Using the Lydian Mode

38954_422793518215_501308215_4610668_3753202_nSometimes we stumble upon the Maj7#11 chord in our musical ventures.

The maj7#11 chord is sometimes referred to as the Lydian chord associated with the fourth step in a harmonized major scale, at which we find the Lydian mode (major scale with raised 4th).

In this lesson we will look at 3 possible approaches, which will also work to color up a normal major triad,  maj7 chords, 6 chords, maj7 9, 6/9 chords or
majo 7/13 chords.

The raised fourth gives the mode an airy sound. Some players that use this as one of their favored scales are: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Scott Henderson and John Scofield and Albert Lee. The scale is commonly applied by many jazz guitar players and modern rockers alike.

Lydian mode

The lydian mode to which the maj7#11 chord refers is the fourth mode of the major scale. So an F maj7#11 is associated with the F Lydian mode which is the C major scale but started on the fourth note. While some people prefer to learn and use the Lydian mode, I teach my students to play the major scales they already know and shift the tonal center/ root to F.

Below is an example of the E lydian mode played in the VI position on the guitar. Effectively however you can translate that back to the B major scale which has the E (lydian mode) on the fourth step. (E.g. B major scale over E).

Lydian 001

Below is a lick using the E Lydian (read B major scale) in the position VI.

Lydian 002

In one of the lessons we discussed the G major scale. In this lesson we found the lick the following G major lick.

Trying shifting this lick up four positions and play it over a E chord.

Pentatonic Scales

Most guitar players start their lead guitar playing and improvisation using the minor pentatonic scale. In this case the pentatonic approach offers some additional options where it comes to playing extended sequences 0r when you enjoy a more layered approach.

First of is the pentatonic scale half a step below the root of the chord. So of we go for E, that would make it the  D# minor pentatonic which has the notes D#, F#, G#, A#, C#. When we set off these notes against an E major chord the pentatonic scale provides us with the maj 7, 9, 3, #11 and 6/13.

Lydian 003

Why I like using pentatonic scales is because they lead easier into motive type of approaches with less of a risk of sounding like you a racing up and down a scale.

While the D# minor pentatonic scale is the preferred one for outlining the Lydian mode, the (E major) or C#minor pentatonic scale allows for outlining the major triad and 6 chord. The B major (or G# minor pentatonic scale) is another way of outlining the chord and is closest related to the underlying B major scale.

Here a D# minor pentatonic lick over E maj7

Lydian 004

Shifting around triads

Sometimes you will find the lydian chord represented as a slash chord.
The E maj7 may sometimes be written down as a F#/E (read F# with an E in the bass or F# over E root).

Similar as to indicated for the use of pentatonic scales, you could move around these two triads as arpeggios and it will create some nice lead lines.

Lydian 005

To add more possibilities you could opt to also include the two minor parallel triads of E and F#, being C#minor and D# minor.

Have fun and try out some of your general major licks as lydian licks by changing the underlying chord. So if you have some licks in C major, try what happens if you play these over an F chord, or some licks in G major over a C chord Likewise, if you have some A natural minor scale licks, play them over F, E natural minor scale licks over C etc.  You’ll be amazed how these same old licks get a new life when applied in a different context.

Have fun.

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Key of G major workout

The following patterns and licks are aimed at building speed and strengthening the left hand and use groups of notes /motives in the key of G.

Exercise one is a legato way of playing the G major scale using three per string


This is a great way to start building some extra strength in those fingers and you will find it is a great way to build some extra speed as a result of all the legato notes. In the next tab I wrote down the same scale but the beat is now divided in groups of 4 (sixteenth notes), go this a go as well, the rhythm will give things a different feel.

Clever use of the different legato techniques will help you build speed, the following lick is an example of how this could be approached, using motives.

Again also in sixteenth notes

These licks will work of course great over a G chord, but I suggest you try them as well over the minor parallel Emin chord, or over the A minor chord and the C major chord.

For those that have been paying attention: the lick was derived from Steve Vai‘s blazing lick in “I would love to”

Around 2:47 the lick starts in a blazing speed!

Finally for some additional strength building here a final legato lick sliding up the neck.

The lick is hard work on the muscles if not used to it so don’t overdo it.

Also: work out some scalar patterns for yourself and see what you can do with it. And at all times do try to go faster than you can handle. You will find that over time your speed will get higher. One way to do this is by practicing a certain) series of licks and gradually build up the speed to the max, that will be your starting point for the next time and do the same again.

Have fun.