Updated: Jan 7
We all know the C major scale. This is by far the most played scale among the 24 that exist in Western music. Every pianist started with it....But do we really know every aspect of it? Do you know that within a major scale, all Greek modes "coexist"? And also, all the diatonic triads related to them. But let's go by parts: The knowledge of modes can also sometimes be useful as a preliminary exercise for learning to improvise melodies. Each mode is done by playing on each degree (note) of the scale. In the case of C major is quite easy as we only play the white keys (natural notes). Here is a list of the music modes, with the starting key on a piano and the diatonic triads related to them:
As you can see on the exercise, we play a different mode on every note of the C major scale. Hence, if you start on F and play all the white keys up to the next D, that would be a Dorian scale, if we start on the E note, that means we will be playing Phrygian scale, and so on and so forth. Every mode has a different pattern of tones and semitones, we could say they have distinctive characters. Worth noticing that in Guido D'Arezzo's time, each mode was used to portray a specific "mood". For example: The Lydian mode was "happy", the Phrygian "incited anger", or the Aeolian (our current minor natural scale) was "tearful and pious". A very useful tip when studying these modes is to sing the notes while we are playing them, so we can get use to the sound of them. Every mode is associated with a specific triad as appear in the chart above. The goal of this exercise is to have a deeper understanding of every aspect of the scale in order to be able to improvise or play harmonic accompaniment either with the right or the left hands. The speed given would be the goal, but you should start very slow and accurately.
After you have mastered this topic, you will be ready for the next step with the following article: "Harmonization of a melody with diatonic triads for piano"
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