The Emotions Behind Guitar Modes And How To Use Them

There are hundreds of online lessons about modes... but most of them focus on shredding or scale patterns. There are very few of them focusing on how modes can be used to express emotions. Here we see a simple way to do that using the Pitch Axis technique.

The short story of Pitch Axis is that you can write chord progressions using chords from more than one mode, provided all the modes you use have the same root.

So if we choose A as our root, you can freely mix the modes below by using any of their chords in any order:

1. A Ionian: A Bm C#m D E F#m G#dim
2. A Dorian: Am Bm C D Em F#dim G
3. A Phrygian: Am Bb C Dm Edim F G
4. A Lydian: A B C#m D#dim E F#m G#m
5. A Mixolydian: A Bm C#dim D Em F#m G
6. A Aeolian: Am Bdim C Dm Em F G
7. A Locrian: Adim Bb Cm Dm Eb F Gm

I wrote above only the modes of the major scale, and ignored the modes of harmonic and melodic minor and other scales. I suggest you get started with only the 7 'basic' modes first and add the others only later. If what I wrote above is complete mystery to you, I suggest you check out this link to learn more about modes on guitar.

With all those chords to choose from, it's easy to feel lost. Is there a way to get your bearings with so many choices available? Is there any way to decide in advance what feelings you want your chord progression to express, and then make your choices accordingly?

Yes, of course there is such a way. Watch this video now:

Important: the modes as I wrote them above are not in the same order as the one I mention in the video. I leave it as an exercise to you to put them in the 'correct' order.

As you can see, modes can be used for more than just shredding. Have fun composing your own progressions!

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio