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Highlighting a mode's flavour

Question by Andy Brown

I know all the box patterns for all the modes and I also know that if you connect them in order you will have a pattern covering the whole neck.

So for example by playing G Ionian starting at the 3rd fret low E string and then connecting all of my 7 box patterns down the neck I have the entire Ionian scale in G, its then my understanding that if I was to say start my Dorian box at say G on the low E string then all my corrosponding box patterns would slot into place to form the entire neck in G Dorian and so on.

So for example to make up a vamp that sounds like Ionian I could use the 1,4,5 for chords or maybe just the 4,5.

How do you make the other modes sound like what the should do please? How do you extract what chords to use from the scale?


To highlight a given mode's "flavour" (e.g. to give a solo a mode's sound) you need to first understand how modes build related chords and therefore the entire modal sequence builds a related chord scale.

You can then identify chord sequences from this scale that highlight the individual modes.

This is what many refer to as modal chord progressions - chord progressions built around a particular mode.

Much of this concept is covered in the video and accompanying lesson below...

Lesson: Modal Chord Progressions

So basically, once you've assigned a related chord to each mode (first maj/min/dim then their extensions), to really highlight any one of those modes in a chord progression you must centre the progression around that mode's chord. The most obvious way to do this is to make that mode's chord the tonic (I/i) chord.

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OK getting it now !
By: Andy Brown

Thanks for the comments... OK so the penny is begining to drop now !!... the sequence of the modes is M m m M M m Dim, so if we were to start the with say the Dorian mode at the root of G (3rd fret 6th string) then our chords related to that mode would be Gmin Amin BbMaj CMaj Dmin EDim FMaj

So to make it sound Dorian the Tonic chord would be G minor with say the C Major and D Minor added to make a 1 4 5 progression, or in fact any of the chords within that mode, with the exception of maybe the 7th interval, ie the Dim one (Locrian). But we must remember to always base the order of the Major and Minor intervals off the Ionian Scale.

So when I play through my mode box patterns starting the Dorian at G(3rd Fret 6th String)to cover the whole neck, when I get to the 12th Fret I find that Im playing the E Ionian Pattern which is the relative major to G minor... wow it works !!

By: Mike

Sounds like you have a good grasp of how modes work.

One thing to bear in mind is that if you are using, for example, C Dorian as the dominant mode in your solo, the related Bb Ionian pattern will still be C Dorian, referring to it as Bb Ionian just helps you identify the pattern in that related position.

So, strictly speaking, the Bb Ionian pattern would be the "7th degree pattern of C Dorian". It all depends on which mode dominates your solo. Whatever helps you to connect them in your own mind, basically.

Modes & BoxPatterns
By: Andy

Thanks Mike

Yes I hear what your saying, its just easier for me to relate to this stuff in terms of patterns until my musical knowledge allows me to think differently, but as with most guitarists you tend to start off with the Am Penatonic box patterns as your bed rock to get you playing, so I think it may help others to understnad modes in those terms also, if that is even posssible. I have actually been playing on and off for about 35 years, I just wish I had learnt this stuff earlier!

So regardless of the box patterns we use to help us understand the correct notes to play over the fretboard, we need to think modes in terms of the "Key" when we play. So am I right in thinking then that if we play in say the key of G and connect all our box patterns together down the neck, to make it sound like a differnt mode we are in fact changing the chord progressions to change the flavour of each mode. The pattern on the entire fretboard I undertstand for G dosent actually change.

Or am I getting confused ? is it just a simple case of starting my Mixolydian box pattern on G.



Addition to last Post
By: Andy

OK Mike I just laid down a backing track using the following 1 4 5 progressions, which I think has helped me understand this.

\ G \ C \ D \ G \ 1st Interval of G
\ Am \ D \ Em \ Am \ 2nd Interval
\ D \ G \ Am \ D \ 5th Interval

I used my same set of box patterns starting on G (3rd fret 6th string)and as the progression changed the mood of the music went from....

Ionian to Dorian to Mixolydian, but my box patterns stayed the same. Awesome !

Is that right ?

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