The Mixolydian mode is the fifth mode of the Major scale and is a great mode to learn for an interesting bluesy or jazzy sound.
Before you learn Mixolydian or any other modes, I recommend first learning the Ionian mode to give you a basic starting point.
This guide will look at:
- What the Mixolydian mode is
- How the Mixolydian mode compares to other modes
- Basic Music Theory and Mode Formula
- Fretboard Diagrams for Every Mixolydian Mode on Guitar
- How to Use the Mixolydian Mode
- Songs Using the Mixolydian Mode
After reading this guide, read this guide to learn how to practice modes and scales.
What is the Mixolydian Mode
The Mixolydian mode is the fifth mode of the Major scale. This means the Mixolydian mode can be built by looking at the fifth note of any Major scale.
Mixolydian only has one change compared to the Major scale – it uses a flat seventh.
This flat seventh gives the Mixolydian mode an interesting darkness or grittiness to an otherwise Major sounding mode.
A lot of blues and jazz guitarists use the Mixolydian mode and it works in a lot of different styles of music.
Mixolydian is a great example of how changing one note (the flat seventh) can completely change the feel of a mode.
I recommend learning Ionian as your first mode, then I recommend learning either Mixolydian or Lydian because both of those modes only change one note.
Mixolydian Mode Formula
The Mixolydian mode can be understood with a formula that compares it against the Major scale. Understanding mode formulas will help you understand the difference between each mode.
The formula for the Mixolydian mode is: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
If you compare this to the formula for the Major Scale (1 2 3 4 5 6 7), you will see there is only one note difference between Mixolydian and the Major Scale.
The seventh note is lowered by one semitone (one fret on guitar) to create the Mixolydian mode. All the other notes are the same as the Major Scale. This flat seventh note is what gives Mixolydian its unique sound.
Mixolydian is a Major mode with a flat seventh, so it works best when played over Major chords.
If you really want to bring out the Mixolydian sound, play it over a dominant seventh chord (a Major chord with a flat seventh). This is covered in detail later.
How to Find The Notes in Mixolydian
There are three different methods you can use to find the notes in any mode.
Modes are often confusing at first because different books and videos will use different methods to explain modes, so you end up with a confusing blur of explanations.
I’ll go through the three easiest ways to find the notes in the Mixolydian mode and you can decide which method makes the most sense to you to use.
Method 1: Use the Mode Formula
The first method to figure out the notes in any mode is to use the mode formula as mentioned earlier.
The formula for Mixolydian is: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
To use this formula, pick a root note for the mode you want to figure out.
Here are the steps to using the mode formula to find the notes in any mode:
- Choose a mode to learn
- Find the Major Scale that starts on the same note
- Use the mode formula to change that scale into the mode
Let’s go through these steps with a couple of examples to show how you can use the formula to figure out any Mixolydian mode. But the same above steps apply when learning other modes.
Example 1: C Mixolydian
Let’s say you want to figure out the notes for C Mixolydian.
The root note (the first note) for C Mixolydian is C. This means to use the mode formula, we need to start with the notes in the C Major Scale. You simply find the scale that matches the starting note C.
Here are the notes of the C Major Scale:
Now we can use the Mixolydian formula (1 2 3 4 5 6 b7) to change the C Major scale into the C Mixolydian mode.
The ‘b’ before the number 7 tells us that the seventh note needs to be lowered by one semitone or a half-step (one fret on guitar). We call this a flat seventh (learn about intervals here).
The seventh note is the only note that needs to change. All the other notes stay the same as the notes in the C Major Scale.
The seventh note in the C Major Scale is B. When we lower this by one semitone (one fret), we get Bb (B flat).
Here’s a chart comparing the C Major scale to the notes in the C Mixolydian mode:
By changing the seventh note in the C Major scale, we end up with all the notes in the C Mixolydian mode.
The notes in C Mixolydian are: C D E F G A Bb
Example 2: G Mixolydian
The root note (the first note) for G Mixolydian is G. This means to use the mode formula, we need to start with the notes in the G Major Scale.
Here are the notes of the G Major Scale:
The formula for Mixolydian is 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 so we need to lower the seventh note in the G Major scale by one fret to find the notes for G Mixolydian. All the other notes stay the same.
The seventh note in the G Major scale is F# (F sharp), so to create a flat seventh, we lower it by one fret to get the note F.
Here’s a chart comparing the G Major scale to the G Mixolydian mode:
So the notes in G Mixolydian are: G A B C D E F.
The sharps and flats used to create modes may be confusing if you are new to music theory, so think of them as shifting up or down a fret at a time. If you see ‘b3’, it just means take the ‘3’ note and move it down one fret. If you see a ‘#4’, it just means to take the ‘4’ note and raise it by one fret.
The starting note could be anything (eg: C#, Eb, F) and it doesn’t make any difference – just move it down one fret to find the new note (raising Bb by one fret is B).
Practice taking other Major scales and turning them into the Mixolydian mode using the above formula and steps.
Method 2: Match the Major Scale
The second method is to figure out which Major scale matches the mode you want to find.
