Mastering Modes: Lydian (Guitar Lesson)

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Kris Norris

Mastering Modes: Lydian

In this installment of the "Mastering Modes" mini-series, Kris covers the Lydian mode. This is the fourth mode of the major scale. He shows the target tones and also explains the chords that bring out the Lydian tonality.

Taught by Kris Norris in Kris Norris Artist Series seriesLength: 9:47Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (01:50) Introduction & About Lydian Lydian is a popular mode and is used by many rock musicians as well as composers for film and orchestra. Joe Satriani, Jason Becker, and Paul Gilbert, as well as JamPlay's Kris Norris are some significant guitar players who have used this mode. Kris refers to two Darkest Hour songs, "Demon(s)" and " An Ethereal Drain," off their 2007 release Deliver Us, that feature this mode.

Following some improvisation in the Lydian tonality, Kris dives into the mechanics of this mode. Like the others so far, Kris explains this mode with E as our tonic, or starting note. He explains Lydian as the major scale with a raised 4th scale degree. In E, this gives us E, F#, G#, A#, B, C#, and D#, which by step is W-W-W-H-W-W-H. The Lydian mode occurs naturally in the major scale starting on the 4th note. In E major, we would then have A Lydian (A, B, C#, D#, E, F#, and G#).

Lydian has a special tension built into it, because of the raised (or sharpened) 4th scale degree. This leads to the tritone, an infamous interval in the history of music. In the major scale, from the 1st scale degree to the 4th is usually a perfect 4th (P4), which is 2 1/2 steps. In the E major scale, the 4th scale degree is A. In E Lydian, from the 1st (E) to the 4th (A#) is three whole steps, or three tones, which is where the term "tritone" comes from. Tritones have been called "Diabolus in Musica" (the Devil in music) as far back as the 17th century. There are rumors in the rock and metal world that composers who used tritones were burned at the stake, but there seems to be no actual evidence of this. At least this is an interesting story!

As Kris mentions, the raised 4th has a strong tendency to resolve up to the 5th scale degree (B). To many people, the raised 4th gives Lydian a "brighter" sound than Ionian (the major scale), since there are now two notes that resolve upward by half step (the 7th to 1st, D# to E, and the 4th to 5th, A# to B). In Ionian (the major scale), only one note resolves upward by half step to a tonic chord tone (the 7th to the 1st). The other important half step resolution is downward (the 4th to the 3rd). Some theorists feel that this feature gives the major scale a less "bright" sound than Lydian.
Chapter 2: (03:25) Lydian Target Tones The most significant note that gives Lydian it's "flavor" is the #4, which in E Lydian is A#. Kris demonstrates the sound of the A# note resolving up a half step to B and down a whole step to G#. Both sound fine. However, take note of how the two different resolutions sound to you. The connections you associate with these sounds will dictate choices you make as a musician.

At 0:49, Kris begins playing chords from the Lydian tonality. He starts with a basic open E chord, but adds the A# and resolves it to down to G# and up to B.

He then introduces some chords that are not included under Supplemental Content. At 0:58, he plays a G#m(addb6,9). This is a complicated name for a fairly easy chord voicing. His first finger plays on the 6th string (E) at the 4th fret, which is the root note G#. His middle finger plays on the 5th string (A) at the 6th fret, which is the 5th of the chord, D#. His pinky is on the 4th string (D) at the 8th fret, which is the 9th of the chord (a 9th is the 2nd scale degree an octave higher), A#. He adds the open 2nd string (B), giving us the minor 3rd of the chord. Finally, Kris also includes the open 1st string (E), which is where the b6 (same as a minor 6th, 4 whole steps) comes from. This chord is spelled: G# (root), B (m3), D# (P5), E (m6), and A# (M9). You should be able to hear the dissonance in this chord; both half steps in E Lydian (A#-B and D#-E) are present in the chord. Kris describes this as an "unresolved sound." Notice how a clashing dissonance is created from the half steps sounding against each other. However, also notice how this sound is tolerable and creates a moody sound, which can be very useful.

At 1:09 he moves the same physical shape explained above to the 9th fret, creating a C#mi9. His first finger is on the 6th string (E) at the 9th fret, which is the root note C#. His middle finger is on the 5th string (A) at the 11th fret, which is the 5th of the chord G#. His pinky is on the 4th string (D) at the 13th fret, which is the 9th of the chord D#. As before, he adds the open 2nd string (B), giving us the minor 7th of the chord, and he plays the open 1st string (E), which is the minor 3rd. In order, this chord is spelled: C# (root), E (m3), G# (P5), B (m7), D# (M9). This chord also contains a half step, between the D# and E. This built-in tension, which is emphasized by this particular voicing of the chord, has a brooding, melancholy sound to it.

