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Shred Academy - Free Guitar Lesson by Paul Tauterouff
Prior knowledge of the five Minor Pentatonic box patterns and
the 7 modal shapes is helpful for understanding this lesson, but
not absolutely necessary.
To help guitarists already familiar with the pentatonic scale
to learn and utilize the modes in their lead guitar playing.
As a guitarist, I am primarily self-taught and didn’t have
any formal music theory training in the early stages of my playing.
The first scales that I learned were the five positions or box
patterns of the minor pentatonic scale. I wrote the diagrams out
by hand, and would play (and draw) them constantly.
I was first exposed to the seven modes of the major scale, I did
the same thing; sketched the fretboard diagrams, studied how the
shapes fit together, etc. Even after I had the modal shapes memorized,
I was still having a difficult time actually applying them to
my lead playing. Seven shapes just seemed like too many after
becoming so accustomed to the five box patterns of the pentatonic
I came up with an idea: What if I divided the modes of the major
scale up into 5 scale chunks, based on the five Minor Pentatonic
box patterns that I was already comfortable with? This way I would
only have to add a couple of new notes to each of the 5 pentatonic
boxes! For lack of a better name, I’ve decided to call this
the Pentamodal Idea.
demonstrate, let’s work out an example for a scale which
is commonly used in rock guitar lead playing - the 6th mode of
the Major Scale, Aeolian mode (a.k.a. the Natural Minor scale).
The following examples are in the key of A minor.
Here is our 1st Pentamodal shape, Aeolian Mode:
Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 1 notes circled
We will skip Locrian, the mode that would normally follow Aeolian,
since its first note (B at the 7th fret of the low E string) does
not align with our A Minor Pentatonic scale box patterns.
This brings us to Pentamodal Pattern #2, Ionian Mode:
Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 2 notes circled
Note: Keep in mind that even though we may have
skipped over the Locrian Mode, its notes are still available for
us to use in our soloing via patterns 1 and 2, we just aren’t
thinking of it as its own individual shape or box pattern.
Continuing in order, Pattern #3 consists of the
Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 3 notes circled
Next is Pattern #4, which includes the Phrygian
Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 4 notes circled
will skip the mode that would normally follow Phrygian, (Lydian)
because its first note does not align with the Minor Pentatonic
scale box pattern in our A Aeolian-based example.
brings us to our 5th and final pattern, using
the Mixolydian mode:
Mode w/ A Minor Pentatonic box 5 notes circled
Remember, we’re still playing all of the notes of the
seven modes, we’ve just chosen to break them up into 5
box patterns – like our minor pentatonic scales.
The above patterns will also work for a C Ionian (Major) root,
since it is the relative major of A Aeolian Mode.
Depending on which mode we choose to be our #1 (root) or parent
scale, different modes may be skipped over. For example, if
A Dorian minor was our #1 scale, we would skip Phrygian (at
B, the 7th fret of the low E string) and Lydian would be our
#2 shape, at the 8th fret (the C note).
This is a “quick-and-dirty” method for assimilating
the modes into your playing. Once you become familiar with using
these shapes, I highly recommend also working out and memorizing
the three note-per-string patterns for the modes. Box patterns
are great for breaking ideas into small, easily digestible pieces,
but you don’t want to be limited by them either.
I hope this lesson helps you to begin to implement modal sounds
into your playing.
you enjoyed this article I invite you to sign up for my free newsletter
at http://paultauterouff.com. Each month I include a free guitar
lesson along with links to cool resources for guitarists.
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Paul Tauterouff is a professional guitarist/ teacher in New York
and is co-manager of the Tom Hess Music Careers Mentoring Program.
Paul is currently working on several instructional projects and
two CD’s for 2008 release. Visit Paul’s website at