I am learning about chords and their relationships to major scale modes in jazz. As I understand it, each mode allows a different chord to be built by choosing the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th of the scale. I wanted to do this with the Lydian mode in C (4th mode of G major) and I got C E G B for the chord.

However, I looked here and it also includes the F# and calls the chord Cmaj7#11. What is the difference between my chord and this Cmaj7#11 (except for the obviously added F#)? What sort of chord have I created and is it really a Lydian chord?

  • Jazz chords are not always built 1 3 5 7. This chord you are asking about is usually has 1 3 4 7. Fun fact - the tune Lost Woods from Zelda The Ocarina of Time is entirely built on the Lydian mode. Cool stuff Feb 25, 2017 at 6:17

3 Answers 3


whether a chord is part of a mode depends on the surrounding chords. In other words, part of what determines a chord quality is not the chord itself, but the context. If you play just a Cmaj7 all by itself, there's no way to know whether it is in the key of G or the key of C, so therefore you don't know which mode it is. But if you play other chords in the key of G, before and afterwards, then you know it is part of that key and therefore a Lydian sound.

Likewise, if you include more context by including the #11 in the chord itself, you're giving it a Lydian sound.

So, the bottom line is, it all depends on context and how much "information" you provide with the chord.

  • 1
    Since Gmaj. contains the same notes as C Lydian, the chords used will basically be the same. No clues there then.The OP is asking about a C Lydian chord, which is different from a chord out of the C Lydian mode.
    – Tim
    Sep 23, 2013 at 8:32
  • @Tim. Clarify your comment. When you say a chord "out of the C lydian mode" give examples because it's not clear what you're referring to. Sep 23, 2013 at 16:12
  • -chords that can be made out of the Lydian mode are going to be the same as chords from its parent major key. E.g. C Lydian chords, as triads ,will be C,D, Em, Fo, G, Am and Bm, as they all emanate from G maj., the parent key which produced C Lydian. Tetrachords are noted in my answer below, but the Lydian chord itself is a 5 note chord which is spelled 1-3-5-7-#11.Hope this helps.
    – Tim
    Sep 24, 2013 at 9:16
  • @MichaelMartinez User Tim meant "F♯°", not "F°".
    – user45266
    Apr 17, 2019 at 17:58

The tetrachords made from the C Lydian mode (using the 7 notes of Gmaj.) are going to be the same 7 chords as found in Gmaj. itself - Cmaj.7, D7., Em7., F#m7b5, Gmaj.7, Am7., Bm7. Since the mode uses the same notes as the Gmaj. scale, the chords will follow.

The Lydian chord of C (C Lydian chord !) is a bigger chord in that it contains 5 notes: C-E-G-B and F#. This is Cmaj.7#11.It may be co-incidental that it uses the 'Lydian' name, but it's confusing. After doing some homework, it would appear there is no Dorian chord, no Mixolydian chord, etc.


Jazz Chords are built using the characteristic notes of each mode of every scale. The chord types can be quite complex (like dom7alt) but the basic alterations for the major scale, in relation to the tonic, are as follows: I:(Ionian or major) no alterations, since all alterations are based of the tonic major chord with its regular 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th ii:(dorian) the same as the natural minor mode (b3,b6,b7) except for the sixth, which is not flatted iii: (phrygian) the same as the natural minor mode except for its for b2 IV: (Lydian) contains a #4 V: (Mixolydian) vi:(natural minor mode, or aeolian) b3,b6,b7 vii: (diminished mode, or locrian) same as phrygian, with the addition of the b5, or diminished fifth

One possible cause of your misunderstanding might be the '#11'. a sharped 11th is the same as a sharped fourth, only it is up an octave. Chord notation, when describing alterations, uses the original degree within the seven-note scale. When a specially labeled note, like the sharped fourth in your case, is one or more octaves higher then the bass note, the number is increased by seven to indicate the higher octave. So basically, a sharped fourth is the same as a sharped 11th, except the sharped 11th is an octave higher.

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