Songwriting basics and tips 17: Modes – Lush Lydian

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Bob Leslie is an Independent Scottish Songwriter, Singer, and Recording Artist

 

Sharp as a needle …needle.gif

Lydian is the mode based on the 4th note of the major scale or Fah if you prefer. If we stick with C major as our source of notes, then we’re looking at F Lydian– here are a couple of octaves to help plan out chords:

F G A B C D E F G A B C D E 

The main thing to remember about any Lydian scale is that it differs from a standard major aka Ionian scale in only one point – just compare the above scale to F major and see if you can spot it.

Yes? You at the back waving your arm?

“It’s a B not a Bb!!!”

Got it in one!

The 4th note of a Lydian scale is sharpened by one semitone – that’s one fret up on the guitar. If it were D Lydian, then the scale would be just the same as D major except that there would be a G# instead of a G!

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Stretch out and get comfortable …

hammock.gif

 

 

So … how do we work around that sharpened note?

 

Answer: add more thirds!thirds.gif

third is the distance between notes 1 & 3, or 2 & 4, or 3 & 5 etc. in a scale. In Sol-FahDoh to Mi would be a major third – 2 full tones apart; Lah to Doh would be a minor third – 1 full tone and 1 semitone apart.

Basic chords contain the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes  of a scale that starts with the root note (or tonic as it’s known – because it sets the tone!).

For F major, those notes are F A C. If we make a 4-note chord, adding another third by inserting a note a major 7th above the tonic (ie the distance between Doh and Ti) it becomes a major 7th chord. 

In F Lydian, the  maj7 chords are 

F A C E – that’s Fmaj7

C E G B – that’s Cmaj7 (which gets some use out of that sharpened 4th note we mentioned)

If we go up another third, we get the chords

F A C E G – that’s Fmaj9

C E G B D – that’s Cmaj9

Not all the notes below the ninth one are necessarily played – a shortage of fingers, or too much of a clashing sound often means that the fifth note, for example, is left out.

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All that jazz …

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Jazz and jazz-rock guitar-players love lush-sounding extended chords of the type we looked at above, and Lydian gives them all sorts of possibilities to use those. But  bands like Fleetwood Mac also like them to use them as a base for dreamy-sounding ballads.

 

Try jamming over the following pattern just to get an idea of it – feel free to vary the tempo and the time signature

(2 bars each chord)
F maj7  G7  Fmaj7  G7  

(1 bar each chord)
Cmaj7  Am7  Dm7 
G7

and repeat from the top

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Unfinished business …

You probably noticed a kind of unfinished feeling in that progression.  

Lydian  has the characteristic aspect of always sounding as if it’s going to resolve onto the major key whose notes it’s using (in this case C) but never doing so.

Sometimes that holds true for an entire song or tune, sometimes the writer feels she/he has prolonged the tension long enough, and changes to a straightforward major or minor key.

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The whodunnit section …

Here Comes My Girl by Tom Petty is in A Lydian on the verse, and E major on the chorus.

Sting’s When We Dance uses E Lydian for the melody of the verse, and flits between E major and F# major for the rest.

snooze.gif

 

Dreams by Fleetwood Mac only uses variations of F and G, but the mainly Fmaj7 in the chorus tips the feel towards Lydian.

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And, as I said, loads of jazz/jazz-rock, of which the prime examples are probably either by Joe Satriani or Frank Zappa:

Flying in a Blue Dream – Joe Satriani

Inca Roads – Frank Zappa (mainly the solo – starts at 2:08)

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Next time, we’ll look at the mode that is really part of the triumvirate that governs popular song: to major and minor, add Mixolydian.

Rock’n’roll, pop, folk, blues – Mixolydian pokes its nose in everywhere!

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Bob Leslie – Scottish – Traditional – Songwriter

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