more about them in the

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next section.

The four most common parent scales are:


Major Scale
Melodic Minor Scale
Harmonic Minor Scale
Harmonic Major Scale

In this guide, you study those four parent scale systems and the seven modes built from
each parent scale.

What is a Mode?
Now it’s time to learn more about what a mode is
(https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Music_Theory/Modes) and how it differs from a parent
scale.

Here’s a short definition of a mode that gets this theory under your belt.

Modes are built by playing parent scales from each note; they have the same notes as the
parent scale, but use different intervals.

As you read in the parent scale section, if you play the C major scale from the notes D to
D, you produce Dorian.

Though Dorian contains the same notes as C major, they have distinct sounds when
played on the guitar.

As you can see, the major scale and Dorian mode have different intervals:

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Major – R 2 3 4 5 6 7

Dorian – R 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
Because of this, the major scale and Dorian are applied to different chords in a soloing
situation, major over maj7 and Dorian over m7.

Here’s a quick guide to remember how modes differ from scales:

Parent scales and modes share the same notes, but are used to solo over different chords.

This may still be a bit fuzzy, especially if you’re new to learning guitar scales and modes.

Not to worry, as you study the lessons below, this theory will become clear.

The most important thing is that you apply these modes to the guitar, both from a
technical and improvisational standpoint.

Oftentimes theory will be hard to understand on paper, but it makes total sense when
played on the guitar.

Major Scale Modes


You begin your study of modes with the most popular, the seven major modes
(https://musictheoryblog.blogspot.co.uk/2007/01/modes-of-major-scale.html).

These seven modes are used to solo over m7, 7, maj7, and m7b5 chords, covering a lot
of harmonic ground.

Because of their popularity in modern music, having a strong hold on the major modes is

essential for any guitarist. TOP

Take your time with these modes and apply them to both technical and improvisational
situations.
To help you practice soloing with these modes, you can use this major scale modes
backing track playlist (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?
list=PLVVk2nQ5iO89AH9bzJPESyjrgs7QUCQUo).

Major Modes Formula


Learning all 7 major modes is tough, as there seems to be an endless number of
possible fingerings to memorize.

It can seem daunting to memorize all those shapes and keep them organized on the
fretboard.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

By learning Lydian first, the 4th mode, you can alter one note at a time to create all seven
major modes.

Using previous knowledge, the Lydian mode, to create new knowledge, the other six
modes, makes this learning process easier.

Rather than learning new shapes for each mode, you take a shape you know, lower one
note, and voila, new mode.

Here’s the formula to build all seven major modes the easy way.

Lydian (Starting Mode)


Ionian (Lydian with natural 4)
Mixolydian (Ionian with b7)
Dorian (Mixolydian with b3)

Aeolian (Dorian with b6) TOP

Phrygian (Aeolian with b2)


Locrian (Phrygian with b5)
Now that you know the formula used to create all seven major modes from Lydian, you’re
ready to learn how to play and solo with each mode.

Lydian Mode Fingerings and Application


To begin your study of major modes, you’ll learn the Lydian mode
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lydian_mode), the 4th mode of the major scale.

Since Lydian is the 4th mode (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/lydian), it’s like playing a G


major scale from the note C, as you can see in the example below, and it’s used to solo
over Maj7 chords.

This mode outlines the #11 interval, written #4 in when referring to modes, which creates
tension. While some players enjoy this tension, it can take time to get used to.

Lydian Mode Interval Formula


The Lydian mode is built with the following interval pattern:

Root-2-3-#4-5-6-7

This is your “starting position” for all other modes in this lesson, so it’s important to
memorize this formula. Once you have this interval pattern down, you can create 27 more
modes from one shape.

Pretty cool right?

Lydian Mode Fingerings


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Now that you know how to build Lydian and how to apply it to your solos, here are four
Lydian fingerings.
When learning these fingerings, work them with a metronome and take them to the
soloing side of your practice routine (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/ebooks/30-days-to-
better-jazz-guitar).

Here’s a Cmaj7 backing track that you can solo over when learning these Lydian
fingerings.

Vm
Click to jam over Cmaj7 
P

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Lydian-Fingerings.png)
Lydian Mode Practice Pattern
You’ll now learn a Lydian practice pattern, featuring ascending 4th intervals, that can be
applied to any shape you learn in this lesson.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

After you’ve learned this pattern, solo with the Lydian mode and add the pattern to hear
how it sounds in a soloing situation.

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Lydian Mode Lick


Here’s a Lydian lick that you can study, work in 12 keys, and apply to your own guitar
solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Ionian Mode Fingerings and Application


Now you’re going to alter one note from Lydian to create the Ionian mode
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ionian_mode), otherwise known as the major scale.

Ionian is used to solo over Maj7 chords (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/ionian), in a


similar way to Lydian, though with a “softer” sound. Because it’s used over tonic
maj7 chords, it’s one of the most important modes.

Make sure to learn the fingerings, work the pattern, and take Ionian to the soloing side of
your routine to fully grasp this mode.

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Ionian Formula
To build Ionian and its fingerings, you’re going to compare it to Lydian. By adjusting the
Lydian mode, you’re not starting from scratch with the Ionian mode.

This saves time, and makes it easier to visualize the modes as related to each other on
the fretboard.

Ionian is built by lowering the 4th of Lydian by one fret on the guitar.

As you can, these two modes are closely related, only one note difference, but have a
unique sound when played on the guitar.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Ionian-Formula.png)
Ionian Fingerings
You’ll now learn four fingerings for this mode on the fretboard. Along with working with a
metronome, practice soloing over the Cmaj7 backing track with this mode.

Vm
Click to jam over Cmaj7 
P

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Ionian-Fingerings.png)

Ionian Mode Practice Pattern


To expand the Ionian mode in your practicing, here’s a pattern that you can work with a
metronome on the fretboard.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

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As well as working with a metronome, put on the Cmaj7 backing track and solo over that
chord with this pattern.

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Ionian Lick
Here’s a ii V I lick that uses C Ionian over the Imaj7 chord. After you’ve learned this
phrase, work it in 12 keys, and then apply it to your guitar solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Mixolydian Mode
You’re going to alter one note from Ionian to create Mixolydian
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixolydian_mode), the 5th mode of the major scale.

