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How to Play the Lydian Dominant Scale for Guitar

Used to solo over dominant family chords, the Lydian dominant Scale is probably the most common Melodic Minor mode, besides the parent MM scale itself, and is used by just about every legendary jazz guitarist in their solos.

The fourth mode of the Melodic Minor scale system, which means it is the same as playing a C Melodic Minor scale from F to F, the Lydian Dominant Scale brings a 7#11 sound to your lines when applied to dominant family chords.

In this lesson you will learn how to build the Lydian Dominant Scale, how to apply it to your soloing ideas, as well as study one and two-octave fingerings, scale patterns and common Lydian Dominant licks on the fretboard.



Lydian Dominant Scale Construction


The Lydian Dominant Scale contains seven notes and has one accidental in its construction when written in the key of F Lydian Dominant.

This means that if you were to play the F Lydian Dominant Scale on the piano, you would only play the white keys, with the E lowered to Eb, on the keyboard.

These seven notes can be written a number of ways such as intervals:




Or you can think of them as specific intervals such as:




In this case, the legend for each symbol would be:


P = Perfect Interval

M = Major Interval

m = Minor Interval

A = Augmented Interval


While these intervals are commonly used, you can also think of the upper notes as extensions rather than lower notes.

This means that you think of the Lydian Dominant Scale with this pattern:




I prefer this way of thinking of the scale intervals as it allows you to visualize the upper colors of the scale, which create the upper chord extensions over any chord you are soloing over.

Here is how the F Lydian Dominant Scale looks on the fretboard with both notes and intervals.


lydian dominant scales 1


You can use either system, 2-#4-6, 9-#11-13, or a mixture of both depending on the musical situation that you find yourself in.

Try both out and see which fits better for you and go forward in your studies with that interval system.

Either way, notice that the Lydian Dominant Scale has a #11 interval, which is the characteristic note of the scale and distinguishes it from its cousin the Mixolydian Scale, which is only one note different from this scale.

When soloing over a dominant family chord, highlighting the #11 note in the Lydian Dominant Scale can really help to bring out the Lydian Dominant sound over that chord change, which you will hear and see in the lick examples below.



Lydian Dominant Scale Application


Now that you know how to build the Lydian Dominant Scale, let’s take a look at how you can apply this important scale to a jazz guitar soloing situation.

The Lydian Dominant Scale can be used to solo over dominant family chords.

When doing so, you are bringing a #11 sound to your lines and phrases.

These chords include:


  • 7
  • 9
  • 13
  • 7#11
  • 9#11
  • 13#11


When using a Lydian Dominant Scale over dominant family chords, you are creating a bit of tension in your line that you will need to resolve properly, in order to prevent the #11 from sounding like a mistake in your lines.

Here is an example of an Lydian Dominant Scale fingering and three chords that are derived from that scale fingering so you can see how the two relate to each other on paper as well as on the fretboard.


lydian dominant scales 2


To begin using this theory knowledge to help your soloing chops, try putting on a dominant family backing track and soloing over this change whenever you learn a new fingering in this lesson.

You can also apply the Lydian Dominant Scale to the V7 chord in a ii-V-I progression, so putting on a major ii V I progression and soloing over the V7 chord using this scale is a great way to apply this sound to a progression in your studies.

To help you practice the material in this lesson, here is a D Lydian Dominant Jam Track that you can refer back to and use to solo or run exercises over in your studies.


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Lydian Dominant Scale One Octave Fingerings


Before digging into looking at the Lydian Dominant Scale on the guitar, there is a bit of a shortcut you can take in order to quickly get these scales under your fingers.

As well as thinking of the interval pattern that you learned earlier, you can also think of Lydian Dominant as being a Lydian scale with a flattened 7th interval.

This knowledge will allow you to take any Lydian scale fingerings you know and simply lower the seventh note by one fret in order to create Lydian Dominant fingerings on the guitar.

Here is how that would look on the fretboard as you compare the one-note difference between a F Lydian and F Lydian Dominant Scale.



lydian dominant 15


Now that you know how these two scales are similar and comparable on the fretboard, here are a number of common one-octave Lydian dominant shapes that you can work on in your practice routine.

These one-octave shapes will come in handy when soloing over fast moving chord changes or at fast tempos in a jazz jam situation.

There are three main groups of scale fingerings that you can learn for one-octave Lydian Dominant shapes, starting with shapes that use your index finger on the first note of the scale.

When learning these shapes, work them in all 12 keys, as well as put on backing tracks and solo over various dominant chord using these shapes as the basis for your improvised lines.

