Modal Pentatonic Scales Guitar Lesson – Lydian Mode

In this free video guitar lesson we will take a look at how to use basic pentatonic scale shapes to create modal sounds. For this lesson we will concentrate on playing the Lydian mode while using only the 5 basic pentatonic scale shapes.

The beauty in this kind of study is that you can play true modal improvisations by just using the basic pentatonic scales that are familiar already to most guitar players.

The video starts with me doing a short improvisation in A Lydian. You can download the backing track that I am improvising over below.

A Lydian Backing Track mp3 *Please right-click the link and download the mp3 to your computer.

After you get a good handle on soloing throughout A Lydian, try your hand at creating your own backing tracks or finding some around the web that will enable your to use this simple modal pentatonic method in other keys.

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Modal Pentatonic Scales Guitar Lesson - Lydian Mode


  1. Dann on April 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Awesome lesson. I learned a lot from it… Thank you very much!
    You’re a great teacher! I like the way you explain the content. Well done and again, Thanks.

  2. Ajo1984 on April 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Hey Carl.. thanks for the video. Awesome as always. πŸ™‚

    Some wheels started turning in my head while I was playing along with the backing track, but I am not really makin any sense of it in my head. πŸ˜€

    It seems like the E major pentatonic fits really well with these chords too, and from what I can tell, the E major pentatonic is exactly the same as the B major pent except for a single note! (D# instead of E)

    Is this some sort of modal pentatonic as well? (P.S. I hope this didn’t confuse anyone!)

    • Carl Brown on April 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

      Hey Ajo, your are correct the E Major Pentatonic sounds good to. It does this because all of the notes fall within an A Major tonality without the fourth so it doesn’t clash with the #11. I have some more of these types of lessons coming where we will get the other modes from this simple process as well. I think Dorian will be next. πŸ˜€


  3. Frank on April 8, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Hi Carl,

    I don’t quite understand why shifting the A major pentatonic scale by 2 frets will make it fit into A lydian.
    Can you kind of explain why does the B Major Pentatonic scale fits in the A Lydian?

    Thanks in advance,

    • Carl Brown on April 9, 2011 at 11:35 am

      Hey Frank, it is because the notes that are produced by playing the B major pentatonic scale over an A Lydian harmony produce the sound of Lydian. It does this because the B Major Pent. has the major 3rd and more importatnly the #4 of the A Lydian mode in it. Combine that with the A Lydian harmony and viola, you have a Lydian sound. I will be ding this same process with the other modes as well and I think you will understand the process more the more modes I do. πŸ˜€

      Cheers!! Carl..

  4. Gabriel on April 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Very nice lesson very cool the backing track too thanks a lot !!! = )

  5. ARIEL EDMOND on April 9, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    great stuff Carl,
    I have been looking for someone or some book or video to tell me how to apply the basic things that I know to make them sound more complex or sophisticated. thanks and keep up the good work.

  6. Michael Baltes on April 11, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    PDF file of lesson?

    • Carl Brown on April 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm

      Hey Michael, no I didn’t do any PDF for this lesson since I am only talking about the pentatonic forms that I had already shown and made PDF’s for in my pentatonic scale lessons that are found in the Intermediate Guitar Lessons archive. That should give you all the scale forms you need for this kind of thing. πŸ˜€


  7. Rafael Ramoso on April 12, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    What are the chords used in the backing track? Thanks. πŸ˜€

    • Carl Brown on April 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm

      Hey Rafael, I am basically just switching from a A maj. add9 #11 chord to a regular old A Major chord during the more rhythmic strumming parts. And for the softer arpeggiated picking parts I am playing a different voicing of A maj. add9 #11 to an A Maj. add 9 chord. πŸ˜€

      Cheers!! Carl..

  8. Rogie Divina on April 14, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Yeah Just Finished the Video. haha i’m just amaze Thanks for the vidz πŸ˜€ Keep on posting Rock on! \m/,

  9. Ben on April 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks for the lesson. Great as usual!

    Also, nice UNC t-shirt!

