Lydian Sounds for Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary – 24th April 2018
In this practice diary I’m demonstrating lydian sounds over major chords using my fretless Warwick Thumb SC. My inspiration for this is Jaco Pastorius’ composition Havona from the album Heavy Weather by Weather Report.
What does Lydian mean?
Don’t be put off by words like lydian and mode. They’re much simpler than you might think. You can think of modes as types of scales. Lydian is the name of one of the modes of the major scale. In fact it’s only one note different from a major scale. The fourth note of the scale is a semi-tone higher than the major scale.
Havona by Jaco Pastorius
Jaco uses a lot of lydian harmony in Havona. I’ve taken four chords from Havona, E major, C major, B major and G major and played two bars on each chord.
Most jazz musicians prefer to use the lydian scale rather than the major scale when playing over major chords. The reason is that the natural 4th found in the major scale clashes with the third in the major chord. But the raised 4th doesn’t clash. In fact it creates a really nice sound.
For the first four bars I’m playing a seven note phrase using 16th notes. I’ve taken the phrase from Jaco’s solo in Havona, he plays it over an E major chord. The notes in E lydian are E, F#, G#, A#, B, C# and D#. Each time I repeat the seven note phrase, I move it one note up the scale. Using this method I explore all of the possible harmonisations of this phrase within the mode. After two bars on E major I switch to the notes of C lydian without stopping or altering the seven note phrase.
The reason I’m using an odd number of notes is so the phrase will start on a different subdivision each time I change the harmony. So I’m exploring every possible harmonic variation and every possible 16th note rhythmic variation of the phrase.
16th note and Triplet phrases
Another aspect of Jaco’s solo on Havona is the use of triplet as well as 16th note phrases. For this reason I’ve used a triplet phrase taken from Jaco’s solo for the next four bars. Starting on B lydian, Ive played the phrase and this time moved it down one step each time I’ve repeated it. After two bars on B the harmony switches to G lydian and the phrase continues.
Here is the TAB of what I played in the video
I’ve written the TAB for 6-string bass in standard tuning. You can adapt these ideas for 4 or 5-string bass. You could start by playing the phrase one octave lower. ie. playing it exactly as it’s written without the 8va marking.