Mixolydian is a
commonly used mode in many styles of music. Like other modes,
Mixolydian offers unique harmonic and melodic qualities that you can
learn to both recognise in existing music and apply to your own music.
as modes and their function are generally not easily understood (nor
very well explained!), many guitarists end up missing out on the
creative options they offer you as a musician.
I hope my
explanation in the video below, along with the ear training audio on
this page, will prove a "eureka" moment for you in terms of finally
unravelling the mystery of Mixolydian!
Basic Mixolydian Theory
Let's first get familiar with the
blocks that give Mixolydian its unique sound.
Mixolydian can be seen as just another type of major
scale (a scale that includes the intervals 1 3
5), with its defining interval/tone being the minor 7th (b7).
Many musicians associate that flat 7th with a "country" or "bluesy"
feel which gives Mixolydian, as a scale, its distinctive flavour. It's
that differs Mixolydian from the natural major scale (Ionian), which
uses a major
Listen to the clip below where I play through the sequence starting on 1,
stopping to emphasize that minor 7th tone. Hearing it in relation to
the other tones like this, especially the 1,
is a good way to internalize Mixolydian.
Mixolydian root has a relative major scale root meaning, if you already
know the major scale, all you need to do to is learn the corresponding
root positions as shown in the table below. For example, if you wanted
to play G
Mixolydian, you could simply play it's parent scale, C
major (as they both contain the same seven notes).
This way, you only have to spend time learning one scale (the major
scale) across the entire fretboard on different roots and you'll
automatically know its
seven modes starting from their related major scale degrees (e.g. 5th mode
root is the major scale's 5th
Playing Mixolydian Over Chords
To begin with, have a play around with Mixolydian over the A
chord track below (using the patterns above to help - position the 1
of the pattern on A
and go from there).
Try targeting (lead up to, emphasise) different
the scale, such as the major 3rd (3), and minor 7th (b7).
These are the "colour tones" of the scale. You can also harmonize your scale movements by playing two notes at a time.
Just explore the scale freely and intuitively, listen closely
and get an ear for its sound.
Next, try moving root positions. Mixolydian works over pretty much any
occurrence of a dominant 7th chord (e.g. G7). So let's say we had two
played in succession. You could play Mixolydian over the first chord
then move your pattern to the root of the second dom7 chord.
Mixolydian (click tab to hear example)
As mentioned in the video, another example of using Mixolydian this way
is over a major key blues progression...
Major 12 Bar Blues Backing
Track (thanks to Phil Lewis for this free track).
So, in short, Mixolydian will work over pretty much any instance of a dominant 7th
Mixolydian Chord Progressions
Mixolydian also has a harmonic modal function, which basically means we can
harmonize the scale to create a sequence of related chords. We might
these "Mixolydian chord progressions".
Although songwriters don't typically set out to write modal music (as
this would be creatively limiting), modal sequences
often occur naturally in music simply because they sound good and
melody/harmony can be easily extracted from them. Mixolydian has a
attraction, because of its bluesy, rock 'n' roll feel.
The "center" of any Mixolydian based progression can be identified as
chord in major scale harmony (hence, 5th mode). This is because if we
build a chord on the major scale's 5th degree, we get a major triad
with a minor 7th (a dominant 7th chord). The V
(1) to represent this new key center.
As always, the best way to understand modal music is to hear it! Here
common Mixolydian progressions with backing tracks for you to
bVII (relative to major scale: V - IV)
the most common Mixolydian movement, and a strong clue the music is in
that mode. It involves moving down one whole step from Mixolydian's
major tonic to Mixolydian's 7th degree major chord, and then typically
back again. Two major chords one whole step apart, in other words, with
the higher of the two being Mixolydian's 1