ModesModes are sadly neglected in my piano studio far too often. We already have so much to cover for theory so I am ashamed to say very few of my students know what modes even are! A few weeks ago, I had a flash of inspiration to try introducing modes to my students as material for composing. They loved the new sounds and delved right into learning the modes!

So today, I’m sharing a few ideas with a handy dandy printable worksheet. I hope these will enable you to incorporate modes into your music studio more easily!

First, download the Modes Worksheet to use with your student in the lesson. Below, you can see a picture the modes worksheet with notes I used with a student as we explored the sounds of the modes! As we learned about each mode, my student first tried playing the mode with the easier white keys only scale and then moving it to another key where we had to figure it out a bit based on the written clues.



Next we tried improvising in the mode – it sounded so cool in some keys and we continued writing down what the music sounded like. Then we picked a favorite mode for the week that the student would go home and try composing a longer piece with.  Sometimes we only made it through 1 or 2 new modes and other lessons we soared through 3 or 4 modes so it was important to adjust to whatever each student was ready for.

Now to take it a step further, try learning a piece in a mode to see what composers like to do with these modes. I have Robert Vandall’s book listed below and LOVE using it with my students. They have quick, fun pieces with exciting “moods” just as the title suggests.

*Alfred’s Basic Piano Course: Fun with Modes, by Palmer, Manus, and Lethco (picture)

*Modes and Moods, by Robert Vandall (picture)

Any other music you know of that uses modes that I can add to the list above? Please share in the comments!

Author: Whitney

Whitney Hawker, NCTM, teaches group and private piano at Weber State University, Utah. She loves surprising students with the perfect piece or a new exciting game! After graduate school, she missed sharing ideas and resources daily with colleagues so she and her friend, Spring, began blogging together at