Lydian Mode

Modes give another musical 'feel' to a solo. You may play in one Key Signature, then use a Mode to sharp or flat the notes, in a certain sequence, to change the sound. The sequence is based on a Major Scale Key Signature. As a Lydian Mode example, let's use the root D in the DMaj scale:

D E F# G A B C# D
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

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Although D is the root note for the D Major Scale, Lydian Mode uses the 4th note of a different Major Scale, as its own root. Above, we're using D as the root, so we must find what Major Scale has D as its 4th, note. From what Major Scale can we play the D Lydian Mode?

Let's think backwards, and start at the letter D. Count back from D, four letters:

4 3 2 1

So, the A Major Scale has D as the 4th note, the Lydian Mode root note. This Lydian Mode retains the same Key Signature as the A Major Scale. The Key Signature is:

F# C# G#
3 sharps: Fat Cats Go

Therefore, the Lydian Mode, with D as the Root, is:

D E F# G# A B C# D
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

We may use this Lydian Mode to solo over the original Key we were playing, D Major:

D E F# G A B C# D
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

You may be wondering how it will sound if we play a G sharp in the key of D Major (which only has F and C sharps)? That's the beauty of Modes, they give a different feel in the context of the original scale's tonal range. Modes sound harmonius, nonetheless.

Lydian Mode:

D E F# G# A B C# D
1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 8
(sharping the 4th note, from the A Maj Key Signature)

We see that in order to find our Lydian Mode, we must:

  • Use our current root note (D, above)

  • Count backward from the root the proper number of letters (4, above)

  • Use the new letter's key signature (A, in the above example), for the mode key (Lydian, above)

  • Play the mode (Lydian, above) with the new key (3 sharps, above), over the original root (DMaj, above)

  • Play Easy Like Sunday Morning

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List of Modes

Switching between the natural 4th note, and the sharp 4th note, changes a song's sound and feeling. Correspondingly, altering scale notes will produce different Modes. Memorize which particular notes of a Major Scale that Modes change (sharp or flat):

Mode Note change
Lydian 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 8
(sharp 4)
Ionian 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
(no changes)
Mixolydian 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
(flat 7)
Dorian 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 8
(flat 3,7)
Aeolian 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
(flat 3,6,7)
Phrygian 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
(flat 2,3,6,7)
Locrian 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 8
(flat 2,3,5,6,7)

Use this chart for any Major Key. We only need to know the starting Root. Also, a sequence develops as you add the next Mode:

#4, none, b7, b3, b6, b2, b5

Numbering between each addition, is a rollercoaster:

4, 0, up7, down4, up3, down4, up3

This is just a shortcut to memorize the sequence of added note changes for Modes. The Modes' names themselves, in this particular order, may be remembered with an acronym:

Let Ionians Make Decisions All Phrygians Love
(Lydian Ionian Mixolydian Dorian Aeolian Phrygian Locrian)

The #4 Lydian, and the natural Ionian are unique modes. The other Modes flat one or more notes of a Major Scale. We may train our ears to hear a mode within a key, to memorize its altered notes.

Major Scale Roots for Modes

The C Major scale shows all of the modes in order, as they start on a different letter. Each new root contains the key signature for that note:

  • C D E F G A B C
  • 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
  • Ionian (1 root), Dorian (2), Phrygian (3), Lydian (4), Mixolydian (5), Aeolian (6), Locrian (7)
  • Ionian is same as Major Scale, Aeolian is same as minor scale.

Use the modes table above to quickly flat or sharp notes for the current scale/key.

Recommended reading: Guitar Tab and Notes

Material by Eleventh Decibel.

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