When you begin to learn guitar scales, you learn how to advance your guitar playing. Rock guitar players, as well as jazz guitar players, who learn the music theory behind guitar scales really sound better than those stuck in the blues box. They sound more fluid, more dexterous, and more professional. One way that you as a guitar player who is wanting to learn guitar scales can take your guitar playing to another level is through the learning of modes. Modes are derivatives of “straight” guitar scales (although when you get advanced enough you understand that “straight” guitar scales in and of themselves are modes, too). When you learn guitar scales and modes at the same time, you give yourself a much greater base of knowledge from which to construct songs and solos.
One of the guitar modes that you need to learn is the Locrian Mode. The Locrian Mode is very similar to the Phrygian Mode, which is yet another guitar mode. However, when you play in the Locrian Mode, you play the Phrygian Mode except that you play one note differently. In addition, especially for beginner and intermediate guitar players, it’s important to note that you will start and end your solo on a different note than you would if you were playing in Phrygian.
Playing in the Locrian Mode, in its simplest sense, means beginning and ending a solo or lead break on the 7th note of the “straight” scale-that is, the scale the comes from the key that you are playing in. So, if you were playing in the key of C, and you wanted to play a solo in Locrian, you would start and end the solo on an B note. It would not have to be exactly the same B note, it could be a B note in another octave if you preferred, but it must be B (ha!).
Playing in B Locrian means playing something different than the B major scale. It also means playing in C in a different way than you would if you just were going to use the C major or its relative minor (A minor) scale for a solo.
Advanced guitar players want to understand the intervalic relationship for using a mode. The intervals for the Locrian Mode yield the following notes (relative to the key): Root, flatted 2nd , flatted 3rd ,major 4th ,flatted 5th , flatted 6th, flatted 7th . If you wanted to play B Locrian in a C major key, the notes that you would juggle would be: B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B’.
If you played B Locrian, you would play in the key of C but give the “sound and feel” of a B scale. You would “think in” the series that starts and ends with B and B’, but they would all be notes from the C major key (and thus scale). Imagine how creative you can get with that!
Imagine if you played the B Locrian mode (or “scale”) over top a chord progression in the key of B. You would give a very different feel to the song or piece.
The Locrian Mode is not used very much, in truth. There are differing theories as to why. It might be that the Locrian Mode, as it is based on the Leading Tone, is too “suggestive of” the Ionian Mode and thus loses effectiveness. It’s also thought that the Locrian Mode sounds so much like the Phrygian Mode that it’s barely distinguishable and, so, why should a guitar player learn or use both when Phrygian is so popular?
For the discerning guitar player who wants to learn guitar scales, the Locrian Mode allows for some very pronounced contrast between the solo and the chord progression. When you learn guitar scales, give yourself a great tool with the learning of the Locrian Mode.