This page presents a memory device for playing the scale of a given mode (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian), with a specified signature key (1 to 7 flats or 1 to 7 sharps). The approach is illustrated for the Locrian scale that has 5 flats and for the Aeolian scale with 4 sharps. The first basic idea is that the pivots (to and from the thumb from and to the index or middle fingers) always occur at the semitones. The digits on the hands are represented by the usual numbers: 1 is the thumb, 2 is the index finger, 3 is the middle finger, 4 is the ring finger, and 5 is the pinky. The term "signature key mnemonic" below refers to previous work shown here. The second basic idea is that the pivots always alternate so that, if we keep in mind the pivot that has just been done, we always know which pivot is next. Therefore, at any given moment in the playing of any scale, we always know the interval to the next note: If the next finger action is not a pivot, then the interval is a full tone. If the next finger action is a pivot, then the interval is a semitone. The third basic idea is that descending pitch is to the left hand what ascending is to the right hand. We normally play the Ionian scale ascending first with the right hand - starting with the thumb and pivoting from the index finger to the thumb to play the fourth note. Then we pivot from the ring finger to the thumb to complete the octave. Keeping the pivots at the semitones requires us to start with the thumb. Similarly, in this exercise, we play the Ionian scale descending first with the left hand starting with the middle finger and doing an immediate pivot to the thumb. Consequently, the next pivot will involve the ring finger. Again, keeping the semitones at the pivots is what determines the finger with which we start.

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Dorian | Phrygian | Lydian | MixoLydian | Æolian | Locrian | Ionian | ||||||||||||||

Db |
Eb |
1←4 |
Fb |
Gb |
Ab |
Bb |
1←3 |
Cb |
Cb |
Db |
Eb |
3→1 |
Fb |
Gb |
Ab |
Bb |
4→1 |
|||

Ab |
Bb |
1←4 |
Cb |
Db |
Eb |
F |
1←3 |
Gb |
Gb |
Ab |
Bb |
3→1 |
Cb |
Db |
Eb |
F |
4→1 |
|||

Eb |
F |
1←4 |
Gb |
Ab |
Bb |
C |
1←3 |
Db |
Db |
Eb |
F |
3→1 |
Gb |
Ab |
Bb |
C |
4→1 |
|||

Bb |
C |
1←4 |
Db |
Eb |
F |
G |
1←3 |
Ab |
Ab |
Bb |
C |
3→1 |
Db |
Eb |
F |
G |
4→1 |
|||

F |
G |
1←4 |
Ab |
Bb |
C |
D |
1←3 |
Eb |
Eb |
F |
G |
3→1 |
Ab |
Bb |
C |
D |
4→1 |
|||

C |
D |
1←4 |
Eb |
F |
G |
A |
1←3 |
Bb |
Bb |
C |
D |
3→1 |
Eb |
F |
G |
A |
4→1 |
|||

G |
A |
1←4 |
Bb |
C |
D |
E |
1←3 |
F |
F |
G |
A |
3→1 |
Bb |
C |
D |
E |
4→1 |
|||

D |
E |
1←4 |
F |
G |
A |
B |
1←3 |
C |
C |
D |
E |
3→1 |
F |
G |
A |
B |
4→1 |
|||

A |
B |
1←4 |
C |
D |
E |
F# |
1←3 |
G |
G |
A |
B |
3→1 |
C |
D |
E |
F# |
4→1 |
|||

E |
F# |
1←4 |
G |
A |
B |
C# |
1←3 |
D |
D |
E |
F# |
3→1 |
G |
A |
B |
C# |
4→1 |
|||

B |
C# |
1←4 |
D |
E |
F# |
G# |
1←3 |
A |
A |
B |
C# |
3→1 |
D |
E |
F# |
G# |
4→1 |
|||

F# |
G# |
1←4 |
A |
B |
C# |
D# |
1←3 |
E |
E |
F# |
G# |
3→1 |
A |
B |
C# |
D# |
4→1 |
|||

C# |
D# |
1←4 |
E |
F# |
G# |
A# |
1←3 |
B |
B |
C# |
D# |
3→1 |
E |
F# |
G# |
A# |
4→1 |
|||

G# |
A# |
1←4 |
B |
C# |
D# |
E# |
1←3 |
F# |
F# |
G# |
A# |
3→1 |
B |
C# |
D# |
E# |
4→1 |
|||

D# |
E# |
1←4 |
F# |
G# |
A# |
B# |
1←3 |
C# |
C# |
D# |
E# |
3→1 |
F# |
G# |
A# |
B# |
4→1 |