The Mixolydian Mode: What Is It?

The mixolydian mode is one that is used widely in lots of different styles of music. Everything from pop to jazz and blues. It’s distinctive sound makes it very popular.

In this post, I’ll cover some of the music theory behind it and how to play it. But first let’s cover what are modes?

What are the modes?

The modes are a set of seven diatonic scales each with their own unique sound and formula.

Even though they’re all different they are all based on the major scale using the same formula of semitones and tones (half steps and whole steps) but each mode is shifted by one note over.

A recommended way for beginners to explore the modes is by playing one octave of all the white keys on a piano but starting on different notes.

For example, all the white keys from C to C is the ionian mode.

If you then play all the white keys from D to D you would have played a D dorian mode.

If you were to play all the white keys from E to E you would have played an E phrygian mode and so on.

Below are all the modes of C major scale.

Modal scalesNotes of the mode
C Ionian modeC – D – E – F – G – A – B
D Dorian modeD – E – F – G – A – B – C
E Phrygian modeE – F – G – A – B – C – D
F Lydian modeF – G – A – B – C – D – E
G Mixolydian modeG – A – B – C – D – E – F
A Aeolian modeA – B – C – D – E – F – G
B Locrian modeB – C – D – E – F – G – A

What is the Mixolydian mode?

The mixolydian mode is the 5th mode of the major scale as it is derived from the 5th note of the major scale.

It’s is also sometimes referred to as a dominant scale because the 5th degree of the major scale is called the dominant.

To play a mixolydian scale you can play all the white keys from G to G on a piano.

G Mixolydian Mode

The mixolydian mode uses the formula of semitones and tones: TTSTTST

Which in half and whole steps is: WWHWWHW

So using this formula of semitones and tones (whole steps and half steps) you can play a mixolydian scale in any key.

Degrees of the Mixolydian scale

The mixolydian is very similar to the ionian mode (the major scale) except it has its 7th note is lowered by a semitone (half step).

It’s also a type of major mode because the third note of the scale is a major interval.

Here are all the scale degrees of the mixolydian mode: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7

  • 1. Root
  • 2. Major second
  • 3. Major third
  • 4. Perfect fourth
  • 5. Perfect fifth
  • 6. Major sixth
  • b7. Minor seventh
C Mixolydian scale

Music written in the Mixolydian mode

The mixolydian mode is very widely used scale in pop and jazz music being one of the key sounds of blues and jazz music.

One of my favourite tunes that uses the mixolydian mode extensively is All Blues by Miles Davis. It sums the sound up well with its jazzy blues sound.

All Blues – Miles Davis

Another good example of the mixolydian mode in action is the classic song by War – Low Rider. It’s always being played in adverts, T.V shows and films.

If you listen to the bass line you’ll hear the sound of the mixolydian mode.

It’s not as distinct as some of the other modes but the riff with a flattened 7th note can be heard in the bass line.

Low Rider – War

List of Mixolydian modes

Below is a list of all the mixolydian modes and I’ve listed the notes for each one too.

KeyNotes in the Mixolydian mode
CC – D – E – F – G – A – Bb – C
C#C# – D# – E# – F# – G# – A# – B – C#
DbDb – Eb – F – Gb – Ab – Bb – Cb – Db
DD – E – F# – G – A – B – C – D
D#D# – E# – F## – G# – A# – B# – C# – D#
EbEb – F – G – Ab – Bb – C – Db – Eb
EE – F# – G# – A – B – C# – D – E
FF – G – A – Bb – C – D – Eb – F
F#F# – G# – A# – B – C# – D# – E – F#
GbGb – Ab – Bb – Cb – Db – Eb – Fb – Gb
GG – A – B – C – D – E – F – G
G#G# – A# – B# – C# – D# – E# – F# – G#
AbAb – Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – Gb – Ab
AA – B – C# – D – E – F# – G – A
BbBb – C – D – Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb
BB – C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A – B

That’s it for the Mixolydian mode

I hope that helps you make a bit more sense of the music theory of the mixolydian mode.

Having studied Jazz at music college it’s one that I’m pretty fond of. If you have any questions just post a comment below.

Dan Farrant

Dan Farrant

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 10 years helping thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. Since then he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.

4 thoughts on “The Mixolydian Mode: What Is It?”

  1. I just started to learn about modes and I am a little confused. When you say that the song by All Blues by Miles Davies uses the Mixolydian mode if I follow the bassline at some point the bass goes to D# and back to D (@ 0:44) D# isn’t in the G Mixolydian mode. Similarly, with Miles Davies when soloing, he plays A-A#-C-D (and so on @ 0:32).

    I know I am missing something, maybe I jumped too quickly with the jazz stuff?

    Thanks for the post, Dan!

  2. Dan @ Hello Music Theory

    Hi Tony, You can never jump in too quickly to Jazz and thanks for the question.

    I probably wasn’t clear enough in my explanation but, by ‘uses extensively’ I didn’t mean ‘uses exclusively’.

    You’re very unlikely to find a jazz tune that only uses one scale for the whole song. They often jump in and out of different chords (and therefore scales) and soloing is another thing altogether. You’ll almost certainly see the soloist using a lot of chromaticism and different scales from one phrase to the next.

    That being said, All Blues is definitely ‘based’ in the Mixolydian scale but it goes to C7 (which is where the Bb (A#) is coming from) and then Eb altered chord (the D#) at 0:44. It always comes home to the G7 chord though. I don’t have any posts on it but I recommend doing some reading on the 12 bar blues chord progression.

    Sorry if I raised more questions that I’ve answered but hope that helps a little Tony!

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