The locrian mode | Guitar diagrams and theory
The locrian mode is the seventh mode of the major scale. The other modes are called ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, and aeolian. It has a particular sound because of its b2, its b3, b5, b6 and b7. It is the least used, and probably the most misunderstood out of all of the modes of the major scale. It is usually played over minor seventh flat ninth chords (m7b5), in a minor II-V-I sequence for example.
|B locrian mode||B||C||D||E||F||G||A|
|Formula||1||b2 (b9)||b3||4 (11)||b5||b6 (b13)||b7|
(W = whole step ; H = half step)
The locrian mode in twelve keys
Reflecting the following sequence H-W-W-H-W-W-W we get these twelve locrian scales. Each scale consists of a root (1), minor second (b2) or flat ninth (b9), minor third (b3), fourth (4) / eleventh (11), diminished fifth (b5), minor sixth (b6) / flat thirteenth (b13) and minor seventh (b7).
|A Locrian Mode||A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G|
|Bb Locrian Mode||Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, Fb, Gb, Ab|
|B Locrian Mode||B,C,D,E,F,G,A|
|C Locrian Mode||C,Db,Eb,F,Gb,Ab,Bb|
|Db Locrian Mode||Db, Ebb, Fb, Gb, Abb, Bbb, Cb,|
|D Locrian Mode||D,Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb,C|
|Eb Locrian Mode||Eb, Fb, Gb, Abb Bbb, Cb, Db|
|E Locrian Mode||E,F,G,A,Bb,C,D|
|F Locrian Mode||E#,F#,G#,A#,B,C#,D#|
|F# Locrian Mode||F#,G,A,B,C,D,E|
|G Locrian Mode||G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F|
|G# Locrian Mode||G#,A,B,C#,D,E,F#|
Locrian guitar patterns
Here are two recommended guitar diagrams to play the locrian mode.
To understand and "hear" this mode, it is recommended to play these patterns by starting with the root "R". The root is a very important note which gives its name to a scale. For example A is the root of A locrian scale. You must know the location of the root of any scale.
To play the B locrian mode using the first pattern you have to put your first finger on the sixth string at the seventh fret.
To play the B locrian mode using the second pattern you must put your first finger on the fifth string at the second fret.
To practice the locrian mode in different keys, you just have to move the root "R" to the desired tonality keeping the same intervals.
Related arpeggio and triad
The locrian mode produces a diminished triad and a half-diminished arpeggio. Diminished triads consists of root (1) and minor third (b3) and a diminished fifth (b5). Half-diminished arpeggios are made up of a root, minor third, diminished fifth and minor seventh (b7). Theoretically, they should be applied to minor seventh flat fifth chords (m7b5).
|B locrian mode||B||C||D||E||F||G||A||Chord|
|Formula||1||b2 (b9)||b3||4 (11)||b5||b6 (b13)||b7|
|B diminished triad||1||x||b3||x||b5||x||x||Bm7b5|
|B half-diminished arpeggio||1||x||b3||x||b5||x||b7||Bm7b5|
You have to know that the half-diminished arpeggios can be used to highlight the ninth (9) of a dominant 7th chord. For example, you can play a E half-diminished arpeggio (E-G-Bb-D) over a C dominant seventh chord (C7) starting from its third.
|E half diminished arpeggio||E||G||Bb||D|
|C dominant 7th chord||C||E||G||Bb|
- E of E half diminished arpeggio is the third of C7
- G is the fifth
- Bb is the minor seventh
- D is the ninth.
Another common jazz trick is to apply a half diminished arpeggio to a minor seventh chord starting from the third of this chord. This technique allows to highlight the thirteenth of a minor chord. For example, let's take a D minor seventh (Dm7) chord built with D, F, A and C respectively root (1), minor third (b3), perfect fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7). The sixth of D is B which can also be named thirteenth (13). So now you just have to play a B half diminished arpeggio which is B, D, F and A.
|B half diminished arpeggio||B||D||F||A|
|D minor seventh chord||D||F||A||C|
- B is the thirteenth of Dm
- D is the root
- F is the third
- A is the fifth
II-V-I jazz guitar line | Half diminished arpeggio | Thirteenth highlighted
Here is a basic major II-V-I sequence in the key of C to understand the use of the half diminished arpeggio over a minor seventh chord. In this context, we will not play the whole B locrian scale over the Dm7 chord but only a B half diminished arpeggio. As you can see the four notes in orange in bar 1 represent this arpeggio. In this example, it is inverted, it starts with the third (D) which is the root of D minor seventh.
D locrian mode | minor II-V-I progression
We can see in this minor II-V-I chord progression the basic application of the locrian mode over a Dm7b5 chord.
- Bar one : D descending locrian mode (D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C) with a passing tone (A).
- Bar two : B diminished 7th arpeggio (B-D-F-Ab) and chromatic line (F-F#-G).In this line the B diminished arpeggio starts on the third of G7b9.
- Bar three : Fifth and b3 of Cm.
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Last edited: 06/03/2017