Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization – Part 4

The Four Horizontal Scales

In the last post we looked at the Seven Principle Scales – the vertical scales – of the “Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization” as conceived by George Russell. This time we’ll take a look at the Four Horizontal Scales.

According to Russell, the Four Horizontal Scales all have one thing in common: they contain the perfect 4th.

The remaining four scales of the eleven member scales of a Lydian Chromatic Scale are termed HORIZONTAL SCALES. They are horizontal because they include the fourth degree in their structure . . . the tonal environment of the scale will have a quality of resolution, striving to become a unity with the I major or VI minor tonic station. 1

So, to Russell, the presence of the fourth is what creates harmonic tension; a need for resolution to the major or minor tonic. In a sense, I think he’s talking about what drives forward motion in music.

So, to business. Here’s a quick recap of the Lydian Chromatic Order of Tonal Gravity with an example in F:

F    C    G    D    A    E    B         C#    Ab    Eb    Bb   Gb
I    V    II   VI   II   VII  +IV       +V    bIII  bVII  IV   bII

The previous post explains its derivation and use to create scales so refer back if you need to. Remember that we start with the seven notes on the left – the Lydian scale – and use the notes on the right to make additions and substitutions to build new scales.

Deriving the Four Horizontal Scales

Major Scale

F    G    A    Bb   C    D    E
I    II   III  IV   V    VI   VII

Substitute the +IV with IV.

No explanation needed here. It’s the major scale!

Major Flat Seventh Scale

F    G    A    Bb   C    D    Eb
I    II   III  IV   V    VI   bVII

Substitute the +IV and VII with IV and bVII respectively.

In conventional terms this is the Mixolydian scale.

Major Augmented Fifth Scale

F    G    A    Bb   C    C#   D    E
I    II   III  IV   V    +V   VI   VII

Substitute the +IV with IV, and add the +V.

We’ve added a chromatic passing note here! There are now eight notes, not seven in the scale. In conventional terms this is the Bebop Major scale.

The African-American Blues Scale

F     (G)   Ab    A     Bb    B     C     D     Eb    (E)
I     (II)  bIII  III   IV    +IV   V     VI    bVII  (VII)

OK… Here we add the bIII, the IV and the bVII. This gives us a scale with 10 notes!

The reason for bracketing the II and VII is not really explained but I take it to mean ‘optional’.

To me, dropping the optional notes makes it a bit more obvious that at the heart of this scale is the minor penatonic scale: I, bIII, IV, V and bVII.

The scale includes the +IV (or flattened fifth if you prefer) which is the ‘blue’ note, commonly used in the blues. Adding the III (the major third) to the minor penatonic scale is also a common blues idea and that note is present too.

In fact, this scale looks like the major and minor pentatonic scales superimposed on each other with the blue note (b5) and the VII (major seventh) chucked in for good measure. It’s a blues scale on steroids.

Wrapping up

In this post we’ve seen the Four Horizontal Scales of the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. When added to the Seven Principle Scales – which are called vertical scales and which we looked at previously – that covers all eleven of the scales in the concept.

At some point I’ll get to how these scales are used. However, in the next post we’ll look at the different characteristics of the vertical and horizontal scales.

Next (Part 5 – Differences Between Horizontal and Vertical Scales)

Back to Part 1 (index to posts in the series)


  1. Russel, G (2001). The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, 4th Edition, p.14
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