#1
Hello, I'm working on developing my solo style. I can play the modes of the diatonic backwards and forwards, and have learned to improvise through the patterns with licks which start and land on key notes as the chords progress, and I *think* I've got the general idea. I'm interested in classic rock, and have gathered the impression from various sources that the mixolydian is a popular rock mode. I don't memorize so easily anymore, and would much rather improvise my own arrangements than copy solos from recordings, which means I need to understand how modes are used in the songs I play.

I guess the question which I should get past first is, does it necessarily mean anything specific, relative to the chord progression against which it is played, when a guitarist uses the clause "playing the mixolydian?" I think I've seen someone, somewhere, refer to mixolydian, in the context of the V chord in the key of G major (first solo note on the V chord change is D, which is mixolydian to G), while the progression is I IV V. Because the song begins in Ionian when the root is played, I wonder if this is a proper way to apply that "playing in" to the mode in question, or should it be applied only to the initial flavor of the song? Are both applications valid? Then again, is it really common to begin songs in mixolydian at all (if I tried to figure that out every time I learned the songs I know from recordings, the overload would kill me)?

When I decided to experiment, I started in G mixolydian, and played through the chords which came most naturally to me, for the tones I was hearing. Since every guide to scales introduces the mixolydian mode as one to be played against major chords, I expected to play against I IV V in the Key of G, but that sounded significantly less natural to me than V IV I, with the G chord as the V - which means I was playing happily in the Key of C! Therefore, my big question is: are modes ever supposed to match their key signatures, and if so, is this common?

Thanks to all for any insight you can share.
Last edited by Finger What? at Nov 16, 2008,
#2
a mixolydian mode is the fifth in a key. in other words, if playing in the key of C, G would be the fifth, and such, if you play a G mixolydian scale, it will contain all the notes of C major.

a mixolydian mode is a major scale with a flat 7th, giving it its 'blues' tone. for context, lets say youre playing a 12 bar blues in C. the progression would go C, F, G, as most classical rock follows a I - IV - V progression. you would want to play a C mixolydian, so you would be improvising with the c major scale plus a flat seventh.

for flavors sake, i would recommend practicing not only mixolydian, but also know the blues scale and pentatonics (major and minor) like the back of your hand.

if you mix a blues scale with a flat 4. it sounds very nice. thats just my opinion =)

EDIT:to be completely clear on your last point, all modes are are major scales played in different keys. the mixolydian in G is just a C major scale. they get their voicings from the chromatic tones found in them when played against different keys.
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Last edited by TK1 at Nov 16, 2008,
#3
Check out my signature. "How to make modal chord progressions". I describe every mode, with a video of me playing an improvisation on each one, to give u an idea what u could play; Which notes will give it's character and which chords will work.

Tl;tr you can just skip to mixolydian scale, if u only wanna know about that 1.

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#4
Quote by TK1

EDIT:to be completely clear on your last point, all modes are are major scales played in different keys. the mixolydian in G is just a C major scale. they get their voicings from the chromatic tones found in them when played against different keys.


Thank you - no matter how much I know this, I still get confused when trying to match basic, typical chords to the mode I want to work with - G mixolydian is the C major scale played from the 5th in that scale, of course it is! Now, I would ask if I should expect C Ionian chords to be the best match for G mixolydian, instead of looking for a I IV V progression with G as I, but the chords in these two modes are so congruous that it may not matter as much as it would between the chords of Ionian and Dorian. Am I putting too much emphasis on I IV V? Should I expect totally different harmonic formulas when playing different modes?

xxdarenxx, I took a look at your posts, and I really like your music, and they really do blow me away! Your chord progressions sound great, thank you for sharing them. While I don't have any problems playing the chords, I really hope there are more basic, generally applied, less jazzy modal formulas which the rest of us can start with to avoid getting too blown away by theory.

