Mixolydian scale

Once you’ve started working on guitar scales, you’ll undoubtedly discover that the array of scales and modes out there is much vaster than you initially thought. The Mixolydian scale or Mixolydian mode is one of the most useful modes of the major scale.

It’s commonly found in pop, jazz, and blues music, although it’s also used in rock and other genres. Though it can be challenging to learn, it’s well worth it — the Mixolydian scale can revolutionize your playing.

What is a Mode in Music?

You might already be familiar with the major scale on guitar. Each note of the major scale is an interval. The intervals go in the order known as the scale degrees of the scale and are represented by Arabic Numerals, 1 (the root note), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. So if you’re playing the C major scale ascending, you would play seven notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B. Since C is the root note, D would be interval 2, E would be interval 3, and so on.

A “mode” is simply a variation of the major scale that creates a distinctive sonic flavor. Each mode is a scale that starts on one of the degrees of the major scale. Therefore, there are seven different modes of the major scale. These modes of the major diatonic scale have their special names in order, as below.

  • The Ionian Mode – Starts on 1; sounds happy and bright
  • The Dorian Mode — Starts on 2; sounds dark and a little sweet.
  • The Phrygian Mode — Starts on 3; sounds exotic and dark.
  • The Lydian Mode — Starts on 4; sounds mysterious yet bright.
  • The Mixolydian Mode — Starts on 5; sounds bright yet tense.
  • The Aeolian Mode — Starts at 6; it sounds sad and dark.
  • The Locrian Mode — Starts on 7; it sounds dark and dissonant.

While deriving any mode, the notes and their sequence is preserved. See the major scale degree circle below. You can start at different degrees, as shown in the mode list above, go full circle in the clockwise direction and come back to the same note after a full circle. You get the notes of any mode.

Scale Notes

To see exactly how changing the mode in which a song is played can change how it sounds, check out this cool video. It plays “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in each mode of the major scale.

If you want to learn a little more about seven modes, check out this brief yet thorough video introduction.

What is the Mixolydian Mode

For the Mixolydian mode, the fifth mode of the major scales, you must start at degree 5 of the major scales as shown on the above circle and traverse one full circle clockwise. Hence, the Mixolydian mode will comprise notes [5 6 7 1 2 3 4] of the parent major scale.

In the C Major scale, the scale degree 5, i.e., G will be the tonic for the Mixolydian mode. The notes of G Mixolydian mode will be [G A B C D E F].

If you consider the A Major scale with notes [A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#], its 5th mode, the E Mixolydian mode, will have the notes [E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D].

Mixolydian Modes Formula

The mode or the scale formula for the Mixolydian mode is

{W W H W W H W} or {T T S T T S T} or {2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 1, 2}, where

  • H represents a half-step,
  • W denotes the Whole steps (2 half steps).
  • S and T represent a semitone and a Whole tone, respectively.
  • {2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 1, 2} is the interval formula for the number of semitones between the notes.

Use the Mode Formula or the Relevant Major Scale

You can use three methods to find out the notes of any diatonic mode.

  1. In the first method, as you saw above, we used the degrees [5 6 7 1 2 3 4] of the parent major scale to find the notes.
  2. The second method uses the mode formula given in the previous sections. Starting at G and applying the formula, {T T S T T S T}, we get [G A B C D E F].
  3. In the third method, use the formula [1 2 3 4 5 6 b7] on the parallel major scale. G major scale [G A B C D E F#] is the parallel major scale to G Mixolydian. On applying the above formula, you need to lower the 7th note F# to F. Balance all the notes are the same.

You can apply the third method to find the notes in the D Mixolydian mode as an exercise. The notes of the D Ionian mode are [D E F# G A B C#]. On applying the formula [1 2 3 4 5 6 b7], you get the notes of the D Mixolydian mode as [D E F# G A B C].

Mixolydian Mode Intervals

The notes of the G Mixolydian mode or the mode formula can be used to derive the intervals of the Mixolydian mode. The below section shows the intervals using the notes of the G Mixolydian.

G to A – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Major 2nd or M2 from tonic)

A to B – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Major 3rd or M3 from tonic)

B to C – 1 semitone = minor 2nd (Perfect 4th or P4 from tonic).

C to D – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Perfect 5th, or P5 from tonic)

D to E – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Major 6th, or M6 from tonic)

E to F – 1 semitone = minor 2nd (minor 7th or m7 from the tonic)

F To G – 2 semitones = Major 2nd (Octave from tonic)

The intervals from the tonic can be summarized as R, M2, M3, P4, P5, M6, m7, and R(O). A more detailed structural representation of the scale formula and intervals is given below.

R – T – M2 – T – M3 – S – P4 – T – P5 – T – M6 – S – m7 – T – R

Mixolydian Mode Notes & Degrees

You had seen the notes of the G Mixolydian mode. The scale degree names and their numbers, including the functions, remain the same as other diatonic scales.