Mixolydian is used to solo over 7th chords (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/mixolydian),


which you find as the V7 chord in a ii V I and the I7, IV7, and V7 in a blues progression.

Work Mixolydian in 12 keys and with patterns and soloing exercises to ensure you’re
comfortable with this important mode.

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Mixolydian Formula
As mentioned earlier, you’re going to lower one note from Ionian to create Mixolydian.
Mixolydian is built by lowering the 7th of Ionian by a half step on the guitar.

As you can see, Ionian and Mixolydian are closely related on the fretboard, only one note
differentiates these two modes.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Mixolydian-Formula.png)

After you’ve listened to the above example, play Ionian and Mixolydian to visualize that
one note moving between each mode.

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Mixolydian Mode Fingerings


Here are four Mixolydian fingerings that you can work with a metronome at various
tempos, and a C7 backing track that you can jam over in your studies.

Vm
Click to jam over C7 
P

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Mixolydian-Fingerings.png)
Mixolydian Mode Practice Pattern
Here’s a pattern that you can apply to any Mixolydian fingering to increase your fluidity on
the fretboard. This pattern is built by ascending triads
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/triads) through Mixolydian.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

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Mixolydian Mode Lick

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Here’s a line that uses Mixolydian over the first four bars of an F blues progression. After
you’ve memorized this line, put on a jazz blues backing track
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SWtb005uq4) and apply this to your solos.
Vm
Click to hear 
P

Dorian Mode
After practicing the three major-based modes, you’ll move on to minor  based modes,
beginning with the Dorian mode (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorian_mode).

Dorian is used to solo over m7 chords (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/dorian), including


iim7 and Im7, two of the most commonly seen minor chords.

Dorian’s characteristic note, the natural 6th, distinguishes it from other minor modes in
the major scale system, as the rest contain a b6.

Dorian Mode Interval Formula


Though it may seem strange, you’re going to create this minor mode by altering one note

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of a major mode, in this case using Mixolydian to create Dorian.

Dorian is built by lowering the 3rd of Mixolydian by one fret on the guitar.
When learning Dorian compared to Mixolydian, it’s best to move the b3 to a lower string
to make it smoother on the fretboard.

You can see this approach below, where the 3rd is transferred from the 5th to the 6th
strings to create a smoother fingering.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Dorian-Formula.png)

Dorian Mode Fingerings


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Now that you’ve learned how to build and apply Dorian, you’ll learn four Dorian fingerings
on the fretboard.
Make sure to work these shapes in different keys with a metronome to keep a focus on
solid rhythm in your mode study (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/jazz-rhythms).

Play with the backing track below to take this mode to the soloing side of your guitar
practicing.

Vm
Click to jam over Cm7 
P

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Dorian-Fingerings.png)

Dorian Pattern
The following pattern is used to build your chops and your understanding of Dorian on
the fretboard.

Once you have this pattern down, solo over a backing track with Dorian, using this pattern
in your lines when appropriate.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

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Dorian Lick
Here’s a lick over the first four bars to Blue Bossa
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/brazilian-jazz-guitar). Work this line in a few keys with a
metronome, and then put on a Blue Bossa backing track
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_WDba8tk04) and use this line in your solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Aeolian Mode

You’ll now explore the Aeolian mode (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeolian_mode), theTOP


6th mode of the major scale system. Aeolian is used to solo over m7 chords
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/aeolian), mostly over Im7 chords as opposed to iim7
chords with Dorian.
Jazzers use Aeolian less than Dorian because the b6 doesn’t have that characteristic
minor jazz sound. It sounds more like rock than jazz, but it’s still be an effective mode to
learn.

Aeolian Formula
As is the case with every mode in this lesson, you’ll build Aeolian by comparing it to a
previously mode, in this case Dorian.

Aeolian is built by lowering the 6th of Dorian by a half step on the guitar.

You can see and hear this formula in the following example.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Aeolian-Fingering.png)

Aeolian Mode Fingerings


Moving on, here are four common Aeolian fingerings. Begin by working one shape, then
move on to the next one from there.

Practice these shapes at different tempos with a metronome in order to keep your
rhythms tight (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/ebooks/modern-time-rhythmic-
fundamentals-for-the-improvising-musician-ebook) with the Aeolian mode.

As well, jam with Aeolian over the Cm7 backing track to take this mode to the soloing
side of your practice routine.

Vm
Click to jam on Cm7 
P

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Aeolian-Fingerings.png)
Aeolian Mode Practice Pattern
Here’s a practice pattern you can apply to any Aeolian shape. This pattern applies four-
note ascending arpeggios to Aeolian.

Apply any pattern from this article to your Aeolian practice routine to take this mode
further in the woodshed.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

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Aeolian Lick

Here’s a phrase that uses Aeolian over the Im7 chord in a minor ii-V-I progression. Work
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this lick in Am first, before moving it to other keys.


When you’ve done that, write out a few Aeolian lines of your own to take this exercise
further.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Phrygian Mode
The Phrygian mode (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrygian_mode), the 3rd mode of the
major scale, is an interesting mode when applied to a solo.

While the most common use for Phrygian is over m7 chords


(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/phrygian), bringing a Flamenco sound to your lines,
there’s a less common, but cool sounding, approach used in jazz.

If you want to add an altered sound to your dominant 7th lines, play Phrygian over any 7th
chord. When doing so, you produce the intervals b9, #9, and b13, but without the major

3rd. TOP

Because it’s missing the 3rd, Phrygian has an “open” sound, and is a powerful alternative
to the altered or Phrygian dominant scales over 7th chords.
Phrygian Formula
Now, you’ll alter one note in Aeolian to create Phrygian fingerings on the guitar.

Phrygian is built by lowering the 2nd of Aeolian by one fret on the guitar.

You can see this formula, along with the interval layout for Phrygian, in the following
example.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-

Phrygian-Formula.png) TOP

Phrygian Fingerings
Here are four Phrygian fingerings that you can practice to take this mode to the
fretboard.

As well as working these fingerings with a metronome


(https://www.metronomeonline.com/), use this C7 backing track to practice soloing over
a dominant chord with Phrygian.

