What is the Mixolydian Scale?

The Mixolydian scale is a mode that is used in lots of different music styles, including rock, jazz, and the blues. 

If you want to learn about jazz music, you’ll hear the Mixolydian mode everywhere. This mode has a very distinct sound. It’s also good for improvising over dominant chords.

jazz music performance concert

First, we’ll talk about some of the history behind the Mixolydian mode, and take a look at some music that utilizes this mode. Then we’ll discuss what modes are, and after that, we’ll get into the Mixolydian mode.

The History of the Mixolydian Scale

The Mixolydian mode, also called Mixolydian scale, is a music mode that dates back to ancient Greece. It is attributed to the poet Sappho.

The ancient Greek version of the Mixolydian scale contained all the white notes on a piano, from B to A.

Nowadays, we call this the Locrian mode. 

The Greek version of the Mixolydian mode is very different than our modern modes today. Our modern version is a different set of notes, in a different order.

Music Written in Mixolydian Mode

Before we jump into the different types of modes and scales, let’s take a look at some music featuring the Mixolydian mode. 

This will help you learn how the mode functions in music. 

“She Moved Through the Fair” is a folk song from Ireland and Scotland. Nobody knows when it was first sung, but it is quite an old song. It was written in the Mixolydian scale.

Another song example is “I Feel Fine,” the 1964 hit song by the Beatles.

This song includes a major third and a minor seventh, which classifies it as a song written in Mixolydian scale. 

And of course, a classic example of Mixolydian mode is the song “All Blues” by Miles Davis.

So what is the Mixolydian mode? 

First, we need to talk about what the word “mode” means.

What Are Modes?

A scale is a group of ascending or descending notes, such as C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C. 

A mode is a particular kind of scale. 

For example, the Lydian mode looks like C major. It has no key signature, and only uses the white keys on the piano. However, the notes for Lydian mode are F - G - A - B - C - D - E.

Here’s a chart of the various modes, as well as their notes and the whole-step/ half-step patterns for each.

Iconian Mode (major scale)C - D - E - F - G - A - BW W H W W W H
Dorian ModeD - E - F - G - A - B - CW H W W W H W
Phyrgian ModeE - F - G - A - B - C - DH W W W H W W
Lydian ModeF - G - A - B - C - D - EW W W H W W H
Mixolydian ModeG - A - B - C - D - E - FW W H W W H W
Aeolian Mode (natural minor scale)A - B - C - D - E - F - GW H W W H W W
Locrian ModeB - C - D - E - F - G - AH W W H W W W

As you can see, each mode has a different pattern of whole steps and half steps. That is what makes a mode different from a scale. 

However, in most cases, the terms can be used interchangeably.

What is the Mixolydian Mode?

As you can see on the chart above, the Mixolydian mode is the 5th mode in the major scale. 

It’s sometimes called the dominant scale, because it starts on the 5th note in the major scale.

The Mixolydian mode is a type of major mode. We can tell this because the third note of the scale is a major interval. 

The Mixolydian mode is made up of all the white notes on a piano, from G to A. 

This means the steps between notes are whole, whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole. (You can also see this in the chart.)

Once you know the steps between notes (WWHWWHW), you can play a Mixolydian scale in any key, starting with any note.

List of Mixolydian Modes with Different Notes

The Mixolydian mode is not limited to the notes between G and A. 

In fact, you can play the Mixolydian mode, starting with any note.

mixolydian scale mode in C sheet music on staff (by Wikimedia Commons)

For your reference, here is a handy chart with all of the starting notes and scale notes for each Mixolydian scale.

CC – D – E – F – G – A – Bb
DD – E – F# – G – A – B – C
EE – F# – G# – A – B – C# – D
FF – G – A – Bb – C – D – Eb
GG – A – B – C – D – E – F
AA – B – C# – D – E – F# – G
BB – C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A

If you want to get a more specific key, here are some more keys and notes for the Mixolydian scales:

C#C# – D# – E# – F# – G# – A# – B
DbDb – Eb – F – Gb – Ab – Bb – Cb
D#D# – E# – F## – G# – A# – B# – C#
EbEb – F – G – Ab – Bb – C – Db
F#F# – G# – A# – B – C# – D# – E
GbGb – Ab – Bb – Cb – Db – Eb – Fb
G#G# – A# – B# – C# – D# – E# – F#
AbAb – Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – Gb
BbBb – C – D – Eb – F – G – Ab

Scale Degrees of the Mixolydian Scale

The Mixolydian scale is very similar to the Iconian mode, but the seventh note is lowered by one semitone (half step). 

The scale degrees of the Mixolydian scale are:

  • 1 (root note)
  • 2 (major second)
  • 3 (major third)
  • 4 (perfect fourth)
  • 5 (perfect fifth)
  • 6 (major sixth)
  • b7 (minor seventh)

Remember, the seventh note is lowered by half a step than in the major scale.

The Mixolydian Mode: Summary

Even if it looks a bit tricky to figure out at first, the Mixolydian mode is a musical mode that everybody can learn to understand. 

We hope this helps you learn more about the Mixolydian mode and scale, what it means, and how to play it. 

If you have any questions, leave a comment below and let us know.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck in your musical endeavors!

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Jessica Roberts
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