• A Study On The Lydian Mode — Scale And Harmony

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    In this lesson, we’ll be learning the scale and harmony of the Lydian mode.

    The Lydian mode is used in Jazz and Gospel music styles as a source of melodic and harmonic ideas ranging from licks, to nuances, to arpeggios, to chords, progressions, etc.

    But before we go into all what we have to cover in this lesson, let’s give the Lydian mode a basic explanation an also learn how it can be transposed on the keyboard.

    The Lydian Mode — Explained

    Modes are like keys that were used several centuries before the evolution of what we know as key about 400 years ago.

    “Check Out All The Seven Unique Modes…”

    Ionian mode:

    Dorian mode:

    Phrygian mode:

    Lydian mode:

    Mixolydian mode:

    Aeolian mode:

    Locrian mode:

    Although modes are old, they are still used in modern music and we’re focusing on the Lydian mode in this lesson.

    The Lydian mode consists of all the white notes on the piano from F to F:

    The Transposition Of The Lydian Mode

    The Lydian mode can be transposed to any other position on the keyboard, and this produces other Lydian scales.

    One of the ways to transpose the Lydian mode is by associating it with the major scale. For example, the F Lydian mode:

    …and the F major scale:

    …are closely related because they have all notes in common, save for their fourth tones respectively.

    The fourth tone of the F Lydian mode is B:

    …while the fourth tone of the F major scale is Bb:

    From the relationship between the F Lydian mode and the F major scale, the Lydian mode can be derived by raising the fourth tone of the major scale by a half-step. In the case of the F major scale:

    …raising the fourth tone (which is Bb):

    …by a half-step (to B):

    …produces the F Lydian mode:

    Raising the fourth tone of any known major scale, produces a Lydian scale as well. For example, raising the fourth tone of the D major scale:

    …which is G:

    …by a half-step (to G#):

    …produces the D Lydian scale:

    “Here Are All The Lydian Scales On The Keyboard…”

    C Lydian scale:

    Db Lydian scale:

    D Lydian scale:

    Eb Lydian scale:

    E Lydian scale:

    F Lydian scale:

    Gb Lydian scale:

    G Lydian scale:

    Ab Lydian scale:

    A Lydian scale:

    Bb Lydian scale:

    B Lydian scale:

    The Harmony Of The Lydian Mode — Explored

    The Lydian scale can be used in the formation of chords — triads, seventh, and extended chords as well. Let’s take a look at these chords associated with the Lydian mode; using the C Lydian scale:

    …as a reference.

    The C Lydian scale:

    …differs from the C major scale:

    …because the fourth tone of the C major scale (which is F):

    …is raised by a half-step (to F#):

    …in the C Lydian scale:

    The Triad Of The Lydian Scale

    The triad of the Lydian scale is produced when the first, third, and fifth tones of the Lydian scale are played or heard together. In the case of the C Lydian scale (which applies to every other Lydian scale):

    …where the first, third, and fifth tones are C, E, and G (which is the C major triad):

    …the  triad of the Lydian scale is the major triad.

    Consequently, the Lydian scale can be used to improvise over corresponding major triads. For example, the Eb Lydian scale:

    …can be used to improvise over the Eb major triad:

    …which is the corresponding triad of the Eb Lydian scale.

    The Seventh Chord Of The Lydian Scale

    Going beyond the triadic level of harmony is the seventh chord level; which is basically composed of the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the Lydian scale played or heard together.

    Using the C Lydian scale (as a reference):

    The first, third, fifth, and seventh tones are C, E, G, and B:

    …which is (for all intents and purposes) the C major seventh chord.

    Now you know that the seventh chord of the Lydian scale is the major seventh chord, feel free to improvise over any major seventh chord with a corresponding Lydian scale. For example, the A Lydian scale:

    …can be used to improvise over the A major seventh chord:

    …and this is agreeable because the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the A Lydian scale:

    …which are A, C#, E, and G#:

    …produces the A major seventh chord when played or heard together.

    Extended Chords Of The Lydian Scale

    There are three extended chord types that belong to this category:

    The major ninth chord

    The major ninth [sharp eleventh] chord

    The major thirteenth [sharp eleventh] chord

    Using the C Lydian scale (as a reference):

    …here are these extended chord types starting from C.

    The C major ninth chord:

    …consists of the first, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth tones of the C Lydian scale (which are C, E, G, B, and D).

    The C major ninth [sharp eleventh] chord:

    …consists of the first, third, fifth, seventh, ninth and eleventh tones of the C Lydian scale (which are C, E, G, B, D, and F#).

    The C major thirteenth [sharp eleventh] chord:

    …consists of the first, third, fifth, seventh, ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth tones of the C Lydian scale (which are C, E, G, B, D, F#, and A).

    Final Words

    Now that you’ve seen how the Lydian mode:

    …can be used to derive Lydian scales by its transposition, go ahead and transpose the chords covered to other keys as well and try improvising over them using the corresponding Lydian scale.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll be focusing on other modes like the Mixolydian mode, Phrygian mode, etc.

    See you then.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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