the TOOL of CHURCH MODES

Posted By on September 12, 2019


Hello and welcome to a NewJazz theory lesson. In this video we are going to build a very
useful and simple reference tool to look up any church mode in any key. We call this tool the circle of church modes. Furthermore the circle of church modes will
award you with a great fundamental understanding of the very nature of the church modes. Because in a very precise and simple manner
the tool shows you how all the modes are connected and related to each other. Ok, let’s get started assembling the circle
of church modes. We are going to use this print… a scissor…
two shirt buttons… some sewing thread and a needle. Ok, first you have to print out this paper. I will paste a link to the pdf document in
the description below. The result will be best if you use photo paper,
because photo paper is thicker than normal printing paper. Ok, first we cut out the 2 circles… OK, cutting in paper does not have anything
to do with music theory – But I promise we will get there soon, and we will surely benefit
from the effort later on. But let’s speed up this cutting process
a little bit. Now we have 2 discs. A large disc and a smaller disc. The idea is, that these two discs are going
to rotate upon one another like this… So we have to connect them. And for that we are going to use the sewing
thread, needle and the two shirt buttons. First we punch a hole in the center of each
disc using the needle. The center is marked with a little pink dot. So we punch a hole here. And here. Then we take u turn with the thread, through
one of the buttons. Like this. Then we tie a knot… like this… and let’s
make another one… And then we thread the needle… And then we stick the needle through the button… Like this… So we have the end piece of the thread on
the opposite side of the needle… Ok, then we stick the needle through the center
hole on the back of this disc… like this… And then we do the same thing with the other
disc… And then we take an u turn through the other
button… And then we go back again… like this… And then… And then we take an u turn… and go the other
way… And we just repeat this process… I surely hope that you can find two shirt
buttons like these somewhere. I just had a really ugly shirt lying around. And exchanging one ugly shirt for for this
amazing tool should be a really good deal for any musician. Let’s speed this process a little bit… And when having done this a couple of times
we take the thread out of the needle on the backside of the disc. And we tighten the sewing thread… and tie
a knot with the starting piece of the thread… And let’s make another one… And then we cut off the loose ends… And now we are done and the upper disc can
spin upon the lower disc… I guess there are many ways to connect the
two discs. I just chose the button and sewing thread
solution because this works great and it’s easy to acquire some spare buttons and some
sewing thread and a needle. If you guys come up with other solutions as
well, you are very welcome to share them in the comments below. So now we come to the very interesting part. How does this circle of church modes works? Well, the lower disc is showing you all seventh
church modes. Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian,
Aeolian and Locrian. The upper disc is showing you an image of
all 12 piano keys inside an octave. 7 white keys… and 2… plus 3… black keys. So here we have an octave. And the note names are also written on each
key: c, c sharp or d flat, d, d sharp or e flat e, f, and so on. Now the trick is VERY simple. We just choose a church mode on the lower
disc and a keynote on the upper disc and point them together. Let’s say we want to locate the C Ionian scale. Then we find the Ionian text on the lower
disc, there, and then we turn the upper disc making the keynote c pointing to the Ionian
arrow. So we just have to find c… here. And now all the keys of the C Ionian are pointed
out by the 7 modes. So the C Ionian scale contain the notes c,
d, e, f, g, a and b… aha. Ok, let’s make another example. Now we want to locate the C Mixolydian. Then we just find the Mixolydian text on the
lower disc… and point the c note to the Mixolydian arrow. Where are you c… there. And now all the keys of the C Mixolydian are
pointed out by the 7 modes. So the C Mixolydian scale contains the notes
c, d, e, f, g, a, and b-flat. Notice that we use the b-flat name of this
