The Mixolydian Mode

The next mode we will discuss is the Mixolydian mode that comes after Lydian mode. Mixolydian is an all-rounder mode that has been used in very uplifting solos to many 70’s rock songs. You will see examples of Mixolydian mode at the end of this lesson but as a go forward, it has been used in most of the music you have heard. Although it is an all-rounder scale but it doesn’t mean that it’s an easy mode. It is somehow difficult to produce a typical Mixolydian sound because of its diversity. The following interval structure explains a Mixolydian mode and can be used to construct it using any key;

R 2 3 4 5 6 b7 8

By now you must have mastered the art of constructing modes from a given interval structure, if not, focus on learning this technique because if you learn it you will be able to apply this on numerous keys and enjoy a huge variety of musical flavors.  The difference in Mixolydian as compared to the major scale is the flat 7th note. This note adds most of the color to this mode and if used wisely in combination to other notes, can produce great results. The Mixolydian mode from C major scale is G Mixolydian and the following image shows Mixolydian on third fret;


As we know that every mode has unique emotional characteristics in it and there are one or two notes which contribute heavily in producing those emotions, we shall now learn what characteristics Mixolydian holds. Mixolydian has a very funky or folky, happy and uplifting sound. It has a cool sound and is not as dry as Ionian, it also provides a jumpy uplifting characteristics when used that way. You will be amazed at the end of this lesson when you see the examples in which Mixolydian has been used. In nutshell you can use Mixolydian to compose jumpy and up-beat tracks while adding flavors of happiness.

Relevant Chords of Mixolydian

Chords are used to produce rhythms so that you can solo over that using mode of your choice. Mixolydian holds the ability to be used with extreme versatility and it is important which chords you choose in the rhythm section for Mixolydian because the flavor it produces will be largely dependent upon the chord structure being used. The major 3rd and major 7th notes add the maximum flavor into Mixolydian therefore it is better to use chords with these notes. In addition to the root chord, you can use the following chords to produce a typical Mixolydian sound;

  • III maj 7th
  • V min 7th
  • bVII maj 7th

It is important to know that you can experiment with adding one or two from the above chords in addition to root chord and see the magic. Many famous guitar players don’t use all the relevant chords at one but they focus on creating flavor with one or two chords initially and when they want to shift the flavor to an upper level, they incorporate other chords. This is a wise technique to play with one or two chords initially and then moving forward. Another important thing worth knowing here is that when you are playing solos or improvising over a backing track, focus on the notes you use. Try to create an opening lick rich in flavor of a particular mode then add further notes and techniques to your solo to get the maximum out of the mode.

Famous Compositions in Mixolydian

As we mentioned earlier that you will be amazed to see the examples of Mixolydian, chances are that many of your favorite guitar instrumentals are in Mixolydian. Mixolydian has been used successfully by Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, John Petrucci and many others. Following are some very famous instrumentals in Mixolydian;

  • John Petrucci – Glasgow Kiss
  • Joe Satriani – Summer Song
  • Eric Johnson – Cliffs of Dover

The above instrumentals contain a repertoire of techniques to be used by solo guitarists. You are advised to learn at-least one of these and notice a significant shift in your techniques. Remember, whenever you cover an instrumental, focus on which chords are being used and how the guitarist uses scales/modes over those chords to learn practical implications of modes.

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Ahmed is a regular contributor to GuitarChords 247 and brings you in-depth guitar lessons and music theory.
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