Modes On The Piano

One of my students is studying for his Grade 4 Rockschool Piano.  As part of the technical exercises required for the exam, he must play two octave scales, hands together, in a variety of keys and modes.

He must learn Ionian (major), Dorian, Lydian, Mixolydian and Aeolian each starting on C, G, F, D and Bb. Phew – and that’s just for starters!!

This post isn’t to discuss the theory behind these modes, nor the theory behind asking a student to master them. This blog post is to share some resources I created to help him learn them.

After much thought, and this will be different for each student, we decided that he needed to learn them by exception.  So for each key, he will learn the major scale and then learn the differences needed to turn that major scale into each of the modes required.

So for example if C major is


then for Lydian we just need to sharpen the 4th to make

C D E F# G A B C

I have created some scale sheets to show how to create each mode from the major (Ionian) starting point. Note I haven’t included the key signatures for each mode as we decided that learning the key signatures was an unnecessary distraction – instead he is just learning the exceptions or accidentals.

Another point of interest is my positioning of the Dorian scale. I deliberately moved that from it’s usual second place, down to the bottom as it has a minor flavour so I felt that, if learning by exception, it was easier to relate it to the Natural Minor (Aeolian) rather than the major.

I hope you find these interesting and useful. I have deliberately omitted any fingering so that the student can define their own. If you are still struggling to master these, or any other scales, then you might be interested in my post on Learning Scales Using Keyboard Shapes.

Modes on C imageModes on GModes on D

Modes on F imageModes on Bb image


One thought on “Modes On The Piano

  1. SE22 Piano School February 3, 2014 at 9:37 pm Reply

    Thanks for these – they are great!

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