There are seven modes of the Major scale – one built from every note in the scale.
Mixolydian is the fifth mode of the Major scale, so Mixolydian is built using the fifth note of the Major scale.
Example 1: G Mixolydian
We want to find a Major scale that uses the note ‘G’ as the fifth note in the scale.
An easy way to do this is to look up a chart of Major scales to find the one that uses G in the fifth position.
The other way is to look at the note five frets up from your chosen Mixolydian mode root.
Five frets up from G is C, so the matching Major scale for G Mixolydian is the C Major scale (C D E F G A B).
This means the C Major scale and the G Mixolydian mode use the same notes. The only difference is G Mixolydian starts on G and C Major starts on C.
You can also see that G is the fifth note in the C Major scale, so we know we have found the correct scale.
So the notes in G Mixolydian are: G A B C D E F.
Example 2: D Mixolydian
We want to find a Major scale that uses the note ‘D’ as the fifth note in the scale.
You can look up a chart of Major scales to find the one that uses D in the fifth position.
The other way is to look at the note five frets up from your chosen Mixolydian mode root.
Five frets up from D is G, so the matching Major scale is the G Major scale (G A B C D E F#).
This means the G Major scale and the D Mixolydian mode use the same notes. The only difference is D Mixolydian starts on D and G Major starts on G.
You can also see that D is the fifth note in the G Major scale, so we know we have found the correct scale.
So the notes in D Mixolydian are: D E F# G A B C.
Method 3: Build Using Intervals
The third method is to build the mode using intervals and an interval formula.
Intervals are the building blocks of scales as explained in detail in this lesson.
Learning how to build a scale or mode using intervals will help you understand what makes each mode or scale different.
The way you build the Mixolydian mode using intervals is similar to how we built the mode using the formula covered earlier.
The interval formula for the Mixolydian mode is: W W H W W H W
W = whole-tone (two frets on guitar)
H = half-tone or semitone (one fret on guitar)
To use this formula, you pick the mode you want to build (eg: C Mixolydian), then follow the formula to figure out the rest of the notes.
Once you learn how to do this, you’ll see that you can easily build any Mixolydian mode you want without having to know any Major scales.
Example: E Mixolydian
Here’s a fretboard diagram showing how simple this method is to work out the E Mixolydian mode:
Here are the steps explained:
- Start on the root note for the mode (eg: E for E Mixolydian)
- Move up two frets to find the next note for any W in the formula
- Move up one fret to find the next note for any H in the formula
- By the end of the formula, you should end up on the same note as the root one octave higher (eg: E for E Mixolydian)
Once you memorize the formulas for all seven modes, you can easily find all the notes to any mode without having to look up any scale.
This method might seem like a lot of work at first, but if you have memorized the notes on the fretboard, you’ll find that this is an incredibly quick and easy method to use.
Mixolydian Mode Reference Chart
Here is a handy reference chart showing all possible Mixolydian Modes:
Every Mixolydian Mode Fretboard Diagram
There are 12 possible Mixolydian modes to match the 12 notes we can play on guitar.
Before we look at how to use the Mixolydian mode as well as songs that use Mixolydian, here is a fretboard diagram for every Mixolydian mode you can play on guitar.
A Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in A Mixolydian mode are: A B C# D E F# G
Bb Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in Bb Mixolydian mode are: Bb C D Eb F G Ab
B Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in B Mixolydian mode are: B C# D# E F# G# A
C Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in C Mixolydian mode are: C D E F G A Bb
C# Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in C# Mixolydian mode are: C# D# E# F# G# A# B
D Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in D Mixolydian mode are: D E F# G A B C
Eb Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in Eb Mixolydian mode are: Eb F G Ab Bb C Db
E Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in E Mixolydian mode are: E F# G# A B C# D
F Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in F Mixolydian mode are: F G A Bb C D Eb
F# Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in F# Mixolydian mode are: F# G# A# B C# D# E
G Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in G Mixolydian mode are: G A B C D E F
Ab Mixolydian Fretboard Diagram
The notes in Ab Mixolydian mode are: Ab Bb C Db Eb F Gb
How to Use the Mixolydian Mode
The best way to learn how to use the Mixolydian mode is to spend time jamming with it over the top of a Major chord or a dominant seventh chord.
For example, use a looper pedal to record yourself strumming an E Major chord or an E7 chord (to emphasize the Mixolydian sound).
Now you can jam over the top of that chord using the E Mixolydian mode. Try coming up with licks and melodies and listen to how the mode sounds over the top of the chord.
Make sure you match the Major chord to the root note of the mode you’re using. So if you want to jam in A Mixolydian, play over an A Major chord or an A7 chord.
The Mixolydian Sound
When you play through the notes in the Mixolydian mode, there’s one note that should stand out to your ears compared to the rest.
Compared to the Major scale, the Mixolydian mode uses a flat seventh (b7) and this note adds a minor quality to an otherwise Major scale.
When you play the Major scale and compare it against the Mixolydian mode, this minor seventh interval adds some darkness or bluesy sound to the mode.
