The may not be the most common out there, but its unique sound and importance in makes it an important one to learn.
It’s been present in music for a very long time (it’s named after the ancient Greek kingdom of Lydia) and, in the latter half of the 21st Century, rose to prominence – especially in music education – as part of the modal movement.
We’ll take a look at how to play this jazz scales, but first let’s go back to basics…, and how it relates to all the other
The – What Is It?
The is, theoretically speaking, the of the major (ionian) .
It’s notable for it’s sharped 4th which gives a mystical, haunting quality.
In fact, that augmented 4th is the only thing which differentiates it from a classic (or ‘ionian ‘ to give it its other name).
How Can You Play The ?
There are two different ways to find this
First option, is to simply play a , starting on its degree.
For example, take a look at this :
G – A – B – C – D – E – F# – G
Count up to the ; you’ll be playing a : of it and then simply play all the notes of a
C – D – E – F# – G – A – B – C
Option number 2, if you know your major scales, is to play this but raise the by a half-step.
So, for example, to play (C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C) and raise the (F) creating this: you would simply take the
C – root
D – major second
E – major third
F# – sharp
G – A – major 6th
B – major 7th
As you can see, it’s the same result as the first method!
This highly influential theory, that the tonal gravity of the is the basis for all music – inspired a whole generations of musicians, from Miles Davis and Bill Evans, to John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman.
Whilst flattened 3rds, 5ths and 7ths have been used liberally since the very beginning of and blues to create that classic ‘tension and release’ effect, the is a whole other thing.
Perhaps more than any other major , it’s a real ‘sound’ unto itself, rather than just a series of notes.
Play it, up and down, a few times and your ear will immediately get drawn into its sound and feel.
Due to the development of modal in the 1950s, the best examples of hearing this in use come from the second part of the 21st Century.
Some classic examples would be:
- Kind of Blue (Miles Davis)
- Giant Steps (John Coltrane)
- Dolphin Dance (Herbie Hancock)
- Inner Urge (Joe Henderson)
It’s worth noting that the classic we’re discussing is not the same as the which, whilst just one different (is has a flattened ), has a very different sound.
Playing the progressions over
Whilst many musicians choose to use this liberally, the is most specifically prescribed in music by the “major 7 sharp 11” symbol.
You might see it like this:
This type of is common in more contemporary and may be part of a relatively a static (or “modal”) sequence, giving the player freedom to experiment with the .
When you are familiar with its sound, it can also be used directly over a (ie playing over ) as long as care is taken to resolve the dissonant #4.
For example, the ‘one’ of the classic ii-v-i lends itself well to the sound.
Improvising with the
There are a huge number of resources and books out there for practicing scales, and the is no different.
The classic series of educational books by American saxophonist and educator Jamey Aebersold which actually includes one – volume 26 – which is called The Syllabus and is perfect for this.
You can find the backing track on Spotify here:
As we’ve discussed plenty before though, the best way to learn is to check out and transcribe the legendary musicians who came before.
All the Lydian Scales
Whilst it’s hard to imagine practice is top of the list for jazz musicians throughout history, having these modes at your fingertips is crucial important step for most students.
are easy to learn, with a select but important number of use-cases and, as such, should be near the top of your practice plan.
Here’s the complete list, if you’re looking for a quick-start!
| C – D – E – F# – G – A – B – C
C#| C# – D# – E# – G – G# – A# – C – C#
Db| Db – Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb – C – Db
| D – E – F# – G# – A – B – C# – D
D#| D# – E# – F## – A – A# – B# – D – D#
Eb| Eb – F – G – A – Bb – C – D – Eb
| E – F# – G# – A# – B – C# – D# – E
| F – G – A – B – C – D – E – F
F#| F# – G# – A# – C – C# – D# – F – F#
Gb| Gb – Ab – Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – Gb
| G – A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G
G#| G# – A# – B# – D – D# – E# – G – G#
Ab| Ab – Bb – C – D – Eb – F – G – Ab
A| A – B – C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A
Bb| Bb – C – D – E – F – G – A – Bb
B| B – C# – D# – F – F# – G# – A# – B
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