Mixolydian Guide for Beginners: Understanding the 5th Mode of the Major Scale

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If you are a beginner looking to expand your knowledge of music modes, then you are in the right place. Here we will discuss the fifth mode of the major scale, or the Mixolydian, and how it is unique from other music modes.

What Is Mixolydian?

The Mixolydian Mode, known as the dominant scale, is common in blues, rock, and country music. It is the fifth major scale mode with a flattened 7th note (dominant seventh chord), which creates the tension you often hear in the mentioned musical genres. 

Blues musicians often use the Mixolydian chord progression, which relies on the I-IV-V chord progression. 

What Are the Other Music Modes?

In Western music, modes are variations of the major scale, with each mode having a unique set of intervals, scale degrees, and formulas. Aside from the Mixolydian, there are other major modes in music, each with its distinctive characteristics.

Aeolian Mode 

The aeolian or the natural minor scale has a minor third and sixth scale degree. Music genres such as blues, rock, and heavy metal use it to achieve a sad and melancholy sound. 

Locrian Mode 

The Locrian mode adds tension and uneasiness to music with its diminished fifth scale degree. It is rarely used in popular music and is more common in avant-garde and experimental music genres. 

Ionian Mode 

Most people are familiar with the Ionian mode because it has a bright and cheerful sound, often associated with happy and uplifting music genres like pop. Western music theory bases itself on the Ionian Mode, and all styles of music use it.

Dorian Mode 

The Dorian mode includes a minor third and seventh scale degree, giving it a more melancholy sound than the major scale. This type of music mode is popular for improvisation and soloing in jazz music.

Lydian Mode 

The Lydian Mode has a sharp fourth-scale degree, giving it a bright and dreamy sound. Film scores, video game music, and pop music use this mode to create a sense of wonder and excitement. 

Phrygian Mode 

The Phrygian mode creates a sense of mystery and intrigue thanks to its minor second-sale degree. Flamenco, Middle Eastern, and Indian classical music genres use this mode. 

What Is the Scale or Mode Formula for the Mixolydian Mode?

The scale or mode formula of the Mixolydian mode is 1-2-3-4-5-6-b7. You’ll notice that the first six notes are the same as the major scale, but once you reach the 7th note, it is flattened. 

The scale begins with the root note and moves to the second note by taking a full step. Then, it goes to the third note with another full step. After that, it reaches the fourth note by taking a half step. 

It then reaches the fifth note with a whole step and the sixth with another full step. Finally, it ends with a flattened seventh note, half a step away from the sixth note.

Here’s the scale formula for different keys:

  • C Mixolydian Scale: C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C
  • D Mixolydian Scale: D-E-F#-G-A-B-C-D
  • E Mixolydian Scale: E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D-E
  • G Mixolydian Scale / G Mixolydian mode: G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G

Tip: C, D, E, and G are added at the end to complete the octave. 

What Are the Mixolydian Mode Scale Degrees?

The Mixolydian mode scale degrees consist of the following: 

  • Root (tonic): The mode builds upon the root note, representing the first degree. It serves as the starting point for the scale and is usually the note that the music resolves to.
  • Major 2nd: The second degree is a major second above the root. In other words, it is two whole steps above the root note.
  • Major 3rd: The third degree is a major third above the root. It is four half-steps above the root note and gives the mode a bright and uplifting quality.
  • Perfect 4th: The fourth degree is a perfect fourth above the root. It is five half-steps above the root note and adds stability to the mode.
  • Perfect 5th: The fifth degree, a perfect fifth above the root, lies seven half-steps above the root note and ranks as one of the most important notes in the mode. It is often used as a point of resolution in music.
  • Major 6th: The sixth degree is a major sixth or a whole step above the perfect fifth. It is nine half-steps above the root note and adds a sense of tension to the mode.
  • Minor 7th: The seventh degree is a minor seventh or flattened seventh above the root. It is ten half-steps above the root note and sets the mode apart from the major scale. The minor seventh gives it a bluesy and soulful quality, making the mode so popular in blues and rock music.

What Are the Intervals of Mixolydian?

The intervals of the Dominant scale are as follows:

Root – Major second – Major third – Perfect fourth – Perfect fifth – Major sixth – Minor seventh

The intervals of the Mixolydian scale are the same as the major scale except for the seventh interval. Instead of a major seventh, it has a minor seventh. This change gives the Mixolydian scale its distinct sound and feel, which is bluesy or jazzy.

What Songs Use the Mixolydian Mode?

Many popular songs throughout the years use the dominant scale. Some of the most famous examples include:

  • “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones
  • “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix
  • “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones
  • “Born on the Bayou” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin
  • “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones
  • “The Joker” by Steve Miller Band
  • “China Grove” by The Doobie Brothers
  • “Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Final Thoughts

The Mixolydian Mode is a unique and exciting mode that can add great flavor to your music. It has a distinctive sound that sets it apart from other modes, thanks to its minor seventh interval. If you learn the Mixolydian scale and chord progressions, you can use this 5th mode of the major scale in your playing and improve your skills.


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