Modes in All Keys Audio Samples
The first set includes 11 pieces featuring the modes on white keys.
The second set includes 11 pieces in the various modes that have one sharp (F-sharp) in the key signature.
MODES 1 — Born of Silence
This is an introspective piece suitable for intermediate-level pianists and above. It in the key of D Dorian, but moves to E Aeolian (natural minor) halfway through the piece. If you would like to repeat the piece and improvise new melodies over the accompaniment pattern, improvise in D Dorian (white keys), but shift to E Aeolian (play F-sharp) in measures 11 through 18.
MODES 1 — The Basis
This is a bass-line driven piece in the key of D Dorian. The melody in the second section borrows an A-flat from the D blues scale. The third section moves up a half step to E-flat Dorian. For ideas on how to improvise on this Patterns of this piece, see The Basis in Melody, Volume 3 (Modes) in the original Pattern Play series. This piece is suitable for intermediate or advanced pianists.
MODES 1 — Winter
This is in the mode of E Phrygian. I often say that Phrygian is the mode of winter, and I point out the similarity between the words Phrygian and “frigid.” The ending section of this piece is in F Lydian and suggests the coming of spring.
MODES 1 — Precipice
This is in the mode of E Phrygian, then A Phrygian (the B’s are flatted). The Phrygian mode can be thought of as a natural minor scale with a lowered second note, so it is a darker shade of minor. For this reason, the Phrygian mode can be much edgier than than the minor scale in a piece such as this.
Precipice is written in 16/8, with the sixteenth 8th notes usually grouped into a restless rhythmic pattern of 3,3,3,3,2,2. If you are interested in improvising on the Patterns of this piece, see Precipice in Melody, Volume Three (Modes) of the original Pattern Play series. In that book, this piece is in the key of G Phrygian (three flats).
MODES 1 — Expanse
This piece conveys the airy, bright, expansive nature of the Lydian mode. This piece begins in F Lydian, then moves to E-flat Lydian and D-flat Lydian. The performer can be very free with the time—there is no beat in this piece.
To learn how to improvise on the Patterns of this piece, see Expanse in Melody, Volume 3 (Modes) of the original Pattern Play series.
MODES 1 — Flowering
This begins in the key of F Lydian, then slides down to the key of E-flat Lydian (two flats), and then to D Dorian. This piece is in 7/8 time throughout. For ideas on how to improvise on this piece, see Flowering in Melody, Volume Three (Modes) in the original Pattern Play series. On this recording, the repeat sign is ignored.
MODES 1 — Mixo Mumbo Gumbo
This sounds like it came straight out of New Orleans. In this piece, the various Mixolydian modes (G, C, and D) are occasionally spiced up with blue notes, the flatted third of the scale.
MODES 1 — Solitude
This reveals the introspective, quiet side of the Mixolydian mode—just the opposite of the extroverted, brash side displayed in the companion piece, Mixo Mumbo Gumbo. It’s no accident that the Mixolydian mode was used a lot by Debussy in his piano music.
MODES 1 — Endless Road
This begins in the key of A Aeolian (called A Natural Minor in modern times) and then moves into E Aeolian and D Aeolian. For ideas on improvising on the accompaniment patterns of this piece, see Endless Road in Book 1 of the Create First! series.
It is hard to play this piece too slowly, but easy to play it too quickly. Performers are to add their own dynamics. This piece can be played by intermediate-level players.
MODES 1 — Endurance
This is an etude that lives its life in the key of A Aeolian, but retires in the sweet key of F Lydian at the end. Each etude has a lesson to teach, and the lesson of this piece is this: the secret of endurance is to move in ways that go beyond mere effort.
MODES 1 — Everything is Changed
This begins in the rarely-heard mode of B Locrian, then moves into C major. To learn how to improvise on the accompaniment patterns of this piece, see Everything is Changed in Melody, Volume 3 (Modes) of the original Pattern Play series.
MODES 2 — Bridges
This has an accompaniment pattern (an ostinato) that repeats throughout the piece. This piece begins in A Dorian, then travels into G major, F Lydian, and back home to A Dorian. To learn more about improvising on the patterns of this piece, see Bridges in Melody, Volume Three (Modes) of the original Pattern Play series.