  10. Lowell on April 19, 2011 at 5:19 pm


    Your website is great. I really enjoy the Eric Johnson style pentatonic lesson you previously posted…

    In regard to the current (modal pentatonic) lesson, can you comment on the style of improvisation you are using? Are you playing the major pentatonic scale up and down the neck? It is obvious that you are doing much more than simply playing a scale in a single position. Can you give me any pointers?

    Thanks again and keep the great lessons coming!

    Dallas, TX

    • Carl Brown on April 20, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      Hey Lowell, all of the improvisation at the beginning of the video is just me playing B Major pentatonic scales up and down the neck. Doing that over an A Lydian harmony is what creates that Lydian sound.

      As for tips on how to break out of playing in one position, I think it mostly comes down to visualization of the scale forms. I have an entire series of lessons on the pentatonic scales in the Intermediate section of the lessons archive. In those lessons I talk about how I choose to visualize the pentatonic scale all over the neck.

      Check out those lessons and let me know what you think. πŸ˜€

      Cheers! Carl..

  11. tweedguitar on April 21, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Hey Carl,
    Is this approach to Modal Improvisation known as Pentatonic Substitution ?
    A Lydyian = Key Of E
    B Major = Dominant of E
    Therefore the resulting notes from the B Major Pentatonic , B C# D# F# G# or G# Minor Pentatonic are notes from the A Lydian Scale ?
    Therefore if we take the Dominant Key , of the Key of any given mode , we can improvise with the resulting Dominant Pentatonic Scale ?
    D Dorian = Key Of C , therefore we use G Major Pentatonic or E Minor Pentatonic
    E Dorian = Key of D , therefore we use the A Major or F# Pentatonic Scale etc ? Thanks ..this should open many new doors if this is the case

  12. Joel Powell on May 18, 2011 at 8:56 pm


    This was a groundbreaking lesson for me! Not only did I get the “quick access” to Lydian using the Pentatonic forms, it triggered me more to using the Major Pentatonic forms – or better said – “seeing” them more on the fretboard. For some reason this unlocked the fretboard more than anything.

    One question though. What do I “look for” when choosing to lay Lydian down during a solo. This backing track is obviously great for this, but what do I look for in order for this to be a good choice. I undertstand A Major is a possibility, but not all chord progressions around A Major will fit, correct?


    Joel Powell
    Ann Arbor, MI

  13. Paul on September 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Question: How does that get to be an “A lydian” pentationic scale?
    There are 5 notes B C# D#F# G#, but no “A”. Add the “A” and that’s
    six notes not 5. Shouldn’t we be building a 5 tone scale from “A” the forth tone of E Major? I’m confused.

    • Carl Brown on September 3, 2011 at 11:16 am

      Hey Paul, the root tone would be taken care of with the harmony that you are soling over (ie A major type harmony).

      The tone that give Lydian it’s sound is the #4 scale degree which in this case is the D#. So playing that note over a major harmony would give you a Lydian sound immediately. All the other tones are form the regular major scale and can be included or not depending on what you want to use. Since we are using pentatonic scales here there will only be 5 notes to play with so some will be left out. The idea is just to place the pentatonic scale in a position on the fretboard where it includes all the essential notes for a particular mode, there for attaining that sound.

      Cheers! Carl..

  14. Spin on November 5, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Lydian is probably Satriani’s favorite mode as well.. great lesson… looking forward to seeing the next classes on modes… thanks for your lessons. For the first time I think I will be able to put my personality on my playing… I’ve been looking for this for such a long time.

  15. Sandeep Tripathi on December 16, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Very useful Thank you so much πŸ™‚

  16. Angelo on December 30, 2011 at 5:23 am

    Hi, great website, thanks
    I see you did the Modal Pentatonic Scales “Lydian”

    When will you do other modal scales?

    • Carl Brown on December 30, 2011 at 11:51 am

      Hey Angelo, thanks for checking out my lessons!

