What Is The Mixolydian Mode? (With Examples)

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  • Learn the precise definition of Mixolydian mode
  • Listen to examples of the Mixolydian mode in action
  • Learn how to use the Mixolydian mode effectively in your music.

The Mixolydian mode is one of the seven modes of the major scale (sometimes called Church modes), and it’s a great alternative to standard major and minor scales.

You have probably seen it mentioned, and no doubt heard it (perhaps unknowingly) in a song or piece of classical music.

To know how to use it in your music, you do need some technical knowledge, mainly about how modes work and how to use them over different chords and harmonic progressions.

In this article, you will learn how to recognize and use the Mixolydian mode in your music.

Plus, we’ll listen to it in several examples, and finish off with an FAQ about the Mixolydian mode.

What Is The Mixolydian Mode?

As we said before, Mixolydian is the common name for the fifth of the eight church modes, the authentic mode on G.

If you want to hear the Mixolydian mode for yourself, just play all the white keys between G and the next G an octave above.

This means that G Mixolydian uses the following notes: G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Of course, a Mixolydian scale can start on any note just like other scales.

You might also be familiar with using tones and semitones to construct a scale (or whole and half tones).

With this in mind, the pattern here is:

Root, tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone, tone.

In terms of scale degrees, the pattern is:

Root, Major second, Major third, Perfect fourth, Perfect fifth, Major sixth, Minor seventh.

How To Use The Mixolydian Mode?

The Mixolydian mode is used in the improvisation and construction of melodies over the fifth-degree chord of the major key.

For example, in the case of the key of C major, the fifth-degree chord, G7, would be used with the Mixolydian mode (naturally, without adding accidentals).

Beyond this, it is important to note that it can be used in any key and that it is excellent practice to build this model on any major scale.

So practice playing the Mixolydian scales of D, E, F, or even something a bit more challenging, such as Eb, Bb, or Ab.

When performing internal cadences, it is especially useful, since by descending the seventh note one semitone, any major perfect chord becomes a dominant seventh chord, which can resolve directly to a fourth degree above (e.g. D Major, D7-Mixolydian, G).

The Mixolydian Mode in the Progression II-7 V7

One of the most common progressions, mainly in jazz, is the minor second degree with 7, and the dominant seventh fifth degree.

In this case, the Mixolydian mode is used on the dominant chords. The Mixolydian mode contains the signature flatted seventh of the dominant seventh chord.

This means that the Mixolydian mode based on the fifth scale degree of a given key area can be used to play over the dominant chord of that key area.

The Mixolydian Mode in Action: Some Examples

It is very common in Blues, where the harmonic structure is usually very simple.

Generally, I IV, and V, use the Mixolydian for all three chords, and not only for the fifth.

That is to say, the seventh notes of the first and fourth degree are descended, playing as follows: C7 (C E G Bb), F7 (F A C Eb), and G7 (G B D F).

In this song by the legendary Blues guitarist B.B. King, the Mixolydian mode is used in all the chords of the base scale.

In the very famous song Bitter Sweet Symphony, by the British rock band The Verve, the melody is built on a Mixolydian E, since instead of using D# (which would correspond to the scale of E major), it uses D natural.

This note is descended one semitone from the original key.

Another well-known song, Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynrd, also uses the Mixolydian mode, in the key of D.

Within the world of classical music, the Russian composer Stravinsky transcended the inspiration of folk models by condensing, repeating, or superimposing modals cells often derived from Russian folk sources.

This is notable in Rite of Spring (1913) or Les Noces (1917).

In several cases, the Mixolydian mode is present, as it was used in these folk songs.

Another decisive composer of the 20th century, the Hungarian Bela Bartók, also used similar procedures.

The melodic mode articulated in the finale of the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937) is a composite of the Lydian and Mixolydian modes (one used by Fauré, Debussy and Ravel).

This creates contrast with modal chromaticism because of its relationship to the open overtone series based on C.


What Number Mode is Mixolydian?

The Mixolydian is considered the fifth mode since in the scale of C major, which has no accidentals, it is naturally built on the fifth degree, i.e. G. Thus, in any major key, the Mixolydian mode will be built on the fifth degree.

What is C Mixolydian?

Following the pattern described above, the Mixolydian scale of C is made up of the following notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C. Unlike C major, which has no accidentals, here an accidental is added: Bb.

Is Mixolydian Major or Minor?

The Mixolydian mode is Major. This is defined by the distance between the tonic and the third note, which is always two tones in the case of a major scale.

A C Mixolydian scale still has a natural E as its third degree, just like a C major scale.

But a C Mixolydian scale is distinct from a C Major scale despite their similarities.