Today we’re continuing and expanding our series on the Major Scales and Modes! For the past few months we’ve introduced you to all the major scale shapes, and have been showing each of the “diatonic scales”, or “major modes”. Today we have arrived at the final mode, and for this lesson we’ll be taking a look back at the very first Major pattern. By adjusting our tonic notes of Major Pattern #1 back by one semitone, what we have is the final of seven “diatonic scales”, which is a “mode” called Locrian!
A few examples of songs that use Locrian in them include Sad But True by Metallica, So Far Under by Alice In Chains, Army of Me by Bjork, Juice Box by The Strokes, and YYZ by Rush. However, those examples don’t even necessarily use Locrian for the entirety of the song – because Locrian is such a tricky mode!
Each mode is based around its tonic (root) note and the seven intervals leading to its next tonic note, and each mode has a signature sound. While some of the notes in Locrian fit together nicely, the relationship between the root note and the character note of the scale, which is the fifth note in the scale (the flat fifth, or b5), can lead to sounds that aren’t very melodically pleasing. Every other mode of the major scale has a perfect fifth, but Locrian has a diminished fifth! This leads to Locrian sounds commonly being described as tense, dissonant, unfinished, or unstable, and as a result this mode is uncommon in popular music.
Locrian mode can be transposed to any key – and guitarists have a huge advantage in that by using patterns like the one posted here.
For example, if you take this exact pattern and move it on the fretboard so your tonic/root notes are on the fourth fret, which is a G#, you would then be playing in G# Locrian! Take a look at the tab and compare it to the pattern, and then play from tonic note to tonic note (marked with V’s overtop), paying careful attention to the fifth note in the scale (the flat fifth, or b5). That is the “character note”, and helps represent the sound of Locrian. You can also check below for a groovy backing track to try this out on!
You can also take a look at the previous several weeks for examples on different modes!
Was this helpful to you? For those familiar with modes, what helps you keep them simple? If you want to learn more, we are currently offering online video conference lessons!
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