Visualizing Modes On The Guitar

This lesson is the video accompaniment to the "Understanding Modes" PDF tutorial.

I hope I am not going through the concepts to fast, but I think if you fully understand the PDF tutorial and you have gone through the studies on "Visualizing 3-notes per string major scales Pts.1 & 2" you shouldn't have to much of a problem.

I just used modes with an E root note so I could keep the low E string ringing while I improvised. The best way to work on your modes is to improvise over a backing track that you create that gives you a nice foundation for your mode and key of choice.

In the next lesson I will show you a cool way to create modal progressions that you can record and improvise over that will help you get the sound of the modes in your ear.

If these free lessons help you, please donate to keep new ones coming daily. Thanks!! πŸ™‚

Donate to GuitarLessons365
Other Amount:

Visualizing Modes On The Guitar


  1. dmeekins on February 11, 2010 at 6:45 am

    how do you sign up or join?

    • Carl Brown on February 11, 2010 at 1:16 pm

      Hey thanks for wanting to join, if you look in the side bar to the right you will see a log in section. If you don’t have an account just click subscribe and choose your account type. If you choose a Premium Subscription πŸ˜€ you will be able to watch all of the Song Lesson videos anytime you want 24/7, plus you will be helping the site out a bunch as well. But you can also choose FREE account if you so desire, but that doesn’t really give you any more access to the site than a regular visitor. Thanks a lot for wanting to become a part of the community I am trying to build here. Hope to see you soon!! Carl..

  2. tweedguitar on February 11, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Hi Carl,
    Thanks for a great lesson , and keeping the three note per string approach as to work towards visualizing the
    7 positions ( modes ) . The work you are doing is fantastic and sincerely appreciated .

  3. colin on March 11, 2010 at 9:36 pm


    Is your website secured if I want to contribute using my Visa card? Thanks

    • Carl Brown on March 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

      Hey Colin, thanks for wanting to contribute!! Yes my website is secure, however you won’t even be using my website if you choose to donate anyway. When you click on the donate link it takes you straight to Paypal so the actual payment has nothing to do with my site. And Paypal is probably the most secure site on the web. πŸ˜€ .. Paypal then emails me notifying me of the kind donation. So don’t worry because no one, including me ever gets any access to your info. Hope that helps ease your mind. Cheers!! Carl..

  4. johnrfeeney on March 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Hello Carl

    i can’t believe how good of a teacher you are. i have really struggled trying to learn theory involving the major scale and it’s modes and the pentatonic scale.
    you made things clearer than I could ever even imagine.
    Outstanding work!


  5. Carl Brown on March 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    GREAT!! I really appreciate the feedback. Hope I can continue to clear up things for ya in my future lessons as well. Thanks a bunch for following along!! Carl..

  6. Kyle Ford on May 25, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Hey Carl,

    I really like this lesson on visualizing modes. It is very different from the way that I have started to teach myself the modes. Like you, I started intuitively after I learned the 3 note per string forms. After learning the forms as ‘the root’, the ‘second degree’, ‘third degree’, etc. I just substituted (in my mind) ‘the root’ with Ionian, ‘second degree’ with Dorian, ‘third degree’ with Phrygian etc. I just realized that I knew all the modes with the 6th string roots! Which was exciting. My old guitar teacher that had been playing for 20+ years never even thought of it that way! What I have been doing now is then learning all the mode patters from the roots on the other strings so eventually I will be able to play any mode on the fly from whatever note I am on.

    One thing I observed from the 3 note per string patters, when you start the mode from the 6th string is that the 2nd octave root always ends on the b string. So you then know the B string pattern going up the neck. Starting the pattern on the A string, the root always ends on the high E string.

    Trying to figure these out of course gets me deeper and deeper into the 3 note per string patterns which is great.

    What your method is going to force me to do is understand the underlying theory much more which is going to be a great benefit I can tell. I just need to put some time into memorizing the scales and keys.

    Thanks for the lesson!


    • Carl Brown on May 25, 2010 at 11:32 pm

      Hey great work Kyle, you have a very inquisitive nature which is what all great players have as well. Glad to see you are doing well and don’t hesitate to ask any questions at all along the way. πŸ˜€

  7. Ryan Fitzwater on June 16, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Hey carl. I have been playing for 8 or 10 years now and have very much enjoyed being able to pick lessons back up through your web site and really expand my understanding of what I am playing.
    Is there any particular fingerings that are strictly for each mode or are those the same as the seven different ways you taught to play the major scale as in your triad lessons?

    • Carl Brown on June 17, 2010 at 11:21 am

      Hey Ryan, the scale fingerings will be the same for the major scale modes as they are for the regular major scale. The real difference is just what harmony you are playing over that determines what the actual mode is. All of the scale notes are the same. Does that help answer your question at all? πŸ˜€

  8. Jim on October 4, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    im confused. if ur playing in E dorian, and ur playing off the fifth, A, wouldnt u be playikng mixolydian?

  9. Rauca Daniel on February 19, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Hi Carl,i was searching the web for lesson about modes and i saw got here on your website wich is btw a great musical resource center.

    Ok so i have an questionabout this modes…i post on youtube too dont know if you saw it, then i realize maybe you will answer here sooner..

    So the question:
    Lets say the song is in D Major ..
    the D Major scale : D E F# G A B C# D
    Ok so after i have “parent” scale if i want to play Dorian mode in the key of D i will play the exact same notes but starting from E ( E F# G A B C# D E) and ill have my Dorian mode in the key of D ? is this true?
    The Phrygian will be ( F# G A B C# D E F ) and so forth?
    P.S. i dont have to use the Dorian mode formula 1,2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 8 agaist the notes from the Parent Scale

    Thanx again for your great website.. helps me alot πŸ™‚

    • Carl Brown on February 19, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      Hey Rauca, let me see if I can help clear things up for you a bit.

