Posts Tagged ‘modal theory’

Click on the picture to see the magnets.

Guitar Scale Magnets – Major Scale Strips
Summary: Great “cheat sheet” for learning where the various major scale modes start on the fretboard. Very convenient, and very easy to install!

Pros: Magnetic base strip attaches easily to the side of your fretboard. The strips provide a superb way to visualize the starting point of the major scale boxes.

Cons: Just a nit, but only available for 25.5″ scale guitars. Not a really big deal as that’s pretty much a standard. Of course, I have different scale lengths, but they fit my Tele perfectly!


  • Base strip has a very weak adhesive that sticks to the side of the neck, but will not peel varnish.
  • Magnetic strips are made of the same material as those “refrigerator stickers.” They’re pliable and very easy to use.
  • Major scale strips include all keys from C to B.
  • Includes scale charts for all modes. Very handy.
  • Comes with a convenient storage tube for storing the strips when you’re not using them.
  • Great way to visualize the modal starting points in any key.

Price: ~$19.99 plus $5.00 S&H

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ I’m a very visual learner, and having visual cues helps me learn much more effectively.

I’m not much of a guitar theoretician, not because of not wanting to be, but simply because with my busy lifestyle, having the time for academic pursuits is limited. So for my learning, I rely on tools and videos that will help me learn concepts quickly as opposed to traditional step-by-step methods that dissect the concepts into chunks. It may not be the best method of learning, but it’s all I have. But besides that, I’m also a very visual learner, and definitely a learn-by-doing type of guy. So if I can get my hands on something that will give me visual cues, my learning experience is much more valuable to me.

Enter Guitar Scale Magnets. One of the things I’ve been wanting to learn for awhile is modal theory. It has always interested me, but I’ve never seemed to have the time to really sit down to learn it – nor did I have the funds to take lessons (I spend it all on gear). So when I found out about Guitar Scale Magnets, I was immediately intrigued, and asked Jason Ellestad, the inventor of the guitar scale magnets to send me a set of major scale magnets to review.

In a word, these things are awesome! Made of the same magnetic material as those flexible “fridge” magnets – but not at thick – the magnets provide a very convenient way to learn the major scale modes by giving you visual cues of the starting points. Of course, you still have to learn the patterns, but you get the patterns on a couple of 8.5 X 11 sheets that you can tape to your wall for reference. Not bad for $19.99.

To attach magnets to the side of your fretboard, Jason provides step-by-step instructions. But you don’t even need the instructions. The base strip, of course, has no markings on it, so it’s easy figure out that it’s the base. It also has a weak adhesive that’s tacky enough to stick to your fretboard, and stay in place as you play, but not strong enough that it’ll peel your varnish. Once you have it in place, it’s just a simple matter of finding the key you want to practice, and laying it on top of the base strip. Each key is color-coded to show you the starting points for each mode. Click on the picture above to see an enlarged version of what they look like.

I won’t belabor how useful I’ve found these to be. I’m just going to recommend that you try them out. Jason has three types of strips available: Major Scale, Pentatonic Scale, and Learn the Fretboard/Tab strips. So if you need some visual cues for learning your scales, Magnetic Scale Strips are a great tool! For you teachers out there, I think these would be invaluable to give to your students to help them learn and practice in conjunction with your curricula.

For more information, go to the Guitar Scale Magnets site!

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Note: This isn’t going to be an instructional piece… just a sharing piece… mostly…

I’ve been playing guitar for over 35 years, but it hasn’t been until the last couple of years – actually the last few months – that I’ve really started focusing on scales and modal theory. Chord theory I had down cold, but I really didn’t focus on the scales part of the equation. I figured that if I could get some lead patterns and tricks down, I’d be in pretty good shape; and for awhile, that worked just fine.

But then I realized that in many of my recordings, I was using the same patterns and tricks, albeit in different keys and in different combinations, but the same stuff nonetheless. This prompted me to rethink how I approached playing solos, so I started out by learning major and minor scale patterns. I got a couple of books to help me along, and I proceeded to practice them.

But in the back of my mind was this idea of modes. I’d heard them bandied about for years, and pretty much ignored them partially out of the thought that as a rhythm player, they weren’t too important; though that really masked an innate fear that modes were WAY beyond my ability to grasp. But during this past weekend’s study/practice session, I realized that modes are not difficult at all! The names of the modes just scared the livin’ crap out of me! 🙂

Think about it: The mode names are all in Greek: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. From my previous life as a bio-sciences major, terminology in Greek or Latin would evoke feelings of anxiety similar to, “Oh shit! More frickin’ terms to memorize just to regurgitate later on.” 🙂 Such was the case when faced with modes.

I now feel a little foolish about my anxiety with modes. Once you understand what they represent, they’re totally easy to play!

Here’s my explanation in a nutshell, just in case you too have the same anxiety about modes as I did:

  1. Modes are simply starting points within the scale of a particular key.
  2. For instance, if you’re playing in the key of C and want to play in the Mixolydian mode, you’d start and end on the 5th degree of the C scale which is G.
  3. Now don’t get confused here: You don’t play a G scale. You merely start at G, and play the notes of the C scale, so: G A B C D E F G

So what’s the big deal? Lots of players don’t give a whit about this stuff. For me as a teacher, this stuff is pretty important. But from a player’s standpoint, it gives you a much deeper understanding of the fretboard, and also, playing in a mode gives you a different tonal center to play from, which actually has an effect on how a solo sounds and feels.

I found that a great example of this is to play the Lydian mode. The Lydian mode starts on the 4th degree of a scale. Going back to the C scale, this means that the Lydian will be F. If you’re familiar with chord theory, a chord with an added 4th is notated as Csus4. The sound of this particular chord connotes a feeling that the chord must be resolved – it’s not something you’d finish with; you’d typically use a “sus4” chord before either the major root chord or minor root chord. In our case of a C chord, we’d do something like: Csus4 – C. In playing in the Lydian mode, you’ll evoke a sense that you have to resolve your scale somehow. After all, starting and ending on the 4th creates a feeling that your phrase is unfinished. The point of all this is that where you start will have a huge effect on the general coloring of what you’re playing.

Note that this discussion only brushes the surface of modal theory. For a much deeper discussion, check out Guitar Noise or this excellent article that I found on Modes of the Major Scale.

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