Vm
Click to jam over C7 
P

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Phyrgian-Fingerings.png)

Phrygian Pattern
Here’s a practice pattern based on ascending 3rd intervals that you can work
with Phrygian.

Put on a backing track and solo using Phrygian, inserting bits of this pattern where
appropriate to spice up your improvisations.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

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Phrygian Lick
Here’s a phrase that you can learn as you apply C Phrygian to the V7  in a ii-V-I
progression.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Locrian Mode
The final mode, the 7th mode of the major scale, is called Locrian
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locrian_mode). Locrian is used to solo over m7b5 chords
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/locrian), which you find as the iim7b5 chord in a minor ii
V I progression.

Locrian Formula

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You can think of the Locrian mode in comparison to Phrygian.

Locrian is built by lowering the 5th of Phrygian by one fret on the guitar.
You can see this in the following example, where you take C Phrygian and lower the 5th
by one fret in each octave to build a two-octave C Locrian mode.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Locrian-Formula.png)

Locrian Fingerings
Here are four fingerings to learn and apply to both the technical and improvisational
section of your routine.

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Make sure to use a metronome (http://www.jazzguitar.be/blog/jazz-guitar-practicing-


working-wtih-a-metronome/), and here’s a Cm7b5 backing track that you can solo over in
your improvisational studies.
Vm
Click to jam over Cm7b5 
P

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Modes-for-Jazz-Guitar-
Locrian-Fingerings.png)

Locrian Pattern
Here’s a new practice pattern that you can work over Locrian, or any, mode in the
woodshed.

This pattern is built by playing up four-note arpeggios, then down four notes of the scale,
which sets you up for the next arpeggio.

Don’t forget to solo over m7b5 chords with Locrian, using this pattern in your solos to
bring a technical device into your improvisational studies.

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Locrian Lick
Here’s a ii V I lick in G minor that you can add to your soloing vocabulary. After you’ve
learned this lick, take it to other keys around the fretboard.

Lastly, write out a few Locrian licks of your own as you expand upon this mode in your
guitar practice routine.

Vm
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Melodic Minor Modes


Now that you learned the major scale modes, you can explore another essential scale TOP
system, melodic minor (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor_scale).
Used to solo over m7, maj7, 7, and m7b5 chords, melodic minor is just as important as
its major cousin.

These modes also introduce new harmonies, such as 7#11, maj7#5, and 7alt.

While the fingering system below helps you transform any major mode into a melodic
minor mode, it takes your ears time to become used to these new sounds.

Make sure to solo with each new mode, as well as practice with a metronome, as you
learn how to play and improvise (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/intermediate-jazz-
guitar-vocabulary-guide) with these important sounds.

Melodic Minor Modes Formula


You may know it’s important to learn melodic minor modes, but it can be daunting to
learn seven new shapes.

To make this easier, you can use previous knowledge to learn these new modes in no
time.

To do so, you lower one note of each major mode to produce all seven melodic minor
modes.

To begin, here are the formulas to play each melodic minor mode the easy way.

MM 1 (Ionian With b3)


MM2 (Dorian With b2)
MM3 (Phrygian With b1)
MM4 (Lydian With b7)

MM5 (Mixolydian With b6) TOP

MM6 (Aeolian With b5)


MM7 (Locrian With b4)
Now that you have an intro to how you build melodic minor modes, you look deeper into
each mode, how it’s built, and how you apply it to solos.

Melodic Minor Mode 1


The first mode of melodic minor is used to solo over m7 chords. When doing so, you
create tension with the raised 7th found in that mode.

While some find this tension harsh, others enjoy it, so experiment to see how your ears
react to this new sound.

When soloing with melodic minor (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/melodic-minor), apply


it to the iim7 chord in a major ii-V-I, or the Im7 chord in a minor ii-V-I, two common uses
for this mode.

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Interval Formula


To build the first mode of melodic minor, you’re going to compare it to Ionian. When
doing so, you lower one note in Ionian to form the new mode.

Melodic minor mode 1 is built by lowering the 3rd of Ionian by a fret on the guitar.

Though they’re only one note different, both modes sound unique, as Ionian is major and
MM mode 1 is minor.

Lastly, notice that the lowered note, the 3rd, is moved down a string in the first octave.
This is done to make the mode easier to finger on the fretboard.

Vm
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/melodic-minor-modes-
1.png)

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings


With the knowledge of how to build melodic minor mode 1 down, you can learn how to
play it on guitar. Here are four fingerings for C melodic minor that you can memorize.

As well, here’s a Cm7 backing track to solo over with any fingering below.

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
2.png)

Melodic Minor Mode 1 Pattern


This pattern is built by playing descending 4th intervals through a C melodic minor
fingering. Once you’ve worked this pattern over the fingering below, take it to other
shapes to expand this idea in your studies.

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Melodic Minor Mode 1 Lick


Here’s a lick that uses MM mode 1 over the iim7 in a ii-V-I. Notice how the #7 interval
creates tension, then that tension is resolved, creating a cool, bebop sound along the
way.

Vm
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Melodic Minor Mode 2


The second mode of melodic minor brings tension to your dominant 7th lines. When
doing so, you highlight a 13sus(b9,#9) sound.

Not the most common sound, but a cool, outside sound that creates a quasi-altered
chord without always relying on the altered scale.

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Formula


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When learning to build the second mode of melodic minor, you use previously learned
material to create this new mode.

Melodic minor mode 2 is built by lowering the 2nd of Dorian by a fret on the guitar.
Though it’s related to Dorian, both modes have a personality all their own.

Vm
Click to hear 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
5.png)

Melodic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings


Here are four fingerings that you can learn to take this mode to the fretboard. As well,
here’s a C7 backing track to solo with any of these shapes in your studies.

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Vm
Click to jam over C7 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
6.png)
Melodic Minor Mode 2 Pattern
With one or more of these fingerings down, add a scale pattern to your studies. Here’s a
descending pattern that you can practice with a metronome.

