The Lydian Mode for Guitarists – Tabs, Patterns & Theory

When discussing music theory and improvisation, the modes are frequently the subject, as they are amazing tools for you to craft interesting melodies and solos.

This KillerGuitarRigs guide will go in-depth into the Lydian mode. This scale has a particularly dreamy kind of sound that goes amazingly well with some major chords.

The Lydian mode has a distinct major feeling. It sounds like the Major scale/Ionian mode, and once that #4 arrives, it starts sounding a lot more dreamy, ethereal and light. It is a great tool for composition which can be heard on songs such as “When We Dance” by Sting, “The Simpsons” theme song, and “Dancing Days” by Led Zeppelin.

Lydian Mode – Overview and Scale Formula

The Lydian scale is one of the seven Greek Modes, a set of scales that we can obtain from the Major Scale.

Lydian is the 4th mode of the Major scale, which means that we get it by reading that scale starting on the 4th scale degree, instead of the 1st. By doing this, you will be shifting the intervals within the scale, which is what will give you a distinct scale with a unique sound.

In order to make this easier to visualize, let’s take the C Major scale as an example and see how we can get a Lydian scale out of it.

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - C Major scale

This is the C Major scale you probably already know, written from root to root. Now, let’s see what happens when we look at our 4th degree (F) as our new root note.

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - C Major scale

C Major is considered F Lydian’s “parent scale”, because it is the scale from which we obtain F Lydian. They both use the same notes, having only a different root note.

If you remember that Lydian is formed upon the 4th degree of the Major scale, you can quickly figure out what is the parent scale of any Lydian scale you might want to play. You just need to know what its corresponding first scale degree is.

With Lydian, you can do this by going back 2.5 whole tones (5 semitones, or a perfect fourth) back from the Lydian scale you want to play.

Use the table below to confirm the parent scale of any Lydian scale whenever you’re having doubts.

Parent Scale (Major)Lydian (IV Degree)
CF
DbGb
DG
EbAb
EA
FBb
F#B
GC
AbDb
AD
BbEb
BE

The Lydian mode can be described by its numerical formula: “1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7”.

As you can see, it is basically a major scale with a #4 instead of a natural 4. This is the note that defines the entire mode and gives it its characteristic sound. If you want to have a Lydian sound, you need to emphasize this note clearly, otherwise it can be heard as a normal major scale.

In the next sections of this guide, we will be using F Lydian as an example, since most people start learning the modes with the ones that come from the C Major scale. 

Just keep in mind that all the patterns you’re about to learn can be moved around the fretboard, allowing you to play any other Lydian scale you’d like.


Lydian Mode – Scale Notes in F Lydian, When to Play

The notes in the F Lydian scale are the following:

  • F (Root)
  • G (Major Second)
  • A (Major Third)
  • B (Augmented Fourth)
  • C (Perfect Fifth)
  • D (Major Sixth)
  • E (Major Seventh)

The major third interval in the Lydian mode makes it a major scale. From all seven modes, it is one of its 3 major modes – Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian.

Check the table below for a more in-depth look at this scale, its intervals and where the whole tones and semitones are located as you play it.


Notes

F

G

A

B

C

D

E

Scale Degrees
1Root2Major Second3Major Third#4Augmented Fourth5Perfect Fifth6Major Sixth7Major Seventh

Interval

W

W

W

H

W

W

H

This mode sounds great over major chords, especially if they are the 4th (IV) degree of the chord progression you are playing over. For instance, if you’re playing a tune in the key of C Major and the F chord shows up, that would be a great opportunity to play the F Lydian scale.

However, this isn’t the only situation where you should play a Lydian scale. 

You can play E Lydian over an E Maj7(#11) chord, for example. 

Whenever you see a major chord with a #11, that’s a good time to use the Lydian scale, since these chords have the most important degrees of the Lydian scale (major third, augmented fourth and a major seventh).


The Main Scale Patterns for the Lydian Mode – Fretboard Diagrams, Tabs and Notation

This section focuses on the main Lydian scale patterns you should memorize if you want to be able to apply it easily when composing or improvising.

You should focus on the pattern itself, and on being able to quickly find the root note in each of them, as this will allow you to find the shapes faster while playing.

Remember that F Lydian has the same notes as C Major, so use that to your advantage: these patterns also exist in C Major, only with a different root note.

The diagrams below represent the root notes in red, and the rest of them in black.

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Fretboard Diagrams

It is possible to get comfortable with each pattern more easily by dividing this diagram into chunks that are easier to memorize.

The diagrams below are some of the most important shapes that you should assimilate in order to master the Lydian mode.

Root on the 6th String (1st Fret) and 4th String (3rd Fret)

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Root on the 6th String

Tab:

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Tab

Root on the 5th String (8th Fret) and 3rd String (10th Fret)

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Root on the 5th String

Tab:

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Tab

Root on the 4th String (4th Fret) and 2nd String (6th Fret)

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Root on the 4th String

Tab:

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Tab

Root on the 3rd String (10th Fret) and 1st String (13th Fret)

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Root on the 3rd String

Tab:

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Tab

Next, let’s take a quick look at some 2 octave shapes. These are incredibly useful to cover a lot of ground without moving your hand a lot across the neck of your guitar.

Here are the main shapes you should get acquainted with.

F Lydian 2 Octave Pattern #1 (Root 6th String)

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - F Lydian 2 Octave Pattern #1

Tab:

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Tab

F Lydian 2 Octave Pattern #2 (Root 5th String)

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - F Lydian 2 Octave Pattern #2

Tab:

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Tab

3 Notes per String Method Applied to F Lydian

The 3 Notes per String method gives you 7 distinct scale patterns that all have 3 notes on every string, as the name implies.

Each of these patterns start on a different scale degree (root, second, third, etc.).

This is another great tool that can make all the difference in the way you play scales.

The diagrams below represent each of these 7 scale patterns in the key of F, but don’t forget that you can always move these around to play scales in other keys.

First Pattern

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - First Pattern

Second Pattern

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Second Pattern

Third Pattern

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Third Pattern

Fourth Pattern

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Fourth Pattern

Fifth Pattern

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Fifth Pattern

Sixth Pattern

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Sixth Pattern

Seventh Pattern

The Lydian Mode for Guitarists - Seventh Pattern

Final Thoughts about the Lydian Mode

The Lydian mode is one that you should definitely want to have under your fingers as soon as possible, as it holds a huge potential when played in the right moments. Its dreamy and floaty mood are a great approach to major chords that often works much better than the Major scale.

Even though it shares the same notes as the Major scale, you should still dedicate enough time to memorize the scale patterns that allow you to target the main Lydian notes more easily than just thinking about the parent scale of the mode you want to play.

Gustavo Pereira

Gustavo is a Portuguese musician based in Barcelona, where he’s studying jazz & modern music interpretation on the electric guitar. Favorite genre: blues, jazz, funk, soul

Gustavo Pereira has 41 posts and counting. See all posts by Gustavo Pereira