The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 3a – Seeing The Six-String Major Scale

Welcome to Part 3 of the GuitArcitecture Mode visualization lesson series!


In this lesson, I’m going to show how to utilize the 2-string patterns from part two of this series in a positional way.  Since this post was pretty lengthy,  I’ve split it in half:


If you want to get right into the patterns – just click here!

If you want to see how these patterns work – just keep reading!!

(Either way, if you go back and forth between the two posts the concept will become clearer for you)


If you see anything unfamiliar here, you may want to check out part one or part two of the series, but in the meantime, here’s a quick recap:


To Review:

  • Any major scale can be broken down into seven 2-string modal shapes that are derived from their scale degree (i.e. position in the scale)
  1. Ionian
  2. Dorian
  3. Phrygian
  4. Lydian
  5. Mixolydian
  6. Aeolian
  7. Locrian
  • The order of the modes is always the same.
  • The fact that the 7th note of each mode is missing from the initial fingering pattern is irrelevant because it will be played in the pattern that follows it.
  • A logical fingering pattern can be established by playing the modal fingerings up and down the fingerboard, because they move in an ascending modal order.


A Pedagogical note:

I’ve had extensive debate with myself on the best sequence to present this information.  Conveying it effectively is something that’s much easier to suss out with an individual student, and much harder to get across in the digital version of a one room schoolhouse.

Since the initial emphasis of this lesson series is on sonic visualization and making sense out of 2-string and positional fingerings, I am only dealing with visualizing the parent major scale as a whole here.

While modes are always associated with a chord or a chord progression, I’m limiting harmonic options only to C Major/A minor for now.

Extremely important elements in this process, such as harmony, modal interchange, arpeggios, individual modes and actual music making will all be dealt with in future posts.  Having said that, it is important to state again, that modes (or any scale), in and of themselves, are not music but are only a tool in making music.   Anything I post here should always be filtered through your own aesthetic and utilized, adapted or even ignored accordingly (i.e. take what works for you).


Establishing A Logical Positional Modal Fingering


Let’s look at a sample scale shape.  In this case I’ll use an 8th position C Ionian 3-note-per-string scale:


A Picking note:

On 3-note-per-string scale shapes, I often use the semi-sweep picking approach detailed below as it allows me to use a single picking pattern for each string.  If I’m using this as part of a pattern, I’ll often alternate pick it.  The picking patterns below then, should be viewed as a suggestion.


Broken down into the six-note shapes discussed earlier, this C Ionian fingering can be seen as containing three distinct patterns:


 Two-string sets of C Ionian


As the fingering pattern ascends across the strings, the six note modal fingerings descend to the next modal pattern.   This is true of any modal pattern.



By using an initial six-note pattern on two strings, the continuation of the mode will always require starting the next pattern on the 7th note of the mode.


Six-note C Ionian Pattern On The E and A Strings


The next note in the scale is B.  In the key of C, this implies a Locrian pattern.


Six-note B Locrian Pattern On The D and G Strings


Now that we have a way to connect these two string patterns across the finger board, the next questions you might have are probably:


  •  What fret on the fingerboard do the patterns on the D and G strings start?  and
  •  What fret on the fingerboard do the patterns on the B and high E  strings start?


Let’s start with the D and G Strings.


Determining The Fret Position On The D And G Strings


The good news is there are only three rules:


Rule 1: 

When starting from the Ionian mode on the E and A strings, the Locrian mode on the D and G string set will start one fret higher.


C Ionian To B Locrian


Rule 2: 

If Lydian is the pattern played on the E and A strings, the Phrygian pattern on the D and G Strings will start on the same fret as the first note on the A string not the E string.


F Lydian To E Phrygian


Rule 3: 

Aside from the two exceptions above, the first note of the mode on the D string set always starts on the same fret as first note of the mode on the E string.


Determining The Fret Position On The B And E Strings


Rule 1: 

The  strings of the guitar are tuned in 4ths except between the G and B strings.  Since the distance between the G and B String is a 3rd apart instead of a 4th, patterns on the B and E strings will start 1 fret higher.



Rule 2: 

The only exception to the above rule occurs when Ionian is the pattern on the D and G strings.  In that case, since Locrian would move up 1 fret anyway, and the G/B 3rd tuning would require moving any pattern up 1 fret, the first note of the Locrian pattern would start 2 frets higher.


C Ionian To B Locrian


If you made it this far, you might be ready for the second 1/2 of this post!  

You can find all the examples, technical notes and overview here:.


If you’re ending it here for now, I recommend you just go through the lesson at your own pace and return as you need to.  Please feel free to post any questions you might have (or pm me at


I hope this helps.   As always, thanks for reading!