      Yes I do plan on tackling the other modes as well. However, I think I am gonna put it in a complete guitar course for mastering pentatonics that will be coming up in a couple months. πŸ™‚

      Cheers! Carl..

  17. Normand Campeau on January 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    what lesson should i start to learn with improvise

  18. gili garcia from Philippines on March 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Hey Carl, i really appreciate & understand your way of teaching…thanks a lot buddy.. .i’ll wait some guitar lessons & technic from you my mentor…thanks..! cheersssss…

  19. mark on May 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    love the lessons, but can you cover more modes in the future to help clarify the relationship between root notes and modes? for instance, in this lesson the root was A obviously, well moving one whole step up to the B and playing the first pent scale pattern resulted in an A lydian. what is the corresponding movement to execute an A phyrigian, A dorian, etc. when starting with a given root and using the six pent scale patterns learned is earlier lessons? thank you thank you

  20. Dan on January 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Sorry I don’t get why moving from A up two steps to B and playing the shape from the root note give Lydian? I thought Lydian was 4th scale degree therefore should it not be D Lydian in the key of A Major? B would be second degree so Dorian?! Please explain what I have got wrong. Many thanks. Great site.

  21. Mike on March 30, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Your Comments
    Hi Carl,
    Could you please clarify something for me. I understood from your previous lessons that A lydian belongs to the key of E. Therefore why are we not using E major pentatonic to solo ?

  22. nigel on July 6, 2013 at 7:17 am

    very Satriani’esque. He loves using Lydian and Mixo a lot in his music. That sharp 4th really adds the flavor. I think his song “crying” is soloed in Lydian. This song reminds me a lot of that one.

  23. nigel on July 6, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Oh another thing I figured out is if you play the 5th major scale of the key you are in, its a Lydian sound with the sharp 4th. So in A major, if you solo E major over the A major chord progression then its Lydian because the E major scale has that D# in it that makes it Lydian. So the two scales compared are:

    A B C# D E F# G# A
    E F# G# A B C# D# E

    Notice every notes the same except the D#…so you play the E major and whala, A Lydian!! πŸ™‚ consequently if you play the 4th major scale over A major you get Mixolydian. So if you play D major scale over A major you get A Mixolydian. Just a few tidbits for those looking to flavor the major scale.

  24. Billy on August 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Hey carl, I was wondering how you could augment an A major pentatonic into a A minor pent. I tried to check for videos, but all I could see that would relate to it is the understanding minor scales lessons on the theory section. This states to find its relative minor which is the 6th degree of the scale. Does this method compute with the minor pentatonic. So if it was an A major it would be an F minor?

    • Carl Brown on August 30, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      Hey Billy, you are almost correct. It would actually be F# minor since the F in the key of A Major is sharped. πŸ™‚


  25. Dan Friedberg on February 1, 2015 at 3:46 am

    Great stuff Carl! This is all really starting to come together! I am wondering though about the Pentatonic Minor scales you mention we may know, but yet I cannot find reference to it on the site. I have been through the Major & Minor scales and all the Pentatonic lessons in Intermediate. I also have the Major Pentatonic scales PDF, but don’t find the relationship or other reference to what I have read is one of the coolest and most popular forms. Am I missing something! Thanks again! Dan

    • Carl Brown on February 1, 2015 at 12:02 pm

      Hey Dan, by knowing the major pentatonic scales you already know the minor pentatonic scales. There are the exact same 5 forms.

      All you need to think of is the minor pentatonic scale you want to play and then figure out it’s relative major key. Play that major key’s pentatonic scale forms and you have it. πŸ™‚

      In this way you can always relate pretty much every scale you use back to it’s relative major or parent major scale and you only have one method (using major scales) to visualize pretty much every key and scale around the fretboard.

      I think I need to do a quick little tutorial on relative keys. Look for that in the next week or so.