black key because we can’t use the a-sharp name, that will be wrong, because we have
already used the “a” letter, and a note letter can not appear twice in the same church
mode. That is not allowed. So in this case it is the b note that is lowered
down to the b-flat note. Then we also have the correct alphabetic order:
a, b, c without repeating any letter. Ok, another example: The G Lydian. Lydian… and the note g… and wupti. The G Lydian contains the following notes. Ups, here we have it, sorry. g, a, b, c sharp, d, e and f sharp. Another example: F sharp Locrian: Locrian… f-sharp… here we have it. And the notes are: f#, g, a, b, c, d, and
e. Ok? I hope you get the idea now. So with this circle of church modes in your
hand, you can actually, very fast and very easy, locate all 7 modes in all 12 keys. Now let’s move on and talk about how this
tool expose the very nature of the church modes. Just by fooling around with this tool and
spin it around we can get a grip of how all the church modes are interrelated. So now we will try to understand the very
system that orders all the 7 church modes. Now, let’s set the device to the C Ionian
mode. Ionian… c… Now we can observe that the C Ionian contains
all the white keys, because the 7 modes are pointing at c, d, e, f, g, a and b. So let’s try to let the upper disc stay fixed. And then turn the lower disc to the next mode… The D Dorian mode. And we discover that the D Dorian contains
the same keys as the C Ionian, because we haven’t turned the upper disc. All 7 modes are still pointing to all the
white keys, OK? The same goes for E Phrygian… All 7 seven modes are still pointing out all
the white keys… And then we have the F Lydian… still all
the white keys is pointed out… G Mixolydian… all the white keys… A Aeolian… all the white keys…
and B Locrian… the same keys. Right? So, do you get the idea? All the 7 church modes are actually just a
rotation of each other… If we turn the lower disc and let the upper
disc stay fixed on the same tonality, then all the 7 modes contain the same 7 keys. The different modes just have different starting
points. So when Ionian starts on c, then Dorian
starts on d, Phrygian on e, Lydian on f and so on… In music theory we use the expression that
the modes are in different degrees of each other. If the Ionian mode is the first degree then
the Dorian mode is the second degree. So Ionian first degree, Dorian second degree. Because Dorian starts on the second step on
the Ionian scale. Phrygian, third degree. Because Phrygian starts on the third step
on the Ionian scale. Lydian fourth degree, Mixo fifth degree, Aeolian
sixth degree, and finally Locrian seventh degree. Because the Locrian scale starts on the seventh
step on the Ionian scale. Ok, in this case the church modes were pointing
out all the white keys, to make my explanation as simple as possible. But notice that no matter how we set the tonality
on the upper disc, the modes are still ordered in the same manner. Everything is just transposed. Ok, Now we could of course talk a lot more
about the church modes. But notice that this simple tool actually
gives you all the answers. Firstly you can look up any church mode in
any tonality. Secondly the tool illustrates, in a very simple
manner, how all the modes are connected and related. So now you are ready to explore the church
modes on your own and play around with this circular system. So I will recommend to you, is that you
build this circle. And you make a cup of good coffee, put yourself
in a nice soft chair and just look at this circle for a while… Set a tonality… turn the device around…
and just watch and think about how the different modes are related. This very simple tool gives you all the answers… Then you should of course also go to your
instrument. Try the modes out. How do they sound. Even though all the modes can be placed on
the same circular system and they are just different degrees of each other they actually
sound very different. Ok, in another lesson from NewJazz you can
hear more about the church modes. I will paste a link in the description below. Thanks for listening. My name is Oliver Prehn, and I surely hope
that you liked this lesson and you found this simple tool inspiring and useful. And please, always feel free to ask questions
in the comments below. I will try to answer as quickly as possible. So, enjoy exploring the church modes…

