Going Modal!
An Alternative Approach to Scales and Modes

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I see a lot of confusion on the subject of modes. It's constantly brought up in various guitar groups on the many social media platforms on which Master Guitar School has a presence. This lesson series is my attempt to address this issue and to give you my approach which I hardly ever see in the many answers and responses to the questions that people pose.

It appears that my methodology, though not exclusive to myself, is somewhat rare.

One of the most common questions I see is,

“What is the difference between scales and modes?”

If you google this question you will typically find,

  • A scale is an ordered sequence of notes with a start and end. A mode is a permutation upon a scale that is repeatable at the octave, such that the start and end points are shifted.

As far as I'm concerned, the distinction between scales and modes is a finely-split hair, if even that.

That's because I think of a mode as its own key, or its own tonality, regardless of the “parent” scale from which it's derived, or as put above, the scale from which it is a “permutation.” Therefore, “scale” and “mode” are functionally synonymous. For instance, if we're dealing with the Dorian Mode, you need to be able to "think" in Dorian, "hear" in Dorian and visualize your Dorian patterns on the fretboard, independently of the “scale” from which they're derived.

Having said all that, it is important to understand the scale/mode derivations, but I teach that last instead of first. But before we get to that, you will know various modes in-and-of themselves, as their own key or tonality. If you can do that, understanding those modes relative to a “parent” scale is a very easy concept.

Furthermore, the fingerings for various modes can be derived from only two archetypal patterns or templates.


The Going Modal lesson series is a PDF download that has:

  • 18 lessons

  • 47 pages

  • 71 Fretboard diagrams

  • 14 Notation examples

  • 18 video links

Table of Contents:

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Here's what the PDF looks like:

I said above that the fingerings for various modes can be derived from only two archetypal patterns or templates. I'm going to give you one of the archetypes and show you how a mode can be derived from it.

Scales and modes fall into 2 categories; major and minor. The two archetypal scales are the Major Scale (Ionian Mode) and the Natural Minor Scale (Aeolian Mode). All the other modes and scales fall into one of these two categories.

  • Note: The exception are what's known as, "symmetrical" scales. There are 3 lessons in this series on symmetrical scales; I won't go into them here.

So what I'm going to do here is give you the Natural Minor Scale. Then I'm going to show you how to get the Dorian Mode by altering a single note of the Natural Minor.

Natural Minor

To get the Dorian Mode, all you have to do is sharp the 6th of the Natural Minor Scale:

See the methodology? You learn the Major Scale and the Natural Minor Scale: to get any other scale or mode, you alter a single note of one of those scales, depending on whether the mode is major or minor.

This lesson series will give you 14 different scales/modes along with 2 positions (6th-string root and 5th-string root. With these two positions you can play any of the scales/modes in any and every key!

Also included in the PDF are links to songs that illustrate the mode in question so that you can hear real-world examples of the mode you're working on. For instance, in the lesson on the Dorian Mode you have:

  • Wicked Game – Chris Isaak

  • Oye Como Va – Santana

  • Evil Ways – Santana

  • So What – Miles Davis

  • Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix

  • Eleanor Rigby – the Beatles

  • Scarborough Fair – Simon & Garfunkel

  • Impressions – John Coltrane


The retail price is $99: Anyone can purchase - if you want to pay full price with no other strings attached, just click on the button below:

If you are a Master Guitar School Site Member you can use your Members-Only Discount and purchase for $59!

If you are a Site Member: When you click on the button below you will be prompted to sign in if you are not already signed in. The page is a Members-Only page.

If you are NOT a Site Member: When you click on the button below you will be prompted to sign up as a Site Member. Membership is free and there are many other benefits to being a Site Member, but the Members-Only Discount is a big one (at least 50% or more)! After signing up you will be automatically redirected to the Members-Only discount.

What does it mean to be a Site Member?


First of all, sign up is free!


  • Free Lessons: You will have access to dozens of free lessons in the "Members Only" area of the website. These are mostly webpage-based. Last count was almost 100 but it's being added to regularly.

  • Monthly Newsletter: You will receive the Master Guitar School Newsletter the 2nd Tuesday of each month. Most of the monthly newsletters contain a free lesson not published previously anywhere else. Besides the free lesson, each newsletter contains recent blog links and any other communication I deem pertinent to Site Members.

  • Members-Only Discounts: These discounts are available at all times to Site Members and are at least 50% off - in some cases more. Compare the Site Member price to the full price given above for Going Modal! for example.

  • New Product Launches: New products are launched first to Site Members only. A new product launch typically lasts 5 days and the product is priced even lower than the Members-Only Discount. For instance, the Members-Only Discount price for Unique Chord Voicings is $69. The launch price was $59. The full price is $149. Again; these launches are to Site Members only!

  • Skype/FaceTime Consults: I call this a "consult" rather than a "lesson" for several reasons. This consult is an on-demand deal for site members. It can be used for whatever you want - anything related to guitar or lessons that you've viewed, purchased &/or downloaded from Master Guitar School; it can be used as a feedback loop to make sure you understand the lesson and are drilling it correctly. The price is $30.00 and the guaranteed default time is 30 minutes. I am willing to spend extra time at no extra charge if necessary and if my schedule allows. As a site member you can use this option whenever you feel the need. 

  • Personal Response to Questions via Email: If your question can be adequately dealt with without a Skype/FaceTime consult I will give Site Members personal attention via Email at no charge. You are committed to a process; I am committed to lead you through it.

  • Priority Scheduling for One-On-One Lessons: I need to preface this; I am currently teaching about 35 private students a week and don't want any more. There is a waiting list. However, if you are a Site Member you will have priority relative to the waiting list. 

  • Blog Notifications: I try to publish a blog every week. The blog content is random; whatever I feel like writing about, though it's always music &/or guitar-related. Some of the blog categories are: Free Lessons, Technique, Music Theory, Stories, Philosophy, Questions and Answers, Rants & Musings, Gear and many more. Although the blogs are available to anyone, Site Members receive an email notification with a direct link whenever a blog is published.


The guitar has been a Grand Obsession of mine for over 50 years. I love everything about it. I've been a full-time professional performing musician since the early seventies. I've taught 50-100 personal students a week since the early eighties.


I know what it takes to play, teach and learn. I'm passionate about playing as well as helping people obtain the priceless value that I've received from music and the guitar.

Any questions about Unique Chord Voicings? Any questions about anything guitar &/or music related? Questions about Site Membership that I didn't answer above? 

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