The Greek modes, or simply “the modes” are a recurring topic that comes up often when studying or discussing music theory. The modes are an amazing tool that any musician should understand and be able to use comfortably.
This KillerGuitarRigs guide is all about the Mixolydian mode, one of the most important out of all 7, due to its usefulness in improvisation, especially in a jazz context.
The Mixolydian mode is considered a “major mode”, due to its major third interval. It sounds very similar to the major scale/Ionian mode, but its minor seventh interval gives it a more adventurous, heroic or even dark. It is frequently used in blues, so it will sound different depending on the context and choice of notes.
You can hear this mode in songs such as “Ramblin’ Man” by The Allman Brothers, “Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles, and “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones.
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- Mixolydian Mode – Overview and Scale Formula
- Mixolydian Mode – Scale Notes in G Mixolydian, When to Play
- The Main Scale Patterns for the Mixolydian Mode – Fretboard Diagrams, Tabs and Notation
- Root on 6th String (3rd Fret) and 4th String (5th Fret)
- Root on 5th String (10th Fret) and 3rd String (12th Fret)
- Root on 4th String (5th Fret) and 2nd String (8th Fret)
- Root on 3rd String (Open String/12th Fret) and 1st String (3rd/15th Fret)
- G Mixolydian 2 Octave Pattern #1 (Root 6th String)
- G Mixolydian 2 Octave Pattern #2 (Root 5th String)
- 3 Notes per String Method Applied to G Mixolydian
- Final Thoughts about the Mixolydian Mode
Mixolydian Mode – Overview and Scale Formula
Mixolydian is the name of the 5th mode of the Major scale.
This means that we obtain this scale by reading the Major scale starting on its 5th degree (5th note) instead of starting on the root. Doing so changes the intervals that exist between the scale degrees, which gives us different scales depending on where we start reading.
Let’s use the C Major scale to visualize this more clearly. In this case, we need to start reading it from its 5th degree (G, which will give us the G Mixolydian scale).
The image above is the C Major scale, from C to C.
The scale below is G Mixolydian, which is obtained by reading the C Major scale starting on its 5th degree (G).
Because of this relationship, we say that C Major is G Mixolydian’s “parent scale”. They both have the same set of notes, but the root is different.
You should memorize that Mixolydian is built upon the 5th degree of the Major scale. This will allow you to easily understand what the parent scale of any Mixolydian scale is.
If you’re looking at a Mixolydian scale, you can go back 3.5 whole tones (7 semitones, or a perfect fifth) in order to find its corresponding parent scale.
The table below can help you figure this out quickly if you’re having doubts about a specific scale.
|Parent Scale (Major)||Mixolydian (V Degree)|
The Mixolydian mode can also be represented by its formula: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7”.
Representing it this way really makes it obvious – it is just like a normal major scale, but with a flat seven instead of a natural seven. This means that in order to get a Mixolydian kind of sound, you absolutely must play that note, or you’ll risk your listeners perceiving it as a regular major sound.
Throughout the rest of this guide, the G Mixolydian scale will be used as an example to teach you useful patterns and scale shapes. Since most people start studying the modes in C Major, you’ll probably encounter G Mixolydian early on.
In any case, don’t forget that all of the patterns and shapes shown in the next sections can be moved in order to play any other Mixolydian scale you might need in the future.
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Mixolydian Mode – Scale Notes in G Mixolydian, When to Play
The notes in the G Mixolydian scale are:
- G (Root)
- A (Major Second)
- B (Major Third)
- C (Perfect Fourth)
- D (Perfect Fifth)
- E (Major Sixth)
- F (Minor Seventh)
The Mixolydian mode is one of the 3 major modes, due to the major third interval between G and B. The other major modes are Ionian and Lydian.
The table below represents this scale – you can observe its notes, each interval, and whether it moves up a whole tone or a semitone.
|1Root||2Major Second||3Major Third||4Perfect Fourth||5Perfect Fifth||6Major Sixth||b7Minor Seventh|
This mode sounds particularly well when played over dominant 7th chords, which are frequently found in blues tunes, although they are in pretty much every other genre as well. Whenever you get to the “V” chord in a song, you can play that note’s Mixolydian scale.
For instance, if you’re playing in a song written in C Major, there will probably be a G7 or G7sus4 chord somewhere – that’s your best opportunity to play G Mixolydian.
However, it can also be played over secondary dominant chords, not just the V degree of a song.
The Main Scale Patterns for the Mixolydian Mode – Fretboard Diagrams, Tabs and Notation
This part of the guide will show you some of the most important scale patterns that you can use to apply the Mixolydian scale in G, when improvising or composing.
What matters most here are the patterns, not memorizing the notes themselves, as every shape can be moved around the neck. Focus on finding the root note quickly, as it will be your main reference point while playing.
Also, keep in mind that G Mixolydian and C Major use the same notes, although they have different root notes. If you’ve studied C Major on the guitar before, you will find G Mixolydian quite easy to memorize!
The following diagram represents every note that belongs to G Mixolydian, with the root note in red and the rest of the notes in black.
Memorizing a scale becomes much easier if you take a diagram like this and divide it into smaller pieces that are easier to interiorize.
Check the diagrams below to learn some of the main Mixolydian scale shapes you should know.
Root on 6th String (3rd Fret) and 4th String (5th Fret)
Root on 5th String (10th Fret) and 3rd String (12th Fret)
Root on 4th String (5th Fret) and 2nd String (8th Fret)
Root on 3rd String (Open String/12th Fret) and 1st String (3rd/15th Fret)
Lastly, let’s take a look at a couple of shapes that allow you to cover two full octaves of the G Mixolydian scale. Knowing these will come in handy to navigate the fretboard more easily.
It is also useful to know where every note of the scale is located, not just how to play the scale from root to root.
G Mixolydian 2 Octave Pattern #1 (Root 6th String)
G Mixolydian 2 Octave Pattern #2 (Root 5th String)
3 Notes per String Method Applied to G Mixolydian
There is a method that helps guitarists memorize scales by playing patterns of 3 notes on each string.
This is called “3 Notes per String” and it has 7 different scale shapes, one starting on each scale degree (root, second, third, and so on).
Memorizing these shapes can really improve the way you locate yourself on the fretboard, and your ability to move freely as you play.
The following diagrams represent the 7 different scale shapes for Mixolydian in the key of G. Remember that every pattern can be shifted in order to play other Mixolydian scales.
Final Thoughts about the Mixolydian Mode
Mixolydian is definitely one of the most important and frequently used modes out of all 7, alongside Ionian, Dorian and Aeolian.
You should memorize its scale shapes, know you to figure out parent scales quickly, and learn how to apply it in an improvisation or composition context.
Knowing the parent scale of a Mixolydian scale may allow you to locate yourself quickly on the neck, but you should also invest enough time into memorizing scale shapes that start on the correct root note.