I was particularly curious about your two-chord progressions - maybe all of the three-chord songs which I've played to chord sheets had three (never saw any with less) because they weren't Ionian or Dorian. I don't want to be a jerk about it, this is an old question that came up while I was experimenting with the five chord boxes - I played all of them, alternating between E7 and A7, ascending from the nut up to the 12th fret, and thought I would cream myself when I heard what it sounded like with blues notes added. I realized I could play for several minutes with just those two chords (only the tonality would shift), but wasn't sure that I could call it a song without eventually adding a third chord - eventually I did, but only to wrap up many alternations between the first two chords.
Last edited by Finger What? at Nov 16, 2008,
#5
Quote by xxdarrenxx
Check out my signature. "How to make modal chord progressions". I describe every mode, with a video of me playing an improvisation on each one, to give u an idea what u could play; Which notes will give it's character and which chords will work.

Tl;tr you can just skip to mixolydian scale, if u only wanna know about that 1.

yeah check out his lesson, its really useful
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#6
the mixolydian in G is just a C major scale.


Misleading. It shares the same notes as C major, but it is not C major, and it is used in an entirely different context. By your reasoning, A minor is C major as well.
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#7
Quote by Finger What?

xxdarenxx, I took a look at your posts, and I really like your music, and they really do blow me away! Your chord progressions sound great, thank you for sharing them. While I don't have any problems playing the chords, I really hope there are more basic, generally applied, less jazzy modal formulas which the rest of us can start with to avoid getting too blown away by theory.


What I was referring to were the first two which I read - Ionian and Dorian. They sound great, but for general rules, do you need to limit the progression to 2 chords, and can they just be major or minor basic (if the basics don't require complex chords, I don't want to try and run before I can walk in the modes, and here I'm looking at chords with at least two names because of overlapping structure formulas)? When I first read the basic scales and modes guide, I decided that Ionian is what I heard most when, as a hyper-active kid, those awful old church hymns, with at at least three basic chords and pompously strong major tone, were making me more ballistic the more I had to sit through them. Well, it's not that I'm trying to play that kind of music anyway, and it was a bit of a surprise to learn that Ionian is good for what you did with it.

I guess you answered my question about the scale chords to look for in Mixolydian, and now I realize my brain has been sputtering - don't know why I didn't see how the same principles apply which did all the time every time I played a song which began with a minor chord, in the Aolean (so common, it's no wonder they call it the relative minor). You know a song beginning with Am is Aolean when the best note to play first is 6th in the scale, and the chords are the same as any in the C major scale - and this does NOT make A the I chord - so it works in mixololydian, Dorian, and the others (I guess) - sorry to be such a pain about that.
Last edited by Finger What? at Nov 16, 2008,
#8
When I decided to experiment, I started in G mixolydian, and played through the chords which came most naturally to me, for the tones I was hearing. Since every guide to scales introduces the mixolydian mode as one to be played against major chords, I expected to play against I IV V in the Key of G, but that sounded significantly less natural to me than V IV I, with the G chord as the V - which means I was playing happily in the Key of C! Therefore, my big question is: are modes ever supposed to match their key signatures, and if so, is this common?


The problem is that you don't really seem to understand what modes are, or how they're used. You weren't playing G mixolydian, you were playing C major, which is something different entirely. All of this is explained in the theory sticky and the Crusades articles.
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#9
Quote by Archeo Avis
The problem is that you don't really seem to understand what modes are, or how they're used. You weren't playing G mixolydian, you were playing C major, which is something different entirely. All of this is explained in the theory sticky and the Crusades articles.


You're right, but its because I had a major brain fart, which I just had to share with everybody here - sorry about that!

I knew how the Aeolian mode worked (that relative MINOR which so many popular songs seem to run in), but failed to transfer that principle to the other modes. This may be because I am aware of other minor SCALES (which I know aren't the same as modes, but the shared "minor" terminology got me looking up the wrong tree) , and have played some of the very haunting ethnic cultural songs which run in them - I got the harmonic (or whichever it was) minor scale theory confused with the Aeolean minor mode of the G major scale. The minor SCALES have the minor chord, which are ALSO played first, in the I position, and the confusion had me looking for a similar chord relationship in the modes, while wondering why it didn't work this way - sure is good to get that cleared up!