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Melodic Minor Mode 2 Lick

In this G major ii-V-I, you use the 2nd melodic minor mode over D7 in the second bar. TOP

Notice the tension this creates over that chord, before resolving in the next measure.
Vm
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Melodic Minor Mode 3


You’ll now learn how to build, play and apply the third mode of melodic minor, otherwise
known as  Lydian augmented (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lydian_augmented_scale).

This mode has a #4 and #5, giving it the name Lydian (#4) augmented (#5). Because it
also has a major 3 and 7, you use this mode to solo over maj7 chords.

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Formula


Now that you’re getting used to lowering one note of a major mode to produce melodic
minor modes, you’re going to throw a wrench into the works.

The third mode of melodic minor follows the same formula, you lower one note of

Phrygian to form this mode, only it’s a strange note to lower. TOP

Melodic minor mode 3 is built by lowering the root of Phrygian by a fret on the guitar.
As you can see, you lower the root note to produce the new mode fingering. This means
that to play the third mode of melodic minor from C, you lower the root of Db Phrygian.

Here’s how that looks with C Phrygian and 3rd mode melodic minor. When doing so, you
play the same notes in the shape, but the root has been lowered to create the new mode.

Vm
Click to hear 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
9.png)

Melodic Minor Mode 3 Fingerings


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Here are four fingerings for the third mode of melodic minor that you can learn in your
studies. As well, there’s a Cmaj7 jam track that you can use to practice soloing with this
scale.
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Click to jam on Cmaj7 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
10.png)
Melodic Minor Mode 3 Pattern
Here’s a pattern that you can use to elevate your technique and understanding of the
third mode of melodic minor. The pattern features descending triads.

Work this pattern in other keys, as well as use it in your solos to hear how it sounds when
applied to a musical situation.

Vm
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Melodic Minor Mode 3 Lick


Here’s a line that you can apply to your solos. The line uses the third mode of melodic
minor over the Imaj7 chord in a G major ii V I.

Notice the tension it creates, which is resolved to avoid sounding too outside over the
Imaj7 chord. Practice the lick in the given key as well as taking it to other keys.

Vm
Click to hear 
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Melodic Minor Mode 4


You’re now going to learn to play, and apply the Lydian dominant scale
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/lydian-dominant), the 4th mode of melodic minor. This
mode is used to solo over 7th chords, bringing a #11(#4) sound to those chords.

If you’re looking to hear this mode in action, check out the Sonny Rollins tune “Blue Seven
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah-j6fALiGw),” which uses Lydian dominant in the

melody. TOP

Melodic Minor Mode 4 Formula


To build a Lydian dominant fingering, you alter one note from Lydian.

Lydian dominant is built by lowering the 7th note of Lydian by a fret on the guitar.

You can see why this mode is called Lydian dominant; it has the #4 from Lydian and the
b7 from dominant 7th chords.

Vm
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
13.png)

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Melodic Minor Mode 4 Fingerings


Here are four fingerings for Lydian dominant that you can learn and solo with in
your improvisations. As well, put on the track below and solo with these shapes over C7
in your studies.

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
14.png)
Melodic Minor Mode 4 Pattern
Here’s a pattern that you can add to any fingering you’ve learned so far. The pattern is
built by playing 4321 from each note in the mode, then 5678 descending that same
mode.

Once you can play this pattern, put on a backing track and add this pattern to your solos.

Vm
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Melodic Minor Mode 4 Lick

Here’s a line that uses this mode over each chord in the first four bars of an F blues TOP

progression (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/how-to-play-a-jazz-blues-chord-
progression).
Memorize this line, apply it to your solos, and then write out lines of your own using this
mode over various progressions.

Vm
Click to hear 
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Melodic Minor Mode 5


The fifth mode of melodic minor is related to Mixolydian, and is used to solo over
dominant 7th chords. When adding this mode to your solos, you create a 7b13 sound
over 7th chords.

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Interval Formula


To build the fifth mode of melodic minor, you alter one note from Mixolydian.

Melodic minor mode 5 is built by lowering the 6th of Mixolydian by a fret on the guitar.

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Here’s how those two modes look so that you can compare them from a fingering
perspective.
Vm
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
17.png)

Melodic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings


Here are four fingerings for Mixolydian b13 that you can work out across the fretboard.
After you’ve learned these fingerings, put on the backing track and jam over that chord.

Vm
Click to jam on C7 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
18.png)
Melodic Minor Mode 5 Pattern
Here’s a pattern that you can add to your practice routine. The pattern is uses descending
arpeggios through the mode, both ascending and descending.

Vm
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Melodic Minor Mode 5 Lick


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Here’s a phrase over the first four bars of an F blues progression. After you’ve learned
this line, write out your own, before taking this idea to other areas of your soloing
practice routine (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/intro-jazz-guitar-vocabulary).
Vm
Click to hear 
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Melodic Minor Mode 6


The second last mode of melodic minor, the 6th mode, is used to solo over m7b5 chords.
While it can be an alternative to Locrian, it’s tough to use this mode and not sound like a
mistake.

As you’ll see in this section, the natural 9 can be tough to navigate. So, take your time,
learn the sample line, and go slow with this mode at home before taking it to a jam
session.

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Formula


To build the sixth mode of melodic minor, you alter one note from Aeolian.

Melodic minor mode 6 is built by lowering the 5th of Aeolian by a fret on the guitar. TOP

Though the fingering is related to Aeolian, you use the sixth mode of melodic minor to
solo over m7b5 chords.
When doing so, you need to be careful how you use the natural 9, as that note is the
major 3 of the key center when playing a minor ii-V-I.

This causes tension, and sounds like a mistake if not done right. So, make sure to
experiment with this mode over m7b5 chords at home before bringing it to a gig.

Vm
Click to hear 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
21.png)

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Fingerings TOP

Now that you know how to build the sixth mode of melodic minor, you can learn this
mode on the guitar. Here are four fingerings that you can learn and apply to your studies.
Vm
Click to jam over Cm7b5 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
22.png)

Melodic Minor Mode 6 Pattern


Here’s a pattern that you can apply to any fingering you’ve learned for this mode. The
pattern is built by working descending 3rds through the scale.

