Frank Gambale’s Modes: No More Mystery Lesson Notes

This post contains my summary notes from Frank Gambale’s Modes: No More Mystery lesson. An essential lesson for any guitarist seeking to develop a foundational understanding of modes.

Released in 1992, this in-depth lesson covers all seven modes of the Major scale: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian. Frank’s lesson focuses on helping the learner hear the sound and mood of every mode. Plus, every mode includes a breakdown of the formula, a chord progression and an example solo. 

Summary Notes

Introduction (7:15)

Modes are inversions of a Major scale. All music theory is compared to the Major scale.

Modes chart:

modes chart
7 Major Modes

This chart conveys the sequence of the modes. Lydian will always be the fourth mode of any Major scale.

Modal Chord Progressions (11:50)

I-IV-V-I progression, in C it’s C, F, G, C

Note that you have two Major chords a whole step apart. Anytime you see orhear that, know it’s the IV-V chords. So if you have Bb to C, that’s the IV-V of F Major.

Throughout all the mode examples, will utilize a IV-V chord progression with the C in the bass as a pedal tone.

Major scale (13:30)

C Major = C D E F G A B = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

The objective is to be able to visualize your guitar’s fretboard as one scale.

Whatever mode you’re thinking about, it should cover the entire fretboard…”

I. Ionian Mode (15:20)

Happy sound.

Chord progression: | C | F/C | G/C :||

C Major Ionian Mode solo example at 16:50.

II. Dorian Mode (18:05)

Has a rock/blues kind of sound.

Second mode of any Major scale. So for C Dorian, play the Bb Major scale starting on C.

Dorian
C Dorian

Compared to Major scale, in Dorian you lower the third and seventh degrees a half-step.

Dorian formula = 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7

Chord progression: | Cmin7 | F/C :||

Note: Cmin7 (C Eb G Bb) is an Eb/C chord

C Dorian solo example at 22:22.

III. Phrygian Mode (23:56)

Has a dark/haunting sound.

Third mode of any Major scale. So for C Phrygian, play the Ab Major scale starting on C.

Phrygian
C Phrygian

Compared to Major scale, in Phrygian you lower the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th degrees a half-step.

Phrygian formula = 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

Phrygian Chord Progression in Ab, with C in the bass (3rd degree)

Chord progression: | Cmin7 | Db/C :||

C Phrygian solo example at 30:08.

IV. Lydian Mode (31:40)

Has a rock/prog rock sound.

Fourth mode of any Major scale. So for C Lydian, play the G Major scale starting on C.

Lydian
C Lydian

Compared to Major scale, in Lydian you raise the fourth degree a half-step.

Lydian formula = 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7

Chord progression: | C | D/C :||

C Lydian solo example at 35:18

V. Mixolydian Mode (36:55)

Commonly used in blues and pop music.

Fifth mode of any Major scale. So for C Mixolydian, play the F Major scale starting on C..

Mixolydian
C Mixolydian

Compared to Major scale, in Mixolydian you drop the seventh degree a half-step.

Mixolydian formula: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7

Chord progression: | C | Bb/C :||

C Mixolydian solo example at 42:48

Passing Tones (40:50)

To add embellishment to a scale, you can use Chromatic passing tones.

In a modal scale you’ll have 7 notes in the scale, leaving 5 that can be used as passing tones.

As long as I’m book ending the thought, or the musical phrase, with vital notes within the scale, anything can fit in between…”

This is a similar concept George Lynch discussed in embracing wrong notes.

VI. Aeolian Mode (44:25)

An emotional mode, a gut rencher.

Sixth mode of any Major scale. So for C Aeolian, play the Eb Major scale starting on C.

Aeolian
C Aeolian

Compared to Major scale, in Aeolian you have the third, sixth and seven degrees flat.

Aeolian formula: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

Chord progression: | Ab/C | Bb/C :||

C Aeolian solo example at 49:20

VII. Locrian Mode (51:40)

Darker sounding mode.

Seventh mode of any Major scale. So for C Locrian, play the Db Major scale starting on C.

Locrian
C Locrian

Compared to Major scale, in Locrian you have the second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh degrees flat.

Locrian formula: 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7

Chord progression: | Gb/C | Ab/C :||

C Locrian solo example at 56:00

Performance piece in the key of C (57:40)

Lydian scale = Introduction

Dorian scale = Verses, Guitar solo

Ionian scale = Chorus

See if you can hear the change of mood in every section…”

Further reading

Check out Rick Beato’s interview with Frank Gambale.

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