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Summary: Bite-sized articles cover a number of points about music theory.

Chord families and modes

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NB. If this article sounds confusing spend a bit of time researching modes and II-V-I chord relationships.There are loads of sites that have great information on this. You can access some from our guitar teacher links pages.

Continuing with the idea of simplifying chord substitution principals lets look at a connection between the three Chord Families and three of the modes:

The MAJOR chord type is primarily associated with the IONIAN mode

The MINOR chord type with the DORIAN mode


This idea is based on a theme that runs through most music forms, but is especially prevalent in Jazz, the II-V-I chord relationship.

Try this exercise. Play the following chords rooted at the fret shown in brackets after each chord:

4||:Am7(12) | D7(10) | GMaj7(10) | GMaj7(10) |

Gm7(10) | C7(8) | FMaj7 (8)| FMaj7(8) |

Fm7(8) | Bb7(6) | EbMaj7(6) | EbMaj7(6) |

Ebm7(6) | Ab7(4) | DbMaj7(4) | DbMaj7(4) |

Dbm7(4) | F#7(2) | BMaj7(2) | BMaj7(2) |

Bm7(2) | E7(12) | AMaj7(12) | AMaj7(12) :||

Learn the sequence thoroughly then record yourself playing through it at a reasonably slow tempo. Alternatively get a friend to play it live.

So using the sequence as a backing try improvising lead over it using the three scales as follows:

Over the IIm7 chord use the Dorian mode (b3,b7)
Over the V7 chord use the Mixolydian mode (b7)
Over the I chord use the Ionian mode (same as major scale)

This exercise has a lovely sound and feel to it and is a great way to get students into Jazz guitar, providing they are already quite proficient at playing rock, blues or classical guitar first.

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