      • Dan on February 24, 2015 at 10:12 am

        Hi Carl, I’ve been spending more time with the Major scales and their 5 patterns, but did you ever produce that relative key tutorial you mentioned? I still haven’t grasped when I can play the Minor Pentatonic scale and what is the root note? Do I play the Minor Pent over Major chord progressions using the major root, or only over Minors??? Did this even make sense!?

        • Carl Brown on February 27, 2015 at 10:06 am

          Hey Dan, I thought I had done some relative key tutorials on the site but perhaps I am wrong. I will definitely check on it and get one up if there isn’t one already.

          To answer your question though, for the most part this whole thing of relating things back to their parent major scale (like minor scales, modes etc.) has to do with trying to simplify the visualization aspect of it on the guitar. In that way you would only have to visualize one set of major scales across the fretboard to be able to play all of your modes and minor scales in every key.

          For instance, if I want to improvise using B minor pentatonic scales, all I need to do is think about what the relative major key of B minor is. That major key is D major.

          So then after that I would just “visualize” D major pentatonic scales around the fretboard. Keep in mind, the chord progression you are improvising over would of course be in B minor so you will technically be playing in B minor or B minor pentatonic. You are only relating it back to it’s parent major scale for visualization purposes. Make sense?


          • Dan on February 28, 2015 at 10:53 am

            Now you’re talkin’! I have definitely had your point about learning what are very repeatable patterns, and love the teaching method/tip. This makes the learning much less intimidating. I just have struggled to understand how to apply this when you want to leave the “home scale” and stay “safe” in key. Your explanation above really helped clarify this, and so now is time for me to apply this enough to grind it into my mind and fingers! A few lessons on this and applying it across chord changes and key changes would also be greatly appreciated. Would also appreciate you letting me know where on the site you think this would be placed once completed. Thanks! -Dan

          • Carl Brown on February 28, 2015 at 11:01 am

            Hey Dan, glad you are feeling that it is all coming together for you!

            When the relative keys lesson is ready it will be in the music theory section. It shouldn’t be a very in depth lesson. It is a pretty simple process actually. πŸ™‚


          • Dan on February 28, 2015 at 2:58 pm

            Okay, worked this a bit and got thinking and wondering… Can you please turn your example above around to where you want to play a Major chord progression and improvise over it.

            From what I am interpreting, it seems I can play the Major scale or relative Minor scale over the Major chord progression? It seems so since the Major scale pattern extends over on the fretboard to the VI (relative minor) root note two alphas down. Is this correct? Can I play a relative Minor scale over a Major chord progression? The pattern IS the same, but what confuses me is wouldn’t the minor scale have a different root note (the Major scale VI relative minor note)!? Not sure where this different root note would play in, but it does have me wondering.

            So, could it be that I am confusing safe “patterns” with safe “scales” for any one chord progression!? Could this be why you only teach the Major scale “pattern”, so we don’t have to learn the different scales that have a same pattern but different root note?

            Please help me make this connection! :0 Seems I am so close to understanding what seems like an important fundamental area, but there is still a small cloud to be blown away! πŸ™‚

            About time to renew my subscription before it runs out! Well worth it!!
            Thanks again!!

          • Carl Brown on March 1, 2015 at 10:26 am

            Hey Dan, just to help you understand it a little better, think of it this way.

            When you are playing a major scale, the actual sound that you are producing has more to do with the chords you are soloing over than the major scale. Let me see if I can explain it a bit with a simple C major scale. However, keep in mind the same process works for all major scales.

            So to begin, if you are improvising with the notes of a C major scale and you are doing this over a C major harmony (either a C major chord or full progression where C major is the tonic) the notes you are playing will create a major sound.

            However, if you play those same C major scale notes but this time have a D minor harmony underneath you, that scale you are playing will now sound like D Dorian.

            So the C major scale has all of the basic church modes (C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian and B Locrian) within it already. Playing the C major scale with an E minor harmony under it would produce an E Phrygian sound, over an F major harmony it would sound like F Lydian, over a G7 harmony it will sound like G Mixolydian, over an A minor harmony it will sound like A Aeolian (which is actually the natural minor scale) and over a Bmin7b5 harmony it will sound like B Locrian.

