Improvising can get a bit stale. Playing over a single scale within the same scale doesn’t give you much room to mess around. While certainly it is possible to get different effects from the same scale, it can definitely get a bit cramped if you are moving around through the same seven notes constantly, especially as a beginner, before you have more experience with rearranging and playing scales in different manners.
Thus, we introduce the mode; a scale that is built off of the scale degrees of the given scale, of which there are seven for each scale. That means that, yes, there are seven scales within one scale. Now, modes are nothing new to music—in fact they are quite old, a bit older than our modern scales that we are so familiar with—but they can help you to bring a new element to your playing.
In this article, we will discuss one of the most common modes; the Lydian guitar mode.
Well, let’s take what we’ve discussed above. A mode is a scale built from a specific scale degree of a, well, scale. In the case of the Lydian mode, which is the fourth of the musical modes, the scale degree in question would be the fourth scale degree, or the subdominant.
So what scale are all of these modes built off of? Our favorite scale ever, the simplest scale in music—the C Major scale. Knowing that the C Major scale contains no accidentals, we can also safely assume that any other scale that would be built off of the C Major scale would also be void of any accidental notes.
Whole tone, Whole tone, Whole tone, Half tone, Whole tone, Whole tone, Half tone
Now, if we take the C Major scale—which contains the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, and B—and start off on the subdominant, or the note F, we come up with the notes F, G (F, F#, G), A (G, G#, A), B (A, A#, B), C (B, C), D (C, C#, D), E (D, D#, E), and back to F (E, F). This means that the Lydian guitar mode consists of the notes F, G, A, B, C, D, and E.
The best way to familiarize yourself with a mode is by practicing the mode. Obviously, since this mode is a branch-off from the C Major scale, the best way to try it out would be to play it over a C Major progression that covers the subdominant of the scale. Try creating some simple melodies that match the subdominant chord, then try creating a few of your own licks.
Remember, the Lydian mode isn’t simply part of the C Major scale; it is its own scale. Thus, you should play the scale as something different, not as a rearranged C Major scale. Remember to have fun! Good luck and be sure to practice hard.
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