A Fast, Easy Way to Figure Out Keysignatures of Modes

Student Question About How To Apply Keysignatues of Modes To Soloing.

Before I go into the question the student had, I want to mention that you can learn here about How To Figure Out and Practice Keysignatures of Modes.

Question from student Joshua Picard:

Let’s say that you want me to play Eb Lydian scale starting at the 5th fret, then is following the correct thought process??

Step 1: I think… Eb Lydian is in the key of Bb,
Step 2: and the note on the 5th fret is A, which is the 7th of Bb.
Conclusion: I need to play A Locrian (because I need to play the same notes like a Bb major scale since that major scale has the same notes as Eb Lydian.
Is my thinking correct on this?
I know I have to think in terms of notes but just wanted to make sure that I am thinking in the right direction on this.

The Answer.


There’s a couple of things I would change in that thought process.

First off; I would not think “Eb is in the key of Bb”. I think that it is just extra, confusing, unnecessary information in the thought process.
When you think “Eb Lydian is in the key of Bb”, you are using the relative scale system to figure out notes in a mode. The above URL leads to a blog explaining why thinking parallel scales is a better system.

Using Eb Lydian scale from the 5th fret as an example, my thought process is this:

  1. Step 1: What is the key signature of an Eb major scale.
    Answer: 3b’s

  2. Step 2: How do I make THAT Lydian?
    Answer: I take a flat away. The 4th note in the Eb major scale needs to go up a 1/2 step to make it an Eb Lydian scale, which I do by taking a flat way (or adding a sharp in scales that have sharps)
    Conclusion: Eb Lydian has 2 sharps

  3. Step 3: The assignment given was that we play Eb Lydian from the 5th fret. Starting on the 5th fret the notes are A Bb C D Eb F G A etc…

    In other words: as step 3 shows… we think notes.

  4. Step 4: This one is a skill you will get better at over time. As you get better with memorization of all the in-position scale fingering patterns, you will after a couple of notes, while thinking notes… see… “oh, cool, that’s an A Locrian” fingering.

    Later, over time of practicing this… you will even get into a…

  5. Step 5: which is the immediate realization of:
    “ok, it’s 2 flats, and I’m on an A note (5th fret). Which A scale has 2 flats?
    Answer: A Locrian. (this step 5 I mention here, is actually merely another way of getting to the same conclusion/answer. It’s a 2nd way of connecting the dots and coming to the right answer: a connection that you over time will immediately see in addition to all the above).

All that being said: the 4 step thought process is how you should practice this.
Give yourself a note, a scale, and a fret number, like for example B Dorian from the 2nd fret. Then go through the 4 steps to figure out which fingering on that 2nd fret gives you a B Dorian scale, then play the fingering.

The more you practice this, the faster you will get with the thought processes and the better you will get at it, to the point where you won’t need the steps anymore.

In recap:

  1. Figure out keysignature using parallel scales
  2. Think notes.
  3. Play the fingering thinking notes.
  4. The shape of the fingering will reveal itself after a couple of notes.


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