Lydian mode

Lydian mode

Due to historical confusion, "Lydian mode" can refer to two very different musical modes or diatonic scales.

Greek Lydian mode

The Lydian mode is named after the ancient kingdom of Lydia in Anatolia. In Greek music theory it was based on the Lydian tetrachord: descending (the way the Greeks always wrote about it), a series of falling intervals of a semitone followed by two whole tones. Applied to a whole octave, the Lydian mode was built upon two Lydian tetrachords separated by a whole tone. This is identical to the modern major mode: C D E F | G A B C (ascending, in the modern reckoning). Placing the two tetrachords together, and the single tone at bottom of the scale produces the Hypolydian mode (below Lydian): F | G A B C | (C) D E F. Placing the two tetrachords together, and the single tone at the top of the scale produces the Hyperlydian mode (above Lydian), which is effectively the same as the Hypophrygian mode: G A B C | (C) D E F | G. Confusingly, the Greek Lydian mode is the same as the mediaeval and modern Ionian mode or major mode.

Mediaeval and modern Lydian mode

The early Christian church developed a system of eight musical modes (called the octoechos), which mediaeval music scholars related to the ancient Greek modes. However, due to misinterpretation of the Latin texts of Boethius, mediaeval modes were given the wrong Greek names. In mediaeval and modern music, the Lydian mode is a major scale with the fourth scale degree played a semitone higher than it would be in the major scale. The mediaeval and modern Lydian mode is the same as the Greek Hypolydian mode.

The Lydian mode has the formula 1, 2, 3, music|sharp4, 5, 6, 7. Its tonic chord is a major triad.

A Lydian scale based on the note C consists of the notes C D E Fmusic|sharp G A and B. Alternatively, if we start on the note F, the scale consists of the notes F G A B C D E. This scale can be played on the white notes of a piano without the use of any sharps or flats (black keys) only if started on the note F (F G A B C D E).

A rare evocation of the Lydian mode in the Classical repertoire comes from the third movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132 (1825). (See Common practice period.) It is titled by the composer "Heilige Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart" ("Holy Song of Thanksgiving by a Convalescent to the Divinity, in the Lydian Mode").

Modern usage

Modern usage of the Lydian mode is often implied by certain chord spellings. For example, the chords D/C or Cmaj7music|natural11 imply a C Lydian harmony. (D/C7 or C7music|natural11 would both imply the Lydian dominant scale, which is the same as Lydian but with a music|flat7th note)

Ambiguity between Major and Lydian modes

Care must be exercised in identifying songs or pieces based in Lydian mode. It is common for listeners to confuse Lydian mode, particularly at the beginning of a piece, with an extended section based on the IV chord of a major key (or, less commonly, a flat VI chord in a minor key).

A good example of this ambiguity of Lydian mode can be found in the song "Maria" by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim from the musical West Side Story; the opening measures of the main theme (Emusic|flat, A, Bmusic|flat) could indicate Emusic|flat Lydian mode, but the following four measures clearly establish Bmusic|flat major. By the time the Emusic|flat-A-Bmusic|flat motive appears again in measure six, we are clearly hearing a IV chord in Bmusic|flat major rather than a chord built on the tonic of Emusic|flat Lydian. That said, the main theme and the song do cadence clearly to an Emusic|flat major chord - although, in both cases, an Amusic|flat (rather than the defining Lydian Amusic|natural) is prominently featured in the penultimate chord.

On the other hand, it could be argued that a piece of music that follows this sort of pattern is actually fluctuating between Lydian mode and major tonality. For instance, in "Here Come My Girl" by Tom Petty each verse alternates between a Dmusic|flat major and Emusic|flat major chord, with a Dmusic|flat pedal tone maintaining the impression that Dmusic|flat is tonic, and a repeated guitar lick frequently hitting the essential raised fourth scale degree – Gmusic|natural, in this case. This gives the verses a distinctly Lydian colour. But in the chorus sections of the song, the tonality clearly shifts to Amusic|flat major. This pattern is fairly common in pop music. Whether to say these songs are shifting between Lydian and major tonality, or simply extending the IV chord in major tonality, is somewhat open to interpretation.


* The Kill by 30 Seconds to Mars is entirely in C Lydian.

