The majority of organ music composed until about 1550 used the system of 8 Gregorian Modes - 4 Authentic Modes (1, 3, 5, and 7) and 4 Plagal Modes (2, 4, 6, and 8) first described by Hucbald in De harmonica in ca. 880:
The pieces written in the authentic modes (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, and Mixolydian) end on the lowest note of the mode called Finalis (represented by the letter f in the above example).
Plagal modes have the prefix Hypo- before the name of the mode. Here the Finalis is not the lowest pitch but the note a perfect fourth above it.
So basically, these modes are precursors of a Major/Minor system and throughout the history there were several variations of such modes. From the middle of the 16th century, the number of modes increased to 12 (as described by Glareanus in his Dodecachordon, 1547). In his system, he added authentic Aeolian (from A) and Ionian (from C) modes and their plagal counterparts to the entire spectrum.
Practice writing these modes first from the white notes and later from the sharp or flat notes. Also try to play them on the organ. As soon as this becomes easy, you can start improvising on such modes. Tomorrow I will describe how you can do that so stay tuned if this topic is interesting to you.
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my video Organ Practice Guide.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.