The Mixolydian guitar mode is popular among jazz and blues players, but it can also be found in other genres such as rock, folk, classical, country, and pop.
Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd and LA Woman by the Doors are two songs that use the Mixolydian mode.
This lesson will teach you how to play the Mixolydian mode on the guitar using five three-note-per-string scale patterns that span the entire fretboard.
You will be given a guitar lick for each scale pattern. This will allow you to get a better sense of the flavor of this mode. Every lick will be made up entirely of notes from the scale pattern you just learned.
You will be given a short guitar solo in the Mixolydian mode at the end of the lesson. The solo, unlike the licks, uses notes from all over the fretboard and is not tied to any specific scale pattern.
If you’re unfamiliar with how modes work, I recommend going through this lesson on guitar modes to understand how the Mixolydian mode, which we’ll go over in depth in this lesson, fits into the bigger picture.
Mixolydian mode theory
Mixolydian is the fifth mode of the major scale.
The scale of G major serves as the parent scale in this series of guitar modes lessons.
Since the G major (Ionian) scale is composed of the notes G A B C D E and F#, the Mixolydian mode derived from the scale is D Mixolydian, which is composed of the same notes but in a different order: D E F# G, A, B, and C.
This Mixolydian mode contains the same notes as the same-named major scale, but with a lower 7th degree (C instead of C#).
Listen to one octave of the D major scale, and one octave of the D Mixolydian scale to hear the difference this makes to the sound.
Mixolydian mode guitar scale patterns and licks
This section will go over the five three-note-per-string scale patterns that cover the D Mixolydian mode across the entire guitar fretboard, as well as guitar licks that incorporate notes from each pattern.
Begin this pattern by placing your small finger on the fifth fret of the A string.
Before I give you a D Mixolydian guitar lick, let me explain what makes licks, riffs, and solos sound Mixolydian in the first place.
After all, we’re using the same notes as in G major, so why does the lick sound in D Mixolydian and not G major?
The answer is that if we were improvising in G major, the most important notes, typically the long notes at the end of each phrase would be the G major triad notes: G, B, and D.
However, because we’re in D Mixolydian, the emphasized notes will be the D major triad notes: D, F#, and A.
It’s also important to use the lowered seventh degree of the scale, C in our case, to get the Mixolydian sound.
If you never use this characteristic note, your licks and solos could have been written using the D major scale (which has C# instead of C) because the notes you actually play are the same.
(Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this; your music will still sound great. It just wouldn’t have the sound flavor of the Mixolydian mode if that’s what you’re after).
Always keep these two things in mind when playing these guitar licks:
1. Long notes or those with a significant role, such as those at the end of a phrase, are almost always D, F#, and A.
2. The note C, the second degree of the scale, appears at least once in each lick.
Begin this pattern by placing your index finger on the fifth fret of the A string.
The characteristic Mixolydian note C is used in the first two bars of the next lick, which ends on the root note D.
Begin by placing your small finger on the tenth fret of the low E string.
The following lick uses string skipping and more rhythmic variety. At the end of the lick, the characteristic note C slides into the root note D.
Begin this pattern by placing your index finger on the tenth fret of the low E string.
The next lick uses more rhythmic variety and ends with the characteristic note C resolving into the root note.
Begin this pattern by playing your index finger on the twelfth fret of the D string.
Note: If you want to play the Mixolydian mode further up the fretboard, repeat pattern 1 with your small finger on the 17th fret of the A string.
The last lick using the Mixolydian mode is slow and melodic.
Mixolydian guitar solo
Unlike the guitar licks, this solo in the Mixolydian mode is not restricted to a scale pattern and makes use of a wider area of the guitar fretboard.
Conclusion: Where to go from here
The horizontal aspect of the Mixolydian mode on the guitar fretboard, i.e. the melody, was covered in this lesson.
A more in-depth examination of the Mixolydian mode would also consider the vertical aspect, or harmony.
Harmony is simply the chords that support the melodies, as well as the progressions formed from these chords.
Harmonizing melodies using the modes can become quite complex, so I recommend that you practice creating melodies first before delving deeper into its study.
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