Modes are simply different positions of a given scale. It's important to understand this concept as you develop your skills on the guitar, and after teaching tens of thousands of students, this has been one of the most common misconceptions I’ve heard.
In fact, I don’t even consider scales as actual notes. Instead, I look at them in formulas of various intervals. Within a single key, we can use a different root note of the scale pitches that make up that key. So, if we have seven notes in the major scale, we have potentially seven different places to start playing the major scale. If there are five notes in the minor pentatonic scale – you guessed it – we have five positions, or modes, of the minor pentatonic scale.
Understanding intervals is essential to learning modes of any scale. What's more, though, is the knowledge of the harmony behind whatever scale you're working on and how it impacts the tonality of the music. All of this information is expanded on in depth in my course, Guitar Super System (opens in new tab), so be sure to sign up if you want to learn more!
Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win (opens in new tab). His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.