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 36 comments

  1. This is a rather special lesson. Well, our sewing skills will be tested…
    We will make the “Circle of Church Modes”. I surely hope you'll find the tool very useful 🙂
    Some have asked for exercises to practice. Mid August I will upload a video showing some simple but very useful modal jazz piano exercises.
    Warm Regards Oliver 🙂

    Reply
  2. Hi Oliver
    Another brick for building the modal jazz understanding has been added. Thank you very much.
    This small tool reminds me of what I created for the construction of left hand voices in form A (3-5-7-9) and B (7-9-3-5).
    I would like to send you my .pdf maybe it will be useful but unfortunately i do not know how to do it. Maybe by mail but I do not know if you want to publish it.
    Can you suggest me another way?
    Vittorio

    Reply
  3. Thanks for the mode tool.  You can save all of the buttons and sewing by just using a clothing snap. Put a small hole in the center of the two disks then use the clothing snap in the center. The snap will allow smooth rotation of the disks.  Love the modes disk.  Reminds me of days long ago and circular slide rule.   Yes, I am over 70.

    Reply
  4. Thank-you so much oliver for the ingenious invention of this tool!!!!It will really help to simplify my ability to learn to play modal jazz improvization at the piano. Modal jazz improvization at the piano has always seemed like some great big mystery to me,only to be understood by musical geniouses!! Your great invention really helps to make things more simple for us aspiring jazz pianists.Thanx a million for this video and your you-tube channel in general.The videos are top notch and so very useful.Thanx for keeping jazz simple!!!

    Reply
  5. I have a little theory behind me, taking a stab at jazz. I've downloaded and printed your PDF, but where did you get those green dots used in your other video?

    Reply
  6. Thank you for the tool, now my question is, how do I start playing these modes? Apparently I have been playing Ionian and Aeolian for yeas without knowing, I would really like to play the others consciously, I see now that many of my questions concerning songs I have crammed and played in the past now make sense. I used to take things as they are without asking questions. I now feel like I have been introduced to a new world of possibilities, but I need guidance on how to navigate this terrain, please HELP

    Reply
  7. Perfect. Is that how you designed it?

    You can also use a small cylinder screw with nut and washers instead of the shirt buttons. With this you can fix it well or tighten it.
    I'll build it this way. I (my brain, not me personly) always need this stuff: -)

    Thanks again,.(I guess, today I'm gonna give you all the thanks which are around my keyboard.;-))

    Reply
  8. The difference between scales is not just the difference between the root note.
    For example,c ionian and d dorian share the same notes BUT
    what sets them apart is not the tonic c or d.

    What makes them different is characteristic notes/degrees.

    In other words,unique for ionian scale are 4 and 7 degree
    (in the context of tonic,note c).
    So,it is c + f and b

    Unique for dorian scale are 3 and 6 degree
    (in the context of tonic,note d).
    d+ f and b.

    F and B are the same in dorian and ionian BUT
    in c ionian, f&b create quart and seventh interval with note c
    and in d dorian,f&b create third and sixth interval with note d.

    Same notes but other intervals 🙂 f&b are characteristic notes
    for almost all scales in the key of C major

    BEWARE!!!

    Except from the rule are lydian and locrian
    In f lydian b&e are characteristic notes
    in locrian c&f 🙂

    Reply
  9. Adding the chord for each mode on the wheel, as you have done with the melodic minor wheel, might help others in memorizing the chord that is associated with each church mode. Thanks!

    Reply
  10. la seule vraie référence tant du point de vue artistique que théorique et l'art de la transmettre , c est vous Mr Oliver Prehn

    Reply
  11. An innovative tool from a very gifted teacher. However there are quite a few apps that do this, the best I and most comprehensive I have come across being Chord wheel by Elex. However this tool above does go a step further by illustrating the black and white keys to be played.

    Reply
  12. Great tool Oliver. I´m a professional musician and music teacher for more than 30 years. I always use different pedagogic skills and tools, to explain modes in a such simple way to my students so they can understand and use modes in a logic form to compose music, improvisation, etc. This tool is amazing… thank you for share it with the world!! I´ll like to share with you some of my own tools in different areas of music teaching. Great job!

    Reply
  13. Hi Oliver: If that tool is not marketed, it should be (it would be interesting). Thank you for this contribution. I had the idea of sticking the circle of the modes on a thick cork base and then I could connect them with a pin. There are lots of them with an image related to music or what I know, of Mikey Mouse. But know that for now I have done as you say in the video. Later I will do it when I find the cork and the appropriate pin. Thanks again and best regards. Gerardo

    Reply

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