G Mixolydian On the Treble & Bass Clef

The notation diagrams of the G Mixolydian mode in ascending and descending are placed below, showing its notes on the treble and bass clef.

G Mixolydian on Treble Clef in Ascending & Descending

G Mixolydian Scale on Treble Clef

G Mixolydian on Bass Clef in Ascending and Descending

G Mixolydian Scale on Bass Clef

Comparing Mixolydian to the Major Scale

Suppose you compare the Mixolydian mode to the Major scale or the first mode, the Ionian mode. In that case, the only difference lies in the seventh note, which is lowered by a semitone to a minor seventh, compared to the Ionian mode. The major 3rd interval makes it a major mode along with the Ionian and the Lydian.

The Major Pentatonic Scale has the formula [1 2 3 5 6]. Hence the G Major pentatonic scale has the notes [G A B D E]. The difference is in the second note and the seventh note. It is more representative of the major scale than having the characteristic note of the Mixolydian scale.

Since it is built on the fifth degree of the Ionian mode, on which the dominant chord of the mode is built, it is sometimes referred to as the dominant scale. The tritone for the Mixolydian lies between 3 & b7 degrees.

Mixolydian Mode Characteristics

The Mixolydian mode has a flattened (minor) seventh, which explains why its character is sometimes referred to as “tense.” Its characteristic note is the 7th which differentiates it from the other scale and gives its unique sound. The sound of any diatonic scale depends on the positions of its half steps, which are between degrees 3 & 4 and 6 & b7 for the Mixolydian.

The Mixolydian scale has an Ambiguous, Psychedelic, and Celtic feel. It gives a mellow, relaxed, yet bold sound. Some think it to be bluesy.

The Mixolydian scale is extensively used in Rock and Jazz music. The Mixolydian sound is less directional than the parallel major sound. Hence it is more suited for rock music. This is due to the presence of a subtonic 7th instead of a leading tone in the majors. So it gives an open, unresolved, and ambiguous feel.

List of Mixolydian Scales

The list of the Mixolydian scales, along with their notes, is given in the table below. The scale formula given above will help you in deriving the notes of the other Mixolydian scales.

Relative keys – Mixolydian and Major

By definition, the modes of any diatonic scale carry the same notes of the parent scale and even retain the order. The only differences with the original scale are the starting notes and the intervals. Hence all modes form a relative pair with their parent scale. To find the relative major scales of the Mixolydian mode, you need to lower a Perfect 5th or 7 semitones from the corresponding Mixolydian tonic note.

For example, from G, if you lower 7 semitones, you get C, the parent scale. You can simply move one step anticlockwise on the circle of fifths to get parent Ionian mode.

  • C Mixolydian – F Major
  • C# Mixolydian – F# Major
  • D Mixolydian – G Major
  • D# Mixolydian – G# Major
  • E Mixolydian – A Major
  • F Mixolydian – A# Major
  • F# Mixolydian – B Major
  • G Mixolydian – C Major
  • G# Mixolydian – C# Major
  • A Mixolydian – D Major
  • A# Mixolydian – D# Major
  • B Mixolydian – E Major

G Mixolydian Scales Guitar Patterns on the Fretboard

Before we dive in, keep in mind that every guitarist has a slightly different path when it comes to learning new scales and modes. But if you’re looking for a suggested roadmap to learning the Mixolydian mode, you can use our article as a guide!

Let us now look at the patterns of the G Mixolydian on the guitar fretboard, their fingerings, and the guitar tabs.

The complete G Mixolydian scale on the entire guitar fretboard (up to the 15th fret) is shown in the diagram below. You can see the entire G Mixolydian in a single line from the 3rd fret of the 6th string to the 15th fret.

G Mixolydian Scale Up to 15 Fret

Mixolydian Mode One Octave Shapes

The fretboard diagrams showing one octave of the G Mixolydian with the tonic note on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th strings are placed below.

G Mixolydian Scale - One Octave 01

Mixolydian Mode – CAGED Patterns

The below diagrams show the five different scale patterns based on the open chord CAGED system. Note the lowest root note positions of each pattern carefully, as you need to start playing any pattern from this position.

G Mixolydian Scale Patterns

1st Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: E open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 7th fret to 10th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Two.
  4. Lowest root note position: 10th fret on the 5th string.

The first pattern is a little more straightforward and easier to remember as you repeat the same fretting patterns a few times. Fret the sixth and fifth strings the same way: play at the seventh, then the eighth, and then the tenth fret. On the fourth and third strings, follow a slightly different pattern: play at the seventh, then the ninth, and then the tenth fret. On the second string, play at the eighth and then the tenth fret.

And finally, play the first string just like the sixth string: the seventh fret, then the eighth fret, and then the tenth fret.

