Lydian Mode – How To Make Great Music With It

lydian modeWould you like to learn more about the lydian mode? You’ve come to the right place.

This free article and video will help you understand the lydian mode and the best notes to use on major chords.

Lets get started!

How To Use The Lydian Mode & Major Chords Video Tutorial

Make sure you scroll down for the full breakdown & more tips on the powerful lydian mode.

What Are The Best Notes You Can Use On Major Chords

Hey there, Steve Nixon here with Thanks for joining me here for today’s video. All right, couple days ago, I got an email from my premium jazz student, Elizabeth.

lydian modeAnd Elizabeth wanted to know what are the best notes you can use on a major chord, to make them sound more like jazz, make them richer sounding.

So I started thinking, I said, you know, if Elizabeth has this question, probably a lot of people out there in the community have this question as well.

So I figured I just would make a video and article and show everybody the best notes you can play on a major chord.

Why The Lydian Mode & Major Chords Are Best Friends

So let’s get into these major pretty notes. In jazz, we sometimes use triads but most of the time we’re using more advanced harmony. Our starting point is usually going to be 7th chords.

In fact, if you want to make a safe assumption, 95% of your jazz and jazz influenced tunes will have at minimum 7th chords in there.

lydian modeSo, if you see a C major seven chord in a lead sheet, or just a basic major triad chord in a lead sheet, you’re usually going to change that a major seven chord.

The basic theory of a major 7th chords is just scale degrees 1, 3, 5, and 7.  That’s the starting point.

Where Most Musician Newbies Go Wrong

lydian modeNow, lot of people think, all right, well you know, it’s a major seven chord, so we’re going to use a major scale on top. And that’s one scale you can use.

But, there’s actually a scale that’s a little bit more direct, that I would usually recommend improvise or start with first, and this is the Lydian scale.

So, what’s the difference between major and the Lydian mode? Well, it’s pretty much the same thing.

The only difference is that instead of having this natural four we’re going to do a sharp four or a sharp 11.

Here’s The Lydian Mode Written Out

lydian mode

Yes, there is only 1 note difference between the major scale and the lydian mode.

But, this small note change provides a completely different emotional feeling!

In fact, many great composer and jazz improvisers have used the lydian scale with great effect!

Plus, the 1 note difference in the scale provides completely different lydian mode chords too! 


Here is a map of lydian scale written out as well that you can compare to the major scale. 

C Major C D E F G A B C
C Lydian C D E F# G A B C
Lydian scale degrees 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 1

Hit Movies = Just Use The Lydian Mode?

lydian modeA lot of people call the lydian mode “the movie mode”.

If you watch the scene where E.T. is flying, and yes, I realize I’m going back to the 80’s here, but why not?

But, if you watch the scene where ET is flying and he’s going up there and he’s taking Elliot up, this is the scale that they’re playing.

They’re playing the Lydian scale here.

In fact, tons of movies have used the lydian scale throughout their scores because of it’s dream like quality.

Now, I can image you saying right now, “Well Steve, you’re talking about scales and movies right now, but I thought we were talking about chords?”

Why Chords And Scales Are Really The Same Thing

Check this out. Chords and scales are the same thing!

lydian modeYou just have to think about them from a different angle. So follow me here, okay? If we were to stack the notes of the lydian scale on top of each other in 3rds….

You’d end up with a major 7th chord that has 3 extensions on there. The 9, the #11, and 13th. Sometimes people call these lydian chords.

And these 3 extra notes are the pretty notes you can add onto any major chord in your solo piano arrangements or anytime you use the major 7th chord anywhere in music.

The pretty notes actually come for the lydian scale!

So, when you see a major seven chord in your lead sheet, and there’s no extensions or no tensions of the chords written in, feel free to add the nine, sharp 11, and the 13 in there.

This is the starting point. There is one important thing you need to do though to use this the right way in your music.

One Critical Warning About The Lydian Mode

jazz lessonThere is 1 mistake that I see a lot of newbies make when they first start exploring the lydian mode and lydian chords.

They just throw the notes in any random order. This is a huge mistake and can absolutely ruin your voicings if you’re note careful.

How To Learn The Best Jazz Shortcuts Fast

Great jazz chords are all about playing the notes with the right balance of intervals. If you just throw the notes anywhere it’s a guaranteed way to sound silly.

It’s one of the biggest signs of an amateur! Bad and incorrect voicings.

Fortunately, there’s a formula that I teach that show you to play the perfect voicings with every melody you’ll ever see in any song.

If you use the formula your melodies and arrangements will sound amazing.

premium jazz lessonsSo, If you need help getting your chords to sound amazing and help playing the best chords and scales in real pieces of music, then I would highly recommend that you pick up The Premium Jazz Membership program.

We break down hundreds and hundreds of chord voicings that every jazz piano player needs to know.

And instead of just learning years of musical calculus like most teachers have you do, you’ll be learning essential jazz shortcuts inside the best jazz standards in the whole world.

So, you’re having fun and making real music while you’re learning.

What If You’re Brand New To Jazz?

zero to jazz piano heroAnd if you are a total jazz piano newbie, I actually have a course for that as well, it’s called The Zero To Jazz Piano Hero program, and that’s my flagship starting point.

This is where I recommend that all brand new jazz piano players start.

We go through a whole program that teaches you how to play songs you love in 30 to 60 days.

If you’ve already been playing for a few year and want to get to the next level then go with The Premium Jazz Membership program.

But,If you’re brand new and want a fast start then go with the Zero to Jazz Piano Hero.


All right, happy practicing. Have fun exploring the Lydian mode and lydian chords in your playing.

If you have questions on today’s lesson feel free to leave a comment below. I look forward to sharing music with you further!


One final note: Sometimes people wonder about what the difference is between the lydian mode and the lydian scale. Worry no more! They are exactly the same thing. Just think of them as synonyms for each other. Hope this helps!

Modes piano training doesn’t have to be hard if you have a good guide. Hopefully this gets you started!

Bonus Lydian Mode Gift For You

Here is the lydian mode written out in all 12 keys. I’ve listed them below using the circle of 5ths to help you organize but you can practice them in any order you like.  I recommend you link to this resource so you have it handy.

  • C: C D E F# G A B C
  • F: F G A B C D E F
  • Bb: Bb C D E F G A Bb
  • Eb: Eb F G A Bb C D Eb
  • Ab: Ab Bb C D Eb F G Ab
  • Db: Db Eb F G Ab Bb C
  • Gb: Gb Ab Bb C Db Eb F
  • B: B C# D# E# F# G# A#
  • E: E F# G# A# B C# D#
  • A: A B C# D# E F# G#
  • D: D E F# G# A B C#
  • G: G A B C# D E F#
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Steve Nixon