It is important for piano players who wish to get good to learn the important Piano chords and scales, and it is also extremely useful to know the different playing modes. These are useful for improvisation, most solos are played in one of several “modes”. In our last article: Piano Modes, we covered the Dorian, Aeolian and Phrygian modes. In this article, we will move onto some of the other important modes that top piano players use.
Lydian mode, like some of the other modes we mentioned in the last article follows the pattern of the major scale, but has it’s tonal center on the 4th note of the major. For the C-major scale, the Lydian mode then starts on note “F” and follows the C-major notes up to “F” in the next octave (this also applies to any other key of course). Lydian mode is a major scale as it features a major third.
Likewise, Mixolydian mode begins on the fifth note of the major scale and follows the major scale notes an octave higher. Using C-major, Mixolydian starts on note “G”, which is it’s root note and tonal center. Mixolydian Mode is another major scale as it features a major third. The Mixolydian scale is thus: G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G and is actually a popular scale used to solo with.
Stepping up to the sixth note of the major scale, Aeolian mode begins on the 6th note (which is “A” for C-Major and one note up from “G” of Mixolydian mode). This scale is the natural minor that was mentioned in the previous article. Like many of the other modes it uses the same notes that are found on the major scale from which it is derived. Because it is a natural minor you could play this over a minor chord of it’s tonal center (Am in the example above) and it will sound good. An interesting variation is to play the octave down with your thumb and form an Am7.
So you see, although there is a lot to take in, learning the different playing modes on piano is not that difficult. Most as you have seen can be derived from the steps of it’s relative major scale pattern. We are not done yet, however, in the next post I will discuss relative minors, cycle of fifths and the Locrian Mode of playing. Stay tuned…