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Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering Learning scales is something that all guitarists have to do at one point in their development as a jazz guitarist, at least in this modern age. Though they are not going to make you sound like your favorite jazz guitarist right away, learning scales and modes is a great way to deepen your understanding of the guitar, jazz theory and the fundamental building blocks of many of the great tunes and solos that make up the jazz idiom. Over the years I’ve learned many different ways to play scales and modes on the guitar. CAGED, seven mode fingerings, the five-fingering approach, three-note per string, four-note per string, one string at a time, Segovia fingerings etc. And after spending thousands of hours banging my head against the wall I discovered that I was able to internalize scales and modes much more easily if I simplified things instead of making them more complicated. So, I left all my big bulky scales behind and I went back to learning one-octave scale and mode fingerings, and the results were immediate. With these easy jazz guitar scales, I could now run changes and apply all of my patterns and licks with ease, since I now had a smaller, easier way of playing and visualizing any scale or mode. And, when I wanted to play a longer run I just connected two one-octave scales to produce a two-octave fingering, without learning anything new in the process. After working through the major modes in this fashion I decided to expand it to the other scale systems that we use in jazz, melodic minor, harmonic minor and harmonic major. When I did this, I looked for the easiest way to learn these new sounds, without learning anything new if possible. So I started by trying to relate all of the major modes I already knew to any new mode I wanted to learn, and by simply altering one note from any major mode I was able to learn all of the modes in the harmonic minor, melodic minor and harmonic major scales in no time, and I never forget them since I had a formula for each fingering that related it back to something I already knew, the modes of the major scale. Since I get asked about scales and modes a lot in workshops and lessons, I started showing this approach to my students and they were able to internalize all of these scales and modes just as quickly as I did, so it wasn’t a fluke. For example, this past week I taught a series of workshops in Sao Joao Del Rei, Brazil . At one point the students asked about my system for learning and playing scales and modes. Though most of the students in the class weren’t playing more than the pentatonic and blues scales, within an hour every student in the class could play all the modes of the major, harmonic minor, melodic minor and harmonic major scales from memory. Pretty darn cool. Because I’ve had such a strong response to this approach, both in my own playing and from my students learning how to play jazz guitar, I decided to put together all of this info in one place and write the article you’re reading now. The concept is simple and easy to apply. Start on the Lydian mode, lower one note and you’ve got Ionian. Continue this until you get to Locrian. Then, you can take these seven modes of the major scale, alter one note in each mode and you can now play all of the modes for harmonic minor, melodic minor and harmonic major. It’s that easy. Before we dive into this formula for learning and memorizing scales and modes, here are a few short notes on the fingerings that I use and why I use them. Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – Notes on Fingering Regardless of what shapes you use to play any scale or mode, you can apply the above system to alter one note of one mode, or entire scale system, to produce a different mode or scale system. But, in my experience as a player and teacher, using simple one-octave fingerings, then combining them to

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Page 1: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

Learning scales is something that all guitarists have to do at one point in their development as a jazz guitarist,

at least in this modern age.

Though they are not going to make you sound like your favorite jazz guitarist right away, learning scales and

modes is a great way to deepen your understanding of the guitar, jazz theory and the fundamental building

blocks of many of the great tunes and solos that make up the jazz idiom.

Over the years I’ve learned many different ways to play scales and modes on the guitar.

CAGED, seven mode fingerings, the five-fingering approach, three-note per string, four-note per string, one

string at a time, Segovia fingerings etc.

And after spending thousands of hours banging my head against the wall I discovered that I was able to

internalize scales and modes much more easily if I simplified things instead of making them more complicated.

So, I left all my big bulky scales behind and I went back to learning one-octave scale and mode fingerings, and

the results were immediate.

With these easy jazz guitar scales, I could now run changes and apply all of my patterns and licks with ease,

since I now had a smaller, easier way of playing and visualizing any scale or mode.

And, when I wanted to play a longer run I just connected two one-octave scales to produce a two-octave

fingering, without learning anything new in the process.