            That is why you are only required to learn one set of major scale forms. The entire sound changes from major to minor or to any any of the basic church modes, not by what you are playing, but by the harmony underneath.

            Make any more sense? πŸ™‚


          • Dan on March 3, 2015 at 1:56 am

            Wow! That is fastinating how that all works! I did have to read your description of all those awesome relationships over and over to try to reel it in, but I do see what your saying. While I will get to those other modes, I better stick first to understanding the natural minor!

            But, I seem to be brain dead in reversing that around for the situation where I have a chord progression harmony playing, and now I am wanting to know what scale notes apply and with what respective root note (key).
            I can shift the root note up and down the fretboard for any respective Major key scale, but do I need to shift at all to play the relative minor over the same harmony?
            For example (flipping around your examples):
            – an A minor harmony is playing and so I use the 5 scale forms, but with which root key note? The C or A root note?
            – C Major harmony is playing and so I use the 5 scale forms with a C root note, but how would I play a minor Pentatonic scale over this same harmony?? Shift to an A root note?? Do we play minor pentatonics over major harmonies?
            Sorry for the lengthy questions! I feel it is staring me in the face but I just am not quite there!
            Thanks man!

          • Carl Brown on March 4, 2015 at 12:02 pm

            Hey Dan, great questions! First, when playing over any harmony try to relate that harmony back to it’s parent major key or relative key if you are dealing with minor.

            So yes, if there is an A minor harmony you would figure out it’s relative major key (C major) then just visualize C major around the fretboard. Keep in mind, even though you are using major to visualize across the fretboard you are still technically in A minor. That will never change, we relate everything to a major scale for visualization purposes only. You should still understand that you are playing in A minor because of the underlying harmony.

            For C major harmony, yes you would use the 5 forms of C major. You wouldn’t play minor pentatonic over this harmony. If you played A minor pentatonic it would simply sound like you are soloing in C major anyway since the notes are exactly the same. A minor pentatonic is completely identical on the fretboard to C major pentatonic. The only way to know what key (Amin or Cmaj) you are soloing in is to look at the actual chord progression and determine if it is a C major or A minor progression.

            Does this clear things up a bit? Keep in mind to try not to over think this. The whole reason for this system is make everything as simple as possible and just relate everything back to it’s parent major scale so there is only one set of scale forms to learn for most scales. πŸ™‚


          • Dan on March 4, 2015 at 1:41 pm

            Definitely does make more sense now! Now I need to go apply it, and let my fingers and ears drill it home!

          • Dan on March 17, 2015 at 8:13 pm

            So Carl, when improvising a scale over a harmony, are there any note selection rules or guidelines related to chord changes within the key? In other words, is there any need to “target” certain notes or fretboard areas when the harmony changes chords? Or should all the notes in a scale sound fine anywhere during the harmony, and so it is merely up to creativity?

          • Carl Brown on March 22, 2015 at 11:39 am

            Hey Dan, it is mostly up to what your ear wants to hear. There are target notes that a lot of players go for within certain scales to help bring the sound of the scale out, however, they also tend to overly rely on those target notes.

            My suggestion is to get the scale under your fingers then practice improvising as much as you can. Your ear will then naturally guide you to play the certain target notes that YOU favor instead of being told to aim for certain ones. In that way you will develop your own natural way of approaching a certain harmony. It just takes a little bit of experience of doing it. πŸ™‚

  26. Dan Friedberg on February 1, 2015 at 3:52 am

    Does my last name stay on the comment? Prefer it doesn’t, and I see no one else’s showed the last name. Do I need to change my profile, or do you all already take care of that?

    • Carl Brown on February 1, 2015 at 11:54 am

      Yeah Dan, yeah it is a setting you can change on your profile page that determines how your name is displayed around the site. I went ahead and just changed it to Dan for you. πŸ™‚


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