Well, I guess I get it now - you said that playing the mixolydian (or presumably any mode) is entirely different from playing from the V, or II, etc. of the major scale. Wasn't sure how that was, but I think I see it in that sticky you referred me to, which I really am impressed with - I really thought I'd never, ever see anything posted which is so comprehensive, useful, and free! Looks like I've really had a lot mixed up. Didn't realize that although Ionian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian share a lot of chords, which are relatively unaltered, some chords aren't really shared at all. I notice that G, which is the dominant of the C scale, was not among recommended in any flavor in D Dorian, and then I suppose asking why there are so many minor sevens and major sevens in this mode would be asking why water is wet. I used to think that a progression of special 7's like this are just variants of their respective major or minor chords played within the same mode, and I'm pretty sure the books I read only fed that notion.

I want to make sure that I don't draw any more wrong conclusions, and I noted the exclusinon of certain chords between modes which share chords, like Aeolian and Ionian. Here's a progression I like which isn't listed in the modes tutorial: C Am F G. In comparing it to the Ionian progression, it doesn't include Am (nor any minors), and in comparing it to the Aeolian, this mode doesn't include the C major subdominant F. I know you can make your own progressions freely, set these tutorial progressions to almost any order (it's only music, so you guys say) but
1. what would the tutorial writers say about having a minor included in an Ionian progression - would that make it something else other than Ionian?
2. what would the tutorial writers say about having the major subdominant included in the aeolian - would you have to call it something else in that case?
Last edited by Finger What? at Nov 17, 2008,
#10
YE if u read tru the entire lesson and give it a day or so to sink in. As you can see in phrygian I used 3 chord same as in mixo. You can add more chords if u want, that's totally up to ur creativity.

You can use a minor chord in ionian. That's not a problem. I just made a starting approach.

anayways for the comments

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Last edited by xxdarrenxx at Nov 17, 2008,
#11
Quote by xxdarrenxx
YE if u read tru the entire lesson and give it a day or so to sink in. As you can see in phrygian I used 3 chord same as in mixo. You can add more chords if u want, that's totally up to ur creativity.

You can use a minor chord in ionian. That's not a problem. I just made a starting approach.

anayways for the comments


Thank you.
#12
a mixolydian mode is a major scale with a flat 7th, giving it its 'blues' tone. for context, lets say youre playing a 12 bar blues in C. the progression would go C, F, G, as most classical rock follows a I - IV - V progression. you would want to play a C mixolydian, so you would be improvising with the c major scale plus a flat seventh.


Wouldn't you want to improvise in either A min blues OR G mixolydian? Since the chord progression resolves to G (dominant), the tonal centre could also be set on G thus allowing you to improvise in G mixolydian or any other mode in G which contains an F and C major/(dominant) chord.
#13
Quote by Finger What?
Therefore, my big question is: are modes ever supposed to match their key signatures, and if so, is this common?


Yes they do. If I write a key signature with no sharps or flats one would assume C major or A minor. However I could use this to mean G mixolydian which also has no sharps or flats. I find it courteous to make a note when using a specific mode (something like Key signature denotes Mixolydian) - though as discussed in a recent thread not everyone thinks this is necessary or practices this courtesy.

As for what chords to use. Well G Mixolydian is a "major" mode with a flat seven. So the chords you use will be built the same as the G major scale except any chord that includes the seventh will now have a flat seventh.

The result is I ii iiidim IV v vi VII. (G Am Bdim C Dm Em F). Remember VII in this case is bVII compared to the major scale. You will of course notice that these chords are the same seven chords that are in the diatonic C major scale. This is pure coincidence.
G Mixolydian =/= C Major.
G Mixolydian = G major with b7.

Now if we use a chord progression that uses I ii IV and vi only we are not really going to bring out that Mixolydian flavour since we are not using that modal note b7. If we introduce iiidim v or VII into the mix then we have our modal note and the Mixolydian flavour becomes apparent in the chord progression.