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Melodic Minor Mode 6 Lick


Here’s a lick over the iim7b5 chord in a minor ii-V-I progression. Learn the lick in the
original key, then work it in other keys, before applying it to your solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
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Melodic Minor Mode 7


One of the most popular modes on any instrument, the seventh mode of melodic minor
is also known as the altered scale (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/altered-scale-primer-
for-jazz-guitar).

Creating tension over 7th chords, this mode is used over both major and minor ii-V-I’s,
blues, rhythm changes (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/rhythm-changes), and just about
any progression you can think of.

It takes time to get used to the tensions in this mode. But, with practice, you’ll apply this

mode with confidence to your solos. TOP

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Formula


To build the altered scale, you alter one note of the Locrian mode on the fretboard.

The altered scale is built by lowering the 4th of Locrian by a fret on the guitar.

Though it’s related to Locrian, you apply it to dominant 7th chords where you want to
bring in b9,#9,b5, and #5 intervals.

Vm
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/melodic-minor-modes-
25.png)

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Melodic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings
Here are four fingerings to get you started with this mode on the fretboard. Work these
shapes in different keys, and apply them to a jam track to get a feel for how they sound
on guitar.

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Click to jam over C7alt 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Melodic-Minor-Modes-
26.png)

Melodic Minor Mode 7 Pattern


Here’s a pattern that you can apply to any of fingerings for the Altered Scale. The pattern
is built by alternating four scale notes with arpeggios.

Vm
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Melodic Minor Mode 7 Lick
Here’s a lick that you can us over the V7alt chord in a minor key ii-V-I. Work this line in
different keys, and then put it into your soloing over a song you know or are working on.

Vm
Click to hear 
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Harmonic Minor Modes


After you’ve worked on major and melodic minor, you can expand into harmonic minor
(http://www.jamplay.com/articles/5-guides/153-harmonic-minor-modes).

These modes offer outside the box sounds to explore, such as the Maj7#9 and
Maj7#5nat4.

Besides the exotic sounds, you find classics such as the 1st and the 5th mode, which are

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a staples of jazz, fusion and other popular musical genres.


Check these modes out, you might not use every one, but you never know what you’ll
discover with these new modal colors.

Harmonic Minor Modes Formula


Though not as common as major and melodic minor, there are essential harmonic minor
modes. T

here are also interesting sounds sounds that push your soloing in new directions.

To begin, here are formulas for harmonic minor (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/aeolian-


7) modes as compared to their major mode counterparts.

Use this chart to build harmonic minor modes on guitar the easy way.

HM 1 (Aeolian With #7)


HM 2 (Locrian With #6)
HM 3 (Ionian With #5)
HM 4 (Dorian With #4)
HM 5 (Phrygian With #3)
HM 6 (Lydian With #2)
HM 7 (Mixolydian With #1)

Now that you’ve explored formulas for building every harmonic minor mode, you can take
that knowledge to the fretboard.

Harmonic Minor Mode 1


This is the parent scale from which all harmonic minor modes are built, and it’s used to

improvise over m7 chords, highlighting a mMaj7 sound. TOP

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Interval Formula


The first step is to learn how to take a previously learned mode and alter one note to
create this new minor mode.

Harmonic minor mode 1 is built by raising the 7th of Aeolian by a half step on the guitar.

This mode has both b6 and #7 intervals, creating a unique sound when applied to m7
chords. Because of this, melodic minor and Dorian are used more often in jazz guitar
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/jazz-guitar).

That’s not to say you can’t use it in a jazz context, but be careful, as it creates a rock feel
when applied to m7 chords.

Here are those two modes back to back to see how one note makes a big difference with
this mode.

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-1.png)

Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Fingerings


Now that you know how to build and apply this mode, here are four shapes that you can
apply to the fretboard. To get the most from your practice, jam with the track after you’ve
learned these shapes.

For an extra challenge, take these shapes to other keys in your practicing.

Vm
Click to jam over Am7 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-2.png)
Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Pattern
One of the best ways to internalize shapes is to apply a pattern to any scale you’re
working on. Here’s a practice pattern that you can apply to the first mode of harmonic
minor.

The pattern is built by ascending 3rds through the shape in this, and other, keys on the
guitar.

Vm
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Harmonic Minor Mode 1 Lick


Here’s a lick you can learn over an Am7 chord, which uses A harmonic minor to create
tension.

Vm
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Harmonic Minor Mode 2


You’ll now explore a lesser-used harmonic minor mode, but one that adds interest to your
m7b5 lines. As it contains the intervals 1-b3-b5-b7, it’s used to solo over m7b5 chords.

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Formula


The second mode of harmonic minor is related to Locrian, and built by altering one note
of that mode.

The harmonic minor 2nd mode is built by raising the 6th of Locrian by one fret on the TOP

guitar.
Here are those two modes back to back to hear how that one note makes a big
difference in the sound of each mode.

Vm
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Harmonic-Minor-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-5.png)

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Fingerings


Now that you know how to build and apply this mode, here are four fingerings for the HM
2 mode. Work each fingering with a metronome, and then add in the pattern below when

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you’re ready.
Vm
Click to jam on Am7b5 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-6.png)

Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Pattern


To extend your chops with this mode, here’s a descending 3rds pattern applied to the 6th-
string fingering. Work this pattern with a metronome, and take it to your solos when
ready.

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Harmonic Minor Mode 2 Lick


Here’s a lick that features the HM 2 mode over the iim7b5 chord in a ii V I in G minor.
Notice how the F#, #6, stands out in the line.

It’s the 3rd of the next chord, D7alt, so it sounds like you’re that chord for two bars.

Vm
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Harmonic Minor Mode 3


You’ll now explore a mode that brings a new sound to your maj7 lines, where you want to
bring in a #5 sound to maj7 chords.

It’s similar to the third mode of melodic minor that you saw earlier. Though here, there’s a
natural 4th, relating it to Ionian as well.

Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Formula TOP

Now that you know how to apply the third mode of harmonic minor, you’ll alter one note
in the major scale to form this mode.
Harmonic Minor mode 3 is built by raising the 5th of Ionian by a one fret on the guitar.

Here are those two modes back to back so that you can see how they’re similar and
different on the fretboard.