After working through the major modes in this fashion I decided to expand it to the other scale systems that we

use in jazz, melodic minor, harmonic minor and harmonic major. When I did this, I looked for the easiest way to

learn these new sounds, without learning anything new if possible.

So I started by trying to relate all of the major modes I already knew to any new mode I wanted to learn, and by

simply altering one note from any major mode I was able to learn all of the modes in the harmonic minor,

melodic minor and harmonic major scales in no time, and I never forget them since I had a formula for each

fingering that related it back to something I already knew, the modes of the major scale.

Since I get asked about scales and modes a lot in workshops and lessons, I started showing this approach to my

students and they were able to internalize all of these scales and modes just as quickly as I did, so it wasn’t a

fluke.

For example, this past week I taught a series of workshops in Sao Joao Del Rei, Brazil. At one point the students

asked about my system for learning and playing scales and modes.

Though most of the students in the class weren’t playing more than the pentatonic and blues scales, within an

hour every student in the class could play all the modes of the major, harmonic minor, melodic minor and

harmonic major scales from memory.

Pretty darn cool.

Because I’ve had such a strong response to this approach, both in my own playing and from my students

learning how to play jazz guitar, I decided to put together all of this info in one place and write the article you’re

reading now.

The concept is simple and easy to apply.

Start on the Lydian mode, lower one note and you’ve got Ionian. Continue this until you get to Locrian. Then,

you can take these seven modes of the major scale, alter one note in each mode and you can now play all of

the modes for harmonic minor, melodic minor and harmonic major. It’s that easy.

Before we dive into this formula for learning and memorizing scales and modes, here are a few short notes on

the fingerings that I use and why I use them.

Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – Notes on Fingering Regardless of what shapes you use to play any scale or mode, you can apply the above system to alter one

note of one mode, or entire scale system, to produce a different mode or scale system.

But, in my experience as a player and teacher, using simple one-octave fingerings, then combining them to

Page 2: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

form two-octave fingerings works best.

Also, keeping things unified by having a formula for how you finger each scale in relation to other similar scales

and modes goes a long way in simplifying the learning process.

And keeping groups of modes, major or minor/diminished, related by using similar fingerings will also make it

easier for you to learn, retain and apply these modes to a real-life performance situation.

Here are my two guidelines when it comes to playing scales and modes:

•Major based modes, such as Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian and their derivatives start on the middle finger (first finger on the 3rd

string root due to the B-string tuning of a 3rd interval) and use two notes on the lowest string

•Minor and Diminished based modes, such as Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian and Locrian and their derivatives start on the index finger

and use three fingers on the lowest string

That’s it. By keeping things simple, thinking about major based modes as starting off the second finger (first on

the 3rd string root) and minor/diminished based modes starting off the first finger, you can eliminate a lot of

the thought processes that go into learning big, bulky 2 and 3 octave scales that don’t have a similar system to

their fingerings.

As well, transposing scale patterns or melody lines is easy with these fingerings since each of the 4 one-octave

shapes, 6th-5th-4th-3rd strings roots, is essentially the same.

So let’s take a look at how you can alter one note in the each mode of the Major Scale to produce all 7 modes,

as well as alter one note in each of these modes to produce all of the modes in the Melodic Minor, Harmonic

Minor and Harmonic Major scales.

Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – Major Modes We’re going to start by applying this concept to the old favorite, the major scale. With the major scale, we start

with the mode that has the most sharps in the key of C, which would by Lydian because it has one sharp in the

key of C, F#.

Then, all you do is lower one note, the 4th, and you get Ionian. Then you lower the 7th and we get Mixolodian

and so on until you hit the mode with the most flats, Locrian, altering one note along the way to produce the

next mode in the chain.

Here is how that formula looks and the order of the modes when using the “add a flat” technique.

Major Mode Formula

•Lydian

•Ionian (flatten the 4th note)

•Mixolydian (flatten the 7th note)

•Dorian (flatten the 3rd note)

•Aeolian (flatten the 6th note)

•Phrygian (flatten the 2nd note)

•Locrian (flatten the 5th note)

Here is the same list but with the notes for each written out starting on C for each one.

