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Lydian mode

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Title: Lydian mode  
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Subject: Hypolydian mode, Diatonic scale, Traditional Nordic dance music, Mixolydian mode, Musical system of ancient Greece
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Lydian mode

Modern Lydian scale on C About this sound Play  .

The modern Lydian musical scale is a rising pattern of pitches comprising three whole tones, a semitone, two more whole tones, and a final semitone. This sequence of pitches roughly describes the fifth of the eight Gregorian (church) modes, known as Mode V or the authentic mode on F, theoretically using B but in practice more commonly featuring B (Powers 2001). Because of the importance of the major scale in modern music, the Lydian mode is often described (or learned) as the scale that begins on the fourth scale degree of the major scale, or alternatively, as the major scale with the fourth scale degree raised half a step.


  • Theory 1
    • Ancient Greek Lydian 1.1
    • Medieval Lydian mode 1.2
    • Modern Lydian mode 1.3
      • Triads within Lydian mode 1.3.1
  • Notable compositions in the Lydian mode 2
    • Classical (Ancient Greek) 2.1
    • Classical (Modern) 2.2
    • Jazz 2.3
    • Popular 2.4
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


Ancient Greek Lydian

Diatonic genus of the Ancient Greek Lydian scale on C About this sound Play  .
Ancient Greek Lydian tonos in the chromatic genus, showing tetrachords (a and b), note of conjunction (c) and tone of disjunction (d) About this sound Play  
Ancient Greek Lydian tonos in the enharmonic genus, showing tetrachords (a and b), note of conjunction (c) and tone of disjunction (d) About this sound Play  

The name Lydian refers to the ancient kingdom of Lydia in Anatolia. In Greek music theory, there was a Lydian scale or "octave species" extending from parhypate hypaton to trite diezeugmenon, equivalent in the diatonic genus to the medieval and modern Ionian mode, i.e., the modern major scale: C D E F | G A B C (Barbera 1984, 233, 240). In the chromatic and enharmonic genera, the Lydian scale was equivalent to C D E F G A B C, and C Chalf sharp Ehalf sharp F Fhalf sharp Ahalf sharp Bhalf sharp C, respectively (Barker 1984–89, 2:15), where "half sharp" signifies raising the pitch by approximately a quarter tone.

The eight Gregorian modes: f indicates 'final'

Medieval Lydian mode

In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, this mode was described in two ways. The first way is the diatonic octave species from F up to F an octave above, divided at C to produce two segments: F–G–A–B–C and C–D–E–F. The second is as a mode with a final on F and an ambitus extending to F an octave higher and in which the note C was regarded as having an important melodic function. Many theorists of the period observed that B is used more typically than B in compositions in Lydian mode (Powers 2001).

Modern Lydian mode

Modern Lydian scale on F About this sound Play  .

The Lydian scale can be described as a major scale with the fourth scale degree raised a semitone, e.g., a C-major scale with an F rather than F.

Triads within Lydian mode

In Lydian mode, the tonic, dominant, and supertonic triads are all major. The subdominant is diminished. The triads built on the remaining three scale degrees are minor.

Notable compositions in the Lydian mode

Classical (Ancient Greek)

The Paean and Prosodion to the God, familiarly known as the Second Delphic Hymn, composed in 128 BC by Athénaios Athenaíou is predominantly in the Lydian tonos, both diatonic and chromatic, with sections also in Hypolydian (Pöhlmann and West 2001, 85).

Classical (Modern)

A rare, extended use of the Lydian mode in the Classical repertoire is Simon Sechter's 1822 Messe in der lydischen Tonart (Mass in the Lydian Mode) (Carver 2005, 76). A more famous example from around the same time is the third movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132 (1825), titled by the composer "Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart" ("Holy Song of Thanksgiving by a Convalescent to the Divinity, in the Lydian Mode"). The alternating passages in F use the Lydian scale with sharp fourth scale degree exclusively. Anton Bruckner employed the sharpened fourth of the Lydian scale in his motet Os justi (1879) more strictly than Renaissance composers ever did when writing in this mode (Carver 2005, 74–75). Charles-Valentin Alkan's Allegro barbaro (Étude Op. 35, No. 5) is written strictly in F Lydian, with no Bs present at all (Smith 2000,).

In the 20th century, composers began once again to exploit modal scales with some frequency. An example from the middle of the century is the scherzo movement of Carlos Chávez's Symphony No. 3 (1951–54). The movement opens with a fugue subject, featuring extremely wide leaps, in C Lydian with following entries in F and G Lydian (Orbón 1987, 90–91).


Pianist-composer Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Woody Shaw (Anon. n.d.)


  • The Simpsons signature tune (Chase 2006, ).
  • Passage beginning at the words "Much as I definitely enjoy solitude" in the song "Possibly Maybe" by Björk (Hein 2012).
  • Young Thug's "Constantly Hating (feat. Birdman)" is one of the first mainstream hip hop songs to feature a melody in the Lydian mode.

See also


  • Anon. n.d. "Frequently Asked Questions about George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization". (Accessed 23 February 2012).
  • Barbera, André. 1984. "Octave Species". Journal of Musicology 3, no. 3 (July): 229–41. (Subscription access). doi:10.1525/jm.1984.3.3.03a00020
  • Barker, Andrew. 1984–89. Greek Musical Writings. 2 vols. Cambridge Readings in the Literature of Music. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Benward, Bruce, and Marilyn Nadine Saker. 2009. Music in Theory and Practice, eighth edition, vol. 2. Boston: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-310188-0.
  • Carver, Anthony F. 2005. "Bruckner and the Phrygian Mode". Music and Letters 86, no. 1:74–99. doi:10.1093/ml/gci004 (Subscription access).
  • Chase, Wayne. 2006. How Music Really Works!: Musical and Lyrical Techniques of the Masters, second edition. Vancouver: Roedy Black Publishing Inc. ISBN 1-897311-55-9; ISBN 1-897311-56-7.
  • Hein, Ethan. 2012. "The Major Scale Modes". Ethan Hein’s Blog: Music, Technology, Evolution (Accessed 26 January 2012).
  • Jones, George Thaddeus. 1974. Music Theory: The Fundamental Concepts of Tonal Music Including Notation, Terminology, and Harmony. Barnes & Noble Outline Series 137. New York, Hagerstown, San Francisco, London: Barnes & Noble. ISBN 9780064601375.
  • Miller, Scott. 2002. Mel Bay's Getting Into … Jazz Fusion Guitar. Pacific, Missouri: Mel Bay Publications. ISBN 0-7866-6248-4.
  • Orbón, Julián. 1987. "Las sinfonías de Carlos Chávez." (part 2). Pauta: Cuadernos de teoría y crítica musical 6, no. 22 (April–June): 81–91.
  • Pöhlmann, Egert, and Martin L. West. 2001. Documents of Ancient Greek Music: The Extant Melodies and Fragments, edited and transcribed with commentary by Egert Pöhlmann and Martin L. West. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-815223-X.
  • Powers, Harold S. 2001. "Lydian". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell, 15:409–10. 29 vols. London: Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5 (set) ISBN 978-0-19-517067-2 (set) OCLC 44391762 (set) OCLC 248649842 (v. 15) OCLC 249589729 (v. 15, reprint with minor corr.) LCCN 00-55156 or 00055156 (set).
  • Smith, Ronald. 2000. Alkan, the Man, the Music. London.

Further reading

  • Hewitt, Michael. 2013. Musical Scales of the World. The Note Tree. ISBN 978-0957547001.

External links

  • The Lydian mode in all seven three note per string positions, with intervals mapped out for guitar.
  • Lydian mode in six positions for guitar at
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