Modes are some of the most exotic scales in modern music. In fact, they predate all of the major and minor scales that we know.
All modes are built from the C Major scale. Each number of the move corresponds to the scale degree on which it is built.
In this article, we will discuss the fifth mode, the Mixolydian guitar mode.
The Mixolydian mode is constructed on the G of the C Major scale. It is an extension of the dominant of C Major, and it works best with C Major. Trying to play the Mixolydian mode with the G Major scale will create too much contrast and dissonance. Like all modes, it is best played with a C Major progression. It contains the notes G, A, B, C, D, E, and F.
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When starting off, use a metronome. Allow yourself to become familiar with the notes of the Mixolydian mode, and play them as a full melody. Start off without any backing track or other instrumentation.
You want to learn to play the Mixolydian mode as a whole new scale, not as an extension of the C Major scale. Playing the Mixolydian scale starting with the note C and ending with the note C will change its properties. This means that you won’t be playing the Mixolydian mode anymore, but the C Major scale instead.
Once you are familiar with the notes and the overall feel of the Mixolydian mode, try creating some basic patterns. Run through them with the help of your metronome. Allow yourself to remember each pattern and become fully familiar with it. The key is to create patterns that work as the mode itself, not as C Major scale supplement. Like all of the other modes, the Mixolydian mode has its own voice.
Once you are comfortable with that voice, try playing along to a C Major progression backing track. Start off by simply playing the patterns you have created. You may notice a contrast in the style of the patterns to the style of the progression.
That is okay; this is why jazz guitarists favor the modes. They can play within the key while using completely different properties and style. When you are comfortable enough, try improvising on the guitar. Just like with your patterns, keep it simple at first. Either run through some basic arpeggios or create a basic melody.
The key to fully learning and understanding the Mixolydian guitar mode is to practice it. Take your time to familiarize yourself with all aspects of it. Set aside a block of time or a portion of your practice for working on all of your modes, Mixolydian included.
Use a metronome so that you are able to keep a steady rhythm even when experimenting with the mode. Keep your mind open to new ideas and new approaches to the mode, and once you are fully comfortable, try playing it along with some friends in a full-band improvisation.
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