The Lydian Dominant Scale - Dare to Venture "Outside"
While the natural major and minor scales (including their pentatonic
variations) are often all we need to create meaningful solos and
phrases, there'll come a time when a chord change will throw you
outside of that diatonic comfort zone.
Not a lot of musicians realise that the lydian dominant scale is one of
the most reliable scales when it comes to soloing over particular
types. If you find yourself in a musical
no-mans-land, this scale really can save your solo. Not only that, it's
also easy to make something beautiful from this scale (unlike many
other scales where you have to work harder to extract the real juice).
So, let's explore the wonderful (sometimes weird) world of lydian
dominant, starting with a short presentation and then moving on to the
Basic Lydian Dominant Scale Theory
So, from the video we know that lydian dominant works over dominant 7th chords
with the same root (e.g. C lydian dominant over C7, E lyd dom over E7
We also know the key intervals that define the scale (aside from the
major triad) are the augmented 4th (#4)
and minor 7th (b7).
Translated to the fretboard, it looks something like this, starting
with the E string root pattern...
Or, with an A string root (also known as the scale's 5th position
pattern), which you could use to visualize the scale around an A form
For those who already know the melodic minor scale...
As lydian dominant is the 4th
mode of melodic minor, and if you find it easier to
visualize this way, you can simply play any melodic minor pattern you
know, but position its 4th note
on the root of the chord you're playing over.
the table on the right to see which root you'd position
the melodic minor pattern on to get the right lydian dominant
root. So, for example, if the chord was A7, you could play E melodic
minor and it will sound like A lydian dominant!
Backing Tracks & Ear Training
OK, let's get a feel for the scale by playing over some "drone tracks".
These are backing tracks that hold a chord continuously, with no beat,
allowing you to set your metronome (or drum machine) at the
The important thing at this stage is that you explore how the intervals
of the scale interact and harmonize with its related backing chord.
Have fun with it. Go nuts!
Specifically, try holding that #4 over the chord (or targeting it in a
simple phrase), close your eyes and really feel it. Get to know
the scale as intimately as you can, that way you won't have to think
about when to use it - you'll hear it shout "play me!" in your head at
the right moments.
With these tracks, make sure you align the root note
of whichever pattern you use to the root of the chord.
C7 chord track - C
Lydian Dominant -
download here (right click "save
Once you're comfortable with playing the scale over single chords, the
next logical step is to get confident with switching to lydian dominant
at the right moment in a chord progression.
In the video, I gave three main examples of the kind of chord changes
that lydian dominant works well over. I'll tab out these example licks
below, but now it's your
turn to try out the changes!
Over the 5 chord
Usually, when using the major scale of the key you're playing in, the V
(5) chord will be covered by the scale. For example, in the progression
Dm / G7 / Cmaj (ii
the C major scale will work through all three chords.
However, lydian dominant makes a nice change and helps to enhance that
chord tension before the resolution back to the tonic.
entirely sure what these numerals (I, IV, V etc.) mean on
I highly recommend Jonathan Boettcher's crash
course in guitar theory.
So, when V
leads to I
in the progression (a very common movement), try switching to lydian
dominant over that V
chord, and then back to the major scale over the I.
Use the table and tracks below to practice this V
transition (note: fret
positions are labelled beneath the diagrams)...
As you learn more patterns and positions for your scales, you'll get
better at moving between scales. For now though, just keep the patterns
as overlapped as you can (i.e. at the same fret) to keep things simple.
So that's why in the above diagram I'm using C major's 2nd position
pattern, because it overlaps nicely with the G lydian dominant pattern
in the same position (10th fret).
Now in a different key - Eb major. So this time Bb7 will be the V
chord and therefore lydian dominant's root will be... that's right, Bb!
Moving on... exactly the same concept as before (V
but this time there's a third chord, Dm (ii).
The sequence is Dm / G7 / Cmaj. So we use C major over Dm, switch to G
Lydian dominant over G7 and then back to C major over Cmaj. The root
notes for each chord are color marked on the diagrams to help you keep
your bearings as the chord changes.
Let's hear an example of this switch in action (don't worry, the
backing track you'll download in a moment is a lot slower than the
example track!). Click the tab to hear.
Download the backing track and use the diagrams above to try your own...
This is where the main benefit of knowing lydian dominant truly reveals
itself. It's flexible enough to work over pretty much any instance of a
dominant 7th chord.
This means even if there's a movement to a dom7 chord outside the
original key/scale (e.g. a substituted chord), lydian dominant will be
a safe and effective scale choice over that chord.
If before you were struggling with choosing scales/notes outside the
natural major/minor keys, lydian dominant will have you covered for
most instances of a dom7 chord and many instances of a major triad.
First example - what is known as a back
door progression involving a VII
subtonic chord. This chord is not part of major scale harmony.
In relation to the tonic of B major, that back door chord is A7 and
this is where we change from B major to A lydian dominant.
Here's my (very basic) example (click tab to hear)...