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The Modes of the Major Scale - The Mixolydian Mode

Published January 17th, 2003. © Chris Juergensen/chrisjuergensen.com. All Rights Reserved.

This lesson has been revised and published in THE INFINITE GUITAR. Info >>>


The mixolydian mode - Up to now the only modes we've discussed have been either minor or major (dorian, phrygian and lydian). This lesson will deal with the mixolydian mode which is the only dominant mode of the major scale.

 
Once again, knowing the major scale is the key to everything. If you need to work on them, do it now.
Pattern 1
Pattern 2
Pattern 3
Pattern 4
Pattern 5

Review time. These are all the modes of the major scale. This lesson will deal with the fifth one, the mixolydian mode.
 
1. Ionian mode (the major scale)
2. Dorian mode
3. Phrygian mode
4. Lydian mode
5. Mixolydian mode
6. Aolian mode (the natural minor scale)
7. Locrian mode
 
For demonstrational purposes, let's take A mixolydian as an example. As you can see in the chart below, the A mixolydian mode is the same as the D major scale and works over a A7 chord.
 
Key
ionian
dorian
phrygian
lydian
mixolydian
aolian
locrian
C
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
G
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
D
D
E
F#
G
A
B
C#
A
A
B
C#
D
E
F#
G#
E
E
F#
G#
A
B
C#
D#
B
B
C#
D#
E
F#
G#
A#
F#
F#
G#
A#
B
C#
D#
E#
C#
C#
D#
E#
F#
G#
A#
B#
Cb
Cb
Db
Eb
Fb
Gb
Ab
Bb
Gb
Gb
Ab
Bb
Cb
Db
Eb
F
Db
Db
Eb
F
Gb
Ab
Bb
C
Ab
Ab
Bb
C
Db
Eb
F
G
Eb
Eb
F
G
Ab
Bb
C
D
Bb
Bb
C
D
Eb
F
G
A
F
F
G
A
Bb
C
D
E
maj7
min7
min7
maj7
7
min7
min7b5
 

Harmonizing The Mixolydian Mode
The mixolydian mode: If we compare it to the A major and A mixolydian scale below it we can see the difference. It looks a lot like the major scale with the exception of the minor 7th. There are many different dominant modes (from the melodic minor, harmonic minor, half/whole diminished and whole tone scales) but the mixolydian mode is the simplest harmonically. It contains no alterations.
 
A mixolydian scale
 
A major scale
 

Making chords from the mixolydian scale: If we start making chords from the scale, by stacking it by the root, third, and fifth we first get a major triad. If we add the seventh, we get a A7th chord. After that, all the unaltered extentions. The only thing you may want to be careful of: try not to include both the maj3rd and the natural 4th in the same chord.

Chords from the mixolydian mode: maj, 7, 9, 7sus4, 9sus4, 13, 13sus4
 

Playing the Mixolydian Mode
Just like the previous two modes, to figure out on the spot what major scale you need to be playing. Let's say you are jammin with your pals and the chart they give you says you have to play a solo over a A7 vamp. You need to figure out what major scale you need to be playing so you just remember your mixolydian scale mode rule which is: mixolydian mode = major scale up a perfect 4th. Remember how this works? If A is on the fifth fret, D is a perfect fourth from that note. All you have to do is play a D major scale over the A7 chord and you'll be groovin' away with the mixolydian mode. Just be sure to start on a chord tone.
 
Test time. Get out your pencil and paper and then check your answers down at the bottom.
 
Test
1. A mixolydian = ? major 6. Bb mixolydian = ? major
2. B mixolydian = ? major 7. D mixolydian = ? major
3. G mixolydian = ? major 8. E mixolydian = ? major
4. C mixolydian = ? major 9. F mixolydian = ? major
5. F# mixolydian = major 10. Eb mixolydian = ? major

Putting the mixolydian mode to good use
 
Ex 1: Let's play over the following G9 vamp. Using your mixolydian rule, play the major scale up a 4th which is C major. Be sure not to treat the scale like a C major scale though, treat it like a G mixolydian scal by starting on a chord tone (G, B, D or F). Any C major scale will work fine, but the pattern 2 major scale pattern works nicely as the lowest note is the mixolydian root (G in this case). I've notated the scale pattern below for you. The modal root is grey and the major scale root is black (the major scale root is given just as a reference, it isn't a strong note for the chord so I wouldn't suggest you start on it. A chord tone (G, B, D or F) will yield better results):
 
Ex 2: If feel confident with the sound of the mixolydian mode, try playing over a two-chord vamp using two different mixolydian scales. You may find it easier if you try to stay in one position at a time (G mixolydian = C major and Bb mixolydian = Eb major):

Playing examples in this video:
 
 
If you want to learn more about the mixolydian scale and its chords or about dominant chords in general, check out my previous lesson on dominant chords.
 
I'll end the my lessons on the modes of the major scale here with the mixolydian mode. The aolian mode is the same scale as the natural minor scale and the locrian mode is not worth learning, there are better choices for min7b5 chords.

 
Test Answers
1. Dmajor 6. Eb major
2. E major 7. G major
3. C major 8. A major
4. F major 9. Bb major
5. B major 10. Ab major

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