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Lead Guitar Made Easy

[C major modes] [ C Ionian ] [ Dorian mode ] [ Phrygian mode ] [ Lydian mode ] [ Mixolydian Mode ] [ Aeolian mode ] [ Locrian mode ]

Basic major scale fingerings ] [ F major modes ] [ G Modes ] [ Constructing Scales ]
Key Signatures and constructing major scales ] [ Modulation, cadence, progressions ]

C major Ionian mode and the guitar modes in the key of C major

C major Ionian mode


  • Take a look at the image to the left. You will notice seven sections. Each section makes up the C Major Key and each note will represent the modes. 
  • The first note of the C Major key is the C note and will equal the Ionian mode. 
  • The second note is the D note or Dorian mode, then the E note, Phrygian mode, F, G, A, B and C notes in that order. Each of these notes or chords have names for them, check out leading to modulation part 1.

The first guitar mode you will learn out of the Key of C Major will be the C Ionian mode. Each mode in the key of C has a different name. The names are from the ancient Greek language. The Ionian mode is a medieval church mode corresponding to the modern major diatonic scale, or the first mode of the major key. The first mode in the major key is always the Ionian mode. This means  

We will learn the C major Ionian mode position starting at the C note Low E string 8th Fret. This is the same position as the C major pentatonic scale starting at the VIII position 8th fret or C note. The only difference is the two Fand B

C major guitar scale and fingering exercise

 Tablature below.


Look at the image above and check out the notes and their placement. Compare the C major pentatonic scale below to the C Major scale above and notice the only difference is the two notes F and B. You should have the A minor pentatonic scale and C major pentatonic scale below memorized from the previous lessons. If not, please go back and review. The major key has seven notes and the pentatonic scale has only 5. You can go about playing lead in a number ways.

The notes in the key of C major are, C, D, E, F, G, A, B and C. The notes in C major pentatonic are C, D, E, G and A. If you wanted to play lead over the C chord or the notes in the key of C major, you could use the C major pentatonic scale. Look below and pick out the notes of the C major pentatonic scale. C, D, E, G and A. This is a popular position to use this scale. This is because the C chord is easily played in this position. You can play the C chord in this

C major guitar scale

This scale can also be considered C major pentatonic. C major is the relative major to Am, so they share the same exact notes.

To play the C Major scale or Ionian mode you would start on the C note. Look at the image above and notice that the C note is on the Low E string 8th fret. You would play from C to C going through all six strings. The image below shows the recommended fingering pattern for this position. Notice the fingering pattern and how it starts on the Low E string 2 finger on the 8th fret. I hope you remember what each number equals, if not they are shown below. In this lower image the C notes are highlighted in blue. Notice how there are 3 C notes from the Low E string to the High C to High C will cover two octaves.

Each finger number
1 Index
2 Middle
3 Ring

C major guitar scale

Tablature below.


Notice you will be playing from the Low E string C note down through the notes to the High E string C note.

Look at the image above and notice where all the C notes are at. Remember when playing from C to C is the Ionian mode.

Look at the image below. This is the same scale as above, but using a different fingering pattern at a different location. You are still playing from C to C. Look below and notice you are starting on the C note but with the 4 finger. The C notes have been highlighted the Low E string 8th fret to the high E string 8th fret.

c major scale and Ionian mode

Play the 4 finger 8th fret low E string now. The next note is played 1 finger A string 5th fret. Play that now. 3 and 4 finger A string is next. Move to the D string, 1, 3 finger. Continue through the rest of the strings using the recommended fingering. Once again, the notes are illustrated below.

C major scale and modes

Tablature below.


To make practicing a little more enjoyable, lay down  a progression of C, F  and G chords on a recorder and play this mode over them. Eventually you will want to play this mode in as many different positions as possible. As you play lead over the C, F and G chords, concentrate on playing the notes of each of those chords. For example, when playing over the C chord, play the notes of that chord. When you play over the G chord, you can play over the notes of the G chord. The same goes for the F chord. The notes of each of these chords are in the mode

Another way to play lead over these chords is to play the major pentatonic scale of each of these chords. Remember there are 3 major chords and 3 minor chords in every major key. For example, above you could play over the C chord using the C pentatonic major scale. C, D, E, G and A for the C chord. But you could very easily move this same fingering pattern around and use different major pentatonic scales to play over the F and G chords, since they are both major chords. You could use the F major pentatonic

Now it's time to learn the next position of the key of C Major. The Greek name is the. Dorian mode.

Good luck,

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