Intro to Modes (Guitar Lesson)

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Brad Henecke

Intro to Modes

If you want to master lead guitar, learning the modes and the theory behind them is absolutely necessary. In this lesson, Brad covers some of the basic theory behind modes.

Taught by Brad Henecke in Rock Guitar with Brad Henecke seriesLength: 31:04Difficulty: 3.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (2:32) Introduction Learning the modes derived from the major and minor scales is absolutely essential to your growth as a guitarist. Knowledge of scales/modes will open up your ears to a new world of tonal possibilities. Over the course of the next several lessons, Brad will introduce and explain the seven modes of the major scale. He will demonstrate how these modes can be applied to improvised guitar solos. Brad begins his discussion of the modes with the Ionian mode/Major scale. He opens the lesson with an improvisation that utilizes the G Ionian Mode.
Chapter 2: (9:26) Basic Scale Theory Before diving headfirst into modes, take some time to review the basic scale theory that Brad has taught you thus far. In a previous lesson, Brad demonstrated the order of half steps and whole steps within the major scale. Here is a brief review of this material from Lesson 8:

A. The Major Scale
The Major scale is one of the most fundamental units of music. Brad begins by breaking down some basic theory pertaining to this scale.

Let’s start at square 1. The musical alphabet consists of the following notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The distance between one consecutive note to the next can either be described as a half step or a whole step.

It may help to examine a piano keyboard to visualize this concept. The keyboard consists of black keys and white keys. A half step occurs between one key to the next regardless of color. Similarly, a half step on the guitar occurs from one fret to the next.

A whole step occurs between two frets on the guitar. For example, a whole step occurs between F on the 1st string and G on the 1st string. These notes are two frets apart.

Now, let’s return to the musical alphabet to apply these concepts. Make a careful note of where half steps and whole steps occur.
Between A and B: whole step
B and C: half step
C and D: whole step
D and E: whole step
E and F: half step
F and G: whole step
G and A: whole step
Many of you are probably wondering how all this theory is going to help your guitar playing. The answer is simple. All major scales follow the same pattern of half and whole steps. If you know this pattern, you can start on any given note and play a major scale.

Start with the C Major scale since it contains no sharps or flats. The C scale is spelled as follows: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Take a look at where the whole and half steps occur within the scale. All major scales follow a pattern of whole step, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.
B. Diatonic Triads
In a previous lesson, Brad demonstrated how a triad can be built from each note in the major scale. Start with the root note of each chord. Then stack diatonic thirds on top of it. The word “diatonic” means “a scale consisting of seven pitches that are adjacent on the circle of fifths.” Start with the tonic C major chord. Then add the note a third above that, this note is E. Next, add the note a third above E. This note is G. Thus, a C major triad is comprised of the notes C, E, and G. Repeat this process with the remaining notes within the scale. For example, the next diatonic triad is Dm. This chord consists of the notes D, F, and A.

Note: Open the “Supplemental Content” to see a harmonization of the C major scale in diatonic triads. These are the chords that occur within the key of C major.
C. Key of G Major
Brad applies all modal concepts in his Phase 2 lessons to the key of G Major. Use the pattern of half steps and whole steps to determine the correct spelling for a G major scale. The key of G has one sharp in its key signature (F#). The basic left hand fingerings for all seven modes lay across the fretboard better in G than the key of C.
D. History of the Modes
The ancient Greeks developed the seven modes of the major scale. Plato used the modal names to describe seven different ways of tuning a lyre. The modes were used to sing plainsong or chant in a specified tonality.

