How to Play the Locrian Mode on Guitar

Welcome to the locrian mode, your mode of choice for m7b5 (or half diminished) chords. I am going to show you WHAT this mode is, WHERE it comes from, WHEN to use it, and (most importantly) HOW to use it.

Use this lesson to:

  • Learn basic modal theory.
  • Tune your ears to this mode’s unique sound.
  • Know how to improvise with it musically.
  • Have fun while you learn!

Locrian Mode Example

half diminished scale Can you see how B locrian has the same exact notes as C major scale?

Visual Example

locrian mode Play the white notes on a piano from B to B. That is B lociran, the 7th mode of C major scale.

Real Life Example

minor ii vi example In this example Dm7b5 is the II chord in the key of C minor. You can play D locrian over this Dm7b5 chord.

Fingering

Here is how to play the locrian mode on guitar. I recommend you start of by learning these two positions well. Numbers indicate what finger to use (1: first finger, 2: second finger, etc). The white circle is your root note.locrian modelocrian mode

 How to HEAR the Locrian Mode

To start off with, you can think of B locrian = C major scale. But to really HEAR the unique sound of a mode you need appreciate this scale as its own entity. Try this:

  • Forget about C major.
  • Play a Bm7b5 chord and play through the scale slowly.
  • Accustom your ears its sound.
  • Try this with all your modes, think of each mode as its own unique scale.

To sum up, modes are easy to learn because they share the same notes as each other. But to get your ears around them, think of each mode as a unique scale and key centre. I remember modes being confusing to me when I started out, let me know in the comment section below if this trick works for you!

When to Use the Locrian Mode

Using the locrian mode is simple and easy – it has just one use, on m7b5 chords So when do I use m7b5 chords? Good question. m7b5 chords most often function as II chords in a minor key. For example in Blue Bossa, Dm7b5 is the II chord. We play D locrian over Dm7b5. I highly recommend you check out my lesson minor II V I to see how this scale sounds in real life.

Locrian #2 Scale – A Better Option

I recommend you check out the locrian #2 scale for a better option on m7b5 chords. The locrian #2 scale is the same as the locrian, it just has a major 2nd (or 9th) instead of a b9.

Locrian Mode Summary

ScaleLocrian Mode
ChordHalf diminished m7b5, m7b5sus4
NotesR, b9, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7
C LocrianC, Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab , Bb
Chord/ Guide Tonesb3, b5 and b7
Color Tones11, b6
Avoid Notesb9
Sam's TipThis scale is your easiest option for m7b5 chords, get to know it well then upgrade to the locrian #2 mode.

Keep Learning

You are doing well! Keep on learning by applying the Locrian Scale in my autumn leaves lesson. Also, be sure to brush up on your m7b5 arpeggios. Arrpegios and scales go hand in hand. Return to jazz guitar scales here to learn another cool scale.

Free Major Scale Mode Lessons

  1. Ionian
  2. Dorian
  3. Phryigian
  4. Lydian
  5. Mixolydian
  6. Aeolian
  7. Locrian

Thanks for checking out this lesson, please feel free to leave a comment below with any suggestions or questions. ~ Sam Blakelock | pickupjazz.com

Comments

  1. Pierre says

    Hi Sam,

    In the diagram “Locrian Mode Example”, the C is displayed mistakenly as b3 when it is a b2.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge in a so digestible and straight to the point manner.

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