Mixolydian

The Mixolydian mode belongs to the V chord!

Mixolydian is the 5th mode and consequentially used over chord V.

You can also use the Mixolydian mode when chord II has been changed into a major chord. As a roman numeral that’s a IIx chord.

For a guitarist, the easiest way to build the Mixolydian mode is from the Major Pentatonic, like this:

Major Pentatonic: 1 2 3 5 6
Mixolydian: 4 b7

Let’s examine each shape and learn a bunch of exercises that can teach you how to play this mode.

First, go through all shapes one by one, then connect them as well as take them through the cycle of 4th.

As you already know the Major Pentatonic and only need to add two notes to each shape, this won’t take long.


The E shape

The E shaped Mixolydian mode is possibly the easiest shape to remember.

As you study the image below, aim to visualise the E shaped dom7 chord, arpeggio and Major Pentatonic inside Mixolydian.

Aesm


The A shape

The A shaped Mixolydian scale is not too difficult to remember.

Looks like this as a chordacus image. Again, ensure you can see the chord shape, the dom7 arpeggio and the Major Pentatonic.

Aasm


The D shape

The D shaped Mixolydian mode is easy to remember if you visualise the D7 chord shape.

The lower part of the scale might be harder and you might even find that you never use it when you solo. Most players tend to slide down to the E shape below, instead of using the notes below the root of the D shape.

Adsm

Here’s a video lesson demonstrating how to learn the shape, always add the new notes one by one so your hands learn to recognise the important intervals.


The G shape

To get the most out of practising it is a good idea to think of variations on the theme.

Here’s a list of ideas for practising modes:

1. Say the intervals as you practise the scale (this will speed up the learning process)
2. Sing intervals as you practise scale (this will connect the ear with the eye)
3. Vary the rhythm of the exercise (This will test your fingers)

As you study the G shape below, look for the dom7 arpeggio, the dom7 chord and the Major Pentatonic as well.

Agsm


The C shape

The C shaped Mixolydian mode is easy to remember as long as you visualise the C shaped chord and Major Pentatonic.

If you pair the Major Pentatonic with the dom7 arpeggio there is only one note missing to complete the mode, the 4th.

Acsm


Connect shapes

The video lesson below demonstrates what it would look like to connect all Mixolydian shapes in the key of A. When you can do this, transpose the concept to D, G etc.

Don’t get put off by the triplet rhythm in the video. Make sure you get all the shapes right by playing slowly at first, without a click. When you feel confident, put the click on and try the exercise using triplets.

In the advanced course, we expand on this exercise in several ways. For example, we change the rhythm you play it in.


Cycle of 4th

This exercise takes the Mixolydian mode and runs it through the cycle of 4th. Your ability to play this exercise should be a good indication of how well you know your Mixolydian scale shapes.

If you struggle with a specific shape, go back and practise that shape again.

The full pattern would read:

A Mixolydian – E shape
D Mixolydian – A shape
G Mixolydian – D shape
C Mixolydian – G shape
F Mixolydian – C shape

Start again a semitone up:

Bb Mixolydian – E shape
Eb Mixolydian – A shape
Ab Mixolydian – D shape
Db Mixolydian – G shape
Gb Mixolydian – C shape

Here’s a video demonstration.


Improvisation

The video below contains an improvisation in A using the Mixolydian mode.

Can you see the major pentatonic shapes? Can you see the 4th and b7th?

Compare the Mixolydian improvisation with other improvisations of the major modes.

Can you see the differences? Can you hear them?

  1. Ionian improvisation
  2. Lydian improvisation

For more about improvising in Mixolydian, turn to the advanced course.


Summary

Just like all other major modes, Mixolydian is built by adding two notes to the Major Pentatonic.

You must first do this in all five shapes, then connect the shapes.

When you can connect the shapes in any key, you have mastered them and don’t have to practise anymore.

For step by step instructions and musical examples from real songs, take the advanced course.

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