Vm
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-9.png)

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Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Fingerings


Here are four fingerings for the third mode of harmonic minor. After you’ve learned these
fingerings, put on the backing track and solo as you experiment with this new sound.

Vm
Click to jam over Amaj7 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-10.png)
Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Pattern
To expand on this mode, you’ll add a pattern to the fingerings you’ve learned so far. This
pattern alternates 3rds, which you can see and hear in the example below.

Once you’ve learned this pattern, take it to other keys and fingerings as you expand this
chops builder in your studies.

Vm
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Harmonic Minor Mode 3 Lick TOP

Here’s a lick featuring the third mode of harmonic minor over the Imaj7 chord a ii V I.
Vm
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Harmonic Minor Mode 4


The fourth mode of harmonic minor adds tension to your m7 lines. Similar to Dorian, HM
4 has a #4, which makes it sound unique compared to Dorian.

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Formula


You’ll now learn how to build the fourth mode of harmonic minor by comparing it to
Dorian.

Harmonic minor mode 4 is built by raising the 4th of Dorian by one fret on the guitar.

Here are those two modes back to back to compare on the fretboard.

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Vm
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-13.png)

Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Fingerings


Here are four fingerings to apply this mode to the fretboard. Once you have one or more
of these shapes down, apply them to a soloing situation.

Vm
Click to jam over Am7 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-14.png)
Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Practice Pattern
Here’s a pattern that you can use over any harmonic minor mode 4 fingering. The pattern
is built by alternating descending and ascending  3rds over each note in the scale.

Once you have this pattern down, apply it to your solos to bring this pattern to an
improvisational situation.

Vm
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Harmonic Minor Mode 4 Lick


Here’s a lick to hear this mode used over the iim7 chord in a ii V I. Notice how the #4 is
used in a pattern, using tension without drawing too much attention to that note.

Vm
Click to hear 
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Harmonic Minor Mode 5


You’ll now study the most commonly used harmonic minor mode, the fifth mode. Used to
solo over 7th chords, this mode brings a 7b9,b13 sound to your lines.

Because it’s closely related to Phrygian, but used over 7th chords, it’s referred to as
Phrygian dominant (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/phrygian-dominant-scale-jazz-
guitar).

Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Formula


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Now that you know how to apply this mode, you can learn how to build this mode by
comparing it to Phrygian.
Phrygian dominant is built by raising the 3rd of Phrygian by one fret on the guitar.

Here are those two modes back to back on the fretboard for comparison.

Vm
Click to hear 
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Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Fingerings


Now that you know how to build and apply this mode, it’s time to take it to the fretboard.
Here are four fingerings that you can work with both a metronome and over the backing
track.

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Vm
Click to jam over A7 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-18.png)
Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Practice Pattern
Here’s an ascending 3rds pattern that you can work with a metronome and jam with over
a backing track to hear how it sounds in your solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
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Harmonic Minor Mode 5 Lick


Here’s a lick that uses Phrygian dominant over the A7 chord in a ii V I. Notice how this TOP
mode creates tension over the V7 chord, which is resolved on the Imaj7.
Phrygian dominant is a powerful tool, but if it’s not resolved, it sounds out of place in
your solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
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Harmonic Minor Mode 6


The sixth of harmonic minor produces a maj7#9 sound. Because the #9 note is also a
b3, this mode brings a blues sound to your solos.

While it may not become a regular mode in your solos, it’s a nice second choice maj7
mode to explore.

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Interval Formula


You build this mode by comparing it to Lydian.

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Harmonic minor mode 6 is built by raising the 2nd of Lydian by one fret on the guitar.

Here are those modes back to back to see how they’re similar, but sound different.
Vm
Click to hear 
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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-21.png)

Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Fingerings


Here are four fingerings that you can use with your study of this mode on the fretboard.
After learning these shapes, solo with these fingerings in your practice routine.

Vm
Click to jam over Amaj7 

P TOP

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(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-22.png)
Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Pattern
You’ll now apply a descending 3rds pattern to the sixth mode of harmonic minor. Make
sure to work this pattern in multiple keys, with a metronome, and in your solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
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Harmonic Minor Mode 6 Lick


Here’s a line that uses this mode over the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I. Notice how the #2

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stands out, but it sounds bluesy in this context.

This is where you use this mode most effectively, when you want to bring a blues sound
to a maj7 chord.
Vm
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P

Harmonic Minor Mode 7


The seventh of harmonic minor is a strange one. It’s used to solo over dim7 chords, and
is related to Mixolydian, but with an altered root.

As was the case with Phrygian b1, this can be tricky, so think of it as a fingering option. If
you take any Mixolydian shape, and lower the root by a fret, you get the 7th mode of
harmonic minor.

They aren’t related as far as application, but you relate them on the fretboard to make it
easier to learn this new mode.

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Formula


TOP

With the theory of how to apply this mode down, you’ll learn how to build the 7th mode of
harmonic minor by altering one note of Mixolydian.
The 7th mode of harmonic minor is built by raising the root of Mixolydian by one fret on
the guitar.

Here are those modes side by side to compare on the fretboard.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-25.png)

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Fingerings


TOP
Here are four fingerings to begin studying the seventh mode of harmonic minor on the
guitar.
Make sure to run them with a metronome and solo over the backing track to take these
shapes to the improvisational side of your studies.

Vm
Click to jam on Adim7 
P

TOP

TOP

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/harmonic-minor-jazz-
guitar-modes-26.png)
Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Pattern
Here’s an alternating 3rds pattern that you can apply to any fingering for this mode. After
you play this pattern with a metronome, use it in your soloing practice as well.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Minor Mode 7 Lick


Here’s a line that uses the seventh mode of harmonic minor over an Adim7 chord. TOP

Vm
Click to hear 
P
Harmonic Major Modes
Harmonic major (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_major_scale) isn’t the most
common modal system, but this it produces essential sounds that you need in your
playing.

Take your time when working these guitar scales, as you might not see immediate
application for these modes in your playing,

But, with time, new doors open up, and you find that these less common sounds creep
into your solos.

Harmonic Major Modes Formula


You learn the seven modes of harmonic major by comparing them to modes of the major
scale.

TOP
By taking each major mode, and altering one note, you create all seven harmonic major
modes.