Each mode has its own distinct sound. For example, the Ionian, Lydian, and Mixolydian modes have a bright sound. This is due to the fact that the third scale degree is a major third above the root. The Dorian, Phrygian, and Aeolian modes have a minor sound. The Locrian mode has a diminished sound.
Chapter 3: (6:02) G Ionian / Gmajor Scale The seven modes are built from each scale degree of the parent major scale. The G major scale is spelled as follows: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G. The Ionian mode is simply another name for the major scale. G Ionian is spelled the same way as G major. If you start and end on the second scale degree, a new mode is formed. The A Dorian scale (pronounced door-ee-an) is spelled as follows: A, B, C, D, E, F#, G, A. Starting and ending the G scale on a different note rearranges the order of intervals within the mode. As a result, A Dorian may contain the same notes as G Major, but it sounds completely different.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

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the_ANTIDRUGthe_ANTIDRUG replied on February 18th, 2014

I like this guy; good teacher!!!

midlifemidlife replied on February 4th, 2013

Just curious why you stop on the root when going up the scale and don't play the remaining notes on the high e?

james carrolljames carroll replied on April 13th, 2012

Love your playing man, are you a Thin Lizzy fan by any chance? If so some Lizzy lessons would be great perhaps "For those who love to live"

tammy7689tammy7689 replied on September 13th, 2011

strat 9: you wouldnt have any #'s in there....your right that it depends on the note you start on but it works like this....C ionian-WWHWWWH-CDEFGABC......C Dorian-WHWWWHW-DEFGABCD-C Phygrian-HWWWHWW-EFGABCDE-C Lydian-WWWHWWH-FGABCDEF-C Mixolydian-WWHWWHW-GABCDEFG-C Aeolian-WHWWHWW-ABCDEFGA-C you can see as you move each degree the whole and half steps move with it.....hope that helps and doesnt confuse you

strat9strat9 replied on November 18th, 2010

Razoon: So I'm basically correct.

sidksidk replied on March 16th, 2010

Also how are the chords determined if they are a minor or major chord when using the scale theory? For example the A is a minor chord not a major chord?

razoonrazoon replied on November 10th, 2010

If the 3rd note is flat than the cord is minor. If the 3rd note is not flat than it is major. If the 3rd AND the 5th are both flat than it is Diminished. So the Dorian, Aeolian and Phrygian modes are minor scale modes, because of the flat 3rd. (1 b3 5) The Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian modes are major scales modes, because they dont have a flat 3rd. (1 3 5) The Locrian mode is diminished because it has a flat 3rd and a flat 5th. (1 b3 b5)

strat9strat9 replied on November 9th, 2010

Do I have this correct about modes? Depending on which note of the scale you begin with, the notes will change because you stick with the w,w,h,w,w,w,h formula. Example-C maj is of course c,d,e,f,g,a,b, If you begin in the dorian, you're still in C but the notes of the scale would then change to d,e,f#,g,a,b, c#?

sidksidk replied on March 16th, 2010

why is the A# note in the scale when it only shows A by itself when Brad explains the theory??

fretboardnewbfretboardnewb replied on November 12th, 2009

thanks brad my head just exploded. though i do grasp the concept now thanks i will have to wacth this a few more times

latrocinialatrocinia replied on June 18th, 2009

Brad is just such a King!

caseharr33caseharr33 replied on April 17th, 2009

Great Lesson Brad, I have tried in the past to grasp modes, and what they are. You made it seem so very simple.

goodoldBRgoodoldBR replied on April 1st, 2009

Hi Brad! I really enjoyed this lesson and would love to be able to study more about these modes and music theory when I am away from my computer and Can you recommend a good book or study guide to purchase that will help explain and understand this?

Brad.HeneckeBrad.Henecke replied on April 5th, 2009

A good book to get is fret board logic SE special edition Volume one and two .BY Bill Edwards. also another book that is very good is Guitar Mode Encycleopedia By Jody fisher

ragz13ragz13 replied on January 14th, 2009

I'm gonna look at the video again

kumarkkumark replied on July 16th, 2008

Ionian mode is actually a C Major scale at the 8th fret of 6th string. Although starting at 3rd fret (G on the 6th string), applying Ionian works since G scale is also a Major scale. This is actually how Pitch axis theory in effect is implemented. However G Major scale is actually a Mixolydian mode. I guess this should have been taught first that Modes are basically PATTERNS which is a different way of thinking rather from the BOXED method scales are positioned. Also it would have made sense to learners to learn the basic boxed scales applied to the MODES so that the distinguishing of a pattern versus a boxed scale could be more better understood.