Play through the notes in the Mixolydian mode over a background Major chord and listen carefully to each note.
For example, try playing the below notes (E Mixolydian) over the top of an E Major chord:
The above Guitar TAB starts on E and ends on E after going through all the notes in E Mixolydian.
The note that stands out is the seventh note in Mixolydian. This note (b7) in E Mixolydian is D (highlighted above in green). Listen carefully to how this note sounds against the backing Major chord to get a sense of the Mixolydian sound.
If you were to skip playing this b7 note, your ears would simply hear the Major sound skipping the seventh note. This means if you want to bring out the mMixolydian sound in your playing, you need to make sure you play and emphasize the b7 note.
But if you have looked at some of the other modes, you might notice that quite a few of them use this b7.
Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian all use a b7.
The difference with Mixolydian is that the b7 is the only change from the Major scale. All of those other modes also alter other notes.
This means to bring out the Mixolydian sound, you also need to make sure you play the notes that the other modes don’t play.
For example, Dorian uses a b3 and a b7. If you were to skip playing the third note, nobody would be able to tell whether the mode you’re playing is Dorian or Mixolydian. As soon as you play the 3, our ears will hear Mixolydian. If you were to play b3 instead, our ears would hear Dorian.
So while the b7 is the core note to focus on for Mixolydian, you also need to make good use of the other notes to make it clear that you’re playing Mixolydian and you’re not playing a different mode.
Comparing Mixolydian to Other Modes
The best way to truly understand the sound of Mixolydian is to directly compare it against other modes.
Start by improvising using E Mixolydian over your low E string droning in the background.
Some modes will have a dark or minor quality while others will sound brighter and cheery. Mixolydian will have a bright sound until you play that b7.
Everybody describes modes in different ways, so try to create your own mental label of how each mode sounds to help you identify them in music.
Remember to think about the altered notes in each mode (eg: b7 in Mixolydian, #4 in Lydian) and to focus on playing those notes to emphasize the differences in each mode.
Songs Using the Mixolydian Mode
Mixolydian is a popular mode for blues, rock, and jazz guitarists because of the mix of minor and Major intervals used.
Have a listen to the following songs and see if you can get a feel for the Mixolydian sound. With enough practice, you’ll start to recognize all the different modes in music by ear.
See if you can pick out the b7 note in each song – the note that separates Mixolydian from the Major scale.
Here are some songs that are great examples of the Mixolydian mode:
- Glasgow Kiss by John Petrucci
- Summer Song by Joe Satriani
- Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N Roses
- Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Thunderstruck by AC DC
The intro for Thunderstruck by AC DC is a fantastic example of playing Mixolydian on guitar. The rhythm guitar is playing a simple B power chord (with the bass playing B), while the lead guitar plays notes in the B Mixolydian mode on one string. Check it out for a simple way to visualize the Mixolydian mode on guitar.
Look up the Guitar TAB for these songs and see if you can figure out exactly what Mixolydian mode is used in each one. Compare the notes used in the song against the fretboard diagrams from earlier and you can figure out each mode.
Mixolydian Mode FAQs
Here are some common questions you might have about the Mixolydian mode.
How Do You Play Mixolydian Mode on Guitar?
You play the Mixolydian mode on guitar by taking a Major scale and lowering the seventh note by one fret. If you wanted to play C Mixolydian, you would take the C Major scale (C D E F G A B) and lower the seventh note, B, by one fret to get B flat.
Read the earlier section to learn the three methods to play any Mixolydian mode.
When Should I Play Mixolydian?
Mixolydian is great to play when you want a bluesy, jazzy, or rock sound over a Major chord or dominant seventh chord. You should try using Mixolydian any time you want to get a bluesy or rock sound that feels a bit different than playing the Major scale.
How Do You Practice Mixolydian?
You practice Mixolydian just like any other scale or mode. First, memorize the notes in the Mixolydian mode you want to practice. You can do that by playing up and down the notes until they feel natural. Next, practice playing Mixolydian over the top of a Major chord or a Dominant seventh chord.
Practice improvising using Mixolydian to get used to the Mixolydian sound. Then practice swapping between different modes to learn how Mixolydian sounds different.
What is the Difference Between Mixolydian and Major?
The difference between the Mixolydian mode and the Major scale is the seventh note. The seventh note in Mixolydian is a minor seventh, while in the Major scale it is a Major seventh. All the other notes are the same between Mixolydian and Major.
Read the earlier section to compare the differences in detail between the Major scale and Mixolydian.
What Mode is Best for Blues?
The best modes for Blues are the ones that have a mix of Major and minor qualities. Mixolydian is the best mode to use for Blues because of the Major sound it provides mixed with the minor seventh. Also, try using Dorian for something a bit different.
Here are more useful guides on the modes and practicing them:
- Guide to Ionian Mode
- Guide to Dorian Mode
- Guide to Phrygian Mode
- Guide to Lydian Mode
- Guide to Aeolian Mode
- How to Practice Guitar Scales and Modes
- How to Memorize the Fretboard
- More guides on modes coming soon