Lydian Mode - 142

podcast Sep 15, 2020

Today, I introduce what Lydian is, where you would play it, and how to play the Lydian mode.


Lydian is not an easy mode to demonstrate. There aren't tons of popular songs that use Lydian exclusively. But, the sound of Lydian (the raised 4th sound) can be heard in a lot of places, even if it isn't for the whole song.

The theme song for the Simpsons is usually thrown out for Lydian, although it's actually Lydian dominant (which means it uses a #4 like Lydian but also a b7 like a dominant scale)

The melody of Maria from west side story is an example of Lydian.

Flying in a blue dream, great song by the way, by Joe Satriani is also usually given as an example of using Lydian.

It's sometimes called the movie mode. It has a very dreamy airy sound that makes your major scale sound great.

Let's go ahead and dive into the Lydian mode.

What's the Lydian mode?

Lydian mode is the Fourth mode of the major scale. For example:

Lets' take the C major scale pattern one and start and end on F. When you listen to this sound, it's very major sounding. It's happy. Everything sounds familiar, until the Fourth note. Check it out. There is something different going on here. It sounds happy until the raised fourth lightens it up a lot

The raising of the fourth note in the scale adds something different than your regular happy and sad sounding chords. It becomes lighter. It seems to float and also draw you into the fifth.
That light airy tone is similar to the whole tone scale witch is composed of all major 3rds. But the raised forth in Lydian also isn't at rest. It tends to lead our ear upward to resolve to the fifth.

The Raised 4th occurs in the major scale naturally when you play from the fourth degree of the scale to the next fourth on any major scale.

Approaching the Lydian Mode

The way to approach this scale has traditionally been by using parent and child scales.
C major in this instance being the parent and F Lydian being the child. Again, this requires a bit of thinking, and is probably why a lot of players tend to avoid modes.

The thinking is in two parts. I need to play my C major patterns. But, I need to have F be the new tonic.

In that case, some like to think of it differently. They think of it as a F major scale with one small change. Raising the fourth. It can be much easier to think and see the mode this way.
Remember this is not a b5. We describe Lydian with a raised fourth for a reason. The fifth is still in there. We are not altering the fifth. It still performs a strong function, even in Lydian. We need to remove the fourth. If it was still in there, we would have a much more grounded sound.

So lets create a F Lydian scale both ways in a few different patterns.

The first way is to use the parent scale and find the fourth.
So what I'm seeing and thinking is the C major scale with a new starting point.
The next is to raise the fourth of a F major scale. in several patterns.
In the key of F find the Bb and raise it a half step to B.

So, what i'm seeing and thinking is the G major scale with a raised fourth
Very different.

But a very fun sound as well. It sounds almost majestic.

I use the Parent/ child thinking when playing Lydian over a four chord that is not the main one in a chord progression.

Where would you use the Lydian mode?

Let's go there for a minute. The Lydian mode is the mode that matches the harmony of a 4 chord (the major 7th chord) in major progressions. If you ran extensions you would get 9 #11 13

How does this start for most people?It starts by playing over major diatonic chords when the four chord is playing.

When you start playing over diatonic chords and realize that all you have to do is play the major scale and it works for all of the chords, its a game changer. It opens up the door to soloing. You are thinking and playing one thing, even though the chords underneath are changing. And it sound great!

Eventually you realize that the major scale's quality Depending on which chord is playing at the time. The C major scale sounds different when the F chord is playing,, as opposed to when the C chord is playing.

Your ear starts to develop and you take the first step towards thinking of playing chord to chord.

The strong notes and weak notes change depending on what chord is playing.
How this effects us is that when you are playing a major scale over a diatonic chord progression, Lydian happens when the IV chord happens.

The raised four has a very beautiful sound, where the regular four can sound clunky
similar to the whole tone scale's first four notes.


How would you start to use the Lydian mode?

The first step is to include it as a part of your major scales and major progression practice.
Learn to practice Lydian in all major positions starting and ending on the forth (in our instance: F).

Play this over an F chord to hear the raised 4th.

We are getting these under our fingers and training our ear at the same time.

Next build some licks using the other method, by raising the 4th of the major scale.
This is a great first step for those who struggle to wrap their head around modes. Try taking major licks that you already know and lower the 7th. Big difference, right. Now play that lick over a 7th chord built off of the tonic.


An easy way to get started with Lydian.

Just use the minor pentatonic scale patterns a 1/2 step under your tonic note.

If you are interested in Jazz, try using Lydian by playing it over the 1 chord in a ii V I progression

So that is your intro into the Lydian mode.

My assignment for you is to do some experimenting this week with the Lydian mode and then make sure to download next weeks podcast where I will feature a bunch of Lydian licks for you to start practicing. So, tune in next week.


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