dash rendardash rendar replied on January 9th, 2009

Kumark, you're understanding of the modes isn't quite right. The mode is dependent on which degree of the underlying diatonic scale you start on. Every key can be played in all seven modes. So, to use your example, C major scale starting at the 8th fret is the C Ionian mode. But similarly, a G major scale starting at the 3rd fret is the G Ionian mode. (I.e. the Ionian mode does not just apply to the C major scale.) If you were to play the same pattern that Brad teaches in this lesson for the G Ionian, but actually start on the A rather than the G (and play A to A), then you're now playing the A Dorian mode (which still uses the notes from the G major diatonic scale). So, this demonstrates that modes are not necessarily just patterns, since you can actually play any of the seven modes in any of the five 'common' scale patterns. It just depends where you start in the scale. I'm guessing Brad will go on to explain this in the subsequent lessons, but I haven't got that far yet.

Brad.HeneckeBrad.Henecke replied on January 10th, 2009

Thanks for that explanation .modes are hard to grasp

will315will315 replied on January 6th, 2009

What makes it a Dm chord?

nick2000nick2000 replied on March 9th, 2008

just fyi in his backing track progression he is not just using g em and d there is also a c major chord in there too, yeah i know not trying to nit pick im just proud that my ear picked that up....:)

aaron00leeaaron00lee replied on December 7th, 2007

The Intro song was Aweeeesome!

jboothjbooth replied on December 9th, 2007

There's a backing track in the sup content section you can jam too :) Brad just improvised this on the fly

Rock Guitar with Brad Henecke

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In this Phase 2 series Brad Henecke will school you in the art of rock guitar. You will not only learn how to play some of your favorite songs in this series, but you will also learn how to create your own.

Lesson 1

Basic Rock Guitar

This lesson covers the absolute basics of rock guitar. Learn about the electric guitar, pickups, amplifiers, changing strings, and more.

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Learning Chords

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Length: 42:30 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
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Barre Chords and More

Brad Henecke introduces common strumming patterns and barre chords.

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Lesson 4

Your First Song

In this lesson Brad covers some of the more advanced barre chord shapes. He applies these shapes to the song "Hotel California."

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Lesson 5

Blues and Scales

Rock has its roots in the blues. Brad helps you explore the wonderful world of blues in this lesson. He also covers some chord theory.

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Lesson 6

Tricks and Lead

This lesson is all about specific techniques used by lead guitarists.

Length: 52:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Jammin' with Scales

This lesson details how to improvise with the blues scale.

Length: 27:27 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

3 Songs

In this fun lesson, Brad Henecke teaches you riffs from 3 classic rock songs.

Length: 28:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Power Chords

Power chords help give rock music that "punch you in the face" feel. Learn basic power chords in this lesson.

Length: 13:22 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

2 New Songs

Are you ready to learn "Ain't Talking About Love" by Van Halen and "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC? That's what this lesson is all about.

Length: 27:32 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Pentatonic Scale

Brad teaches the first pattern of the minor pentatonic scale and explains how it relates to the blues scale.

Length: 14:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Second Pattern

Brad covers the second pattern for both the minor blues and minor pentatonic scales.

Length: 9:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Message in a Bottle

Learn the classic rock song "Message in a Bottle."

Length: 10:22 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Third Pattern

This great lesson covers the 3rd fretboard pattern of the minor pentatonic and minor blues scales.

Length: 7:19 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

Colorful Chord Tension

Brad demonstrates how open strings can be added to chord shapes you are already familiar with.

Length: 9:09 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

The Fourth Pattern

Brad covers the fourth pattern of the minor pentatonic and minor blues scales.

Length: 8:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17


In this lesson Brad demonstrates how to play the Beatles song "Daytripper."

Length: 15:21 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

The Fifth Pattern

Brad demonstrates the 5th pattern of the minor pentatonic and minor blues scales. He also discusses practicing and memorizing them.

Length: 13:05 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

"Brown Eyed Girl"

Learn the classic rock song "Brown Eyed Girl" in this episode of Rock Guitar.

Length: 11:23 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 20


Brad introduces you to the importance of phrasing. Quality phrasing is essential when performing any melodic line.

Length: 14:19 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Basics of Tapping

Tapping is an idiomatic guitar technique that offers a unique sound.