Use this guide to build harmonic major modes the easy way.
HMaj 1 (Ionian With b6)
HMaj 2 (Dorian With b5)
HMaj 3 (Phrygian With b4)
HMaj 4 (Lydian With b3)
HMaj 5 (Mixolydian With b2)
HMaj 6 (Aeolian With b1)
HMaj 7 (Locrian With b7)

Now it’s time to take these modes to the fretboard as you build each mode, apply it to
your solos, and practice patterns and licks.

Harmonic Major Mode 1


The first mode of harmonic major is one of the most popular modes in this system, and
is used to solo over maj7 chords. When doing so, you create a maj7b6 sound in your
solos.

After learning this mode, solo over maj7 chords and alternate Ionian and first mode of
harmonic major as you compare these sounds in your playing.

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Formula


You’ll now learn how to alter Ionian to create this new shape on the fretboard.

Harmonic major mode 1 is built by lowering the 6th note of Ionian by one fret on the
guitar.

Here are both of those modes side by side to see how they’re similar, but sound different
on the guitar.

TOP

Vm
Click to hear 
P
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-1.png)

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Fingerings


Now that you know how build the first mode of harmonic major, take that knowledge to
the fretboard. To begin, learn the following fingerings to study harmonic major mode 1
across the fretboard.

Here’s a jam track to practice soloing with any this mode in your studies.

TOP
Vm
Click to Jam on Cmaj7 
P

TOP

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-2.png)
Harmonic Major Mode 1 Practice Pattern
Here’s an ascending 3rds pattern to work over this mode with a metronome. After you
can play this pattern with a metronome, add it to your improvised solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Major Mode 1 Lick


Here’s a line that uses this mode over the Imaj7 chord in a ii V I. Notice how the b6 TOP

stands out, but resolves to sound outside only for a split second in the line.
Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Major Mode 2


Moving on to the second mode of harmonic major. Because it’s related to Dorian, it
outlines a m7 chord in your guitar solos.

What makes this mode worth learning is the b5, which brings a blues vibe to your lines,
as b5 is a blues note (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/blues-scales).

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Formula


You’ll now learn how to build the second mode of harmonic major as compared to
Dorian.

Harmonic major mode 2 is built by lowering the fifth of Dorian by one fret on the guitar.

Here are those two modes back to back to see how these shapes are related, but haveTOP
unique sounds all their own.
Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-5.png)

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Fingerings


After learning how to build and apply the 2nd mode of harmonic major, take it to the
fretboard using the following fingerings.

TOP

When you can play these fingerings from memory, solo over the Cm7 track before taking
it to other keys in your studies.
Vm
Click to jam on Cm7 
P

TOP
(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-6.png)

Harmonic Major Mode 2 Pattern


Here’s a descending 3rds pattern to help build your chops with the second mode of
harmonic major. After you’ve worked this pattern over the following fingering, take it to
other shapes.

When comfortable, apply this pattern to your solos to hear how it sounds in a soloing
context.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

TOP
Harmonic Major Mode 2 Lick
Here’s a line that uses that mode to outline the Cm7 chord in a ii V I in Bb. Notice how the
b5, Gb, sounds like the blues.

This is the reason this mode is worth learning, it sounds like Dorian meets blues over m7
chords.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Major Mode 3


One of the more common harmonic major modes, the 3rd mode is used over 7th chords.
When doing so, you highlight the b9, #9, and b13 intervals.

As you can see, this mode creates tension. So, working on resolving that tension is as
important as learning how to play this mode.

TOP

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Formula


You alter one note from Phrygian to create the third mode of harmonic major.

Harmonic major mode 3 is built by lowering the 4th of Phrygian by one fret, on the
guitar.

Here are those two modes back to back so that you can hear how they sound on the
guitar.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-TOP
Guitar-Modes-9.png)
Play through both modes back to back to visualize their similarities, and hear their
differences.

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Fingerings


Now learn one or more of the following fingerings to take that mode to the fretboard.
After you’ve worked out any fingering, put on the C7 backing track and solo with these
shapes.

Vm
Click to jam over C7 
P

TOP

TOP

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-10.png)
Harmonic Major Mode 3 Pattern
Now practice an alternating 3rds pattern over any fingering for the 3rd mode of harmonic
major.

After you’ve worked this pattern with a metronome, bring it to your improvised solos over
7th chords.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

TOP

Harmonic Major Mode 3 Lick


You can also study a sample line that features the third mode of harmonic major over the
V7 chord in a ii V I. Notice how much tension is created by this mode, which is resolved
on the Imaj7 chord.

This mode is a fun choice over 7th chords, but it creates a lot of tension. So work on
resolving this mode so it keeps that hip sound and doesn’t sound like a mistake.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Major Mode 4


The fourth mode of harmonic major is used to solo over m7 chords when you want to go
beyond Dorian. When doing so, you bring the #4 interval, a blues note, into your lines.

After you’ve learned this mode, put on a m7 backing track and alternate Dorian and
fourth mode harmonic major to compare these sounds in a soloing situation.

TOP
Harmonic Major Mode 4 Interval Formula
In order to quickly build the fourth mode of harmonic major, lower one note from Lydian.
The 4th mode of harmonic major is built by lowering the third of Lydian by one fret on
the guitar.

Here are those two modes back to back to see how they’re related fingering wise, but
produce different sounds on guitar.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-13.png)

TOP

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Fingerings


Here are four fingerings that you can study and learn in 12 keys. Once you can play these
fingerings, solo over Cm7 with the fourth mode of harmonic major to work it in a soloing
context.

Vm
Click to jam over Cm7 
P

TOP

TOP

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-14.png)
Harmonic Major Mode 4 Pattern
Here’s an alternating 3rds pattern to apply to the 4th mode of harmonic major in order to
build your guitar chops (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/guitar-techniques) as you learn
this mode.

Once you have this pattern under your fingers, put on a backing track and apply it to your
solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

TOP

Harmonic Major Mode 4 Lick


Here’s a lick featuring the fourth mode of harmonic major over the Im7 in a minor ii V I.
This mode creates tension over any m7 chord, and it needs to be resolved when applied
to your solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Major Mode 5


This is the most common harmonic major mode, as it’s used to solo over 7th chords
when you want to highlight only the b2 (b9) interval.

