Note that this lesson is part of a comprehensive guitar modes
Locrian is the 7th mode
of the major scale. Therefore, Locrian begins on the 7th note of the
It's an often misunderstood and, as a result, misused mode. By misused,
I don't mean there is a right or wrong way to use the notes of Locrian,
or to use Locrian as a standard scale, I mean to use it in a truly modal context
requires a different type of understanding.
In the other lessons in this series, we learned that modes are either
major (with a
major 3rd interval) or minor (with a minor/flat 3rd interval).
Therefore, it may appear upon first glance as if Locrian is minor, due
to the flat 3rd.
However, because there is also a flat
5th in the scale, that creates a diminished flavour
which, in triad form, is simply
Those are the key tones for Locrian and diminished chords.
You can learn more about diminished
The addition of that flat 5th creates a certain dissonance or tension
therefore, Locrian is considered by most musicians as a very unstable
scale/mode that will naturally resolve to a more stable chord (e.g. a
major chord) and therefore mode/scale (e.g. Ionian), in the same
For example, B Locrian might soon resolve to C Ionian or A Aeolian as
More on playing Locrian over chords later...
Locrian mode on guitar
Just like the other modes, Locrian has a convenient "box" pattern from
the low E
to high E string:
Does it seem familiar? It's almost exactly the same as the Ionian boxed
pattern... look again!
We've just added that extra note on the low E string (for
Locrian's root note). This is a perfect example of how modes overlap in
sequence. As Locrian is the 7th mode, it is rooted just one semitone
(1 fret) below Ionian's root in the same key.
More on these intrinsic relationships in a coming lesson.
Let's now look at a suggested fingering for Locrian's above pattern:
Playing Locrian over chords
Because you can never really resolve a chord progression to a
diminished tonic (it sounds too unresolved),
Locrian is most commonly used to compliment diminished chords as a
bridge between two
more stable chords. See the sequence below for an
diminished flavour acts predominantly as a natural, passing link to the
tonic of the chord progression (which is C major in this case). It also
acts as a natural, passing link to Aeolian (minor) of the same key.
can complement that movement over the leading
You'll need to think about the landing note you select from Locrian
when the diminished chord resolves to the major or minor chord
the progression. Think of Locrian as the lead up to the resolving
mode/chord, so the note on that resolving chord (whether major Ionian
or minor Aeolian) must help put it all into context.
Here's another example of how Locrian is used to complement a
diminished chord bridge, leading to a minor, Aeolian tonic:
idea is, you should eventually train your ear to recognise the
diminished sound, the tension and instability it creates between the
more stable chords in a progression. Once you get that, you'll be able
to apply Locrian in the appropriate place, and complement that
Locrian backing track
Using similar ideas
from above, I've created an alternating sequence of B diminished
followed by A minor / C
respectively. This will allow you to practice using Locrian, on the B
diminished starting chord, as a lead up to the resolving major or minor
related chords. This is how Locrian is most commonly used.
will still "work" over A minor and C major chords because the notes in
these chords are all related, as part of the same parent scale
(the major scale).
This is the relationship between the modes and their related chords you
will come to understand. More on that later...
So remember, we
start on B diminished / B Locrian. Below is the diagram which shows you
where the boxed pattern for B Locrian sits (7th fret)