Length: 14:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Intro to Modes

Learning the modes is essential to the development of your scale vocabulary.

Length: 31:04 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Understanding Chord Shapes

Brad further explains what chord shapes are and how they relate to barre chords.

Length: 10:15 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 24

Natural Harmonics

Learn the right and left hand mechanics involved in playing harmonics.

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Lesson 25

Advanced Harmonics

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Length: 16:10 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

The Dorian Mode

Brad moves on in his modal lesson series to explain the Dorian mode. This lesson includes 2 backing tracks.

Length: 22:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

Phrygian Mode

Brad explains and demonstrates the Phrygian mode.

Length: 13:33 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 28

The Lydian Mode

Brad continues his discussion of the modes. You will learn the Lydian mode in this lesson.

Length: 9:27 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 29

Mixolydian Mode

Brad explains the Mixolydian mode and its practical applications.

Length: 10:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

The Aeolian Mode

Continuing with his modal lessons, Brad Henecke teaches the Aeolian mode.

Length: 9:09 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 31

The Locrian Mode

The final lesson in our modal series covers the Locrian mode.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 32

The Ace Zone

Brad teaches some licks inspired by Ace Frehley of KISS. Incorporate these licks into your own solos.

Length: 7:18 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

Learn Licks

In this lesson Brad Henecke teaches you some fun licks that can be used in your own guitar solos.

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Lesson 34

Blues Licks

Brad Henecke demonstrates some cool blues licks.

Length: 17:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 35

Modes and Scales

Brad Henecke provides an alternate way of comparing modes and scales.

Length: 8:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

A Different View

In the last lesson, Brad Henecke compared some scales that are major or dominant in quality. Now, he repeats this process with minor scales.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

One String Scales

This lesson is all about 1 string scales. Learning scales on 1 string is essential to your knowledge of the fretboard.

Length: 8:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 38

One String Ionian Mode

Brad demonstrates a one string version of the Ionian mode. This lesson demonstrates the importance of horizontal scales.

Length: 7:27 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 39

Aeolian Mode on One String

Brad continues his discussion of single string scales. He explains how to play the Aeolian mode across a single string.

Length: 4:11 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 40

Octave Scales

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Length: 7:07 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 41

Using Octaves

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Lesson 42

Harmonic Minor Scale

Brad introduces the harmonic minor scale. He explains how it can be applied to the solo break in "Sweet Child O' Mine."

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Lesson 43

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Diminished Arpeggio

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Understanding Time Signatures

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Lesson 47

Diminished Chords

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Lesson 48

Open G Tuning

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Drop D Tuning

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Lesson 50

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Lesson 51

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Lesson 52

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Length: 6:56 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 53

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About Brad Henecke View Full Biography Brad Henecke was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 5th of 1963. He has been a fan of music for as long as he & his family can remember. You could always find him running around the farm wailing on his cardboard guitar, pretending to be a member of the rock band KISS. Additional inspiration came during his first concert when he got the chance to see Boston & Sammy Hagar in the early 1970's.

This opened up a whole new world of rock and roll music for him; his parents noticed his growing interest in music and enrolled him into guitar lessons when he was 13.

From there he jumped into two years of lessons at a local music store in Cedar Rapids. After discovering Eddie Van Halen, Brad knew that the guitar would always be a part of his life. He took his love throughout the city as he played as a pit musician & jammed at parties for friends.

This made him thirsty for more. He enrolled classes at Kirkwood Community College & also took lessons from the one & only Craig-Erickson (

His love for music landed him a gig opening for Molly Hatchet in Cedar Rapids with a band called "Slap & Tickle". He has also played in the Greeley Stampede show for quite a few years with "True North".

Brad is currently playing in Greeley, Colorado with a rock band titled "Ragged Doll". They play a wide variety of music with an emphasis on classic rock from the 60's to present, with Brad playing electric guitar in the five piece lineup.

He currently jams on his all-time favorite guitar: a Paul Reed Smith Custom 24. Beyond guitar, he plays also plays drums & bass guitar. He has also been known to thrash a banjo from time to time. He is still actively playing & passing his 31 years of playing experience on to others (you!).

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