› Scale Modes

The 7 Scale Modes

Learn how to find and play the 7 scale modes and how to play them on the piano. Did you know that musical modes are also great for improvisation?



The 7 Piano Scale Modes on the White Keys

To help you find the piano scale patterns of the most common scales and modes, you can simply use the white keys on the piano as “templates”. The white keys instantly gives us the patterns for the 7 church modes, or modal keys.

"Hidden" on the white keys are the pattern "templates" for the 7 Modes, including major and minor. (You can also find the Pentatonic Scale on the black keys).

These scales are sometimes called the 7 Major Scale Modes, since they are derived from the notes of the major scale. You simply start a new scale from each step of the scale! The easiest way to see this on a piano is by using the white keys, or the C major scale.

The modal scales are also part of a group called Diatonic Scales. Diatonic Scales are built with two types of steps (intervals): whole steps and half steps, or tones and semitones.

From each one of the white keys to the next of the same, eight notes higher, lays the pattern for a specific mode.

Let's have a look: (Whole step = W, Half step = H)

Starting from:

  • C = This is the Ionian mode, also called the Major scale: (W-W-H-W-W-W-H)
Scale modes: Ionian
  • D = Dorian: (W-H-W-W-W-H-W)
Scale modes: Dorian
  • E = Phrygian: (H-W-W-W-H-W-W)
Scale modes: Phrygian
  • F = Lydian: (W-W-W-H-W-W-H)
Scale modes: Lydian
  • G= Mixolydian: (W-W-H-W-W-H-W)
Scale modes: Mixolydian
  • A= This is the Natural minor scale, also called Aeolian: (W-H-W-W-H-W-W)
Scale modes: Aeolian
  • B = Hypophrygian or Locrian: (H-W-W-H-W-W-W)
Scale modes: Locrian

So where do those strange names come from?

Ancient Greece of course! During the Renaissance the modes were named after ancient tribes in Greece. But actually they have nothing at all in common with the modes from ancient Greece, just the names.

The modes are also referred to as modal, church modes, or simply modes. 

You can move or transpose all piano scale patterns by starting from another note. To keep the specific mode- you just need to keep the particular pattern of half and whole steps, by using black keys where necessary.

Although commonly used in Jazz music, these scales are great to use for improvisations in any style of music. Try it out!







Related Pages

Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

› Scale Modes

Recent Articles

  1. Electronic Piano Keyboard Lessons

    Dec 03, 16 03:44 PM

    I am interested in lessons, etc, for an electronic keyboard (Casio LK230). I am a true beginner---74-years-old and NO experience whatsoever. But always

    Read More

  2. Czerny op 599

    Dec 03, 16 03:17 PM

    Dear Maria, Hi, thanks for this useful website. I have been taking piano lessons for nearly 2 years. I have finished Beyer and now I am practicing Czerny

    Read More

  3. Favorite Piano Quotes

    Dec 03, 16 11:57 AM

    Have a quote you love? Something that inspires your piano playing? Here is a collection with favorite piano quotes, for inspiration and motivation.

    Read More

Subscribe for Updates

Subscribe to our e-zine "The Piano Player", and get occasional updates with tips and tools for beginner piano players. You'll get a free e-book with piano playing tips too!