This will ensure that you are working Lydian Dominant Scales from both a technical and improvisational standpoint.

Here are those one-octave F Lydian Dominant Scales to check out in your woodshedding.


lydian dominant scales 4


You can also practice and learn Lydian Dominant Scales with your middle finger on the first note of each one-octave shape.

Once you have these four Lydian Dominant shapes under your fingers, try moving between the first four and these four in both your technical and your improvisational practice routine.


lydian dominant scales 5


Lastly, here are four Lydian Dominant Scale shapes that begin with your pinky finger on the first note of each shape.

Again, work these shapes in all 12 keys as well as solo over dominant-based backing tracks in order to be creative with these scales in the woodshed.


lydian dominant scales 6


Once you have all three sets of scale shapes under your fingers, you can move between any/all of these scales in your technical and improvisational practice routine.

As well, over time you might explore all 12 of these fingerings, but that doesn’t mean that you will always have these Lydian Dominant shapes under your fingers.

Over time you will pick your favorites and they will work their way into your playing, while others you might not use very much.

This is perfectly fine, and is part of the learning process for any jazz guitarist as you work through many technical items, picking the ones that suit your playing and adding them to your vocabulary along the way.




Lydian Dominant Scale Two Octave Fingerings


As well as learning one-octave Lydian Dominant Scale shapes, you can also take these patterns a step further by learning two-octave shapes in 12 keys on the fretboard.

Two-octave Lydian Dominant Scale shapes will come in handy when you are soloing over longer chord changes or tunes that don’t change keys very frequently.

There are a number of ways that you can build two-octave Lydian Dominant Scale shapes, and here are four of my favorites to get you started in the practice room.



lydian dominant scale 7


Try learning one of these shapes at a time, and then combine two or more of these shapes in your technical and improvisational practice routine as you dig further into these important scale shapes.

With both the one and two-octave Lydian Dominant shapes under your fingers, you are now ready to move on to learning and applying common and important scale patterns to these shapes as you use the Lydian Dominant Scale to build technique, fretboard knowledge and improvisational material at the same time.



Lydian Dominant Scale Patterns


As well as working on these Lydian Dominant Scales by playing them up and down on the fretboard in a number of keys, you can check out cool-sounding scale patterns over any or all of the Lydian Dominant Scales that you’ve learned up to this point in the lesson.

To begin, here is an ascending pattern that you can use to expand your technique and learn scale shapes at the same time.

The pattern is built by playing 1234 from the root of the scale, repeating this pattern from each note in the scale.

This means that you play 1234, 2345, 3456, etc. as you work your way up the scale, in this case a one-octave F Lydian Dominant Scale.

Go slow with this pattern, work it through both one and two-octave shapes, as well as in different keys as you take this pattern around the fretboard in your woodshedding.


Click to hear lydian dominant scales 1


lydian dominant scales 8.1


You can also work this pattern descending any scale pattern you are working on or know, such as the F Lydian Dominant Scale used in the example below.

Again, you are playing 1234 from each note to create the pattern, which builds the intervals 5678, 4567 3456, etc. as you work your way down the Lydian Dominant Scale fingering.


Click to hear lydian dominant scales 2


lydian dominant scales 9.1


Once you have one or both of these patterns under your fingers, put on a dominant family backing track and add this pattern to your soloing ideas.

You don’t have to play them in every Lydian Dominant line or phrase, but adding these patterns in here and there can be a great way to spice up your jazz guitar lines and improvised phrases.




3 Lydian Dominant Scale Licks


As well as learning common patterns to practice with your Lydian Dominant Scales, you can also study common licks and phrases in order to expand your vocabulary and build your understanding of this scale in a soloing context.

This first lick is a typical Pat Martino Lydian Dominant phrase that uses a slurred note grouping as well as a CmMaj7 arpeggio, C-Eb-G-B, to outline the given chord.


Click to hear lydian dominant scales 3


lydian dominant scales 10


We’ll move on to a Wes Montgomery Lydian Dominant line that begins with a typical Wes rhythm on the D note, leading again to the CmMaj7 arpeggio which is a common choice over F7#11.


Click to hear lydian dominant scales 4


lydian dominant scales 11


Drawing upon John Coltrane’s use of Lydian Dominant, this phrase uses 1235 from the notes F and G to outline the first half of the line.


Click to hear lydian dominant scales 5


lydian dominant scales 12


Once you have these licks down and have practiced adding them to your solos over a backing track, try writing out 3 Lydian Dominant licks of your own as you build your soloing vocabulary with this commonly used and important scale.


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