There are many different scales in western music and some are more common than others. You will have heard of major scales and the minor scales but the diatonic modes are something totally different. Before we dive into the Lydian mode, here’s a quick summary of how the modes fit together.
What are musical modes and why are they important?
The musical modes are a series of seven diatonic scales based on the major scale. The modes are sometimes referred to as Greek Modes or modal scales in music theory.
In any given major key you can play all seven modes. Each of these modes will start on a different scale degree. As you can see all the different modes are very closely related.
If we look at the note sequence of the modes in the C major scale they will be as follows:
C D E F G A B C – C Ionian Mode
D E F G A B C D – D Dorian Mode
E F G A B C D E – E Phrygian mode
F G A B C D E F – F lydian mode
G A B C D E F G – G Mixolydian mode
A B C D E F G A – A Aeolian Mode
B C D E F G A B – B Locrian Mode
All the notes above use the notes from the c major scale.
What is the Lydian Mode?
The Lydian mode is a mode that starts on the fourth scale degree of a major scale. As we saw above, if you are in C major, the lydian scale will begin on F. F is the fourth degree of C major. It is the fourth mode of the seven modes.
If you are in the F major scale, the lydian mode will begin on Bb. Bb is the fourth degree of F major. The mode you create will then be the Bb lydian scale.
If you are in the G major scale, the lydian mode will be begin on C. C is the fourth degree of G major. The mode you create will then be the C lydian scale.
From Major Scale to Lydian Mode
As we have seen, the lydian mode can be created from the fourth degree of a major scale. Remember scale degrees just refer to the number note of the scale.
The pattern of whole step and half steps (semitones and Tones) in the classic major scale (ionian scale) is as follows:
W W H W W W H (T T S T T T S)
As the lydian mode starts on the fourth degree of the major scale, this pattern will simply shift up.
The Lydian Scale Formula
The pattern of whole steps and half steps (semitones and Tones) in the lydian mode will therefore be as follows:
W W W H W W H (T T T S T T S)
Degrees of the Lydian Scale
The lydian mode is a major mode. This simply means that this mode has many of the same qualities as a major scale.
For a major scale to sound major, the third of the scale will be a major third. In the lydian mode, this third degree is a major third! This is what gives the scale it’s major quality.
The degrees in the lydian mode will be as follows:
- Major Second
- Major Third
- Augmented fourth
- Perfect fifth
- Major sixth
- Major seventh
How to Play the Lydian Scale
You can play the lydian scale on any instrument. Whether you play the piano, guitar or flute all the modes will contain all the same notes on each instrument. All you must do is learn the notes of that particular mode. Once you are comfortable playing scales you can then begin to play all the modes!
For example, the F lydian mode consists of all natural notes.
F G A B C D E F
Learn these notes and you can play it on any instrument. Below you can see the notes on the piano, notice how this scale uses only the white keys.
Here is the scale chart for playing the Lydian mode on guitar. The root note is labelled in red and you can slide this shape up and down the neck to play different mixolydian scales.
Music written in the Lydian mode
Songs that use the lydian mode are often bright and happy as the scale sounds really major! The greek philosopher, Pythagoras, considered the lydian mode to be the most optimistic. It was therefore used to uplift the spirit!
The lydian mode is used very commonly in popular music. A great example of the lydian mode that you will most certainly have heard is The Simpsons theme!
It is also worth noting that you can also hear it in the Super Mario Galaxy theme tune.
You can also hear examples of the lydian mode in classical music. Take a listen to the third movement of Beethoven’s String quartet no.15 in A minor. This piece is written in the F lydian mode.
List of Lydian Modes
Although the F Lydian scale is the easiest lydian mode to create as it comes from the fourth note of the c major scale, meaning you only have to play the white keys on the piano, you can create a lydian scale on any note you like! As long you keep the same interval pattern you can create the lydian mode on any note. Each of the modes below have been created using the whole step and half step pattern we saw earlier.
C Lydian mode – C D E F# G A B C
C# lydian mode – C# D# E# Fx G# A# B# C#
Db Lydian Mode – Db Eb F G Ab Bb C Db
D Lydian Mode – D E F# G# A B C# D
D# Lydian Mode – D# E# Fx G# A# B# Cx D#
Eb Lydian Mode – Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb
E Lydian Mode – E F# G# A# B C# D# E
F Lydian Mode – F G A B C D E F
F# Lydian Mode – F# G# A# B# C# D# E# F#
Gb Lydian Mode – Gb Ab Bb C Db Eb F Gb
G Lydian mode – G A B C# D E F# G
G# Lydian Mode – G# A# B# Cx D# E# Fx G#
Ab Lydian Mode – Ab Bb C D Eb F G Ab
A Lydian Mode – A B C# D E F# G# A
Bb Lydian Mode – Bb C D E F G A Bb
B Lydian Mode – B C# D# E# F# G# A# B
Which chord progressions can you use the Lydian scale with?
Lydian scale chord progressions are a series of chords derived from the Lydian scale. To build a chord progression in the lydian scale you must first simply choose chords that can be created with these notes. The first place to start is to create a chord (triad) on every note of the chosen lydian mode. Below you can see a chord built on every note of the f lydian scale, notice that none of the notes have an accidental on and this is because the F lydian has no sharps or flats.
Each of these chords can then be labelled so you know what each chord is. If you need to learn more about these labels then make sure to check out our complete guide to chords.
We can also use Roman Numeral notation to label our chords.
Chord I in the f lydian scale is a major chord as the interval between F and A is a major third. The chord we build on the first note is a F major chord. We will then label this chord with an upper case I to indicate that it is a major chord built on the root of the scale.
Each chord can then be labelled in this way and we will then know which chords have a minor quality and which ones have a major quality! If the chord has a minor quality the third will be a minor third and we will label this chord with lower case Roman numerals.
When writing a chord progression it is always advisable to use the root chord first. This will establish the key you are in.
Want to learn more?
To learn more about the other modes you can visit our pages on each mode here: