If you’re in the intermediate range, then the last thing you’ll want to do is over-complicate things to the point where you can’t play anything at all. This is what I found happening to a lot of my students, especially with things like the modes. They’d read up on it, get all the books, learn plenty of shapes, but they still found it hard to produce the sound they were after. If you want to incorporate new sounds into your playing, then what you practice must reflect that goal.
I remember the first time I heard, ‘Flying in a Blue Dream’, by Joe Satriani; I loved the sound and wanted to make it part of my playing, so I did a bunch of things like learning the modes, learning the tune itself, learning scale patterns, arpeggios, etc.; all of which is great, but it somehow misses the point. What I should have done was gone straight to the sound. In stripping things down to just the sound, I take the most comfortable scale pattern I can find, usually in E so I use the low E string as a drone, and just concentrate on bringing that sound out of the guitar as oppose to learning a bunch of (at this point) superfluous patterns in the hopes of bringing the scale under control, which usually ends up as the guitar equivalent of clutching at straws.
Here’s the E Lydian scale up to the 12th fret. To a high beginner-intermediate guitar player this just looks like a big ol’ headache with maybe a few half-learned CAGED or 3NPS patterns faintly peeking through.
Why Do This?
Doing this has numerous benefits: you concentrate on the sound, you’re not just blindly running up and down scales, you’re being creative, if you wanted to use the Lydian scale on the fly over a major or major 7 chord you could—remember that this shape is movable. Another huge benefit of doing this is that when you do tackle the 3NPS or CAGED shapes, the sound will pop out at you instead of being buried in among a sea of notes, and you’ll be able to get hold of it within a bigger pattern.
Here’s the Phrygian Dominant scale in A. The name might sound daunting but just know that you can play it over a 7 chord, in this case A7, or use the A string as a drone.
The following shape is a very comfortable way to get used to the sound of the Melodic Minor scale, should you want to venture into jazz territory at some point. Again, use the low A string as a drone or play it over an Am chord.