Guitar Essentials: How to Attack Aeolian Mode

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PHOTO: Cindy Moorhead

If you're looking for a quick way to get started improvising with the major scale, the simplest path to take is to learn the Aeolian mode. For most guitar players, the minor pentatonic scale is burned in our brains, which is great news, because the Aeolian mode is built on the same notes of that minor pentatonic scale–we just need to add two more notes.

The Aeolian mode will be a welcome compliment of melodic options to supplement your bluesy tendencies in the minor pentatonic scale. By adding the Major 2nd and Flat 6th notes, the minor pentatonic is transformed into Aeolian, which is also known as the natural minor scale.

Aeolian is the sixth mode of the major scale, and if you’re curious about each mode of the major scale, Guitar Super System is a great course to build your music theory foundation and learn to apply these modes to your own guitar playing.

The most common uses for the Aeolian mode depend on what sounds good to your ear, as with any music. The identifying note of the mode that is worth experimenting with is the flat 6th note. In the example below, we’re in the context of G minor. Notice the characteristic sound of the Aeolian mode come to life as you slide to the flat 6th note. Emphasizing these choice notes are a great way to get acquainted with new modes and scales.

The Aeolian mode is your shortcut to take the box shapes you already know and expand your approach to minor chord soloing. Its direct relationship to the minor pentatonic scale will introduce you to the Major Scale, and allow for a seamless transition between tonalities. For the full lesson, check out the video below.

Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric website Music Is Win. His entertaining guitar-related content receives hundreds of thousands of video views on Facebook per month, and his online guitar courses tout more than 1,500 students with a cumulative 4.7 rating on Udemy. Get in touch with Tyler on Facebook, watch more of his guitar lessons and vlogs on YouTube, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.