G Mixolydian Scale - E Shape

2nd Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: D open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 9th fret to 13th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Two.
  4. Lowest root note position: 10th fret on the 5th string.

The second pattern involves somewhat less movement between frets. For this one, start out on the sixth string at the tenth fret. Then, fret the note at the twelfth fret and then the thirteenth. On the fifth string, fret the note at the tenth fret and then the twelfth. On the fourth and third strings, fret the notes at the ninth, tenth, and twelfth frets. And finally, on the first and second strings, fret at the tenth, twelfth, and thirteenth frets.

Because it doesn’t require a whole lot of hand stretching and because it’s further up the neck where the frets are smaller, this is a good pattern to use if you’re working on building speed. But just like you did when you were learning your chord changes, make sure you take it slowly when building your speed.

Making sure you can play accurately at slower speeds will help ensure that you don’t run into issues when you start playing faster. And as an added bonus, if you have smaller hands, you’ll likely find it much easier to develop your ability to play quickly. As you get faster with this pattern, you may want to work on developing speed down the neck where the frets are wider.

Getting good at playing the scale ascending and descending is one thing, but incorporating it into your playing will open up a world of possibilities.

G Mixolydian Scale - D Shape

3rd Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: C open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 12th fret to 15th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Three.
  4. Lowest root note position: 15th fret on the 6th string.

Now we come to the third pattern of the Mixolydian mode. Starting with the sixth string, fret the notes at the twelfth, thirteenth, and fifteenth frets. For the fifth and fourth strings, you’ll need to repeat the same pattern twice; play at the twelfth, fourteenth, and fifteenth frets.

Next, on the third string, you only need to play two notes: one at the twelfth fret and one at the fourteenth. And finally, at the second and first strings, play just like you did on the sixth string — at the twelfth, thirteenth, and fifteenth frets.

G Mixolydian Scale - C Shape

4th Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: A open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 2nd fret to 6th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Three.
  4. Lowest root note position: 3rd fret on the 6th string.

With this particular pattern, the root note is easy enough to find; it’s the first note you play. But before you begin learning, it’s important to remember that this scale may take a little longer to learn than the pentatonic scale, as you often end up playing three notes per string. If you learned the blues scale after the pentatonic scales, you have some experience with this already.

To start this pattern, we’ll begin on the low E string at the third fret. This is G, the root note. (For this list, we’ll go through the Mixolydian scale in the key of G.) From there, fret the low E string at the fifth fret. Now, we’ll jump to the fifth string.

Fret this one at the second, then the third, and then the fifth fret. Fret the notes on the fourth string the same way. This can take some getting used to, as your fingers will need to stretch over the fretboard more than they usually do with some other scales.

At the third string, fret the notes at the second, fourth, and fifth frets. The second string requires you to move in the opposite direction; fret the notes at the third, fifth, and then sixth frets. And finally, fret the high E string just like the low E: at the third and fifth frets.

G Mixolydian Scale - A Shape

5th Pattern

  1. Chord shape based on: G open chord shape.
  2. Pattern lies between the frets: 4th fret to 8th fret.
  3. The number of root notes: Two.
  4. Lowest root note position: 5th fret on the 4th string.

As you’ll see as we go through the different patterns, there’s a good bit of overlap between them. This will make it easier to connect them when you’re improvising and writing solos.

On the second pattern, start at the fifth fret of the sixth string and then fret at the seventh and eighth frets as well. Fret the fifth string the same way. Then, fret the fourth string at the fifth and seventh frets. On the third string, fret first at the fourth fret and then at the fifth and seventh frets.

Then, moving to the second string, fret at the fifth, sixth, and eighth frets. Lastly, for the first string, fret at the fifth, seventh, and eighth frets. Part of the fun of learning each pattern of the Mixolydian scale (or any other scale) is creating licks. This video lesson can get you started with some helpful lick-making ideas.

Of course, now that you’ve worked through all five patterns, you probably want to make sure you can connect them up the neck. Learning the Mixolydian mode or any scale in smaller patterns is an excellent tool, but teaching yourself to connect and think outside of those boxes presents a new challenge.

Often, this looks like playing a pattern at a time over a backing track or song in the appropriate key. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t sound great at first. Getting good at improvisation takes time. But with some steady practice, you’re sure to see your skills improve. That said, you’ll probably find more success if you understand some of the more established ways to build solos before you start.

While developing your own playing and writing style is always an admirable goal, it can help to listen to some pointers from more experienced guitarists who have been in your shoes. If you’d like some guidance on how to use the Mixolydian scale to improvise leads, check out this very useful video.

G Mixolydian Scale - G Shape

Practicing The Scale Patterns

See in detail how to play and practice any scale in our articles on the D Major scale and C major scale. The complete fingerings for all five patterns are placed in the diagram and table below.

