I'm trying to learn this amazing guitar solo from W.C. Fields played by Gabor Szabo.

It starts at 02:00. I learned this first section which is in the key of G major.
At 02:20–02:32 it switches to something else. It sounds very modal but I'm not good with modes yet so I hope someone can take a listen and let me know what mode it is.

  • Not a mode as such, simply a 'key change' temporarily. Shades of 'Up Up and Away'.
    – Tim
    Aug 19 '20 at 6:57
  • 2:15 the melody note is a D = so in G, and modulates to D = mi in Bb Aug 19 '20 at 7:03
  • @Tim Talk about modulations, “Up Up and Away”, whew! Blink and you’ll miss one! Still, it’s an amazing and very cohesive song, the way the common tones in melody tie them all together. Aug 19 '20 at 14:51
  • @AlbrechtHügli - 'common tone modulation' in the trade!
    – Tim
    Aug 19 '20 at 15:50

I've roughly written out the guitar solo below. It's not 100% accurate but it's near enough there (I stopped a little into the C major section because it doesn't modulate anymore in the solo after that):

Sheet music showing a rough estimation of the guitar solo from the question

You can see that the solo starts in G major, then modulates to Bb major around bars 9-10 and then modulates again to C major around bars 17-18.

The section you have asked about is in the Bb section, where the harmony implied underneath the solo switches between the chords Bb major and Ab major every two bars. The solo itself basically outlines those chords with variations on Bb and Ab arpeggios - it's not that modal, just changing scales/arpeggios to match whatever chord is underneath (play Bb major scale/arpeggio over Bb, Ab major scale/arpeggio over Ab, etc).

If you want to play a mode over this during your own improvisation, the mixolydian mode could be a good place to start (it's just the major scale/ionian mode with a b7) since the chords underneath the solo are switching between I and bVII. If you want to play like this solo though, just following the chords is a really easy technique to sound "modal" or "jazzy".

If you want the actual tab for what I wrote above, here you go:

tab of the above guitar solo

I didn't write this with a guitar in front of me so you might find an easier/more natural way to play it. It was written more for the notation than for the guitar fingering.


At that point in the solo the song goes to Bbmaj7 and Abmaj7, 2 bars each twice but the Abmaj7 is only one bar the second time before transitioning back to the key of G.

So regarding modes, he just plays Bb and Ab natural major (Ionian) scales over the Bb and Ab chords respectively. He plays a lot off the 5th, 7th and 9th notes of those chords as well.

  • 1
    'Natural' major? Does it need that word?
    – Tim
    Aug 19 '20 at 5:56
  • @Tim since the OP asked about modes and there are 3 major modes I thought it wouldn’t hurt. Aug 19 '20 at 8:32
  • It wasn't a criticism, just a rarely heard term. It works well, comparing it to the 'natural minor'!
    – Tim
    Aug 19 '20 at 10:54
  • @Tim the term “natural minor” is why it occurred to me to use it, naturally. Aug 19 '20 at 14:46

1: The harmony is A# ang G#, and they use different scales each one

2: as the solo doesn't use 7 notes, we can't determine if it's Ionian, Lydian or Mixolydian. On A# chord the solo uses notes a#, c, d, f, a. On G# chord the solo uses g#, a#, c, d#, g

3: in both chords+melody, the guitar uses the I, II, III, V and VI of the A# and G# major scales on Ionian mode OR I, III, IV, V and VII of F and D# major scales on Lydian mode.

4: it can't be D# Mixolydian and C# Mixolydian because on A# chord it should have an Ab instead of A, and in G# chord it should have a Gb instead of G

  • A bit confusing with note names!
    – Tim
    Aug 19 '20 at 12:57

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