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Lydian Tetrachord

Tony Cesarano Jazz

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What is a Tetrachord

Think of a scale as an 8 note sequence of tones with the 8th note an octave above the 1st note. The scale is then divided into 2 tetrachords. The first four notes are the first tetrachord and the second four notes are the second tetrachord. For instance, the notes of the C major scale are:

The first tetrachord is: C D E F
and the second one is: G A B C

Most guitarists know something about the modes of various scales. For instance the major scale contains the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Ionian, and Locrian modes. Other scales used in jazz such as the Melodic and Harmonic minor each have 7 modes. Some other more exotic scales like the blues scale, Lydian diminished also have modes. Add to that whole tone and the two types of diminished scales. This represents alot of scales to memorize let alone to be able to spontaneously improvise with. The Lydian tetrachord approach focuses on the tetrachord of each mode because most of the modes are composed of relatively few tetrachords used over and over again in different combinations.

Because each tetrachord is four notes, each makes a convient pattern that falls nicely under the four fingers of the guitarist's fretting hand. Four note patterns fit nicely in 4/4 time. Each four note pattern contains 24 permutations and each permutaton can be the basis of a musical idea.
I have found for me that the end result is more creativity with fewer bits of information to memorize.

I particularly like George Russell's method of tonal organization as laid out in The Lydian Chromatic Concept, and my work on the guitar has been to apply the tetrachord approach to this concept. Of course, I didn't invent tetrachords and the approach works equally well with any other method of tonal organization as long as it involves scales and modes.


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