Guitar Modes: The Modal Scales of Popular Music

Modal scales, or modes, are the different ways the major scale can function and sound. Any one of the major scale’s seven notes can function as the root. Each root, or mode, has a unique tonality and sound. All music is either based on or thought of in relation to the major scale and its modes. Using and understanding modes is critical to developing a knowledge of guitar music theory and understanding popular songs. Modal scales have caused an enormous amount of confusion and frustration, perhaps more than any other musical concept. Unfortunately, most modal instruction is either incorrect or misleading.Modal scales, or modes, are the different ways the major scale can function and sound. Any one of the major scale’s seven notes can function as the root. Each root, or mode, has a unique tonality and sound. All music is either based on or thought of in relation to the major scale and its modes. Using and understanding modes is critical to developing a knowledge of guitar music theory and understanding popular songs. Modal scales have caused an enormous amount of confusion and frustration, perhaps more than any other musical concept. Unfortunately, most modal instruction is either incorrect or misleading.

Accelerate Your Guitar Playing

First, define your objectives and determine your approach. These objectives may change as you progress, but a goal is important before starting to play the guitar. Begin by forming good study habits. Part of your study will be physical performance and part will be mentally engaged in the study of theory, listening to recordings, tapes and the radio, watching television, Internet and watching live performances.

Getting Your Own Sound with Guitars & Amps

1962 Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar (Vintage)

Hello my friends in guitar land. The most frequent question I receive from my fellow guitar players is how do I get my own sound. First, I would like to say that in my opinion a signature sound comes from your hands not from your gear. And also from a picture you have in your mind of what you want your “voice” to convey. But the idea that certain equipment will help reproduce the sound you have worked so long and hard to achieve is relevant. So I will give you an idea of what I think is a good set-up for certain types of music and specific roles being played in a musical setting. Please remember that I humbly submit these opinions in good fun and are based on over 30+ years of playing live and in the studio, as well a collecting guitars and amps during those years. I know there are plenty of guitar players out there who know a helluva lot more then I do about guitaring.

Secrets of the Great Guitar Players

Frank Zappa

Hello to all out there in guitar dominion, this month’s column will I hope reveal some of the great secrets of some of our favorite guitar players as well as dispel some common misunderstandings. One of the greatest musicians of the 20th century was also a damn good guitar player, he stands alone as a composer, instrumentalist and satirist beyond compare. His name was Frank Zappa. Frank is still IMHO the most underrated musician in the rock and roll era.

Let’s Go Surfin’: How to Get the Classic Surf Guitar Sound

Since its inception, legions of surf guitar players have engaged in heated debate about gear. Suffice it to say, everyone has an opinion. However, newbies often want a simple answer to the question, “What do I need to get going?” Below, I lay out the answers, based on the classic traditional surf sound of the Sixties. Whether you want to nail the sound with vintage gear, or whether you are on a budget, you’ll find useful guidelines here.

10 Perfect Guitars & Their Applications

Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar

Hi everyone I hope you have been enjoying my column, here’s more stuff to ponder. It seems every time you turn around there’s another list, 100 best this, 10 worst that’s. Well here’s another list for ya! But at least this one does not involve Paris Hilton. I now that some of my listings may be a bit controversial (one in particular) as I said before these are my opinions based on my experiences. Like all things in music they are not right or wrong, just some good-natured opinions that will hopefully stimulate your own thoughts on this subject.

Tone Secrets of the Electric 12-String Guitar

Rickenbacker 360/12 Old Style 12-String Electric Guitar

I’ve been playing the electric twelve string guitar professionally for the last 16 years in my band The Carpet Frogs. Guitar players have often complimented me on the tone of my electric 12 string and have asked me how I get that “authentic” sound! For me, it all started with the two Godfathers of the electric 12 string: George Harrison of the Beatles and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. Obviously, the first ingredient is a great 12 string. The Granddaddy of them all is the Rickenbacker 12 string.

Melody is Boss

Sure, you can rattle off scales and string riffs together and throw in the odd mode or two, but unless you’re thinking melody, you have not made music; you are not improvising. You may have confirmed that you know which building blocks fit, but you’ve created nothing new. Improvisation to me implies invention, and you don’t invent scales any more than an artist invents Cobalt Blue or Vermilion Red. Scales and modes are like the squirts of paint on a palette. You have to choose carefully which to use, which to blend. Start mixing too many colors and you wind up with mud.

Rhythm & Lead Guitar

Why is it that so many people think that there are two kinds of guitar player — rhythm and lead? I’ve been asked the question a million times in my playing career, mostly by beginners and non players. “What do you play? Rhythm or lead?” like they were two different instruments. I like to say I play music.

Guitar Capos & Transposing

That’s where capos come in. Whoever invented the guitar must have already thought of the capo, which compensates for the unfriendly keys. A simple idea, it effectively moves the nut up the neck by clamping down all all strings at once. The result is to raise the overall pitch while keeping the relative tuning of all the strings intact. This allows the player to choose another key to play in, a more friendly key. I should really say ‘pretend key’ because the key doesn’t change at all. Only the fingering changes, as if it were a new (friendly) key.