Modes are an important, and often confusing topic you are guaranteed to come across when learning jazz scales on guitar playing .
Sometimes, modes are treated as some kind of holy grail that will magically make your guitar playing better once you understand how they work and know their names.
Other times, mode scale patterns are brushed aside as almost unnecessary, and mostly ignored.
In this lesson we'll talk about modes of the major scale, and how you can use these jazz scales in your own guitar playing.
We'll talk about the common problems that come up when people start talking about modes in jazz, learn two simple approaches to thinking about modes, and find out how to use modes to play solos on jazz standards, and outline chord changes.
When it comes down to it, I really love playing jazz guitar. Playing jazz guitar is fun, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time.
Playing jazz gives you a way to express yourself musically, explore your creativity, and enhance your knowledge of music theory and the guitar fretboard.
I've been hooked on jazz guitar ever since I found out there was a band at school that I could play guitar in. I joined the jazz band and have been playing jazz ever since.
While at first learning jazz guitar was just a way to get to play guitar at school, it soon became a lifelong study of this amazing style of music.
When you're new to jazz, it can seem like there is a ton of learning that you need to do before you even start to play jazz guitar. (Let alone playing entire songs!)
This isn't necessarily true - Learning how to play jazz guitar requires the same basic guitar playing skills as any other style of music.
If you take it one step at a time, you can absolutely learn how to play jazz guitar - you just have to learn to apply your guitar playing skills to this great style of music.
Learning how to use guitar scales is an important part of learning to play guitar.
Scales provide a path towards improving your finger coordination while opening doors to learning more about music theory, learning songs by ear, and playing guitar solos.
Musically speaking, there is no difference in scales played on the guitar, and scales played on any other instrument.
Physically, the mechanics of the instrument dictate how the scale is played.
With guitar scales, we are looking at finger patterns that can be used to play a specific scale at different points on the neck.
Typically these finger patterns are what we call movable patterns - you can move them up or down the guitar neck and be able to play the same type of scale (and the same pattern) from different starting notes.
Major scales are important for all guitar players to learn.
These patterns form the foundation of our musical system - knowing your major scales will open up many more possibilities for what you are able to play and understand in music.
For guitar players, knowing how to play major scales can help you master the fretboard, play by ear, and develop your technique.
Most of our music theory works in relation to the major scale, so working with these patterns will give you the tools you need so you can understand music better, and communicate with other musicians.
These scales are important for every style, and if you want to learn to play jazz guitar, learning your major scales is an essential first step.
Whether you're playing blues, rock, country, hip hop, or jazz - the minor pentatonic scale is going to be a helpful tool for you to have at your disposal.
This is a foundational pattern that appears in many styles of music from around the world, and opens the door for learning new techniques and improving your guitar playing skills.
In minor keys, the minor pentatonic scale is going to be your best bet for improvisation most of the time - at least as a starting point.
For many styles of music, these patterns make up 80-90% of the material you need for playing solos.
Once you have your pentatonic shapes down cold, they will also give you a framework you can use to easily learn your other minor scales on top of.
The major pentatonic scales are an important building block for playing melodies and improvising solos on the guitar.
These patterns are important for all styles of music, and especially helpful when you’re learning to play jazz guitar.
These scales can be a helpful go-to source for material when you are improvising on a major blues progression, or with other progressions that stick mostly to a major key.
To get the most out of this lesson, you’ll want to know the notes along each of the guitar strings. If you’re not comfortable with that yet, click here to get started.
If you’re in a hurry to get these scales under your fingers and playable, don’t worry! I’ll include a fretboard map here to show you what you need to know.
The pentatonic scales are helpful for a couple of reasons:
The whole reason we learn scales and patterns is that they are used in songs and riffs that we hear every day.
By learning your scales and being able to use them musically, you can make it easier for you to learn riffs or melodies that you want to learn.
Let’s look at the riff from Born Of A Broken Man by Rage Against The Machine:
This is an important scale pattern for improvising and playing melodies to jazz standards.
Many melodies use the major scale in some way shape or form as a foundation.
While melodies will likely have notes that don’t fit this pattern exactly, it can serve as a template to keep yourself organized when you play.
Pentatonic scales are an essential skill for any guitar player.
They are almost always a good first bet when playing a guitar solo, and are an essential building block for becoming a complete guitar player.
This is the second part in a series of lessons on the major and minor pentatonic scales for guitar.
If you haven’t caught the lesson on 6th string pentatonic scales yet, click here.
Once you’re comfortable using your major and minor Pentatonic scales starting on the 6th string, it’s a good idea to learn a new scale pattern.
Learning the pentatonic scales on the 5th string will give you new options for playing in different keys, and because the finger pattern is different these new scale shapes will help you develop new musical ideas.
Jazz improvisation for guitar often becomes more complicated than it really needs to be.
For some students, even learning how to improvise along with a blues progression can be a difficult thing to do.
Both students and teachers dive deep into the theory aspect of soloing, and get stuck thinking about what they are going to play instead of using their ears and creating interesting melodies.
One reason for this is that traditional theory doesn’t apply to the blues in a literal way, so students have to learn the theory in traditional terms, and then learn all of the exceptions that apply to the blues.
This way, you end up having to learn, unlearn, and relearn your theory - just to play a blues solo on the blues. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this complicated.