•Lydian: C D E F# G A B C

•Ionian: C D E F G A B C

•Mixolydian: C D E F G A Bb C

•Dorian: C D Eb F G A Bb C

•Aeolian: C D Eb F G Ab Bb C

•Phrygian: C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C

Page 3: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

•Locrian: C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C

Here is how you can apply this knowledge to learning major scale modes on the guitar. You can start by learning

a Lydian fingering, one octave, and then simply move one note to make Ionian, one more for Mixolydian etc.

until you reach Locrian, as in the fingerings below.

You can learn more about the major modes and their applications in my article “Modes of the Major Scale and

Their Application.”

Major Modes One Octave

Page 4: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

If you want to extend these scales you can connect two one-octave fingerings together to make a longer, two-octave shape for

any of these modes. Remember to visualize the shape of each scale as well as the notes to ensure that you are internalizing

both the theory and geometry of these modes on the guitar.

Page 6: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – Melodic Minor

Now, you can use this same approach, changing one note at a time, to produce all the modes of the melodic major scale

without learning any new fingerings. Pretty cool huh?

All you are going to do is take the same fingerings you just learned for the seven major scale modes, change one note in each,

lowering it by a semi-tone (one fret), and you can now play all seven modes of the melodic minor scale.

Here is how the formula works, which notes need to be lowered, and which mode they produce in the melodic minor scale.

Melodic Minor Modes Formula

• Ionian with flattened 3rd = Melodic Minor Mode 1

• Dorian with flattened 2nd = Melodic Minor Mode 2

• Phrygian with flattened 1st = Melodic Minor Mode 3

• Lydian with flattened 7th = Melodic Minor Mode 4

• Mixolydian with flattened 6th = Melodic Minor Mode 5

• Aeolian with flattened 5th = Melodic Minor Mode 6

• Locrian with flattened 4th = Melodic Minor Mode 7

Here is how these formulas look with notes, starting on the note C for each one.

Page 7: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

• C D E F G A B C (Ionian) = C D Eb F G A B C (MM 1)

• C D Eb F G A Bb C (Dorian) = C Db Eb F G A Bb C (MM 2)

• C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C (Phrygian) = B Db Eb F G Ab Bb B (MM 3)

• C D E F# G A B C (Lydian) = C D E F# G A Bb C (MM 4)

• C D E F G A Bb C (Mixolydian) = C D E F G Ab Bb C (MM 5)

• C D Eb F G Ab Bb C (Aeolian) = C D Eb F Gb Ab Bb C (MM 6)

• C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C (Locrian) = C Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb C (MM 7)

Since you already know our major modes, in one and two octaves, you don’t have to learn anything new in order to play the

melodic minor modes, all you have to do is alter one note for each major mode and you can play all seven MM modes on the

guitar.

Here is how you do this using the fingerings you learned for our major modes. For the sake of space I have only written out

these modes, two-octaves, starting on the 6th string root. But, in your practice routine make sure to go over these seven

modes starting on the 5th string as well.

You can learn more about the melodic minor modes and their application in my article “Modes of the Melodic Minor Scale and

Their Application.”

Major Modes to Melodic Minor Modes Conversion

Page 8: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

Page 2

Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – Harmonic Minor

You can use the same approach to produce all seven modes of the harmonic minor scale. Though this time you start with

Aeolian and work your way around the seven major modes from there.

As well, instead of making one note lower each time around, with harmonic minor you take one note of each of the major

modes, raise it by one semi-tone (one fret) and you get the seven modes of the harmonic minor scale.

You can learn more about these modes and how to use them as a jazz guitarist in my article “Modes of the Harmonic Minor Scale

and Their Application.”

Here’s how this formula looks with each mode of major being turned into a mode of harmonic minor simply by raising one note

in each mode.