NOTE: If the stretching in these chord shapes is difficult, check out Lesson 5 in Dennis Hodges' Phase 2 Metal series for some finger exercises. Be careful when exerting your hand like this! Don't try to "muscle through" the pain. The tendons and ligaments in the fingers are easy to overwork and injure if you practice carelessly. Let your hand gradually grow comfortable and don't rush your hand to reach far distances. This is important to remember at any age and skill level.

Kris stresses the importance of really listening to the sound of the modes, and walks through an exercise to help hear the difference between the major scale (Ionian mode) and Lydian. He uses what is labeled "Position 2" under "E Lydian Notation" in the Supplemental Content for this. First, he plays up E major. Remember to play an A note for the 4th scale degree instead of the raised 4th, A#. He plays the full E major scale up and down five strings, then does the same in E Lydian. He follows that by ascending in E major and descending in E Lydian, and then ascending in E Lydian and descending in E major. Notice how much of a difference one note makes! If your ears are not prepared for the change in tonality, it will be a shock each time.

Be sure to go slow when practicing at first. If necessary, write the patterns down first, or just refer back to Kris' Lesson 18 on the Ionian mode to double check the pattern for the major scale. As soon as possible though, play these patterns from memory. For extra benefit, say the note names while playing.
Chapter 3: (02:32) Lydian Chords The diatonic triads of the E Lydian tonality are: E (I), F# (II), G#mi (iii), A#o (ivo), B (V), C#mi (vi), and D#mi (vii). The primary chords in Lydian are the I chord, II chord, and vii chord, or E, F#, and D#mi.

The seventh chords in E Lydian are: Ema7 (E, G#, B, D#), F#7 (F#, A#, C#, E), G#mi7 (G#, B, D#, F#), A#mi7(b5) (A#, C#, E, G#), Bma7 (B, D#, F#, A#), C#mi7 (C#, E, G#, B), and D#mi7 (D#, F#, A#, C#).

The chords and shapes for the backing track are listed under Supplemental Content at the bottom of the "E Lydian Notation" page. They are E (E, G#, B), F# (F#, A#, C#), C#mi (C#, E, G#), and G#mi (G#, B, D#). They are written as one measure each; in the backing track the E chord lasts for two measures, creating a five measure pattern. Keep this in mind as you focus on targeting chord tones while improvising.
Chapter 4: (01:59) Lydian Example First off, Kris demonstrates the sound produced by mixing the major scale and the Lydian mode back and forth over the backing track. Notice the dissonance created when he plays the major scale over the iii chord, such as at 0:21 and 0:38. For one, the ear has a hard time going back and forth between a #4 and a natural 4. Another reason for this is that he is emphasizing the natural 4, A, over a G#mi chord. This implies a brief Phrygian sound. This sounds slightly jarring when played out of the context of the Phrygian tonality. Make a note of how, at 0:21, Kris quickly resolves this tension by moving from the A to the G#. As mentioned in previous mode lessons, half step relationships between notes "demand" resolution.

From 0:51 on, Kris improvises strictly in E Lydian.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

AaronpitsAaronpits replied on September 10th, 2018

been working on understanding modes for awhile, this series really made it simple for me

emilios1995emilios1995 replied on July 24th, 2012

the best modes series here on JamPlay. well done Kris!

Kris Norris Artist Series

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Kris Norris kicks off the Artist Series with a wide array of ideas and lessons; from changing strings on a floyd rose, to advanced sweeping / legato techniques and soloing applications.

Lesson 1

Changing Strings - Floyd Rose Style

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Length: 13:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

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Length: 12:16 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

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Length: 20:23 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

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Lesson 6

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Lesson 7

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Kris presents excerpts from his song "Remaining Foolish" from Icons of the Illogical. He explains the arpeggio patterns used in various parts of the song and also talks about alternate picked arpeggios....

Length: 17:40 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

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Length: 10:08 Difficulty: 4.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

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Length: 8:52 Difficulty: 4.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

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Lesson 11

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Lesson 12

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Lesson 13

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Lesson 14

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Lesson 15

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Lesson 16

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Length: 15:28 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

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This is the first lesson in the "Mastering Modes" mini series. Here Kris explains the fundamentals of scale basics.

