If you have had any trouble in the past with your modes or scales, hopefully this article will give you the final insight necessary. For those who do not like modes, the good news is that the mixolydian is probably the best to start on, as it has so many applications. And there are many notable songs that use mixolydian scales on the guitar, this will also help cement this mode in your skillset.
What is the mixolydian scale?
Every scale imparts a feeling on the song it is played in, and certain scales or modes provide quick ways to access these feelings.
The first scale most of us learn is the basic C Major or Ionian scale. Ionian is the mode name of the C major Scale.
C D E F G A B C
Depending on where we start on that scale will determine our mode as seen in this chart here.
- Ionian C
- Dorian D
- Phrygian E
- Lydian F
- Mixolydian G
- Aeolian A
- Locrian B
In western music the most important note is the tonic or root note, after that the 5th scale degree is the next on the list of magnitude. The 5th degree is called the dominant and our ears love that note and the interval it creates. When we start our scale on the dominant that is called mixolydian mode or the mixolydian scale.
If you wanted to write an upbeat and bluesy number, you might want to choose this mixolydian scale. And the reason is because it has a b7. Just like the rhythm of rock is made up of 1/8 notes, the tone comes from flat sevenths!
The Mixolydian Scale
Here are the tabs to play G mixolydian on your guitar (formula 1-2-3-4-5-6-b7);
G Mixolydian Scale Formula:
G Mixolydian Scale Notes:
C Mixolydian Scale Notes:
What do we mean by a b7? If you look at the G mixolydian scale you will see it has the same notes as the C major or Ionian scale, but now starting on the G we have a new tonic. And with G there is usually an F#, not an F like here.
That is another way to see the mixolydian, just as a major scale with a flattened seventh, that is often how novices happen upon the scale. Major scales are usually easy to play and giving it a flat 7 just sounds cool! If you simply riff on that scale above with some added syncopation, it will quickly be obvious why it is so great for rock and blues.
You will also hear the b7 in the aeolian and Dorian mode, but they are in minor scales not major like the mixolydian.
That will be the big giveaway for what to listen for.
Mixolydian Guitar Scale Patterns
Here are some patterns to play this scale on different areas of the fretboard. Practice them and then try to connect the shapes together by moving horizontally on the neck.
For more guitar scale diagrams, check my complete ebook Scales Over Chords.
Mixolydian scale pattern with root on the 3rd string
Find more scale diagrams across all the fretboard in the ebook Scales Over Chords | Learn How To Play The Right Scales Over Any Chord
Mixolydian scale pattern with root on the 4th string
Mixolydian scale pattern with root on the 5th string
Mixolydian scale pattern with root on the 6th string
Mixolydian Scale Notes in all Keys
The following table shows you the notes in the Mixolydian scale for all the keys:
Common chords and progressions used in the mixolydian mode.
Triad Chords from the Mixolydian Scale
|C maj||D min||E dim||F maj||G min||A min||Bb maj|
Seventh Chords from the Mixolydian Scale
|C 7||D m7||E m7/b5||F maj7||G m7||A m7||Bb maj7|
Because the mixolydian is so similar to a major scale we will automatically be dealing with some familiar chords. Anyway, the chords built on the mixolydian scale are (we use the key of C as an example, and the Roman Numbers Notation to generalize the concepts):
The F that fits with C major will normally not fit in G major, but it is right at home in the mixolydian.
While the bVII may be important, so is the iimin7 and the v. Yes, the V in mixolydian progressions is often used as a minor v.
This is because when it is a minor it shares that same b7 note. For example, a G mixolydian chord progression would use C-F-Dm because the Dm is made of the notes D, F, and A. Once again, the F being important as opposed to F#
You can always look to the major parent scale to get an idea of what will work. That F major now gives a bluesy sound with the G major and throwing it in with the IV will give us one of the most common mixolydian progressions of I-bViI-IV.
Songs that take advantage of the minor v in this mixolydian mode are "Louie, Louie", "Learn to Fly", and "Cinnamon Girl". The minor v is a great change to make in a progression, it can sometimes trick the listener into thinking they are hearing a major, but with tension. Basically, most chords that have the b7 note in them are going to fit for a potential progression.
A great method to advance your mode studies is to reverse engineer songs that you know are in mixolydian. Seeing certain chord progressions like the I-IV-bVII will often give you a clue. While you may get to the point where you can recognize the notes of the mode in sheet music, in reality it has such a distinct sound that you will soon just hear it.
More Notable Examples of Mixolyidian Mode
There are so many examples of mixolydian that we could spend all day listing them. The Grateful Dead uses that mode often with "Fire on the Mountain" as one of the more popular examples.
One of the best places to start is The Beatles, they were quite fond of this mode without even knowing what they were doing. They just copied other rock artists using that bVII! And thankfully they did as that brought us "Hey Jude", "Baby You’re a Rich Man", and "Norwegian Wood".
We also have "Castles Made of Sand", "Fortunate Son", "Express Yourself", "Born This Way", "I Think We're Alone Now", "Lay Lady Lay", "Ramblin Man", and even the theme from Star Trek.
There are just so many examples you can go now and look on your own. Just ask Reddit or Facebook music and guitar groups about the mixolydian and you will see a plethora!
By simply remembering your major scale and that b7 note you will be able to play and create lots of blues and rock music.
If you notice it often has that mix of uplifting, but still a little down vibe. It gives the listener the best of both worlds! So, keep that mixolydian scale and chords handy, as you will find them useful for the rest of your life when playing guitar!
That's all for today! Enjoy your Mixolydian runs and subscribe here to stay updated!