      First off, try to look at modes in a real world context. I don’t think you are going to be finding yourself saying right now I need to play the Lydian mode of D major or whatever. In reality you are going to be thrown a chord or something that would work under a particular mode.
      So say you had someone playing a B min7 chord and you wanted to solo over it. Dorian works great over min 7th chords so you could then say I need to play B Dorian over that B Min7th chord. THEN you go back and try to figure out what the parent major scale of B Dorian is and in this case it is A Major. After that I would just think A Major in order to make the visualization across the fretboard easier. The whole thinking of major doesn’t really have anything to do with how its gonna sound because as long as your buddy continues playing that B min7th chord while you are visualizing A Major scales across the neck it is still gonna sound like you are playing B Dorian.

      The reason I try and get my students to think back to a particular mode’s parent major scale is so that every time we are thrown a basic church mode we only need one scale type (major) to visualize it all over the neck. I think that is better than memorizing separate scale forms for every single mode. All the notes are already there in the major scale so why don’t we just use that to visualize across the neck every time to make things less complicated.

      Just remember, you are visualizing it as a major scale BUT, you are still understanding and hearing it as being a mode.

      Hope I didn’t totally confuse you here. Just keep it simple…

      Cheers!! Carl..

      • Dan Novack on March 23, 2015 at 1:06 am

        I’m confused. You say here that we should just visualize using the major scales, but in the video above, you said its important to be able to stay in one section of the neck. Doesn’t that mean you have to learn the individual modes to stay in that section?

        • Dan Novack on March 23, 2015 at 1:10 am

          Nevermind. I think I see what you mean…To stay in one section of the neck, we use all forms of the major scale (but don’t think of them as modes).

          • Carl Brown on March 23, 2015 at 10:02 am

            Yes, we are thinking on them as major for “visualization” purposes only. We will still know what mode we are playing in though. Remember, what gives a scale the sound of a particular mode is the harmony you are playing over. That is how you know the mode. πŸ™‚

  10. Rauca Daniel on February 19, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    ok thanx Carl for the fast replay, i undestand what you mean.. im learning now the 3notes per strings shapes but it dosen’t make any sense yet πŸ™‚ just wonder if my exemple with D major was right or wrong?

    P.S. i think ill have more questions for you before i done undestanding modes πŸ™‚ lol hope that’s ok

  11. Anonymous on April 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Really great lessons here, I’ve checked out alot of these “Learn2Play” sites, but never found one with such an easy overview. Many other sites are more like libraries than educational, sure they have all the material needed, and they can demonstrate it too! However, for me its not interesting, I can find a pattern of the pentatonic scale anywhere else on the web..

    I already knew alot before i read your PDF’s and watched some of your vids you posted for FREE (wow). But you gave me an understanding, a whole new bigger picture of musical theory, how it’s all connected, and you helped me apply it on the fretboard too!

    However, even though you’ve posted the “formula” for all the modes, I wonder if there are any PDF, or more video regarding modes more then the “introducing modes” PDF? (I can’t find a search function on this site either, where the hell is it?)

    • Carl Brown on April 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm

      Hey thanks for the kind comment. I will have much more on modes coming in the improvisation courses. πŸ™‚

      As for the search function, you will find it on the new site design now. However, I still think just going to the “lessons archive” page and looking through the intermediate or advanced lesson pages would be easier to find what you need.

      Cheers!! Carl..

  12. walter carr on November 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Great job of deciphering modes……..I can’t begin to thank you…..

  13. Amit Anand on December 27, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Hey.. i was wondering how is D the fifth scale degree on A natural.. isn’t it suppose to be the fourth?

    • Carl Brown on December 28, 2015 at 11:56 am

      I might have misspoke in the video, D is the 4th scale degree of A major. If you can let me know what minute and second in the video I said D that would be great because I could let you know if I misspoke or if I was referring to something else. Thanks!

      • Carl Brown on December 28, 2015 at 11:56 am

        Hey Anthony, that is really cool to hear! Thanks for the kind message!


      • Amit Anand on December 28, 2015 at 12:07 pm

        Hey it was 6:54

        • Carl Brown on December 28, 2015 at 12:18 pm

          Hey Amit, it seems you heard it backwards.

          What I say in the video is to play the shape built from the fifth scale degree of D major (which is A natural). A natural means A without a sharp or a flat (ie the notes Ab or A#), not the actual key of A major.

          We are trying to play in the key of D major starting from that A (5th fret) on the 6th string, which requires us to play the scale form built from the 5th scale degree in order to play a D major scale from that A starting note.

          • Amit Anand on January 2, 2016 at 1:02 am

            oooohhhhh.. thanks a lot!!

  14. ResetTheCity on November 20, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Still confused, haha.
    Hey Carl,
    if I want to play e.g. E-locrian, I just grab the 7th 3-chord-per-string shape on the 12th or 0 fret and go up and down the board (6th shape on 10th .. so on)while rhythm plays an e.g. E single note or an Emaj/Emin/Emin7. Have I understood that correctly? Pls help me out πŸ˜‰

    • Carl Brown on November 23, 2019 at 10:55 am

      The easier way to think about it is simply figuring out what the parent major scale is for the mode that you want.

      For instance, the parent major scale for E Locrian is F Major. So after you know that, you simply play F major scales with any of the 7 scale patterns you want. Does that make more sense?

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.