The Medieval Church Modes

     Each of these modes can be found by playing its one octave range, or ambitus, on the “white key” notes on a piano, or C major scale. The important thing was the pattern of half steps and whole steps within that octave, and their relationship to the notes that acted as the modal equivalent of tonal centers, the finalis and the tenor. Generally, the last note of the piece was the finalis, giving it the same “resting place” function as a modern tonal center. The tenor, the reciting tone also called the dominant, was the note most often used for long recitations on the same pitch:

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