Mixolydian Mode Explained – A Complete Guide In Theory And Practice

THE MIXOLYDIAN MODE

The Mixolydian mode is the 5th mode of the major scale. It contains a lowered (or flat) 7. It is used frequently over dominant 7th chords. In this post we will explore the mixolydian mode and discuss how to construct it.

If you have read the post on guitar modes explained, you might already have a solid understanding of how modes work and may not need the extra theory that is presented in this post. If however, you are still trying to grasp the concept of modes, this post should serve as extra reinforcement of some key ideas and concepts. The mixolydian mode, just like the lyidan mode is a good practical mode to analyze, as there is only 1 note that differentiates it from the major scale.

A solid understanding of Major scales is the main requirement for understanding this mode or any other modes. If you are unfamiliar with major scales, please read the post on understanding major scales before reading on.

Parallel and Derivative

The key to understanding modes is in understanding how to construct them using both the parallel approach and the derivative approach. As I mentioned earlier, the mixolydian mode has the following properties:

  • It is the 5th mode of the Major scale
  • It contains a lowered 7

This is all the information we need in order to construct the mixolydian scale using both the parallel approach and the derivative approach. Let’s start with the derivative approach:

As we know, the mixolydian mode is the 5th mode of the major scale. This means that if we play any major scale and start on the 5th note, we are playing the mixolydian mode. Let’s do a few examples.

The C Major scale contains the following notes:

C – D – E – F – G – A -B

If we play the C major scale and start on G (the 5th note), we get the following mode:

G – A – B – C – D – E – F

We have just constructed the G mixolydian mode using the derivative approach. Let’s do another example:

The A major scale contains the following notes:

A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G#

Since E is the 5th note, we can determine that the mixolydian mode that is derived from the key of A major is E mixolydian:

E – F# – G# – A – B – C# – D

What if we wanted to play B flat mixolydian using the derivative approach? If we know that the mixolydian mode is the 5th mode of the major scale, we would need to know which Major scale contains B flat as the 5th note. Again, a good knowledge of major scales is essential! The answer is E flat major:

Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb – C – D

As you can see, B flat is the 5th note of the Eb major scale. Therefor, to play Bb mixolydian, we simply need to play the Eb major scale, but start on Bb:

Bb – C – D – Eb – F – G – Ab

We have just explored the mixolydian mode using the derivative approach. It is called the derivative approach because in each example, we ‘derived’ the mode from another major scale. Let’s now look at the parallel approach and do a few examples.

When we look at the parallel approach, we want to know what the properties of the mode are relative to the major scale. That might sound confusing, but all we really want to know is, what notes are raised or lowered. As I mentioned earlier, the mixolydian mode contains a lowered 7 (or flat 7, depending on terminology). This means that if you want to play D mixolydian for example, all you have to do (using the parallel approach) is play the D major scale and then lower the 7th note. Let’s explore that further:

D major has the following notes:

D – E – F# – G – A – B – C#

C# is the 7th note of the D major scale. As I mentioned, to turn D major into D mixolydian, we simply have to ‘lower’ the 7th note by 1 semitone. This would require playing a C natural instead of C sharp:

D – E – F# – G – A – B – C

That’s it! I have just constructed D mixolydian using the parallel approach. As I mentioned earlier, the mixolydian mode is a nice, simple mode to explore because it contains only 1 alteration (lowered 7). Other modes, such as the phrygian mode, contains a number of alterations, which can make things seem difficult.

Let’s do another example. Suppose we want to play F# mixolydian. All we need to do is play an F sharp major scale and then lower the 7th note by a semitone. F# major contains the following notes:

F# – G# – A# – B – C# – D# – E#

E# is the 7th note. If we ‘flatten’ E#, it becomes E. Therefor F# mixolydian looks like this:

F# – G# – A# – B – C# – D# – E

That’s all there is to it! Finally, it is important to understand the two approaches and know that they actually produce the same results. To drive home this point, let’s look at a few more examples that use both the parallel approach and the derivative approach to produce the same results.

Suppose we want to play C mixolydian. Let’s start with the parallel approach. We will play the C major scale and then lower the 7th note by a semitone. C major contains the following notes:

C – D – E – F – G – A – B

If we lower the 7th note (B becomes Bb), we get the following

C – D – E – F – G – A – Bb

Now let’s construct the same mode using the derivative approach. If the mixolydian mode is the 5th mode of the major scale, we need to know which major scale produces the note C as its 5th. This is, of course F major:

F – G – A – Bb – C – D – E

Therefor, using the derivative approach, we can achieve the C mixolydian mode by playing F major and starting on C (the 5th note):

C – D – E – F – G – A – Bb

As you can see, both approaches have produced the same result. Let’s do one more example. Suppose we want to play F mixolydian. Let’s use the derivative approach first this time. F is the 5th note of the Bb major scale:

Bb – C – D – Eb – F – G – A

If we play the Bb major scale and start on F, we will get F mixolydian:

F – G – A – Bb – C – D – Eb

Using the parallel approach, all we need to do is play the F major scale and lower the 7th note by a semitone. F major looks like this:

F – G – A – Bb – C – D – E

If we lower the 7th note from E to Eb, we get the following:

F – G – A – Bb – C – D – Eb

Again, both approaches have produced the exact same results.

We won’t go into too much detail in this post about the sound of the mixolydian scale or its practical applications. What is important is that you understand how it is constructed and that you start practicing the mixolydian mode in as many different keys and positions as possible.

Here is a list of the Mixolydian modes in every key:

A Flat Mixolydian
A Mixolydian

A Sharp Mixolydian
B Flat Mixolydian
B Mixolydian
B Sharp Mixlydian
C Flat Mixolydian

C Mixolydian
C Sharp Mixolydian

D Flat Mixolydian

D Mixolydian
D Sharp Mixolydian
E Flat Mixolydian

E Mixolydian
E Sharp Mixolydian
F Flat Mixolydian (impractical)

F Mixolydian
F Sharp Mixolydian
Gb Mixolydian

G Mixolydian
G Sharp Mixolydian


 

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About Genaaron Diamente

I play guitar. I teach guitar. I like making music. I'm trying to build this site up to be a valuable resource for guitar students and teachers.

Comments

  1. raul zapata says:

    Hi Genaaron.

    I´ve seen the Modes lesson at a glance and I can´t see any audio examples of them. I dowloaded the PDF fo this lesson but I couldn´t see any MP3 file neither.
    I´d like to have a list of tunes (at least one) for each of these Modes.

    Warm regards and thanks a lot.

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