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Lead Guitar Made Easy


[C major] [ 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 ]

Constructing Arpeggios by using the C Major Ionian Mode.

C major scale, ionian mode

The illustration to the left shows the C major Ionian scale. The C notes or root note of this scale are highlighted in blue. The numbers are the suggested fingering to use to play this scale.


c major scale and notes of the ionian mode

The illustration to the left shows the C major Ionian scale and the notes that make up this scale. Notice once again that the root note or C note has been highlighted in blue.


C ionian mode

This is the same C Ionian scale, but the A note has been added to the Low E string, 5th fret. What we need to learn is the relationship to the Am pentatonic scale to the C Ionian scale.


a minor pentatonic scale

The illustration to the left is that famous Am pentatonic scale we have be learned throughout the lessons. We will finally see why this scale is so important to learn. Notice this scale fits in perfect with the Ionian scale above. Am is the relative minor to C major. They share the same exact notes. 


C major scale

Can you see the Am pentatonic scale in the key of C Ionian major? The only difference is the two extra notes in the key of C major. The extra notes are the B and F notes. 

Pentatonic means the five note scale. So remember, the pentatonic scale will only have 5 notes. The major scale has 7 notes. 

key of C major and notes and chords of the major scale.

We can use this illustration in so many different ways. In our last lesson we used it to build an arpeggio for the Am chord. Before we build on more arpeggios, I would like to show you how to play everyone of these chords over the illustration below.

Look to the left and pick out the notes of the C chord. The notes are C, E and G. Now look below at the C Ionian Scale and notice those notes of that C chord.

C chord and building arpeggios

 C major chord in the ionian mode

There's a lot going on in this picture. First the notes circled are the C chord. You can play this chord in a number of different ways, but for now play it as illustrated. The numbers under the fret numbers are the suggested fingering. 

You can play this as an arpeggio or strum it as a C chord. Start with the C note, 8th fret 4 finger. The E note is played with the 3 finger and the G, C and E notes are played with the 1 finger. Play this chord and then play the C chord in the open position and compare the sound. But also try to see the chord relation to the scale it is formed in. You can move this chord around and play other chords. The note on the Low E string determines the chord. If you moved this fingering to the 5th fret you could play the A  chord in a totally different way. Move it around and experiment. But most of all, try to see how the chords relate to the scale it is from. In this case, notice how each chord lays over the key of C major. 

Play the C chord and then play this scale starting from the Low E string C note 8th fret to the C note on the high E string 8th fret. Notice how these notes sound nice over the C chord. Now pick the notes of the C chord. Pick on the C, E and G notes. These are the notes of the C Chord. 

You can play the Dm chord in this position in the Key of C major. You can play all of the chords in the key of C major in this position. 


D minor chord in the key of C major

Notice how you can play the Dm chord in this position over the key of C major. This is a very popular chord and you should be using it.  

To play the Dm chord in this position you would bar the 5th fret with your 1 finger. Use your 2 finger on the F note. Use your 3 and 4 finger on the A and D notes. You can move this fingering around to play other chords as well. This is a root 5 movable minor chord. The note on the A string determines the chord. By moving this chord to the 7th fret you would be playing the Em chord. Move it to the 2nd fret and you are playing the Bm chord.

The F chord in the key of C major scale

The illustration to the left shows you how to play the F chord in this position. The numbers under the fret numbers are the suggested fingering. 

There is one important thing to realize about all of these chords. One way or another each of them have the same fingerings as the open position chords. For Example, notice that this F chord has the Same fingering pattern as the open D chord. We know that the open D chord is at the 2nd fret, but if you move the D chord up to the fifth fret, it would now be the F chord. If you move the open D chord to the 4th fret it would be the E chord. Of course you would have to use a little different fingering to play the complete chord, but you should understand all of this. Also notice if you bar the 5th fret, the F chord would have the fingering of the open C chord. This is where the capo comes in to play. But you can use your 1 finger in place of the Capo to play this chord and others. 

One of the most important things to understand is the note and chord placement. Once you become comfortable playing chords in different positions, you can use these chords for little fills. Or you will begin to use just parts of each chord in your rhythm and lead work. You may only play two notes of each chord as a cool fill.


  • Use illustration 1 below to figure out all of the chords in the Key of C major. This illustration is the G Mixolydian mode. G to G in the key of C major. This is a popular position to play this mode. You can also play Em Phrygian in this position. E to E in C major. The Phrygian mode is not as popular as the Dorian or Aeolian mode. For that reason, it is sometimes desirable to convert the E Phrygian to the E Aeolian mode. E to E in G major. Look at illustration 2 below. 

  • Play each of the chords as arpeggios and you will come up with some melodies of your own.

  • Use blank illustrations to construct your own chords and arpeggios. By using these blank forms, you will see all kinds of new things develop.

This illustrates the key of G major or G Ionian. Notice the only note that is different from the key of C major is the F# note in G. The key of C major has the F note. However, the chords are different in the key of G major. G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em F# dim. But the key of G major has the Am and Em like that of the C major key. So you can either play G Mixolydian or G Ionian over the G chord. Or E Aeolian or E Phrygian over the Em chord. To take things a little further, you can play E blues, Em pentatonic or G major pentatonic over the G chord if you wanted to. Each key or mode will always have the notes of that chord in it. 

Look at illustration 2 above and look at the G major chord. G B and D. Em E, B and G. Am chord, A, C, E. C chord, C, E and G. Notice that C major is also in G major. These two scales are very popular and can be inter changed in your lead work. You can find Em pentatonic above, since Em is in G major. It is also in C major above. Am in Both, C major in both. You will eventually see that you should learn how to play the Aeolian mode, the Dorian mode and the Ionian mode in every key. But pay particular attention to A major, C major, E major and G major keys to start with. Once you master the Key of C major, the other keys have the same fingering, but different positions. Use the blank illustrations and fill in every note in the Key of G major. Then learn each pattern. This will become second nature eventually.

Good Luck

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