Expanded Lydian and Locrian

This post is a bit of a continuation of the previous one on "expanded Harmonic Minor". The idea is again to take a somewhat familiar idea of playing something a semitone above or below the root of a chord, and flip it to be below or above, as it were. These ideas came out of playing through the chords to "Blue in Green", which isn't to say they're particularly applicable to that tune but more that they came from a real musical context, not some abstract theoretical observation.

Expanded Lydian

The first idea comes from playing the minor pentatonic a semitone below a Maj 7 chord. For example, on CMaj7 (C-E-G-B) you can play B minor pentatonic (B-D-E-F#-A) and the combined noes are C Lydian (C-D-E-F#-G-A-B):

A lot of people know this trick; if you're one of today's lucky 10000 you should probably stop reading here and enjoy this wonderfully simple idea for a while.

The new idea is to flip this over: instead of minor pentatonic a semitone below, let's try a semitone above, which would be Db minor pentatonic, which for these purposes we can spell Db-E-F#-Ab-B. The resulting scale is Kamavardani (C-Db-E-F#-G-Ab-B) and is a strong and unusual sound compared to the previous one:

The idea we had before was to combine these two superimpositions into a scale, and this time it's very easy; B minor pentatonic (B-D-E-F#-A) plus Db minor pentatonic (Db-E-F#-Ab-B) can be spelled as A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#, i.e. the A major scale. One way to find this (apart from just combining the pentatonics) is to think of it as Dorian shifted down one step or as Phrygian shifted up one:

You can think of all this as "expanded Lydian language" if you like -- I think that's potentially a useful perspective rather than making it seem more complicated.

Expanded Locrian

Following the same clue, let's look at dominant chords. in particular, I'm interested in those odd altered dominant chords that aren't functioning, or at least don't sound as if they are in the usual way. I'm thinking, for example, of the 7#5 chord in Wayne Shorter's "JuJu", but there are lots of other examples. You want something for this that respects the altered nature of the chord but isn't necessarily the Altered Scale, which might imply the function a bit too strongly.

One "safe" option for some of these chords is Locrian, which in C is C-Db-Eb-F-Gb-Ab-Bb. Like the Altered Scale it contains a full complement of alterations (b5, #5, b9 and #9) but the absence of the major third gives it a different flavour. It can work nicely on blues tunes too.

Locrian is a major scale shifted up by a semitone:

Following the same pattern as before, let's "expand" this into something more fancy by shifting in the opposite direction: this time moving the major scale down a half-step instead of up. This would give us the B major scale:

Since this doesn't include the note C, this is definitely a more "out" sound, but it's still mostly in the vicinity of the altered dominant sound. You could also think of B major as F# Mixolydian, so this would be a sort of tritone substitution.

Although these sounds came from trying to find interesting, non-functioning ways to play on the chords in "Blue in Green", I'm not advocating using them mechanically in that way. What they may do in unlock your ability to hear some unusual lines on common chord types.