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Watch the Modal Tonality online guitar lesson by Robbie Calvo from Guitar Interactives


Chord progressions are often built using chords from one key as you already know. Where the chord progression resolves however is the something we call the Tonal Center. The Tonal Center is where your ear determines that the chord progression resolves. Chord progressions can be written to resolve to any of the seven tonal centers found within any major scale key. These would be called modal progressions and we would apply our modal system of improvisation to target the tonal center of those progressions.

For example if we have a progression of AMI7 - G - F - G - AMI7, those chords are derived from the key of C but have a tonal center of the VI chord AMI7. We can apply our major scale of C to improvise over this progression but we’ll be focused on the chord tones of AMI7 from that scale for our resolution points. The ‘Mode’ that we are playing in from the key of C is A Aeolian, the VI mode of the major scale and it relates directly to the VI chord. This obviously works perfectly because the VI chord is built from the VI’th degree of the major scale.

To solidify the concept of modal tonality, I’ll be inverting the chord progression above to resolve to F and also G. I’ll