Song 8

  1. The Lydian Dominant scale
  2. About the Pink Panther
  3. Cruisin'
  4. Phrasing - Swapping Twos
  5. Practice - Dominant Chord & Mode
  6. Session Materials


Song | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | ?? |

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S 8.1 - The Lydian Dominant scale

The Mixolydian mode is most commonly used for improvisation over a dominant 7th chord. But there are other possibilities.
An important purpose of the dominant chord is to provide harmonic tension. This tension can even be increased by adding colourful tones to the chord and/or scale.

One of my favourite scales for improvisation over the dominant chord is the Lydian Dominant scale. This scale is the same as the Mixolydian mode except for one note. The 4th note of the mode is raised a semitone to become an augmented 4th.
This instantly creates the so-called 'Lydian sound', bright and refreshingly contemporary.

Starting a major scale (C D E F G A B C) on its 4th note creates the so-called Lydian mode (F G A B C D). The characteristic of this mode is the augmented 4th interval formed between the tonic and the 4th note (F - B). This creates the typical 'Lydian sound'.
A few other scales which contain this (#4) interval include therefore the word 'Lydian' in their name, such as the 'Lydian Dominant scale'.

Audio 8.1

The Lydian Dominant scale is actually one of the modes of the melodic minor scale.
Several modes derived from this Classical minor scale are very popular in Jazz and extensively used in modern improvisation (See the Scales Book).

Audio 8.2

It is easiest to think of Lydian Dominant scales as Mixolydian modes with a raised 4th.
But it is good to understand the true origin of the scale.

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S 8.2 - About the Pink Panther

Simplicity is the common characteristic of most brilliant ideas.
Henri Mancini's great song the 'Pink Panther' is an excellent example of this.

Many chord progressions describe patterns on the Circle of Fifths, but breaking away from rather predictable approach can create the most delightful results.

The melody of the Pink Panther focusses on the three chord tones (E, G and B) of the E minor triad.
Halfway through the first phrase the chord tone B is deflected a semitone down to a Bb. This note cleverly introduces the C7 chord.

In the second phrase a similar thing happens, except that this time the E minor chord tone E is lowered to an Eb, which is harmonised with and F7 chord.

These are the only three chords in the song and are all that is required to produce a most attractive harmony.

Audio 8.3

The first 2 bars of the melody of each phrase also spell out the E harmonic minor scale (E F# G A B C D# E).

Below Mancini's harmonic idea in a nutshell.

Audio 8.4

In case you did not know : Plas Johnson was the tenor sax player who performed the great solo on the film soundtrack. I heard him live in the 80s when he visited Australia and was most impressed with his sophisticated flowing improvisation style.

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S 8.3 - Cruisin'

Cruisin' is a 40 bar long song. It can be subdivided into five 8-bar sections A B C A B.
The song uses the same chords as the Pink Panther, but in a slightly different chord progression and in the key of D minor instead of E minor. This makes it easier key to play for the alto saxes.

A section
The melody over the D minor chord portions consists entirely of the D minor pentatonic scale. Although the melody goes straight up the F major pentatonic, the scale is perceived by the ear as a D minor pentatonic scale, because the D minor chord establishes D ( and not F) as the tonal centre!
(Mancini also used the minor pentatonic scale in the Pink Panther. Get a copy of the complete melody score and see if you can find where!)


When playing grace notes, like the G before the Ab in bar 3, make sure to play the target note (Ab) exactly on the downbeat.
The grace note (or notes) are played just in front of that beat. In Jazz the length of a grace note is up to your own taste and can vary.

B section
The start is the same as for the A section.
In the second line the melody contains the note A over the Eb7 chord. This note forms the interval of an augmented 4th (#4) with the Eb tonic. The note clashes with the Eb Mixolydian mode but fits of course the Eb Lydian Dominant scale. A subtle hint that you could use this scale for your improvisation.

Audio 8.5

C section
This section functions as the 'bridge' of the song.
The melody contrasts the chord tone Ab (b7) over the Bb7 chord with the chord tone A (5th) over the Dm chord. The Db (b7) over the Eb7 chord is also prominent. This makes the melody over this section a strong contributor to the song's harmony (chord progression).

Audio 8.6

The song is completed by repeating the A and B sections.

On the Play-a-Long track only the portion A B C is repeated (four times) for the purpose of improvisation. The whole track goes like this :

  • A B C A B - first chorus melody

  • A B C (played 4 times) - for improvisation

  • A B C A B - final chorus melody

The suggested scales for improvisation are printed at the bottom of each Lead sheet.

Audio 8.7 - Audio 8.8

As variation you can also use the D Dorian mode over D minor, or the two Lydian Dominant scales (Audio 8.8) over Bb7 and Eb7 (by raising the black notes on the lead sheet scales a semitone).

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S 8.4 - Phrasing : Swapping Twos

Swapping twos (2 bars) or fours (4 bars) between two soloists is a common feature in Jazz improvisation. We will use this approach in this song.

I start with the first two bars of each 4 bar phrase, you complete the phrase by improvising over the second two bars.

Swapping Twos

Keep it simple. Just listen to what I play and react to it by repeating the rhythm or completing the sentence in your own way.
Unfortunately I cannot hear what you play (as in a real life performance), but one-way interaction is better than none.

I have recorded two tracks. Each one starts immediately with swapping twos.
The format is : ABC - ABC - AB

  1. On Cruisin' 1 I play every first 2 bars of each phrase

  2. On Cruisin' 2 I play every last 2 bars of each phrase

To make these tracks I swapped twos with myself. You can listen to the complete result on Cruisin' 3. I used vibes for the solo and played only single note lines. I also took out the dynamics on the midi file. (Not too sure if these come across properly on playback.)

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S 8.5 - Practice : Dominant Chord - Mode Combination

To convert the Chord - Mode practice pages for the Dominant Chord - Mixolydian mode :

lower the 7ths of the chord and mode (the upper pink square note heads) by a semitone.

For example in the key of C the B becomes a Bb, in the key of F the E becomes and Eb, and so on.

Practise the Dominant 9th chord - Mixolydian mode combination in all keys in two ways.

1. Chord tones up to the 9th, then the Mixolydian mode down.

Audio 8.9

2. Mixolydian mode up to the 9th, then dominant 9th chord tones down.

Audio 8.10

To fit a 4 bar segment play the exercise as shown above. This way you can use the Circle of 5ths Play-a-Long track (major) for the exercise.

When practising without a backing track go up and down the pattern three times in each key.

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S 8.6 - Session Materials

ItemMidi filesSheet music
Cruisin'Demo P-a-LC instr.Bb instr.Eb instr.
Easy Key for C instr. (Em)E-Pal 1Bb instr.
Easy Key for Eb instr. (Em)E-Pal 2Bb instr.
Chord and Mode practiceDemoP-a- Lp.1p.2
Swapping TwosCruisin' 1Cruisin' 2
Swapping Twos (Demo)Cruisin' 3

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© 2003 Michael Furstner (Jazclass)