Modes for Metalheads

This is a work in progress, I’ll be adding more stuff continually, so keep checking back here, aiight? This thing will grow until all the modes are covered. You got questions? Ask in here. Or google that shit.

Modes of the C Major Scale

I. C Ionian (C D E F G A B) C Maj

II. D Dorian (D E F G A B C) D Min

III. E Prhygian (E F G A B C D) E Min

IV. F Lydian (F G A B C D E) F Maj

V. G Mixolydian (G A B C D E F) G Maj (or G7)

VI. A Aeolian (A B C D E F G) A Minor (relative Minor)

VII. B Locrian B C D E F G A) B Diminished (hard to make sound good)

So if you want the modes of the A minor scale, start at the A note (6th degree) instead of the C Major. So you can think of it as: Play C major scale starting on the A note. Remember, C Major and A Minor are relatives, they’re both comprised of the same 7 notes. 


C Ionian. Simply put, it’s a C Major scale. If you want to do this right, you need to memorize the Roman numeral, the order the modes go in, and what Key each is in. Lots of people say this is one quick breath, “Major minor minor major major minor diminished..” Boom, done.

Relative Minor cheat sheet

C Major-A Minor

D Major-B Minor

E Major-C# Minor

F Major-D Minor

G Major-E Minor

A Major-F# Minor

B Major-G# Minor

What? Okay. each major key has a minor relative. If you play C Ionian over an A Minor chord instead of a C Major chord, it’ll still sound in key. That’s because C major’s relative minor is A minor. You can think of that as “A minor scale starting on a C note” if that helps.

What you’re gonna notice is:

C Ionian: C major scale starting on a C note.

D Dorian: C Major scale starting on a D note.

E Phrygian: C major scale starting on an E note

F Lydian: C major scale starting on an F note

G Mixolydian: C major scale starting on a G note

A Aoelian (THE MINOR RELATIVE): C major scale starting on an A note.



Your turn, jam over these. You gotta be in it to win it, Get crackin’.




II. D Dorian (D E F G A B C) D Minor chord

You can use C Ionian and D Dorian over C Major progression OR D Minor progression. Both will work. In D minor progression, you can use D Minor pentatonic as well. Dig?

Who uses Dorian? MAB. EVH, Vai, Gilbert, Guthrie, Lynch, Santana (I know), anyone who is doing slightly bluesy stuff with ‘the cool vibe’ emanating.

MAB says: Dorian was the first mode I learned. The teacher told me it’s the coolest mode, get into it.


YOUR TURN. There’s enough content in this blog to absolutely get started.


III. E Phrygian (E F G A B C D) E Minor chord

Phrygian gives you that dark, evil, mysterious kind of vibe. Spanish meets Egyptian, if you will. Who uses it? Al Di Meola, Satch, Hammet, Loomis, Yngwie, all those dudes. Anytime you hear someone jammin’ over E to F, I’d bet you any kind of cash it’s gonna be some phrygian kinda deal.


Quist TV E Phrygian Backing track

So yes, as I captioned in the video, you can use the other 3 modes (C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian in the backing track. If you land on E notes to finish your phrases, it’s kind of letting the listener know, “oi, this is the tonal center. This is home base.”


IV. F Lydian (F G A B C D E) F Major chord

Here are two perfect examples of Lydian, Satch and Vai. Lydian is a major scale with a raised 4th, I don’t really think of it that way. I think of it as: Superman soundtrack, alien outter space music, happy, but ethereal and/or haunting. I LOVE lydian.

Vai’s The Riddle. This came out when I was still wrapping my head around modes. This little ditty is in E Lydian. My brain thought, “Ahhh!! Just play A flat Minor over E!!” That works for me. If you don’t like the mood this piece invokes, then you don’t like Lydian. And that’s fine.


Satch’s Flying in a Blue Dream. C Lydian. I think, “Play E Minor over C.” I find this haunting yet positive, even kinda sad. But I fucking love it.


My explanation of F Lydian

What I mean by, “you need to stay in lydian or else it sounds shit”, You can’t really play outside notes or passing tones. I mean you can, but it will sound like ass unless you’re Holdsworth or some shit.


F Lydian backing track courtesy of Quistlove

Just revolves around F Major and G major. get into it!!


V. G Mixolydian (G A B C D E F) G maj or G7 chord

 C major scale starting on the G note

Vibe? I call it happy blues. I’ll leave it at that for now. Want more info? Google dat binness.

G Mixolydian backing track


 VI. A Aeolian (A B C D E F G) A minor chord

C Major scale Starting on an A note (straight A Minor scale)

A Minor backing track


VII. B Locrian (B C D E F G A)

I’d master the shape, but use it over anything BUT B minor, ha ha. For reals.

B Locrian backing track


How to sweep IN KEY using modes.

I find it fairly easy to understand, pretty hard to explain. Try though.

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4 responses to “Modes for Metalheads

  1. Pingback: Learning guitar today | Doug Steele

  2. Love your playing man! It’s off the hook for sure. I just ran across you last night and have Been trying to soak all this stuff in. Thanks

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