Using the Mixolydian Mode
What is the Mixolydian Mode? Why is it important? When can you use it? What songs are in the mixolydian mode? I’ll unravel the modal mystery for you today.
- What is a Mixolydian Mode
- Mixolydian Mode history and evolution
- When can you use a Mixolydian Mode
- What songs use a Mixolydian Mode
- Mixolydian Videos
What is the Mixolydian Mode?
Let’s start with something you’re probably more familiar with-the MAJOR scale. Suppose we have a G major scale as follows:
G A B C D E F#
Numerically speaking these notes are just 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
To derive the Mixolydian Mode from the Major Scale All you do is flatten the SEVENTH note of a major scale.
Yes, There is only one note that gets changed.
So now, in number terms you get this:
1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
G A B C D E F
If you think about the relationship between Major and Mixolydian, you’ll never forget it. Just take the scale fingerings you already know and change them by that one note.
At this point, you might be saying, well that is the exact same notes as the C major scale, you’re confusing me pal. Well, here is the thing. A mode gets it’s character from the bass or what we call the TONIC note. In G mixolydian, the tonic is a G, that is the note you hear emphasized and the most often. It is the G that is a place of resolution. In C major, the C note is the place of resolution.
Try it yourself. Play this G mixolydian starting and ending on a G note. Play your C major scale, starting and ending on a C note. Your ear will tell you they SOUND different.
It is even more apparent if you had a bass player playing behind you. Whether they’re playing a G or C in the bass will determine the character of your Mode.
Mixolydian Mode History and Evolution
In the old Renaissance Music days, you couldn’t run up and down the mode, hitting whatever notes you wanted, whenever you like. There were rules you had to adhere to. If you were descending, you were permitted to maybe hit a certain note; whereas, if you were ascending, you had to go to another note next. This seems extremely rigid to our way of thinking now, but they had their reasons for this stuff, largely counterpoint.
Even today with less rules, we still want CHORD TONES to inform your note choices, rather than just randomly playing notes. For example, if you are on a G Chord (Aiming for the G-B-D notes are going to be the best bets for creating nice melodies). Not saying you can’t play the other notes, but you need to know where these target notes are, and use them effectively.
Finally, the system of consonant and dissonant is a bit unlike the major scale. Meaning that even though you should still let Chord Tones inform your playing, you can get away with landing on non-chord tones more than in a Major Key setting.
The mixolydian mode does predate the major scale. At one time, it was used more in the music of it’s day than our common major scale.
Here is some Renaissance Music if you’d like to get a feel for what things might have sounded like back then:
When Can you Use Mixolydian
- Over Modal Songs
- Over the V chord in MAJOR keys. For example, a G7 chord going to C major
- Over the II chord in MAJOR keys; Over a A major or A7 in the key of G
- Over a I7 chord (G-G7-C)
- To impart a Blues flavor
If a song is in the mode of G mixolydian, naturally you’ll be able to run up and down the G mixolydian mode. One way I use them is to think in short fragments of notes, creating SEQUENCES. For example:
If you play B-A-G, and you move that down a step in the scale, you get A-G-F. Next, if you move it down again, you get G-F-E.
A sequence can turn into a THEME. Play these notes and you’ll here how it is coherent and connected
V to I
Most songs (regardless of the genre) have a V to I chord progression. You can use Mixolydian over V chords. For example G7 going to a C Major. Use G mixolydian to C major. In Jazz, they love to play a DESCENDING Mixolydian mode going into the I chord.
Over the II chord in major keys. For example, over an A major (or A7) in the key of G. Use A mixolydian
Over the I7 chord. For example I-I7-IV. Use G mixolydian to pull the ear into the C major chord.
To impart a blues flavor. A lot of blues artists use the mixolydian mode. The flatted seventh can give a song a slight blues flavor without going overboard. Not always appropriate, use your taste and judgement.
What songs are in Mixolydian
- Big Mon
- Salt Creek
- Old Joe Clark
- Sugar Foot Rag
- June Apple
- Red Haired Boy
- Wheel Hoss
- Fire on the Mountain-Grateful Dead
- On Broadway-George Benson
- Seven Bridges Road-Eagles
- Dark Star-Grateful Dead
- Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N’ Roses has mixolydian flavor
Youtube Videos on Mixolydian Mode
The first video presents the Mixolydian fingerings (there are COUNTLESS possibilities here), so, this is just a sampling of the ones I use the most.
The 2nd video covers the how and where to use the Mode.
The TAB PDF’s to these two videos are available for my Patreon members at:
Or on my site products page
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