Fiddling With The Mixolydian Mode
Understanding a little about scale modes will make your practice sessions more interesting, fun and productive. With that in mind, let’s learn a bit about the Mixolydian mode.
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Why bother with this?
- Lots of old-time and Irish tunes use this mode. Practicing Mixolydian scales will help you to learn these tunes more easily.
- You’ll also have a better feel for improvising.
- This is a way to bring fresh energy to scale practice, making it more fun and interesting. Consistent scale practice will improve your technique and accelerate your learning.
- Hearing the connection between a scale and a tune will help you to improvise.
How Mixolydian Scales Work
Mixolydian mode is built from the fifth step of a major scale. They have the same notes as the parent scale, but start and end in a different place.
Play a D Major scale with a D drone:
D0-1-2-3-A0-1-2-3 | A3-E0-1-L2-3-4
D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D | D-E-F#-G-A-B
Count up to the fifth note: D, E, F#, G, A. So using the same notes as D Major, we can play A Mixolydian with an A drone:
Another way to build a Mixolydian scale
Mixolydian is like a regular major scale, but the seventh step is flat. Knowing that, we can make a mixolydian scale from a regular major scale.
Play a D major scale again.
Lower the seventh step: C# (A2) becomes C natural (AL2). Now play D Mixolydian with a D drone:
OK! Now for the million dollar question. What major scale is D mixolydian derived from? Another way to ask is, what is the “parent major scale”?
Hint: Walk through the steps we took earlier. We played D Major, and then started the scale on the fifth step to get A mixolydian. So D is the the fifth step of what major scale?
Answer: G Major. Now play a two-octave G Major scale with a G drone:
For G Major, count up to the fifth note: G, A, B, C, D.
So using the same notes as G Major, we can play D Mixolydian: D0-1-2-3-A0-1-L2-3
The tune Kittypuss is in D mixolydian
Memorize Then Theorize
Is this confusing?
If so, don’t worry. A good rule of thumb with learning scales and theory is to just play with it. Get it out of your head and onto your instrument.
Another way to say this: Memorize Then Theorize. Simply memorize the scale and start fiddling with it. This strategy works for learning any theory. First just play something, then try to understand what’s happening. If you are stumped, just let it go and return to playing it. Have faith that it will sink in eventually.
- Practice alternating between D Major and A Mixolydian.
- Practice alternating between D Major and D Mixolydian.
- This is one of the best things you can practice
- Use a drone
- Kittypuss / D Mixolydian
- Old Joe Clarke / A Mixolydian
- Red-Haired Boy / A Mixolydian