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The CAGED System with the Aeolian Mode

Now you have spent time playing with the Pentatonic  scale in one position, it is time to extend this idea with the Aeolian mode. First of all, learn the 5 anchor chords around which we will visualise the Aeolian scale shapes:

aeolian mode 1 aeolian mode 2 aeolian mode 3 aeolian mode 4 aeolian mode 5

While simple minor chords (not minor 7ths) would work equally well for the Aeolian mode, we need to differentiate between the anchor chord for the Blues Scale and the one for the Aeolian mode.

Begin by learning the chords and then play exercise figure and audio example 12 b.

aeolian mode 6


Test yourself by skipping shapes as shown in figure and audio example 12c. As you play each shape, remember to say its name and position out loud, e.g. “A minor 7 shape 1.”

aeolian mode 7


When you have memorised the 5 anchor chords, it is time to build each position of the Aeolian mode around each one.

Figure and audio example 12d:

aeolian mode 8 aeolian mode 9

aeolian mode 10


Figure and audio example 12e:

aeolian mode 11 aeolian mode 12

aeolian mode 13


Figure and audio example 12f:

aeolian mode 14 aeolian mode 15

aeolian mode 16


Figure and audio example 12g:

aeolian mode 17 aeolian mode 18

aeolian mode 19


Figure and audio example 12h:

aeolian mode 20 aeolian mode 21

aeolian mode 22


As you did with the Blues Scale, link up the shapes vertically along the neck in the following exercise:

Figure and audio example 12i:

aeolian mode 23


A lovely exercise to practice is to just let your fingers go for a walk on the neck and see how many different ways you can find to position-shift between any 2 scale positions of the Aeolian mode. Find the connections on all 6 strings and this will really open up the neck for you. Try it in different keys too.

Aeolian Mode Rock Licks in 5 Positions

As you start to get to grips with these shapes, it is time to start learning vocabulary based around each position.

The following chapters contain 25 Aeolian licks, 5 based around each scale shape. Listen to the audio examples first and spend time learning just your favourite lick from each shape. It is better to have one lick in each position than five licks in one position. Again, the idea is to attach each lick to the anchor chord you learned in the previous chapter; all you need to visualise is the first note of the lick superimposed over the anchor chord, and you will always know where to start that lick whatever key you’re playing in.

Try playing the anchor chord and then playing the lick you’re learning to cement in this relationship.

A very important thing to note is that the Aeolian mode is often freely combined with the Minor Pentatonic / blues Scale. This adds another level of depth to its tonality and makes it sound slightly more ‘rocky’. The following 25 licks reflect this and some of them include notes from the Blues Scale.

Aeolian Licks Shape 1

aeolian mode 24

Figure and audio example 13a:

aeolian mode 25


Figure and audio example 13b:

aeolian mode 26


Figure and audio example 13c:

aeolian mode 27


Figure and audio example 13d:

aeolian mode 28


Figure and audio example 13e:

aeolian mode 29


rock guitar uncaged 3d

Joseph Alexander, guitarist & guitar teacher - Fundamental Changes for guitar

Author - Joseph Alexander

Joseph Alexander has been a guitarist and expert music tutor for over 20 years. His tuition books are published in four languages and have sold over 200,000 copies to widespread critical acclaim. He is currently writing and publishing cutting edge-material that breaks down the barriers between learning and playing the guitar. As well as a…

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