Lydian Mode

Music Theory Resources

C Lydian

The 4th mode of the major scale, the Lydian mode, is often found in film soundtracks for its 'floating' and 'magical' quality. The lydian mode can be derived from C major from F to F. If we calculate Lydian with a root of C, we can easily see how it compares to a major scale. In this case we get an F# instead of an F. Lydian is a major scale with a raised (augmented) 4th. (R, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7)

Note that Lydian is different from major in that it has an augmented 4th (not perfect 4th) - in this case F# not F This is the character note of Lydian which gives it its unique 'magical' quality.

Here are the triads of C Lydian , together with a ('US') roman numeral analysis. Chords containing the character augmented 4th (F#) are underlined. The II and VIIm are the most common lydian modal triads (the #IVo if unstable and not commonly used)

Here are the seventh chords of C lydian with roman numeral analysis. Of the seventh chords II7 (often in 3rd inv.), Vmaj7 and VIIm7 are the most often used to describe Lydian modality, but most of the other diatonic chords may be found in progressions. In addition the Imaj7(#11) chord is also used.

Examples of Songs in Lydian


There are many examples of the Lydian mode in popular and film music, particularly when a floating and magical atmospheres are required.

Here are a few moments from pop songs:

  • Sara - Fleetwood Mac. (Opens with F, G/F and Am/F all from F Lydian)
  • Man on the Moon - REM (the intro and verses use C major to Dadd11 from C Lydian)
  • The Simpsons theme - Danny Elfman (One of the most famous lydian melodies of all time in C Lydian- In fact some of the harmonic material implies Lydian dominant - a mode of melodic minor)
  • The Riddle - Steve Vai (Open in E Lydian with an A# (sharpened 4th as the opening melody note)
  • Other examples include Blue Jay Way - The Beatles, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic - The Police, All I need - Radiohead (C Lydian) The verses of Tonight, Tonight - Smashing Pumpkins.

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