MODES 2 — Migrations
In this piece, the left hand plays the melody as well as bass notes, while the right hand plays a swirling accompaniment. The piece begins in A Dorian, then migrates to F Lydian, E Dorian, and D Dorian before returning to A Dorian. This piece can be played by an intermediate or advanced student. To learn more about improvising on the patterns of this piece, see Migrations in Melody, Volume Three (Modes) of the original Pattern Play series.
MODES 2 — Bueno!
This is, as you may have guessed, in a Latin style. The piece stays in the key of A Dorian throughout. Some might assume this piece is in the key of G major, but there is not a single G chord in the entire piece. This piece can be played by intermediate-level players. To learn more about improvising in the style of this piece, see Cinco Pesos in Pattern Play 5 published by RCM Publishing.
MODES 2 — Transformation
This is in the rarely heard key of B Phrygian. As you can hear in the recording, the piece transforms and reaches a C Lydian “mood” by the end of the piece. This piece can be played by intermediate-level players. To improvise on this piece, play the left-hand as written and create new melodies using tones in the key of B Phrygian.
MODES 2 — Enigma
This explores the mysterious sounds of fourths, especially when they are played slowly in the C Lydian mode. This piece can be played by intermediate-level players. To learn about improvising on the patterns of this piece, see Engima in Melody, Volume Three (Modes) of the original Pattern Play series.
MODES 2 — Who Owns the Sky?
This is in C Lydian and is to be played in swing rhythm—that is, the pairs of 8th notes are to be played so that the first one is about twice as long as the second. You can hear this on the recording. The performer may wish to vary the melody on the repeat. To learn more about improvising on the patterns of this piece, see Who Owns the Sky? in Melody, Volume Three (Modes) of the original Pattern Play series.
MODES 2 — Memories of Kettle Falls
Though the key signature of this piece looks like G major, the main theme is in D Mixolydian because of those repeated D’s in the bass. The second theme has more of a B Phrygian mood. To improvise variations or new melodies above the accompaniment of this piece, simply play within the key signature—one sharp.
About the title: Kettle Falls, Washington is where my mother was born. During my childhood, our family would drive across the state every summer to visit my grandparents in Kettle Falls and stay on their farm. For some unexplainable reason, this melody reminded me of those rich memories.
MODES 2 — Each Moment, a Wild River
Though this piece is challenging to play, it’s easier than it looks and sounds. Once you learn to play the first two measures, that same rhythm repeats over and over again. Think of a river, where flowing water keeps creating the same wave.
This piece, like nearly all of my pieces, began its life as an improvisation. You could improvise on this piece by playing different notes in the right-hand, but keeping in the same rhythm. Stay in the key of D Mixolydian for the entire piece except for the brief departure to F Lydian in measures 19 and 36.
MODES 2 — You Thought You Knew Me
This piece sounds like it was created by some pianist out of New Orleans. I was rather shocked when it just fell into my hands one day. I wondered, “Where did this piece come from?” This experience reminded me that we are all more complex and diverse than we think! That is one of the many beauties of improvisation—surprises galore.
If you would like to vary the melody or improvise on the accompaniments of this piece, keep this in mind: You are always playing in a Mixolydian mode, either D Mixolydian (one sharp), G Mixolydian (no sharps or flats), or A Mixolydian (two sharps). You can add the blue note (the flatted third) to any of these scales, as I did throughout this piece.
MODES 2 — Revolution
The title of this intense piece was inspired by a quote from the poet Louise Bogan. She wrote, “True revolutions in art restore more than they destroy.” This piece and its modal companions are part of an attempt to restore a world in which there are many scales to create with, not just major and minor.
With its unrelenting left-hand accompaniment pattern, this piece could be used as an etude. The key to playing the left-hand pattern is to accomplish most of the work through arm movements, and avoid reaching for notes with the fingers.
To learn more about improvising on the patterns of this piece, see Revolution in Pattern Play 4 published by RCM Publishing.
MODES 2 — Today’s Journal Entry
Picasso once said that painting was his way of keeping a diary. I feel the same way about my daily improvisations at the piano. This piece is largely a transcription of a “journal entry” I recorded many years ago. For some reason, I always wanted to turn that snippet into a composition. Here it is.