Learning about the Different Types of Piano Modes

Learning piano modes is of great importance for a number of reasons. These modes help a person to enhance their playing and are frequently used to improvise and during solos. As they are nothing more than a variation of a major scale, and they aren’t difficult to learn. There’s simply an adjustment in the root note. When using the selected style, a piano player finds they can add variety to a song and understanding the various options is easy. Where players may run into problems is when they must apply the mode in a piece of music, and this is why the theory of each mode is so important.

Check out this video to find out about the different modes and info on ear training:

Following are the seven piano modes every player should be aware of.

piano keys and notes

1. Aeolian Mode

The Aeolian Mode features no flat or sharp note and begins on the letter A, referred to as the tonic note. The last note is known as the octave note and will correspond with the tonic note. When this mode is used, the song tends to have a sad feeling, thus is it commonly seen in modern jazz and blues compositions, and many use it when they want to improvise with Greek songs. Pop and rock may also incorporate this technique.

2. Dorian Mode

Comparable to the C major scale in music, the Dorian Mode features the same notes, yet begins on the D note, a different step in that scale. It is very similar to the Natural Minor also, yet differs when the player reaches the sixth note. Often heard in jazz compositions, many recognize this mode when they hear the Miles Davis song “So What” from his Kind of Blue album. It may also be used for sad ethnic compositions or in scary or romantic songs.

3. Ionian Mode

Identical to the Major Scale, the Ionian Mode is known for being uplifting and cheerful. Jazz and blues compositions may use it during a period of improvisation, and Western music often makes use of this mode.

4. Locrian Mode

The Locrian Mode features the same notes seen in the C Major, but it differs in that it starts at B and the tonic chord will be diminished. As a result, the sound produced tends to be rare, thus this technique is used mostly in jazz. Scary and romantic pieces may also incorporate this mode.

5. Lydian Mode

The Lydian Mode is related to the Major Scale, yet the fourth note deviates. Known for its cheerful sound, it is good for modal jazz improvisations or in ethnic compositions. One may also hear this style when listening to pop or rock music.

6. Mixolydian Mode

A very easy mode to learn, the main difference between these scales and the major scales is only one note. This style is used in a wide variety of modern pieces, including funk and jazz, yet also has origins in ancient Greek music. Many consider compositions which incorporate this technique to be of the ethnic variety, yet it may likewise be used to create pieces with a romantic or scary feel. It is also of great help when creating a cheerful piece.

7. Phrygian Mode

The Phrygian Mode follows the major scales and, in many ways, is like the Aeolian mode. This mode is frequently heard in flamenco music. As with many of the piano modes, it’s good for romantic and scary compositions also.

Players should spend some time learning piano modes. Those who do so find they can put their own touch on a well-known song or dress up a lesser-known piece and bring it to the attention of others. When a player masters these modes, they improve their skills and stand out in the crowd. Begin learning them today and master one before moving to the next. Many musicians opt to move in order, yet others find they wish to focus on the one they will use the most. It’s a matter of knowing what is best for the player in any given situation.