The Lydian Chromatic Concept, anyone?

Would anyone like to discuss George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Gravity? I am definitely not an expert, and can’t say that I use it, but over the years of thinking about it, have come to see how it makes sense for jazz, in theoretical terms. A big help in this was seeing Pebber Brown’s video on it (I noticed elsewhere that someone mentioned Pebber as their teacher).

I can go into some of these theoretical justifications, as I understand them, if anyone is interested, but it is long-winded. I’ll wait to see how it goes.

My copy of the book is an old one, back when they were ordered from the back of Downbeat magazine. A disgruntled jazz pianist sold it to me for $25. I see that it has come out in new editions since then, and is still quite expensive.

I love George Russell’s music, especially the early Riverside albums produced by Orrin Keepnews, like The Stratus Seekers and Ezz-thetics.


One easy test of the harmonic aspect of the LCC is playing a major seventh chord, and seeing what scale sounds best over it. You’d assume that the best scale would be C major; but the F sounds terrible. A lydian scale sounds better over a Major 7 chord. This underscores the dissonant nature of F in the major scale, and how it doesn’t really reinforce the key of C.

I got a photocopied version of this about 25 years ago when I was studying jazz in school. It’s in that big stack of aspirational guitar books that I haven’t quite gotten to yet. I only have a cursory understanding of the idea and haven’t spent the time to try and put it into practice, but I’d be curious to discuss with those that have (or are trying to).


The keyboard white notes are laid out to favor the C-major scale. On the other hand, the twelve note division of the octave was arrived at by the Pythagoran-derived process of “stacking fifths,” or interval projection. The “pythagoran comma” was later corrected by ET, but the 12-division remains, and is what’s important, not “perfect” fifths.
Piano tuners start on “F” and tune all their fifths first. Why? Because that’s the only way to get seven fifths on white notes. F-C-G-D-A-E-B. If you start on C, you get C-G-D-A-E-B----F#? No, it doesn’t work.
This reveals the nature of the diatonic major scale: it has an inherent dissonance within its octave. This was the basis for George Russell’s LCC.
The diatonic major scale was designed for modulation. It does not reinforce its own key note as well as a lydian scale does.
C-D-E-F has a leading tone E-F, which reinforces a new root on F. G-A-B-C does reinforce C. But as you can see, there is a battle between F and C as roots.
The lydian scale is better for reinforcing its own scale root of F: F-G-A establishes F, the scale root, and B-C-D-E has the leading tone B-C which establishes C, the dominant, which is the most closely related relationship to F., closer than the root/subdominant “F-C” relationship in C major.
As further harmonic proof, go to any keyboard which sustains notes, such as a string or organ patch, and begin stacking fifths from C, then on F. Use all white notes. The ear can easily hear that starting on C is more dissonant than starting on F…C-G-D-A-E-B-F? The F sounds terrible. F-C-G-D-A-E-B sounds much better.

Pebber Brown demonstrates this on a YouTube vid, which is unfortunately marred by his voice being inaudible during certain sections.

This is a verbatim copy-and-paste of your post here:


I was curious enough to find this book in pdf format and start studying it.

One thing that sort of bothered me – on Page 8 the book says:

The major scale is truly a diatonic scale, as “di” is the Latin prefix meaning two.

I’m in no way an expert in ancient languages, but I recall I’ve read in some popular science book that it is a common mistake to think that “di” in words starting with “dia” means “two”. According to wiktionary (among many other sources), “dia” is an Ancient Greek root which means “through”.

Just a side note.

When it comes to chord scale relationships, LCC is sort of a derivative approach,meaning you think in terms of parent scales instead of modes. Except the basic parent scale is not the Major scale but instead the Lydian. So , what you get is a series of different relationships between any given chord quality and the root on which the parent scale is built. Say, for D minor 7 (Dorian) instead of C major, the parent scale would be F Lydian. What’s interesting-and very far reaching-is the fact that, starting with Lydian he builds several other scales-including Lydian Augmented, Lydian Diminished, W.T., both WH and HW diminished etc-each producing different groups of chords. Now, and this is the good part, when you convert a given chord to a parent scale-like the D minor/F Lydian example-then the entire group of scales built upon that particular Lydian Tonic-F in the example-is available for use as different colors of increasing tension over the basic harmony. That means is that over our D minor 7 we could play F Lydian Augmented (no big deal, that’s just D Melodic Minor) or F W.T or F WH and HW diminshed etc.
Also, there are different ways to associate chords to various Lydian Tonics. Say, for a G7, F Lydian would be one choice-giving the one group of scales to use over the chord-but B Lydian is another. The basic scale to use would be B Lydian Augmented (again, no big deal, that’s just a Ab Melodic Minor, namely G altered) but the rest of the scales built on B could also be used.
The association of chords to Lydian Tonics can be done either on a chord to chord basis or it can be based on other factors like the direction the harmony is heading towards any given moment-say, over a ii-v-i we could think in terms of the i-or the key of the music-say, in a blues we could think in terms of what key the piece is in.
Now, the above is just one aspect of LCC, the one dealing with scales. For some the most interesting aspect is what follows, which basically is pure intervalic playing within the Lydian Chromatic universe-but for this I can’t really talk about.

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