* "Eden" by Hooverphonic All the song is in C Lydian.

* The "To Kill a Mockingbird" score by Elmer Bernstein features the Lydian mode extensively to evoke feelings of childlike wonder.

* "Freewill" by Rush. A claim could be made that the verse is in F Lydian, though strong presence of C, E and G in the verse melody (together with the firm establishment of C major in the chorus) would indicate that the verse is just an extended IV chord in C major.

* "Man on the Moon" by R.E.M. The verses to the song are in C Lydian; the prechorus switches to G major.

* "The Electric Co." by U2 features parts of Fmusic|natural Lydian.

* "Evil Will Prevail" by The Flaming Lips is in D Lydian

* "Blue Jay Way" by The Beatles more specifically by George Harrison on Magical Mystery Tour

* "Dancing Days" by Led Zeppelin. The notable guitar intro is in the Lydian Mode. The rest of the song uses a variety of modes and chromaticism.

* "Flying in a Blue Dream" by Joe Satriani is almost exclusively in the Lydian mode, as is "The Meaning of Love and "Clouds Race Across The Sky". Much of his other work includes Lydian as well.

* "K'm-pee-du-wee" and "The Riddle" by Steve Vai; Lydian Augmented is also used in the latter piece. "Feathers" and "Answers" are some other songs by Vai in the lydian mode.

* "Overture 1928" by Dream Theater; the section at 1:01 begins with a Lydian tetrachord.

* "Escaping" by Kiko Loureiro the outro in particular.

* "If There Was a Time" by Harem Scarem.

* "Midnight Daydream" by Steve Morse.

* "The Dance of Fools" by Shadow Gallery

* "Stars" by Switchfoot

* "Inner Road" by Adagio the solo in particular.

* "The Battle" by Hydrogen Party

* "Accolade" by Symphony X.

* "Elation Station" by Infected Mushroom is in C Lydian.

* "Opened Once" and "Gunshot Glitter" by Jeff Buckley

* "Beyond the Boundaries" by Jimmy Cliff

* "Unravel" by Björk

* "Follow My Way" by Chris Cornell is exclusively in the Lydian mode.

* "Arcane Lifeforce Mysteria by Dimmu Borgir starts in the Lydian mode.

* "Waltz #1" by Elliott Smith.

* "Little Red Corvette" by Prince.

* "Lydian Suite" by Michael Horvit.

* "Here Comes My Girl" by Tom Petty shifts between Lydian and major.

* "Whassup?" by Will Mayo is in C Lydian. The bridge switches to D minor.

* "The One" by Elton John shifts between Lydian and major.

* "Momentum" by Vienna Teng shifts between Lydian and major.

* "Melody of You" by Sixpence None the Richer shifts between Lydian and major.

* "Cathedrals" by Jump, Little Children shifts between Lydian and major.

* "Curve" by John Petrucci is mostly in the lydian mode. Phrygian dominant mode is also used.

* "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police, the main ascending 4 note riff is 1, 2, 3, music|natural4 (the music|natural4 being the Lydian note)

* "Endurance of Hate", a metal band from South Wales, UK use a heavily Lydian feel riff in the intro to their live show.

* "Taking a line for a walk" by Richard Rodney Bennett.

* "War Sower" by Polish metal band Sorcerer (band) relies heavily on Lydian mode in verses, which either resolve to minor scale or to Dorian scale (which is related to Lydian). Also solo part is based on Lydian.

* "The Lazarus Heart" by Sting is an excellent example of Lydian mode and its mystical flavour. Both the main theme and the verses utilize C Lydian in a droning way.

* The theme tune for "The Jetsons" is written in the Lydian mode.

* The theme for "The Simpsons" is sometimes cited as being in the Lydian mode, and this is certainly true for the first few bars. However, later passages in the theme include a minor 7th, along with other notes characteristic of the Lydian mode, and that thus places those passages in the Lydian dominant scale, which is sometimes thought wrongly to be another mode, or related to the modal system.

* "Love Like This" by Faith Evans is in F Lydian.

* "All I Need" by Radiohead is in C Lydian.

* The verses to "Tonight, Tonight" by the Smashing Pumpkins is in Lydian

* The main theme to The Land Before Time is in Lydian

External links

* [ Lydian mode in six positions for guitar] at

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