The Lydian Mode Gathering

Guitar players love the Lydian mode (and some of them don't even know that they do :D ...). Today, let's dive into the Lydian sound and see how it can create wonderful sounds on the guitar and composition. It's actually fascinating how quickly one can transition into intervallic thinking when starting from a scale, so let's jump into the content right away.

Note: Please note that there are many musical demonstrations in the audio version of this episode, which are not accessible in the transcript.

What you should know about the Lydian Mode

Today's subject is The Lydian Mode Gathering. That means we will look at the Lydian mode on the guitar and gather materials to write music.

The name Lydian mode was named after the region, Lydia. The Lydian mode has been around for about 3000 years, and it's very similar to the Ionian mode. The only difference is, the fourth step of the Ionian mode is raised by one half-step or semitone.

It's a little difficult to hear the difference because only one note changes. It might be easier to hear if we play the two scales with chords. (Please refer to the podcast episode for the demonstration.)

It's still may be a little bit difficult to hear the difference, but the order of the chords played will make a big difference. Let's try putting a sequence of chords in the Ionian and then a sequence in the Lydian and see if you can hear that easier.

This Lydian mode sounds beautiful and has the following formula: 2 2 2 1 2 2 1. The 1s represent semitones or half-steps, and the 2s represent two semitones or whole steps. That's the way we think about the Lydian mode. 

If you know the formula, you can play it from any note. You don't have to memorize 12 different places or 12 different starting tones if you know this formula. This is just one little benefit of Interval Theory - it helps you learn shapes and sequences much quicker. 

I often laugh and say, "I could teach a 3-year-old to play the major scale, starting on any note."

All I have to do is teach him the formula. Knowing the formula will help us gather material from the mode.

Gathering Material with the Lydian Mode

The first thing we want to do is divide the sequence in half, and we'll call each half a "string". So we'll have string-1 and string-2, and I will play both strings on the guitar. The formula for string-1 is 2 2 2 1, and the string-2 formula will be 1 2 2 1.

I want to demonstrate the magic of the Lydian mode. Let me invite a friend who will help me explain the process, Lars Gooben-Schnabel. He will play the bass clef of the piano while I play the top guitar line. So, let's go ahead and invite Maestro Gooben-Schnabel to play the piano.

"Hello TC, it's very nice to see you! What would you like me to play?"

Today, I was hoping you could play the left hand or the bass clef of the piano so we can put guitar lines of the Lydian mode over the root and hear how it sounds.

"Oh, Wunderbar!"

Great! All right, here we go. (Please refer to the podcast episode for the demonstration.)

Thank you, Maestro, for playing those low parts, which eventually will become the low strings, low woodwinds, and brass parts.

Do you remember the title of this episode? It's "The Lydian Mode Gathering". So, let's gather ideas, harmonies, and ways to use the Lydian mode in a composition. We want to collect the material, sketch from the gathering, and then develop the sketch into a finished piece.

That might sound like a lot of work, but it's much harder to try to come up with ideas and do it all at once. This is an organized way, and this is the MITA-way. We believe that once you have a gathering, all those ideas help you connect to the creative pool. And you don't have to hunt as much because part of it is a series of techniques designed to connect you to your creativity.

Review & The Application

Okay, let's review just a little bit. What we started out doing was playing the mode, analyzing it, and deriving its horizontal formula 2 2 2 1 2 2 1. Then, we took this formula, split it in half, and got two strings. This is significant because string-1 can be used as harmony or melody against string-2 and vice versa. String-2 can be used as melody or harmony against string-1.

I want to play you some of those developed ideas that came out of the initial gatherings. We can even develop those ideas into an orchestral piece of music. Remember, guitar players can write for the orchestra. The following is a snippet of the Lydian mode orchestrated. (Please refer to the podcast episode for the demonstration.)

In this case, our little gathering ended up as a Piano Concerto. Okay, you may not want to write a Piano Concerto, and you might want to write songs instead. I think the point is that you can write what you want if you have the proper knowledge.

Okay, let's orchestrate on the guitar. This way, you can start getting ideas of how you might be able to use some of the techniques with your band.

The first thing I'm going to do is orchestrate the low notes of my little piece. And since there are only two tonalities, C-Lydian and E-Lydian, it should be pretty straightforward.

Now, let's add a little melody in the mid-range. That's starting to sound pretty good, but I want to enhance the melody with another guitar sound.

Using strings-1 and 2, I'll sketch a two-part pulse, and then, let's put it all together.

That is starting to sound like a guitar orchestra, and it's a really pretty Lydian mode sound. There are only three elements when you think of it: The bass, the little melody that we came up with and enhanced with another guitar sound, and pulsation. All the notes are taken from the two Lydian modes based on C and E.

So that pretty much concludes our podcast for today. I hope you enjoyed it and that you learned something. Until next time, this is TC saying, "au revoir"!


The Lydian mode is excellent for guitar players, as we'll find out in future episodes, but the concept explained in this episode works with every other Church mode in the same way. Pick the Aeolian, for example, and determine the strings so that you can use them to gather new materials for future composition.

Author: Thomas Chase Jones