P.S. If you like this post – you may also like:



The GuitArchitecture Guide To Modes Part 1 – Seeing The Single String Major Scale













10 thoughts on “The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 3a – Seeing The Six-String Major Scale

  1. Hello Scott ! Julien from France.
    I just found out about you and your concepts and I really like the two stings patterns system.

    It seems (or I missed a thing) that you never talk about starting a pattern on the A or G strings and have to play patterns with modified fingerings on the G and B strings.

    Of course you talk about finishing a pattern on G string and starting another on B string, but my question is : Do I ruin the concept when playing patterns on A and D or G and B ?

    • Hi Julien,

      Thanks for posting. I’m glad you like the concept!

      The concept still works on other strings – you just have to adapt the pattern +1 fret when you play the shape on the B + G String.

      Try playing C Major as a 3 note per string scale starting on the A string.


      C Ionian is on the A and D string.
      B locrian is on the G and B strings BUT becuase the G+B interval is a 3rd instead of a 4th, the shape moves up a fret on the B string.
      A Aeolian starts on the high E string.

      I talk about this more in my Melodic Patterns and Chord Scale books. You can get the pdfs on or, since your from France, from Amazon.FR.

      I hope that helps!


  2. Thanks for the answer.

    In fact, I was wondering the way you “mentally” visualize when you play a thing like :

    “Ionian pattern” or “end of mixolydian-beginning of lydian” even though the notes are the same.

    The second way is more complicated but really avoids the question of the adapted patterns on the G+B pair.

    Maybe I think to much 🙂

    By the way, did you try the all 4th tuning ? Seems perfect for a player like you. (not me, I’m too old)

    I have already purchased your Melodic patterns eBook and it’s only the beginning (I discovered you and your work yesterday 🙂


    • Hey Julien!

      I just put a long reply in and my computer crashed so I’m going to respond with short points this time!

      I think of the fretboard in large blocks. I think “C Parent major” instead of “C ionian – B locrian – A Aeolian”. Usually I’m improvising so I want to think of things in the simplest possible manner so I can work on expression.

      Getting to that point means spending a lot of time with individual components. Also how I think of anythign depends a LOT on the chord I’m playing it over. That really determines how I’m seeing the component as part of a larger pattern.

      The 4ths tuning is cool, but I like chord voicings with 2nds and 3rds on the g + b strings so I stay in standard tuning.

      Finally, thanks for the book order!!! I hope it helps!


  3. Ihave a construction background, and one of my favorite phrases is “Nothing is too difficult if you break it down into small enough parts.” Thank you so much for applying this to the guitar and sharing it!

    I have been reading through parts 1-4, and I feel like a switch has flipped in my head. I can already see the power of breaking things down into smaller chunks. Learning the patterns as one 6-string block is simply too much to try to visualize, along with the pattern(s) preceding or following it to link thing up and play all over the neck. Not to mention it really lends itself to mindlessly playing up and down the scale. Your approach has already opened up my playing, and I only spent about 20 minutes with it so far! It made it so much easier to know where I am and where I can go without consciously thinking of the note names the whole time.

    Thank you!!!!!!

      • After what I’ve read so far, they’re on my list. I have been using the Berkley series to re-teach myself. It has been going ok, I have been able to finally move up the neck and work things out. But those 6 string patterns are so cumbersome to try to visualize all at once, and there is no real tie-in to playing up and down the neck freely.

        I had only recently started applying single-string playing, but once again it was trying to see all seven notes and they’re octaves up and down the neckat once. I got better at seeing it, but again, the broken down modal patterns made it instantly easier to move around the neck.

        I’ll definitely be passing this on and referring people here.

  4. Hello Scott
    great lessons here!!!!

    Yesterday I bought three of your book (The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes – Melodic Patterns, Harmonic Combinatorics and Positional Exploration).
    Great work!!

    Can I find an complete introduction of the two-string-patterns and the use of them (e.g. the rules explained on this website) in one of your books or can I get the information only from your website? In the Melodic pattern book you are referencing to the book “The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes” for an introduction! Is this a separate book and where can I buy it?


    • Hey Jens! Thanks so much for the e-mail and for the book purchases! Your support is really appreciated!

      “The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes” is still several books away from being completed – (There’s a new pentatonic book I hope to have out by the end of the year.)”

      The concept is outlined the MOST in the “Guide to Chord Scales” book, but is also laid out in the “Pentatonic visualization book” as it’s applied to pentatonics.

      In the meantime – there are a LOT of free lessons (for now!) here to keep you busy with the concept. If you have more questions – just send me an email at guitar.blueprint (at) gmail (dot) com!

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