As it’s related to Mixolydian, move between both modes in your solos to build this new
sound in your ears.

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Formula


You’ll now learn how to build the fifth mode of harmonic major by comparing it to

Mixolydian. TOP

Harmonic major mode 5 is built by lowering the 2nd note of Mixolydian by one fret on
the guitar.
Here’s Mixolydian and fifth mode harmonic major back to back to hear how they
compare.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-17.png)

Play through both fingerings back to back to compare these shapes, and their sounds, in
your playing.

TOP

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Fingerings


You’re now ready to learn 5th mode harmonic major fingerings. Once you’ve learned
these fingerings, solo over C7 to hear how it sounds when applied to an improvisation.

Vm
Click to jam on C7 
P

TOP

TOP

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-18.png)
Harmonic Major Mode 5 Pattern
Here’s an ascending 3rds pattern that you can apply to other fingerings in your practice
routine. After you’ve worked this pattern with a metronome, add it to the soloing side of
your studies.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Major Mode 5 Lick


TOP

You can now learn a line that features the 5th mode of harmonic major in a ii V I. Notice
how similar this mode is to Mixolydian, but the one note difference creates interest
in your solos.
Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Major Mode 6


The 6th mode of harmonic major is used to solo over maj7 chords where you highlight
the #9, #4, and #5. Because of those intervals, this mode is tense and should be treated
with caution.

If you choose to use this mode, work on resolving those tensions so they don’t sound like
mistakes in your lines.

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Interval Formula


With every modal system beyond major, there’s always one mode where the root is raised
or lowered; this is that mode for harmonic major.

Harmonic major mode 6 is built by lowering the root of Aeolian mode by one fret on the

guitar. TOP

Here are those modes back to back to visualize their relationship on the fretboard, as
well as hear how they sound compared to one another.
Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-21.png)

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Fingerings


Take this mode to the fretboard by learning the following four fingerings. Once you’ve
worked out these shapes, put on the backing track and take them to your solos.

TOP

Vm
Click to jam over Cmaj7 
P

TOP

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-22.png)
Harmonic Major Mode 6 Pattern
Here’s a descending 3rds pattern that you can apply to 6th mode harmonic major shape.
After you’ve learned it with a metronome, put on a backing track and use this pattern in
your solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Major Mode 6 Lick


TOP
Here’s a lick with the 6th mode of harmonic major used to outline the Imaj7 chord in a ii V
I. Notice that by resolving the #5 interval up to the 6th, the line ends on an inside sound.
Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Major Mode 7


To finish up harmonic major, you’ll learn a little used, but cool sounding, mode that’s
applied to dim7 chords. With any rare mode, dip your toes into this sound, see how it
sounds to you, and go from there.

You never know when an uncommon mode makes it’s way into your playing, so see how
this mode fits into your ears.

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Formula


To build the seventh mode of harmonic major, you compare it to Locrian.

Harmonic major 7th mode is built by lowering the 7th note of Locrian by one fret on the
guitar.

TOP

Here are those two modes back to back for you to practice and listen to as a
comparison.
Vm
Click to hear 
P

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-25.png)

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Fingerings


With the knowledge of how to build and apply this mode, you’ll learn how to play the 7th
mode of harmonic major. As well, put on the backing track and solo using the fingerings

from this section. TOP

Vm
Click to jam over Cdim7 
P

TOP

(https://mattwarnockguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Harmonic-Major-Jazz-
Guitar-Modes-26.png)
Harmonic Major Mode 7 Pattern
Here’s an alternating 3rds pattern to build your chops with this mode. After you can play
this pattern, put on the backing track and apply it to your solos.

Vm
Click to hear 
P

Harmonic Major Mode 7 Lick


In this line, you apply 7th mode harmonic major to the Cdim7 in a passing diminished TOP
progression. This mode won’t sound as natural as the diminished scale, but it’s a nice
second choice.
Vm
Click to hear 
P

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5 Comments to “ Guitar Scales and Modes Explained – Easy Shapes,
Licks, and Patterns”
REPLY
Eric says :
March 10, 2019 at 2:28 am (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/complete-guide-to-jazz-guitar-scales/#comment-114225)

Hi,

This Guide is really great and very handy. I have been playing years but
mostly from ear so recently decided to really learn my theory and this guide
is really easy to follow.

One note though, the Lydian lick does not seem to be Lydian at all. It is in C
Dorian, right? If I overlooked something and it is actually Lydian I would
recommend adding a note to explain the lick a little more. It was pretty
confusing and I spent a good 20 minutes trying to understand until I realized
it was probably not right :D

REPLY
Matt Warnock (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/) says :
March 10, 2019 at 6:20 am (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/complete-guide-to-jazz-guitar-scales/#comment-114226)

Hey, you’re just missing that Lydian is only uses over maj7 chords,
that’s in the text above the scale shapes. So in this lick it’s Bb Lydian
over Bbmaj7 that’s all.

REPLY
Eric says :
March 11, 2019 at 2:27 am (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/complete-guide-to-jazz-guitar-scales/#comment-114231)

Hi Matt, thanks for the reply! Makes more sense now :)

It looks like the first 2 bars are in Bb maj. So on the maj7 we are

swapping to lydian for soloing purposes and the E natural is TOP

kind of like a chromatic note? Or are we actually changing key


to F maj but keeping the tonic as Bb?
REPLY
Matt Warnock (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/) says :
March 11, 2019 at 5:49 am (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/complete-guide-to-jazz-guitar-scales/#comment-
114237)

Yes, over Bbmaj7 you’re using Bb Lydian here. The E is


the #4 from Bb Lydian.

REPLY
Dylan M says :
February 7, 2019 at 2:11 am (https://mattwarnockguitar.com/complete-guide-to-jazz-guitar-scales/#comment-113998)

Hi there,

This guide is absolutely incredible! I have felt such a drive to play funk
recently, having goals as attainable as learning my modes has really helped
to further me as a guitarist!

This website is clear, extremely well laid out and functional; and contains
such pertinent information that is all so easy and clear to use!

Thank you

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