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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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June 25, 2015 | Lydian spice

Most of the JazzMando readership is familiar with how the intervals of the Major Scale can be transformed into modes simply by starting the scale and ending it on a different note. You have the Dorian mode by starting on the 2nd note, the Mixolydian by starting on the 5th, and so on. This is arguably counter-intuitive though. Ultimately you want to be able to think of these modes as their own entity. We prefer to conceptualize them as a Major Scale with a note or two altered, the Dorian is a lowered 3rd and 7th, the Mixolydian is the lowered 7th, etc. Ultimately, you need to think these in the way that fits you best.


We're particularly fond of the Lydian Scale, because of the quirky color it puts into a Major Scale. The raised 4th removes the tension resolution of natural 4th to 3rd, and the half-step relationship to the 5th of the scale lends a peculiar sort of temporary, unsettling horizontal resolution to the dominant tone. That's the intellectual way of approaching it, or you can just say you like the sound.

Of course, there's also that disrespectful Tritone that doesn't do its harmonic duty and resolve to a 3rd or 6th like it does in a V7 chord.

You think of the Major 7th chord and how it became its own sort of consonance in 70's pop music. The Carpenters come to mind, especially that multi-track homogeneity of layered brother and sister background vocals, sometimes adding a Major 9th to the mix. You can "evolve" that sound up by adding the raised 11th, which of course is the raised 4th you need to get the Lydian Scale.

It's fun to just add this to your harmonic vocabulary when you have extended solo opportunities on a Major 7 chord. If you play around with it long enough, it just kind of settles into your ear. It's easy to find, too. In relation to the tonic, it's always one string up-one fret up, or one string down-one fret down, kind of like the way a bishop piece moves visually in a game of chess.

Of course you can play it out as a scale, and we have a great exercise to help get this into your fingers, our LydianDUDU drill designed to work on your Right Hand/Left Hand coordination:

Print exercise: pdf_sm.gif LydianDUDU

Harmonically, you can play this out by fingering a Major 7th chord based on the 5th degree of the scale. In the key of C, you'd play a G Maj7 over the C. This would give you the F# you need for the raised 4th, and of course spell out a G Maj7 #11.

One of the songs in our "Getting Into Jazz Mandolin" book is based on the Lydian Scale. For a little fun, print out the song and listen to what New England Jazz Mandolinist Will Patton did with the song:

Print song: pdf_sm.gif Lydia O'Lydia PDF
Listen: sound.gif "Lydia O'Lydia" Will Patton

Have yourself some fun by just changing one note!

Hey, put a Lydian on it!...
Craig Schmoller: Lydia O'Lydia
Lydian Tricks
Even more Tetrachords

Posted by Ted at June 25, 2015 7:54 AM

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