Learn the 7 scale patterns on the guitar

You only need to learn 7 patterns

In order to play and jam in all 7 of the main modes, you only need to learn 7 patterns.

These patterns always appear in the exact same order across the fretboard, regardless of the starting note or mode.

Use the fretboard below to explore the patterns of each mode (shown in black). Notice that each pattern is made of 3 notes per string.

Choose a pattern


For this example, we are using the notes of F Ionian (major) - but the great thing about this is that you can start on any fret on the low E string and shift the whole pattern along the fretboard.

Tap each mode above the fretboard to highlight the root position pattern for each mode. You'll notice that each pattern shifts up one or two frets, and the patterns overlap.

You can also jam using the purple notes - they're all part of the same mode, just using different positions.

Once you have learned the 7 patterns and how they fit together, you can play in any key and any mode across the whole fretboard.

For example, you want to jam in C Mixolydian? Move the Mixolydian pattern to the 8th fret on the low E string (C) and the whole 7-mode pattern moves with it - you can now use all of those notes!

Want to play in F# Locrian? Use the Locrian pattern on the 2nd fret on the low E string (F#) and the whole 7-mode pattern moves with it.

This works for ANY key and ANY of the 7 modes.

Try it out! Use the Fretonator on the home page and see how these patterns fit together. You'll soon realise that there's a lot less to memorise than you think!

Don't worry if it takes some time to learn the different patterns. The most important thing to remember is to have fun, and just jam on your guitar!

If you want to write some songs using these modes, check out the chords that work with your chosen mode underneath the Fretonator for some inspiration.

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And finally: the theory behind the standard modes

The 7 standard modes are generated by starting on different notes of the major scale (which is, in fact, called the Ionian mode).

Modes of the major scale

The 7 modes of the major scale, in order are:

  1. Ionian (this is the major scale)
  2. Dorian
  3. Phrygian
  4. Lydian
  5. Mixolydian
  6. Aeolian (this is the minor scale)
  7. Locrian
An example

The 7 standard modes of C Major (C, D, E, F, G, A, B) are:

  1. C Ionian
  2. D Dorian
  3. E Phrygian
  4. F Lydian
  5. G Mixolydian
  6. A Aeolian
  7. B Locrian
A fun mnemonic

Want an easy way to remember the order of the modes above? Just say:

  1. IIonian
  2. Don'tDorian
  3. ParticularlyPhrygian
  4. LikeLydian
  5. ModesMixolydian
  6. AAeolian
  7. Lot!Locrian

What other ways have you used to remember the order of the 7 modes of the major scale?

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