I am writing a song progression using the lydian mode using AABA form. My chord progression will be

  • A: E F# A E
  • A: E F# A E
  • B: C#m F# A E
  • A: E F# A E

The scale for the melody is E major pentatonic so no clues there....

The A sections are clearly in lydian mode but my question relates to the B section chord progression. Since this phrase starts in C#m now should I see this phrase as being in dorian mode with the F# major chord as the IV of dorian or have we never left lydian mode?

  • 1
    Not sure which chords are major or minor!
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 10:13
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    Your title references the mixolydian mode but there is no mention of this in the question, but rather the lydian mode. "Since this phrase starts in C#m" - excuse me? All the chords appear to be major chords, so where does the minor come from? Dorian is a minor mode with a raised sixth, whereas lydian is a major mode with a raised fourth. Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 10:13
  • sorry, I edited the question, please forgiveme... very sloppy
    – user35708
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 10:29
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    It's not in any mode at all. It's not Lydian, Mixolydian, Dorian, any mode. How can I tell? First of all, it sounds like it's making a chromatic alteration. Secondly, it is making a chromatic alteration. In the F# major chord, there is an A#, it's the third of the chord. But in the A major chord, there is an A natural. When you do chromatic alterations, you don't call it a mode. Maybe you could call it modal interchange or something. The F# major chord first sounds like a secondary dominant going to B, but the expected motion is not fulfilled - you use an A chord instead. Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 12:08
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    Your A chord is not diatonic to E Lydian. It uses the P4 not the #4 of the Lydian scale. The 4 chord in Lydian is a #IVdim or m7b5. Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 16:54

2 Answers 2


Modal pieces emphasize the scale degrees that differentiate that mode from major and minor. A lydian piece will emphasize the #4, and a dorian piece will emphasize the #6.

This means the B section is not dorian.

  1. The melody, being pentatonic, avoids the #6 entirely.
  2. The harmony includes the natural-6, specifically in the third chord, effectively eliminating — or cancelling out — any prior use of the #6.

In fact, the A section is not lydian either, for similar reasons.

  1. The melody, being pentatonic, avoids the #4 entirely.
  2. The harmony is so strongly rooted in E major — between both the chords and the melody — that the brief appearance of the #4 sounds like a simple chromatic alteration to major rather than true lydian.
  • Aaron, harmonic progressions can still have the necessary degree altered to conform to the mode without any need for a melody to have the note in it. When it is in the melody as well however, it is heard more strongly but a progression of chords can still be in a mode without the melody needing to stray away from a pentatonic scale. your term "true lydian" I don't think I understand it. Could you explain how this might be "true lydian" what would need to change?
    – user35708
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 16:46
  • Please refer to this page viva.pressbooks.pub/openmusictheory/chapter/modal-schemas where the author discusses my progression as being in the Lydian mode. It is even called a "Lydian cadence"
    – user35708
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 16:47
  • @armani I completely disagree with that author's analysis. There's nothing lydian about the cadence described. It's major with a chord that happens to be from a secondary key. By "true lydian", I mean "truly in the lydian mode".
    – Aaron
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 17:09
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    @armani I guess it's worth pointing out that the author herself acknowledges that the IV chord immediately undermines the use of the #4 in the previous chord.
    – Aaron
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 17:24
  • @armani As Aaron writes, I think the confusion is here that she mentions that #4 brings the sound of lydian, but this does not equate to the melody or the progression being in lydian mode. Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 17:27

I thought modes referred to the melody rather than harmony, so if you're using E pent. major, you're still using that all through. But if you want it modal, the melody had better 'home' on the roots that make those modes.

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