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Composing with Modes: Lydian

Updated: Jan 25

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 MODE


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:

  • mysterious sounding

  • light

  • joyful

This mode can give off very good vibes or create an otherworldly sound. 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!



SONGS WRITTEN IN LYDIAN MODE


There are plenty of well-known pieces of music written in the Lydian mode.


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 which he thought would 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! They're two soundtracks from 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.


CONSTRUCTING LYDIAN SCALE


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

W W W H W W H


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 raised a half step 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 (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


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 Lydian 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
.pdf
Download PDF • 148KB

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