of Exciting Chords & Chord Progressions!"
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Secrets of Exciting
- Free Piano
Hey man, how's your
Back in the period between roughly 1150AD and 1400AD there
developed scales called "modes". (Actually deriving from the Greeks some
thousand years before.) And since music was centered in the church during
that period (I'm sure there was plenty outside the church as well, but we
don't have much in the way of records of that period) they came to be
known as "church modes".
These modes haven't been used very
much for about 500 years, but now many contemporary musicians are using
them as a basis for their compositions or improvisations. Listen to any
"fusion" musician, such as Donald Fagan or Dave Sanborn or Dave Grusin or
Russ Freeeman of the Rippingtons, etc, etc., and you'll hear many of these
ancient scales being used.
While these modes can be played in any
key, you can get a feel for them by just playing the white keys on your
piano at first, noting the relationship of half-steps and whole-steps and
listening to the distinctive sound of each mode.
Here are the church modes and their
playing the C scale from D to D)
playing the C scale from E to E)
playing the C scale from F to F)
playing the C scale from G to G)
playing the C scale from A to A -- also known as the A natural minor
playing the C scale from B to B)
look familiar? It ought to -- it's just a major scale!)
PS Can you find the error in the Phrygian
C scale shown above? (It should be G natural, not Gb).
The thing that makes these
modes so appealing and distinctive now is that now they are being used in
the context of a harmonic setting -- in other words, with chords in the
background. That wasn't the case back in the middle ages -- only melodies
were used, and as those melodies interfaced with one another through the
use of counterpoint, harmonies were created, but only incidentally --
there was no "tonal center", as there is when chords are used.
So by using these modes to
improvise in, along with a chordal background based on more-or-less
traditional harmony, these fusion musicians create exciting new sounds by
juxtaposing various scale degrees against the backdrop of semi-standard
How can the average piano player take
advantage of this knowledge?
By experimenting with the modes
in the right hand melody while playing chords in the left hand.
For example, try improvising using the
Lydian scale in your right hand. That will mean playing a raised 4th,
rather than the usual scale 4th. That will give your improvisation a sound
that is certainly different than what we are all used to, but it will also
Try it. I
think you'll like it!
For more detailed
instruction on major, minor, and modal scales, go to:
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