Mad About Modes - Part III: Mixolydian Continued

Let's try to finish off the Mixolydian mode. Let's talk about some more progressions and what else you can do with it before we move onto other modes.

What Do You Actually Need?

To actually represent a mode, you don't need a whole lot of information. Consider the formula for Mixolydian. It's just a major scale with a b7th. That means that 6 of of the 7 notes are 100% identical to a major scale. So, while you can use any note in the Mixolydian scale, if you want to highlight the fact that Mixolydian is different, you'd focus on the b7th. That's exactly what we're going to do.

Remember from last lesson where I gave you a concrete example of a D Mixolydian progression? It was D-C-G. The G chord is really just along for the ride, but it's not really a Mixolydian chord—you also find a G major chord in the key of D major. So, what makes a good Mixolydian progression? Well, you need to have the note. Which note? The note. Each mode has one note that truly defines it. In the case of Mixolydian, it's the b7th. (It's always the note that makes the mode different) In the example of D Mixolydian, it's the note C. You need a chord that has a C in it. Not just any chord, though. It needs to contain the notes of the D Mixolydian scale. Here's the stacks from last months lesson to show you the chords in D Mixolydian.

A    B  C    D  E  F#  G  A
F#  G  A    B  C  D    E  F#
D    E  F#  G  A  B    C  D

You're left with seven stacks of chords. You're interested in the chords that have a C in it. Let's just show those:

G   C    E
E   A    C
C   F#   A

The three chords are C major, F# diminished and A minor.

The Modal Progression Formula

Now that you have that information, let me teach you how to make good modal progressions.

Step one:  Grab the chord that names the mode.

Example: In D Mixolydian, you'd want a D major chord.

Step two: Grab any other chord that has the note that defines the mode in it.

Example: In D Mixolydian, you'd choose either A minor, C major or F# diminished.

Step three: Add other chords from the scale for flavor

And you're done.

Some Great Example Progressions

Here are a few great example progressions in D Mixolydian.


(Hint, make your own…)

Why Do You Care?

Why would you care about modes at all? Hopefully because you want to write some music that sounds different. Maybe because new chord progressions will inspire something new. Because you're going to deal with those progressions in popular music. All over the place.

One Chord To Rule Them All

Mixolydian is special in that we can satisfy the modal progression formula in just one chord. Step one remains the same. We need that D major chord. This time, instead of placing a new chord after it, let's add the note to the D major chord. What happens when you put the note C on a D major chord? You get a D dominant seventh chord, or simply, you get a D7 chord.

What does it all mean??? It means that when you see a D7th chord, you can play mixolydian against it and it will sound great. That's why blues and jazz guitarists love using Mixolydian. Both Blues and Jazz music make extensive use of the 7th chord. Naturally, blues and jazz guitarists make extensive use of the Mixolydian mode. Next time you're playing over a blues, try playing the Mixolydian mode over each chord. A blues in D would be D7, G7 and A7 and you'd use D Mixolydian, G Mixolydian and A Mixolydian to play over it. Try it. It's pretty awesome.

Next up: The Dorian mode. See you next lesson in 2011.

Take care - Marc

P.S. - (You'll notice that we left out the F# diminished chord. Sure it has the C. It's simply not that common in popular music.)

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