Length: 19:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Mastering Modes: Ionian

In this lesson, Kris explains the history behind the modes and then explains the Ionian mode.

Length: 9:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Mastering Modes: Dorian

In this lesson, Kris covers the Dorian mode, which is the second mode of the major scale.

Length: 13:39 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Mastering Modes: Phrygian

Kris explains the basics of the Phrygian mode, which is a minor sounding mode of the major scale.

Length: 7:43 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Mastering Modes: Lydian

In this installment of the "Mastering Modes" mini-series, Kris covers the Lydian mode. This is the fourth mode of the major scale.

Length: 9:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Mastering Modes: Mixolydian

Kris explains the basics of the Mixolydian mode, which is a major sounding mode of the major scale.

Length: 10:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Mastering Modes: Aeolian

Kris explains Aeolian, which is the 6th mode of the major scale. This is also known as the natural minor scale.

Length: 7:32 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Mastering Modes: Locrian

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Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

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Length: 78:38 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 26

Song Workshop Experiment - Finale

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Length: 18:33 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

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Length: 15:11 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 29

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Length: 26:19 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 30

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Length: 25:12 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

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Length: 16:33 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 32

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Length: 14:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

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Length: 24:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
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Lesson 35

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Length: 7:13 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
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Lesson 37

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Lesson 38

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About Kris Norris View Full Biography Mr. Kris Norris was born August, 31 1978 in Canton, Ohio. He began playing around the age of 14. Early on the self-taught guitarist took an interest in metal and began playing in a local Virginia metal band. Kris' early influences were rooted in Swedish metal, bands include In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and Edge of Sanity. Norwegian Black metal also played a part in Kris' interest including early Mayhem, Emperor, and Ulver. Kris started Disinterment with future Darkest Hour bandmate Ryan Parrish. Disinterment lasted over 6 years and developed a local following in the Virginia metal by being some of the first players to incorporate Swedish metal and 3 guitar players.

College Days
When Kris was 17 he attended Virgina Commonwealth University School of Music (VCU). He studied Music composition and focused on film with world renowned composer Dika Newlin. Kris also studied classical guitar with John Patykula, prize student of Jesus Silva who was the prize student of Andre Segovia. Kris left the University after 6 years of studies. After college, he began his teaching career instructing private students and giving lessons at Mars Music. Kris' teaching career would eventually be put on hold to join Darkest Hour.

Darkest Hour Days
Kris' first album with Darkest Hour ,Hidden Hands Of A Sadist Nation, the 2005 release was recorded at Studio Fredman in Gothenburg, Sweden with producer Fredrik Nordstrom. Ironically, the same studio facilitated many of Kris' influences 10 years prior.

Darkest Hour's next release, Undoing Ruin allowed Kris to stretch his wings and show what he could truly do on the instrument with the addition of several solos. The record was produced by Canadian metal mastermind Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, Steve Vai). Townsend was a big part of pushing Kris to his own musical potential on Undoing Ruin and even more so on the follow up record, Deliver Us.

Deliver Us was released in 2007 and debuted at 110 on the Billboard Chart. This would be the last Darkest Hour record with Kris as a member. The album like its predecessor was also produced by Devin Townsend, who was able to take a bigger hand in its production. Devin pushed Kris to experiment with his own playing and to hone in on his strongest abilities.

Kris' career with Darkest Hour spanned 6 years, 23 countries, 4 continents, countless tours, 3 albums, near 200,000 album sales, and many lifelong friendships made along the way. With the birth of his son in 2008, Kris felt he needed to take his career closer to home while still focusing on music and guitar. In order for Darkest Hour to devote 100% to their music and touring, Kris came to the decision to amicably part ways with the band.

His Future:
As of early 2009, Kris has full sponsorships from ESP, EMG, Peavey, DigiTech, InTune, and Morley. Currently, Kris is producing and mixing aspiring metal acts while also working for Final Symphony Studios out of Charlottesville, Virgina. Kris also edits records for James Murphy (Testament, Obituary, Death) at Safehouse Productions. Kris has released his first solo record through Magna Carta Records, entitled Icons Of The Illogical. His solo effort was recorded at Karma Productions with Cory Smoot (GWAR) and features vocals from Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe.

Kris is excited to be an addition to the JamPlay Instructor Roster. Lending his metal chops and thorough education to his lessons make him a valuable teacher. Kris is excited to be making lessons for JamPlay and just as stoked to learn new things from our other instructors. Check it out and stay Metal.

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