Having Fun with Modes When Playing Piano
In music, the term mode can refer to a number of different things, but most commonly it describes the different collections of notes found within the major scale, each with a distinctive flavor. Each major scale contains seven different modes, which were first identified by the ancient Greeks. Start with the C major scale, which is based only on the white keys. Play each mode first with your right hand as notated (use the same fingerings as for a major scale) and then an octave lower than written with your left hand. Then, try playing the modes in other keys as well, taking the time to get each one’s characteristic sound in your head.
First up is the Ionian mode, which is played from C to C. Ionian is just another word for the major scale.
From D to D is the Dorian mode, which you can also think of as the natural minor scale with a raised sixth, lending a kind of jazzy sound.
You can view the Phrygian mode, from E to E, as the natural minor scale but with a flatted second, adding a bit of an exotic sound.
Play from F to F and you’ve got the Lydian mode, or a major scale with a jazz-approved raised fourth.
From G to G, the Mixolydian mode is like a major scale whose seventh is flatted, making it sound a bit bluesy.
As with the Ionian mode, you already know the Aeolian, from A to A; it’s just another name for the natural minor scale.
The Locrian mode, from B to B, is the strangest-sounding of the lot. Other ways to think of this mode are as the natural minor scale with the second and fifth flatted, or as the major scale with every note except for the first and the fourth flatted.