6 Melodic Modal Rocks Licks You MUST Know

6 Melodic Modal Rocks Licks You MUST Know

Although these licks are modal, there’s no need to fret – each of the licks presented here are versatile, usable rock licks that lend themselves to several playing situations. And, while you’re learning them, you’ll gain an understanding of what notes to target when playing in modal situations – and how each modes gets its signature sound.

These free guitar lessons, taken from Jon Finn’s 30 Melodic Modal Rock Licks You MUST Know, will take you through six different licks that lend themselves each to a different mode. Check them out below, and if they’re just your speed, check out the rest of the course on TrueFire.

Lydian Lick: Sunny Days

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this modal rock lick lesson on TrueFire.

This lick features a small A major chord arpeggio along with the #4th degree of the scale (D#). Since the characteristic note of A Lydian is D# (#4th degree), this note is strongly featured in the first half of the lick.

The second half of the lick gives a musical “answer” to the first half over the B/A chord (B chord with A bass note). Even though the lick is based on a chord shape, it’s important to play each note, one at a time, to be sure that the notes don’t run into each other; especially when using an overdrive tone.

Ionian Lick: Seashore

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this modal rock lick lesson on TrueFire.

There’s that “D-shaped triangle” again! Y’know, once you realize you’ve hit on something you like, you end up using it a lot! Here, the “triangle” shape outlines a B chord, played against the E chord. Doing this creates a major 7th sound against the E chord. Almost like jazz, but not really. To wrap up, it goes back to some phrases that use more bends. Check the video and the notation for more detail.

Mixolydian Lick: Hippity Hop

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this modal rock lick lesson on TrueFire.

When I first came up with this lick, I based it on a “free association” thing I do sometimes. Sometimes when improvising, I like to slide around the neck to find cool notes, but also skip to non-adjacent strings to play a few notes, simply to make things a little less predictable.

For this lick, I played the idea over and over until finally I was able to repeat it several times playing it exactly the same way (typically, I would explore the idea when improvising and let it be different every time). Finally, I wrote it down on paper. There are several places where you skip strings to get cool, but unexpected notes. Check the notation and tablature to get the finer details. Practice with the backing track or metronome, then invent your own version of this lick!

Dorian Lick: City Strut

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this modal rock lick lesson on TrueFire.

Note that this lick uses a “swing 16ths” feel, creating a funkier, nastier feel.

Throughout the lick, you mostly play a C minor pentatonic scale while adding the characteristic note of C Dorian (which is the note A, the natural 6th degree) when appropriate. It ends with an arpeggio on the F9 chord. Check the notation and tablature to get the finer details. Practice with the backing track, then invent your own version of this lick!

Aeolian Lick: Rock Climbing

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this modal rock lick lesson on TrueFire.

As you watch the video, you’ll realize that most of this lick is based on arpeggios and chord tones. Things like this make a good case for learning scales, chords, and arpeggios all over the fretboard. It gives you tons of choices. Check the notation and tablature to get the finer details. Practice with the backing track, then invent your own version of this lick!

Phrygian Lick: Matador

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this modal rock lick lesson on TrueFire.

“Matador” is in F# Phrygian. It starts with a typical Spanish type theme incorporating 1/2 steps. The second one starts on F# to the b2. Next, it bends from C# to D back to C# 14th fret then a 16th note run. The next measure, you play an F# against a G chord which changes the sound. To finish the phrase, there are a series of notes played off the beat going downwards on the F# Phrygian scale.


There’s many more modal licks to try out in the full version of the course on TrueFire. Check it out, as well as the tab, notation, and jam tracks that come with each lick.