All Levels


iOS Apps by justinguitar

The JustinGuitar Store


Buying things through the links below cost you no more but contribute a little to the site! Thanks, J.


Justinguitar - Free Guitar Lessons

The Mixolydian Mode on Scales

The Mixolydian Mode is type of major scale (it has a natural 3rd) and is in fact only one note different to the major scale - it has a b7 scale degree. Some people even call it the Dominant scale because it fits dominant chords so perfectly!

Scale Equation

G Major
G Mixolydian
Modal Equation

Basic Observations
The b7 degree is the note that makes chords dominant, so this is the perfect scale for 7th chords! It is the only note different from the major scale, and it is the perfect scale to play over all 7,9,11 and 13 chords! It's used a lot in jazz, funk and blues and mixes very well with the minor pentatonic to get modern bluesey jazzy licks...

Key Tone = b7
The b7 is the note that gives this mode it's flavour - otherwise it's the same as the major scale!! It's amazing the difference that changing this one note makes to it's flavour.

Common Chords associated with the Mixolydian Mode:
Major type chords: Dominant chords - 7, 9, 11, 13 (not including altered dominants).

Ionian Mode

Parent Major Scale (PMS)

The PMS is found a Perfect 4th above the tonal centre (or down a Perfect 5th).

The easiest way to do this is on the neck. Put your first finger on the TONAL CENTRE on the 6th string and in the same fret on the next string is the root of the Parent Major Scale.

Doing things like the on the instrument is FAR easier than trying to do in theory in your head. So do it! Look for the easy path.


Note Choices
The Mixolydian mode has only one careful note, the same one as the Major Scale, the 4th. Sounds very funky in the right place (and awesome over 11th chords) but just be aware that it may clash with the 3rd, so it needs approaching with caution.

Like with all theory stuff, you MUST try it and hear it for yourself or it will never really make sense. It's ONLY your ears that can tell you when you can use a certain sound.



Ionian Mode

This diagram shows a Major Scale with the chord tones of the Mixolydian Dominant chord (in red). The red notes make up the TONAL CENTRE. The R showing the root of the TONAL CENTRE. The black notes make up the Mixolydian Mode.

The scale is of course, the Major Scale, Position 1 - which we use for all of learning about modes, so you can see clearly how the one scale gets used for each mode (it's a lot better way to learn them than having a different shape for each).

Put the scale with your first finger in the 7th fret (C Major, the root note is in the 8th fret of course) and play it over a G7 (or G major) chord (or other chords in the Common Chords shown above). Ideally you should record yourself a backing track, jam with a friend, or use the Mixolydian vamp (Track 9) on Really Useful Play Along Tracks.

Listen to how well the red notes sound over the chord and that the other notes link up the red notes and add flavours... make sure you try out resting on the b7 sound (the note F) and listen to how it sounds and the effect it has. It's contains some tension, but sounds cool too.

This listening is the key to getting modes in your head and understanding how to use them. Let your ears teach you how to use the sound of the mode.

This mode is awesome in blues, funk, rock improvisations and a great way to get started with it is in one chord vamps, like funk. I used to play Sex Machine (The James Brown Classic) in a funk band and it was like a 5 minutes session of which 4 minutes was playing around with how many different dominant chords I could fit into a cool groove, and the other minute was solo'ing with a mixolydian mode :) It's cool to find songs where you can apply theory things that you learn and make them into music.

If you can get it down over one chord the next thing is to take it over a blues. A blues in the key of A will mean you three chords, A7, D7 and E7 - and it's VERY important to realise that you have to change mode each time the chords change, so over A7 play A Mixolydian and over D7 play D Mixolydian etc.

It's worth checking out some good examples, and one of the best os to check out Miles Davis songs All Blues and Freddy Freeloader, from the Miles Davis album All Blues (a must have album imho). The chords stray a little from a straight ahead blues but there are GREAT examples of mixolydian lick playing by both Miles and Coltrane, well worth transcribing and a great lesson on how to use this mode!

It's also fun to mix it up with the minor Pentatonic scale, the masters of this are Robben Ford and Larry Carlton (the album Last Night by Larry Carlton and Talk To Your Daughter by Robben Ford are also must haves imho). Check out some of the licks and the way they blend the two into one cool sound is great fun and not as hard as you might think (if you have them both under your fingers first!


Lesson ID: SC-515