fretjam guitar lessons logo

email iconyoutube buttonGoogle Plus iconRSS icon
Home > Scales > Lydian Mode

Jamplay banner

Lydian Mode on Guitar

Lydian is the 4th mode of the major scale (see full guitar modes contents for some essential preliminary theory!).

Lydian is one of my favourite modes/scales on guitar because there's not much work needed to make it sound wonderful. This is partly because of one distinctive tone.

Free scale pattern cheat sheet
Essential scale patterns that every guitarist must know...
Click here to start now

It just has a naturally mesmorising sound. Ethereal is a good word to describe it. As a result, you hear Lydian a lot in film and TV soundtracks, because certain intervals in Lydian (e.g. the tritone, which we'll learn about) have a naturally alluring and immersive quality.

First, some important theory, then we'll look at the Lydian mode on guitar and how to apply it fluidly in your solos (click here for a great head start with this).

Lydian mode basics

1  W  2  W  3  W  #4  H  5  W  6  W  7  H  1

Hear it (F Lydian)

Don't know what the W's and H's mean? If so, take the intervals lesson before you go on.

If you've been through the Ionian (1st mode) lesson, you'll see that the only difference between Ionian and Lydian is the sharp 4th (#4). The 4th tone has been sharpened one half step (the equivalent of 1 fret) from its natural position in the major scale.

However, even though only one tone has changed, it creates a completely different sound.

So, similar to Ionian, Lydian is a major mode (because of the major 3rd interval) and can be simply used as a scale over certain major chords.

Let's just first listen to a typical interval sequence to get a flavour for Lydian's sound.

1  5  #4  2  3 - Click to hear

That simple little sequence alone invokes that unmistakable Lydian atmosphere. Once you get an ear for it, you'll start to hear it being used a lot on TV and at the movies.

Lydian mode on guitar

Let's start by mapping out the main box pattern on the fretboard for the Lydian mode. This pattern spans just 4 frets and offers a very convenient fingering...

lydian mode guitar box pattern

Remember - the root (1) defines the key of the scale, so if, for example, that root note lied on the note F, it would be F Lydian, and would most often be played over an F major chord - more on playing over chords later (with backing tracks!).

If you don't yet know where all the notes lie, spend some time studying the fretboard. There is some great interactive software to help you with this.

Later on in this modes series, we'll look at how to expand out of that box and use more of the fretboard.

fingers numbered from 1 (index) to 4 (pinky)For now, though, here's the suggested fingering for the above pattern.

lydian mode fingering

Playing Lydian over chords

We know from the Ionian lesson that a scale/mode that includes the root (1), 3rd (3) and 5th (5) forms a major triad . This means that the scale in question will be a major scale and therefore will be compatible with major chords and certain major key progressions.

The major 7th

Sounds simple, and it is really, but the position of the 7th defines which type of major chord is compatible beyond the basic major triad - dominant 7th, or major 7th?

To fully understand this distinction, see the 7th chord theory lesson.

The 7th in Lydian is in the major 7th position (that's 1 semitone/fret down from the root). Therefore Lydian, just like Ionian, will work over major 7th chords (1 3 5 7).

Chord Type Tones Compatible Mode(s)
Major Triad 1, 3, 5 Any major mode
Major 7th chord (e.g. Cmaj7) 1, 3, 5, 7 Ionian, Lydian
Dominant 7th chord (e.g. C7) 1, 3, 5, b7 Mixolydian

The #4

So how does the #4 affect playing over major chords? Well, it doesn't require any special treatment. The beauty of the #4 in Lydian is it can be held over the major chord without sounding dissonant.

Take a listen to the #4 being held over a major chord

...and there's that powerful, ethereal sound. As the #4 is essentially a tension note, resolving the #4 to a more stable tone works effectively. For example, the #4 is commonly resolved to the 3rd...

Take a listen

It also acts as a leading tone that naturally resolves to the tone immediately above it - the 5th, a neutral or "safe" tone over major chords.

The other notes of Lydian will just sound the same as Ionian, but regularly including that #4 gives it that Lydian spice!

So when you're playing over a major triad (1 3 5) or major 7th chord (1 3 5 7), Lydian is an option and often preferable to simply playing Ionian with its natural 4th.

Lydian mode jam track

Ok, so we're now acquainted with Lydian and its signature sound. Let's put this to practical use over a jam track designed for this mode/scale.

First, try playing Lydian over the chord tracks below, without any chord changes.

lydian mode guitar box pattern

Key Mode Low E String Root Note Play/Download
C major C Lydian 8th Fret click here
C# major C# Lydian 9th Fret click here

As demonstrated above, Lydian, like any mode, can work as an individual scale over an individual chord. But it can also work over a modal chord progression (more on this later in the series), because modes have related chord scales.

So, even though the jam track below moves between two chords (F and G major), Lydian will still be the primary mode used because the chords I have chosen fit within the modal scale (which, again, don't worry about the detail right now).

This is a very typical Lydian movement, over two major chords a whole step apart (as are F and G major), with the lower chord being the Lydian root (F major in this example).

Key Mode Low E String Root Note Play/Download
F major F Lydian 1st and 13th Frets click here

Later in the series, we'll look at how to expand out of those restrictive boxes. For now, just focus on using different phrases from within Lydian and experiment with different target notes within the scale. You'll hear what sounds good, and what sounds crap!

Build on your good ideas, ditch what doesn't work. Enjoy it!

  Like This? Subscribe & Learn More...

Subscribe to the fretjam newsletter below for updates and extras, plus grab your free copy of Uncommon Chords: 101 Vibrant Voicings You Won't Find on a Typical Chord Chart.

Enter Your Email To Get Your Free Copy

Don't worry -- your email address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you the fretjam newsletter.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Guitar Modes Lessons

More Guitar Scales

  -  Help  -  Donate  -  About  -  Contact  -  Site Policies

Subscribe to me on YouTubesmall RSS feed buttonBe Yourself On Guitar                                                       By Mike Beatham Copyright © 2018