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How to Attack the Aeolian Mode

If you're looking for a quick way to get started improvising with the major scale, the simplest path to take is to learn the Aeolian mode. For most guitar players, the minor pentatonic scale is burned in our brains, which is great news, because the Aeolian mode is built on the same notes of that minor pentatonic scale–we just need to add two more notes.

The Aeolian mode will be a welcome compliment of melodic options to supplement your bluesy tendencies in the minor pentatonic scale. By adding the Major 2nd and Flat 6th notes, the minor pentatonic is transformed into Aeolian, which is also known as the natural minor scale.

Aeolian is the sixth mode of the major scale, and if you’re curious about each mode of the major scale, Guitar Super System is a great course to build your music theory foundation and learn to apply these modes to your own guitar playing.

The most common uses for the Aeolian mode depend on what sounds good to your ear, as with any music. The identifying note of the mode that is worth experimenting with is the flat 6th note. In the example below, we’re in the context of G minor. Notice the characteristic sound of the Aeolian mode come to life as you slide to the flat 6th note. Emphasizing these choice notes are a great way to get acquainted with new modes and scales.

The Aeolian mode is your shortcut to take the box shapes you already know and expand your approach to minor chord soloing. Its direct relationship to the minor pentatonic scale will introduce you to the Major Scale, and allow for a seamless transition between tonalities. For the full lesson, check out the video below.

Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win. 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.