The Lydian mode is one of the most expressive modes of the major scale, and through this article, I hope to explain its exotic, yet familiar sound, and how we can use it in our modern compositions. We’ll talk about F Lydian, which is based on the C major scale.
Therefore, if you write out the notes in an C major scale:
C D E F G A B C
And start on F…
F G A B C D E F
…you get the F Lydian mode. The cool thing is that this mode is almost like a regular ol’ F major scale. Lets compare Bb Lydian to Bb major:
F major: F G A Bb C D E F
F Lydian: F G A B C D E F
Notice a difference? The F Lydian scale’s 4th note is raised ½ step higher. We can say:
F major: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
F Lydian: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
And let’s listen to how both sound:
They do sound different, and that difference will help us choose which scale to use in a particular application. First, understand that if the chords you are soloing over come from the C major scale, you must use F Lydian:
If the chords come from F major, (using a Bb instead of a Bdim) you would use F major.
Not as confusing as it sounds, and it is about to get easier. If the chords you are soloing over do not include a 3rd (such as power chords), or do not move from a Bb chord …you can use either! The #4 sound of the Lydian mode has a really sweet, alien, unfinished quality to it. I would suggest listening to Joe Satriani’s 2nd album, Surfing With the Alien, to hear this mode, especially on Lords Of Karma.
Now, let’s get more exotic. I tend to get bored over a chord progression consisting of only power chords or triads, so I tend to shake things up by adding in some extended harmony. The Lydian mode is great if your chord progression contains the unique sound of a #11 chord. I play the chord like this:
Wow, that’s a mouthful. Breaking it down:
This contains a F major chord (F, A, C), the major 7 (E), and the #11 (B) which is the #4 note, 1 octave higher. All are notes from the C major scale.
Not something you hear in most rock, huh? But if we work so hard on our solos, we had better get used to ‘different’ harmonies that surround our solos, right?
For example, here is a chord progression:
I’ll now play a solo over it. Hear that different-but-familiar sound? One note (that #4) makes quite a difference, huh?
We will try one more progression, using a drone-type bass note over shifting chords:
Yes, I overdubbed two guitar parts to get those bass notes – I can’t reach that far.
Here is the rhythm backing track:
And here is my solo using the F Lydian mode:
The Lydian mode is closely tied to the major scale, and can sometimes be used wherever a major scale can be used. The main thing is, do you like the way it sounds? Do any of the notes clash with the harmony behind the solo? Sometimes it helps to record something, and listen to it honestly while you are not playing at the same time.
You can use some of the rhythm tracks above to try your own solos over. Upload and share with the community in the comments below. Do you have any favorite songs that use the Lydian mode?