Your First Lesson


First time here? I recommend you start by reading my ‘Intro to Your First Lesson

Let’s begin by learning this pattern (the minor pentatonic scale)

A very simple five note shape, and sometimes the only scale learned by some guitarists.

Begin by placing the row of notes on the left on your 5th fret (from the tuning end of the guitar)

Now, play this minor pentatonic scale in three locations along to a Mixolydian backing track.

We’re going to jump straight into you playing in a mode and the one I’ve chosen is ‘Mixolydian. I’ve chosen this one as its a rewarding one to play which I also find is easy to be able to hear the distinctive modal sound – to find that that different note and hear how it changes the whole sound from the usual sound of (in this case) the normal major scale. It’s popular in rock, Mixolydian is a good choice to start off with. Ordinarily to play in this mode, you’d need to learn the notes of the major scale and where they are on the fretboard for the key of G and then learn how to modify that scale (by raising the 4th note by a semitone). Who’s got time for that – and I certainly haven’t got the ability to memorise that amount of detail!

The track below is in ‘G Mixolydian’, so to find the right notes, we spin the Mode Decoder wheel until the note ‘G’ is in the blue Mixolydian window. Then, opening the Mode Decoder and looking on the inside, we see this also changes the notes in the three windows. The fret chart below shows you where to play the scale shape you have just learned – in three places! (ignore the lighter grey notes for now!)

From that last image, I’ve pulled out the three locations and their fret references below:

When you play the notes, notice how all are correctly in the scale, but some sound better than others. I’ll come to this later on!

Play the track below to try it out!

Hopefully you really enjoyed playing Mixolydian! Now I’ll show you how the exact same notes can sound totally different when played over a different root…

We're off to change to the Aeolian mode

We are going to play the same notes as before in exactly the same places but this time over an ‘A’ root which makes it Aeolian. Listen out for the new sound and see how some notes sound better or less good with this track compared to the Mixolydian track.