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The Mixolydian Mode:




The topic of modes is often times one of the most confusing concepts of scale use. Be sure to begin with a solid understanding of the basic major and minor scales before starting with the more complex task of modal study.

Our dominant mode of the major scale is MIXOLYDIAN. The mixolydian mode is built off of the 5th degree (or step) of the major scale. Since the 5th degree in the harmony of the major scale is a dominant 7th chord, or a major triad, the color of the Mixolydian mode is that of major, or of Dominant.

To begin let's look at the scale degrees of a major scale...

MAJOR SCALE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
The steps of the major are all neutral and therefore have no alterations of any tones. Now let's look at the Mixolydian scale mode...

MIXOLYDIAN: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 8
As you can see, the Mixolydian mode has a lowered 7th degree. This degree when combined with the scales major 3rd step produces a color that is Dominant.

In order to get a handle on using Mixolydian mode to create solo's, we will first look at how the modes harmony can be used to create chord progressions suitable for performing the scale over top. To do this we need to not only understand something about harmony in major keys, but we also need to understand harmony in relationship to the Mixolydian mode. Look over the chart below...



Now that the harmony is clear in the major key as triad and seventh chords, the next step is to view the harmony from the major scales 5th degree. Remember this is the degree which creates the Mixolydian mode. Look at the chart below...

mixo mode harmony

The harmony follows the same degree formula as our parent major scale harmony, however the stepwise root relationship changes. Unique colorful steps can be found on the one chord and on the five chord of Mixolydian's harmony.

Next, we will analyze a chord progression that will bring out the unique sound of Mixolydian. Look at the chord progression below...



Download the C Mixolydian
chord progression jam track




           Part 2 - Creating Modal Progressions with a Bass Drone...


One of the problems I see happen to students when they begin entering into the world of practicing modes is they wander back to phrasing with the parent major scale. In our example this would be the F Major scale. Of course, we don't want this to happen since the goal is to highly develop the sounds of Mixolydian.

To tighten things up and really get down to the sound of the Mixolydian, (and get your ear more locked in to the root of C in the bass), we will take our chord progression from Part One and create a modal progression from those very same chord changes.

This modal progression will utilize all of the same chords found in Part One's progression, however the C will be droning consistantly in the bass. This will allow your ear to be locked into the sound of the C root (and hopefully eliminate the chance of the original F Major scale's sound from creeping in). After all, our goal is to develop the use of the Mixolydian scale.


Practice performing over the chord changes using C Mixolydian. The droning bass pitch of C will help you to stay locked into the sound of phrasing with the Mixolydian.


If you still notice yourself wandering over to the old parent major scale of F Major, then... take a break. STOP what you are doing and work harder at hearing the Dominant chord tones from the C7 arpeggio.

Developing melodic examples away from the chord progression is also very helpful. Work toward melody as a primary goal. Licks and runs are great, however strong melodic phrasing is what really counts. Melody catches the listeners ear and draws them in. The flashy licks are cool attention getters, however too much of it will probably turn off a majority of those listeners who do not play guitar.

Download the C Mixolydian
chord progression jam track with
the C Bass-Drone


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           Part 3 & 4 - Covering Non-Diatonic Dominant Chords...


So far our progressions have worked in a diatonic manner, (inside the primary key). But, there are other ways that the Mixolydian mode can be applied. A popular concept in music which uses Dominant Seventh chords to pull another diatonic chord into resolution with more anticipation is called Secondary Dominats.

Just as the name implies, the secondary dominant is another dominant chord which appears aside from the primary dominant. We already know that the primary dominant chord is found on the major scales 5th degree of it's harmony. Secondary dominants can occur on any other scale step of the key. Look at the diatonic progression below...


If we replace the 3rd degree chord (C#mi) with a F#7 secondary dominant (which will function to pull the Bmi chord in with more dramatic influence) we would find ourselves with a progression like this...



The progression, for the most part, is in the key of A Major. However, the F#7 chord is non-diatonic to the key center. To cover it's appearance we can use the F# Mixolydian scale. This type of use is more challenging to develop since it involves a shift back and forth between scales. Do your best to always strive for melody, and keep a watchful eye out for notes that work well to color the chords appearance, (normally they will be notes not found in the overall key center).

Download the A Major chord progression
jam track with the F#7 Secondary
Dominant chord


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