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Composing with Modes: Lydian

Hello there!

Thanks for visiting this blog to learn more about the Lydian mode!

If you’re a complete beginner in learning about modes, you might want to read this article where I explain the complete basics, and start with the first mode, Ionian. You can also listen to a podcast about the Lydian Mode here.

Now onto the topic of today’s article: Lydian.


Lydian is the fourth mode in the order of the modes:

Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, LYDIAN, Mixolydian Aeolian, and Locrian

The Lydian Mode is based on a Major scale, with the fourth scale degree sharped. Here’s an example:

Some ways to describe this scale are:

  • almost mysterious but in a light-hearted way

  • ultra happy (depending on its use)

  • light

  • joyful

This mode can give off very good vibes- it feels very energetic and joyful. To get a better idea of what I'm talking about, here are some examples of music that use this mode. You can feel it for yourself!


There are plenty of well-known pieces of music written in the Lydian mode, because of the quality of its upbeat sound.

1. The first piece is String Quartet No. 15 in A minor Op 132 by Beethoven. To give you some context about this piece, it is the third movement (the Molto adagio movement), and was written as a tribute to Beethoven having just recovered from a very serious illness, arwhich he thought might end his life. After recovering, he wrote this piece as a “thanksgiving” for surviving it in 1825.

2. The second piece you may recognize. It's called Danny Boy . The melody of this piece is a traditional Irish melody called Londonery Air, and the English songwriter Frederic Weatherly used the tune to write the lyrics of the song in 1913.

Next are some fun pieces that you’ll definitely recognize if you love gaming - two soundtracks to Nintendo games:

3. Supermario Galaxy which was composed by Mahito Yokota and Koji Kondo.

4. And The Legend of Zelda, also composed by Koji Kondo.

5. And lastly we have another fun tune, The Simpson’s Theme, by Danny Elfman.

All very happy pieces of music that help build a world around you that’s carefree and light! Now that you’ve heard some ways the Lydian Mode can sound in music, let’s break down how to build the scale in a few different ways.


There are probably many ways you can use to construct or find the Lydian Scale, but here are at least three methods you can use:

1. The first method is using a pattern of half and whole steps to construct the scale. Lydian’s pattern is:


Here is a video explaining the construction process, starting on F natural:

Here’s another example, this time starting on Eb. You can try building the scale before watching to see if you can do it yourself!

2. The second method uses Major scales - so it can be helpful if you are learning or already familiar with these scales. Lydian is mostly a major scale, the only difference in being that the fourth scale degree is sharp instead of natural! For example, if we take F major, usually you'd play the fourth scale degree as Bb (B flat). To make it a Lydian scale, you simply play B natural instead of Bb.

Here's a video of some more examples, using different major scales (A, Bb, and F):

3. The third method of finding Lydian involves Major keys again. To explain this method, let’s use C major as an example. If you play the C major scale, but start it on F (the fourth scale degree), you will be playing a Lydian scale.

This works in any Major key. You take a Major key and play its scale, but start it on the fourth scale degree of the key.

Here is an explanation with visual and audio so you can hear it (in the Major keys C, F#, & Eb):


Practice helps you to understand a concept SO much more. So, practice putting different Lydian scales together using the different methods, then compose some melodies and harmonies of your own!

There is a pdf down below that has all of the Lydian scales written in every key, then all with accidentals (these correspond to either constructing the Dorian scale starting on the fourth scale degree of a major key, or by simply using the whole and half step pattern).

Using it yourself will help you familiarize with its sound, and hopefully inspire you in your creativity!

Have fun and enjoy!

Lydian Mode Scales
Download PDF • 148KB

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