Harmonic Minor Modes Formula

• Aeolian with raised 7th = Harmonic Minor Mode 1

• Locrian with raised 6th = Harmonic Minor Mode 2

• Ionian with raised 5th = Harmonic Minor Mode 3

• Dorian with raised 4th = Harmonic Minor Mode 4

• Phrygian with raised 3rd = Harmonic Minor Mode 5

• Lydian with raised 2nd = Harmonic Minor Mode 6

• Mixolydian with raised 1st = Harmonic Minor Mode 7

Page 9: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

Here is how these formulas look with notes, starting on the note C for each one.

• C D Eb F G Ab Bb C (Aeolian) = C D Eb F G Ab B C (HM 1)

• C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C (Locrian) = C Db Eb F Gb A Bb C (HM 2)

• C D E F G A B C (Ionian) = C D E F G# A B C (HM 3)

• C D Eb F G A Bb C (Dorian) = C D Eb F# G A Bb C (HM 4)

• C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C (Phrygian) = C Db E F G Ab Bb C (HM 5)

• C D E F# G A B C (Lydian) = C D# E F# G A B C (HM 6)

• C D E F G A Bb C (Mixolydian) = C# D E F G A Bb C (HM 7)

Since you already know your major modes, in one and two octaves, you don’t have to learn anything new in order to play the

harmonic minor modes, all you have to do is alter one note for each major mode and you can play all seven HM modes on the

guitar.

Here is how we do this using the fingerings you learned for our Major Modes.

Major Scale to Harmonic Minor Scale Conversion

Page 10: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – Harmonic Major

The seven modes of the harmonic major scale can also be derived using this method. Just go back to your major modes,

starting on Ionian, lower one note per mode, starting with the 6th note of Ionian, and you can now play all seven modes of the

harmonic minor scale.

Here is that formula in action.

Harmonic Major Modes Formula

• Ionian with flattened 6th = Harmonic Major Mode 1

• Dorian with flattened 5th = Harmonic Major Mode 2

• Phrygian with flattened 4th = Harmonic Major Mode 3

• Lydian with flattened 3rd = Harmonic Major Mode 4

• Mixolydian with flattened 2nd = Harmonic Major Mode 5

• Aeolian with flattened 1st = Harmonic Major Mode 6

• Locrian with flattened 7th = Harmonic Major Mode 7

Here is how these formulas look with notes, starting on the note C for each one.

Page 11: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

• C D E F G A B C (Ionian) = C D E F G Ab B C (HMaj 1)

• C D Eb F G A Bb C (Dorian) = C D Eb F Gb A Bb C (HMaj 2)

• C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C (Phrygian) = C Db Eb Fb G Ab Bb B (HMaj 3)

• C D E F# G A B C (Lydian) = C D Eb F# G A B C (HMaj 4)

• C D E F G A Bb C (Mixolydian) = C Db E F G A Bb C (HMaj 5)

• C D Eb F G Ab Bb C (Aeolian) = B D Eb F G Ab Bb C (HMaj 6)

• C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C (Locrian) = C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bbb C (HMaj 7)

Since you already know our major modes, in one and two octaves, you don’t have to learn anything new in order to play the

harmonic major modes, all you have to do is alter one note for each Major Mode and you can play all seven HMaj modes on

the guitar.

You can learn more about these modes and their use in my article “Modes of the Harmonic Major Scale and Their Application.”

Here is how you do this using the fingerings we learned for our Major Modes.

Major Modes to Harmonic Major Modes Conversion

Page 12: Easy Jazz Guitar Scales – 28 Modes From 1 Fingering

Page 2

Learning scales and modes is an essential process in the development of any jazz guitarist, but that doesn’t mean you have to

spend hours a day, years on end struggling with them in the practice roomin order to master them and apply them to your solos.

By using the simple formula outlined in the above examples, taking one mode and altering one note to produce a new mode or

scale system, you can eliminate a lot of the grunt work that many players suffer through when learning all of these modes

across the range of the guitar.

There is an old adage that says “work smarter not harder,” and by using the above concepts you can cut a lot of technical work

out of your practice routine, learn all of the scales and modes needed to play jazz guitar, and develop a system for internalizing

and retaining these modes for years to come.