Another good one to use is the I7 chord. The Mixolydian is often referred to as the dominant mode because it outlines the dominant seven chord (1 3 5 b7).

Be careful when using this chord. If you follow this with a IV chord it will provide a strong sense of resolution and will "tonicize" the IV chord. This is not a "mode breaker" per se but if you don't bring the sense of tonic back to the G chord reasonably quickly you will lose the Mixolydian flavour and it will simply sound like you have modulated to C major.

When creating a chord progression the number one thing is to use chords built from the mode in a way that will establish a good sense of where the "home" chord/root/tonic lies.

There are lots of tricks one can use to create a sense of "home". When you know lots of these tricks and how to use them well you can create chord progressions that use anything from 1 to 7 chords while retaining a clear sense of modallity (if that's a word).

Be aware of your modal note. It doesn't have to be in every chord but for a true modal flavour it should be present somewhere. You can create an ambiguous chord progression by leaving out a specific note. Which you would likely then bring into your melody.

You then use the appropriate mode over the whole thing and really let the ear soak up that mode. Again treat the melody the same kind of way. Use the modal notes and make sure you use them in a way that resolves to the right place. Know your modal note.

The relevant Pentatonic scales can also be used over a modal piece with ease. If its a modal chord progression in any minor mode a minor pent will work since it leaves out all the defining modal notes of the various minor modes (6 and 2). Similarly if it is a modal chord progression in any major mode a maj pent will work since it leaves out the defining modal notes of the various major modes (4 and 7).

When using your modal note it's not about banging away at your modal note the whold solo either. It should sound natural and just fall into place just as any other note in the scale would. It's not something obvious but a part of the whole. Just remember though when soloing too, G Mixolydian is not C Major it is G major with a b7.

This is what is meant when your favourite guitarist is "playing in" G Mixolydian. They are playing in G major but using a minor 7 instead of a major 7 to create a different soundscape. Because they are using a consistent b7 it is no longer appropriate to consider them to be playing in G major which contains a natural 7, They are "playing in G Mixolydian".

So though the key signature resembles that of C major / A minor. C major / A minor has nothing to do with it really. It is a G major key signature where the one sharp has been flatted to create G Mixolydian. Which is why I find it nice to note early on that it is modal (Key denotes G Mixolydian). Then you know it is really a "G major with a b7" key signature = G Mixolydian.

So just for reference the modes in G...
G Ionian = G Major Scale = Key signature looks like and is G major (1 sharp)
G Lydian = G Major Scale with #4 = Key signature looks like D major with 2 sharps but is actually G major with a second sharp (sharp 4).
G Mixolydian = G Major Scale with b7 = Key signature looks like C major with not sharps but is actually G major where the sharp has been lowered a semitone (b7)

G Aeolian = G minor Scale = Looks like and is G minor key signature (2 flats)
G Dorian = G minor Scale with nat6 = Looks like D minor key signature (1 flat) but is actually G minor where the b6 has been raised a semitone.
G Phrygian = G minor Scale with b2 = Looks like C minor key signature (3 flats) but is actually G minor with a third flat (b2).

G Locrian = fun for riffs not for chord progressions because the diminished tonic (1 b3 b5) with it's flat five is an unstable chord and stability is a fundamental characteristic of creating a sense of "home".

I know I can talk a lot sometimes and I could keep going but I think I've beat some points to death then gave them CPR only to beat them to death again. But I hope I have given some insight into how modes are used and what it means to be "playing in" a certain mode.
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#14
What Tigers said. ^

U just need to understand What modes are. I would almost feel to say WHO they are. You need to get too know them, the characteristics. Check 2nd link in my signature, to see how to make basic progressions that u can fiddle around with to "get to know them"

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#15
Sorry I haven't responded, having been glued obsessively to the Theory sticky while thinking the last had responded. Just wanted to say thanks to 20Tigers for such a helpful reply.