Learning the Lydian Mode

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As we have learnt in previous articles the Lydian Mode is one of the modes based on the Major (Ionian) Scale. Lydian is built from the 4th note of the Major Scale.

If you rank the modes from bright to dark, Lydian is the ‘brightest’ sounding mode.

It is made up of the following notes in relation to the corresponding Major Scale:

Lydian 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7

So C Lydian would be made up of the following notes:

Lydian is one of the ‘Major’ modes and differs from the more commonly known Major (Ionian) Scale in that it has a #4 (in technical terminology, the 4th is augmented) which makes it brighter sounding. This is the most important note when playing a melody in Lydian, it is the note that gives it its distinctive sound.

The #4 (or tritone) creates a series of 3 whole tones from the root. Because the 4th is augmented (#) it ‘pushes’ the melody strongly towards the 5th. This gives it a sense of rising upwards. It is quite popular in film scores where it can be used to convey a light, expansive feeling. A lot of Jazz players use it instead of Ionian and it is also used by guitarists such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.

The Lydian Scale will work well over a major chord and can make a nice change from a normal Major Pentatonic or Ionian, emphasize the #4th to get the sound!

The chords that are built on the notes of Lydian always follow the same pattern (if you remember the Major Scale chord sequence, just start from the 4th and loop!).

When analysing a chord sequence the position of the 7th chord can help a lot. A Lydian sequence will (generally, not always) start with a Major chord (or Maj7) with the root note of the key! The 7th chord appears on the 2nd scale degree, and as there is only one (dominant) 7th chord this is a sure-fire way to recognise a Lydian progression (provided they’ve used extended chords of course!).

Try playing some Lydian chord progressions to get the feel for yourself!!

Below is a link to a Lydian Chord Progression you can listen to and get the feel of it. Have a jam over it too!!

Lydian Backing Track - in C Lydian

Work hard and most importantly, have fun!!

-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist

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