The Lydian dominant scale is the 4th mode of melodic minor and is used to solo over dominant chords when you want to bring out a 7#11 sound in your lines.
Used mostly in jazz and fusion solos, Lydian dominant is also found in blues and rock solos when guitarists want to step outside the musical box in their playing.
In this lesson you’ll learn how to build Lydian dominant, apply it to your solos, study one and two-octave fingerings, scale patterns and licks on the fretboard.
Lydian Dominant Scale Construction
Lydian dominant contains seven notes and has one accidental when written in the key of F.
This means that if you play F Lydian dominant on the piano, you only play the white keys, with the E lowered to Eb.
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
This means that you think of Lydian dominant with this pattern:
I prefer this way of thinking as it allows you to visualize the upper colors of the scale over any chord you’re soloing over.
Here’s how an F Lydian dominant looks on the fretboard with both notes and intervals.
You can use either system, 2-#4-6, 9-#11-13, or a mixture of both depending on the musical situation.
Try both and see which fits better and go forward in your studies with that interval system.
Notice that Lydian dominant has a #11, which is the characteristic note of the scale and distinguishes it from Mixolydian.
When soloing over dominant chords, highlighting the #11 brings out the Lydian dominant sound, which you’ll hear in the examples below.
Lydian Dominant Scale Application
Now that you know how to build this scale, take a look at how you apply this important scale to a guitar soloing situation.
Lydian dominant is used to solo over dominant family chords. When doing so, you bring a #11 sound to your phrases.
These chords include:
When using Lydian dominant over dominant chords, you create tension that needs to resolve, which prevents it from sounding like a mistake.
Here’s an example of a Lydian dominant fingering and three chords from that scale to see how the two relate to each other on the fretboard.
To use this theory, put on a dominant chord backing track and solo with any fingering you learn in this lesson.
You can also apply Lydian dominant to the V7 chord in a ii-V-I.
So, putting on a major ii V I track and soloing over the V7 chord with this scale is a great way to apply this sound to a progression.
You can also use the Lydian dominant scale to solo over blues chords.
An example of this is the Sonny Rollins song “Blue Seven,” which uses 7#11 sounds over each chord in the tune.
To help you practice, here’s a G Lydian dominant jam track that you can use to solo or run exercises over in your studies.
Lydian Dominant Chords
Here are eight different Lydian dominant chords that you can study and add to your playing.
These chords can be used to add a 7#11 sound to your comping, chord soloing, and chord melody arrangements.
To begin, here are four shapes with the root on the 6th-string of each shape.
You can also learn 4 Lydian dominant chords with the root on the 5th string of each shape.
Lydian Dominant One Octave Fingerings
Before digging into Lydian dominant on guitar, there’s a shortcut you can take to quickly get these scales under your fingers.
As well as thinking of the interval pattern, you can think of Lydian dominant as being Lydian with a flattened 7th.
This knowledge allows you to take any Lydian fingerings and lower the seventh by one fret to create Lydian dominant fingerings.
Here’s how that looks on the fretboard as you compare the one-note difference between F Lydian and F Lydian dominant.
Here are a number of one-octave Lydian dominant shapes that you can work on in your practice routine.
One-octave shapes are handy when soloing over fast moving chord changes or at fast tempos.
There are three groups of fingerings for one-octave Lydian dominant shapes, starting with your index finger on the root note.
When learning these shapes, work them in 12 keys and solo over dominant chord using these shapes as the basis for your improvised lines.
This ensures that you work Lydian dominant from both a technical and improvisational standpoint.
Here are one-octave F Lydian dominant shapes to check out in your woodshedding.
You can also learn Lydian dominant scales with your middle finger on the first note.
Once you have these four shapes under your fingers, move between the first four and these four in both your practice routine.
Lastly, here are four shapes that begin with your pinky finger on the first note.
Again, work these shapes in all keys and solo over dominant backing tracks to be creative with these scales in the woodshed.
Lydian Dominant Two Octave Fingerings
As well as learning one-octave scale shapes, you can take these patterns a step further by learning two-octave shapes.
Two-octave shapes come in handy when 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 shapes, here are four to get you started.
Lydian Dominant Scale Patterns
You can now check out scale patterns over any of the Lydian dominant scales you’ve learned in this lesson.
To begin, here is an ascending pattern 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.
Click to hear lydian dominant scales 1
You can also work this pattern descending any scale fingering you’re working on.
Again, you play 1234 from each note in the scale, building the intervals 5678, 4567 3456, etc. as you work your way down the fingering.
Click to hear lydian dominant scales 2
Once you have one or both of these patterns down, put on a dominant backing track and add this pattern to your solos.
You don’t have to play them in every phrase, but adding these patterns here and there is a great way to spice up your improvised phrases.
Lydian Dominant Licks
You can also study licks 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 phrase that uses a CmMaj7 arpeggio, C-Eb-G-B, to outline the F7#11 sound.
Click to hear lydian dominant scales 3
Click to hear lydian dominant scales 4
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
Once you have these licks down, write out 3 Lydian dominant licks as you build your soloing vocabulary with this important scale.