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Moving from ionian to dorian

Here’s the dorian mode.

The diagram…


dorian image


…and the notes.


dorian mode


Here are the arpeggios in the B dorian mode starting on the 6th string, 7th fret. This is a bit of a finger exercise. Take it slow.


dorian arp



And here are the A ionian arpeggios from the last post.


A major arpeggios


First, make sure that you’re comfortable playing both. Once your fingers are comfortable playing the arpeggios in each mode, moving between them is a lot easier.


Going between modes

The method for doing this is pretty straight ahead. Just play the first arpeggio of the A Ionian mode, the one that starts on the 6th string, 5th fret. Then move to the first arpeggio of the dorian mode. That takes you from the A major arpeggio to the B minor arpeggio.

Here’s what that looks like. I’ve added a continuation of the dorian mode.


ionian to dorian


The next thing to do is work on moving from A ionian to B dorian, starting on every arpeggio in A ionian. You can also start from any arpeggio in B dorian, and move to A ionian.

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Arpeggios in position

You’ll have noticed, from playing the arpeggios in the last post, that each arpeggio type – major, minor and diminished – have their own shapes.

If you play them in the same position – as opposed to along the neck – things change.


Arpeggios in A

Let’s take the arpeggios in the key of A, fifth position. This means we’re using the A major scale, or A ionian. Same thing.


A major arpeggios

As you play this you’ll notice different shapes for the same chord quality. Major and minor triads each have two shapes, even though both shapes start on the root. This makes playing arpeggios in position a bit more difficult, but it makes it easier to use when soloing.


Use both

Both ways are useful, and – good news – they’re complementary.

Once you know your arpeggios in other modes, you can move between them using arpeggios.

In the next post, I’ll show you the arpeggios in the dorian mode. Then we’ll start moving between ionian and dorian.


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Dissonance, consonance, and arpeggios

At the end of the last post, I started talking about the chromatic scale. I’m going to back up a bit and expand the idea of single notes as non chord-tones, and talk about non chord-tones as part of arpeggios.

Think of single notes as being letters and arpeggios as being words. A phrase, then, is two or more arpeggios played in a sequence.


Creating tension on G major

So let’s take a single chord: a G major triad. Its chord-tones are: G, B, and D. Obviously, the G major arpeggio works, but what about all the other arpeggios in the key of G? Let’s take a look.


  • The A minor arpeggio has an A, a C, and an E. No chord tones, so we’ll label that as tense.
  • The B minor arpeggio has a B, a D, and an F#. This one is way more consonant with two chord-tones form the G major triad, and the 7th of a G major 7 chord.
  • The C major arpeggio has C, E, and G. Two non chord tones and the root of the G major triad. More consonant than the A minor triad, but less consonant than the B minor.
  • The D major triad: D, F#, A. One chord tone and the 7th of G major 7.
  • E minor triad: E, G, and B. Consonant like the B minor triad – two chord-tones and one non chord tone.
  • Finally, the F# diminished triad, which has F#, A, and C. this is probably the most dissonant triad of the key when played against the G major.


The takeaway is that you can plot the amount of tension you want to produce against a single chord. And yes, there is almost always more than one chord in any song. This means things can get complex pretty fast.


 The joy of work

It’s a lot of work to learn how to use arpeggios like this, but the payoff is enormous in terms of technique and ear training. Make it enjoyable (and not overwhelming), by just learning the arpeggios in the key of G for now and then playing them over a recorded G major chord.


Here’s are  the arpeggios in G major in sequence:


g maj arpeggio

I’ve put these all on the same two strings to make it a bit easier to play. This way you can get the tension/resolution sound in your ear faster. I’ll talk about playing them all in the same position in the next post.

I’ll also talk about not playing them in sequence like this. It gets old fast.

As a technical exercise, see if you jump randomly from chord to chord smoothly (i.e. Gmaj to Cmaj to F#dim to Dmaj, etc.). Go as slow as you need.

As an ear exercise, repeat one of the more consonant arpeggios at least five times. Then play one of the more dissonant ones. Then reverse the process. Repeat a dissonant arpeggio five times, and follow it with a consonant one.




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Non chord tones

Playing nothing but arpeggios can sound unnatural. There’s lack of fluidity and a surplus of predictability if you play nothing but chord-tones.

Let’s mix it up with non chord-tones. Non chord-tones are simply the notes in the scale that aren’t in the chord.


Using non chord-tones

To keep it clear, I’ll just use a C major chord.


C non chord tones

That’s a bit more fluid. I’ve inserted the non chord-tone F between C and E, and between E and G. Then between G and C, I’ve inserted to non chord-tones in a row – A and D.

Notice that there’s a leap of a 4th (C to F) right at the beginning. There’s another one at the end – A to D. From a compositional standpoint, that’s a nice balancing technique. What’s interesting is that the leap from A to D sounds more dramatic, making those 4ths both the same and different.

There are a couple of reasons that the A to D sounds more dramatic.


  1. The leap from C to F isn’t preceded by any closely spaced intervals like everything before the leap from A to D. So no contrast.
  2. The leap from C to F is in a lower register than the leap from A to D. The higher register on an instrument has a more in-your-face quality.



Add rhythm, and it gets better.


c non chord tones rhythm


Every chord-tone

Of course, non chord-tones aren’t just the other notes in the scale. They’re also the other notes outside the scale: C#, D#, F#, and G#. Try playing and resolving those to chord tones.

Here’s the C chromatic scale with the chord tones (CT) marked. Everything else is for creating tension. And tension is always resolved by moving to a chord-tone.


C    C#   D    D#    E    F    F#    G    G#    A     A#     B

CT                    CT              CT                       CT

1                      3               5                         7



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