G Mixolydian Scale Fingering
ShapeIndex FingerMiddle FingerRing FingerLittle Finger
EFret 7Fret 8Fret 9Fret 10
DString [3 4] - Fret 9th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 10String [3 4] - Fret 10th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 11String [3 4] - Fret 11th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 12String [3 4] - Fret 12th, String [1 2 5 6] - Fret 13
CFret 12Fret 13Fret 14Fret 15
AString [3 4 5] - 2nd, [1 2 6] - Fret 3rdString [3 4 5] - Fret 3rd, String [1 2 6] - Fret 4thString [3 4 5] - Fret 4th, String [1 2 6] - Fret 5thString [3 4 5] - Fret 5th, String [1 2 6] - Fret 6th
GString 3 - Fret 4, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 5 String 3 - Fret 5, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 6 String 3 - Fret 6, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 7 String 3 - Fret 7, String [1 2 4 5 6] - Fret 8

This video shows you how to quickly learn and master the Mixolydian mode by playing it over the minor pentatonic scale. In the video, the instructor takes the minor pentatonic scale and adds intervals to it until you have the Mixolydian mode of the major scale.

Harmonization Of The Mixolydian Mode

The triads of the Phrygian mode are formed like any other diatonic scale or mode by stacking the intervals of thirds (major or minor) over the root note, known as the tertian harmony.

Triads of the G Mixolydian Scale

The chords formed by the harmonization of the G Mixolydian scale, their roman numeral designation with respect to the Ionian mode, and the chord qualities are given in the table below.

Scale Degrees1234567
Chord DesignationIiiiiidimIVvvibVII
Chord NamesGAmBdimCDmEmF
Chord QualityMajorminordiminishedMajorminorminorMajor

The following triad chords have resulted from the E Phrygian scale.

  1. Three major chords – I, IV, and bVII – Are the G major chord, C Major chord, and F Major chord.
  2. Three minor chords – ii, v, and vi – The A minor, D minor, and the E minor chord.
  3. One diminished chord – iiidim – The B diminished triad, Bdim.

The seven triads, their note names, and their intervals are shown in the table below.

Scale DegreesIntervalsChord NotesChord Name
1R – G – m3 – B – M3 – DG – B – DG
2R – A – M3 – C – m3 – EA – C – EAm
3R – B – m3 – D – M3 – FB – D – FBdim
4R – C – m3 – E – m3 – GC – E – GC
5R – D – M3 – F – m3 – AD – F – ADm
6R – E – m3 – G – M3 – BE – G – BEm
7R – F – m3 – A – M3 – CF – A – CF

7th Chords of the G Mixolydian Scale

The seventh chords formed naturally in the G Mixolydian scale are

G7 Dominant Seventh chord – [G B D F],

Am7 – Minor 7th chord – [A C E G],

Bm7b5 – Half Diminished Chord – [B D F A],

CMaj7 – Major 7th chord – [C E G B].

Dm7 – Minor 7th chord – [D F A C],

Em7 – Minor 7th Chord – [E G B D],

Fmaj7 Major 7th chord – [F A C E],

You can see that the triads and the 7th chords of the Mixolydian mode are the same as the C Ionian mode, with different scale degrees and hence a different Roman Numeral Designation.

Which chord progressions can you use the Mixolydian scale with?

Since the note at the minor seventh interval is the characteristic note of the scale, it is logical that the most common chord progression in Mixolydian must use this note or chord. The progression is

I – bVII – IV – I.

It uses all three major chords of the mode. This is used in several popular songs, like

  1. “Hey Jude” by The Beatles.
  2. “One Day like This” by Elbow.
  3. “Jessica” by The Allman Brothers Band.
  4. “Highway To Hell” by AC/DC.
  5. “I Feel Fine” by the Beatles.
  6. “Back in Black” by AC/DC.

Another progression that gives the classical Mixolydian feel is the I – v. v is, the minor chord built on the fifth note of the scale.

You can even use the I – VII – IV – v – I progression by introducing the v in between.

Mixolydian Mode Compositions and Songs

Some of the compositions and the popular songs in the Mixolydian mode are listed below:

  1. “Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles uses E Mixolydian and E Dorian.
  2. “Joshua Tree in the Gods Country” by U2 uses D Mixolydian and is a good example of the Celtic feel.
  3. “Clocks” by Coldplay. Eb Mixolydian.
  4. “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N Roses. Db Mixolydian.
  5. “Summer Song” by Joe Satriani. A Mixolydian.
  6. ‘All Blues” by Miles Davis. G Mixolydian.
  7. ‘All Night Long” by Lionel Ritchie. Ab Mixolydian.


We hope that you now have a grasp of the Mixolydian scale — an understanding of both its definition and how to start learning it. Remember to be patient with yourself and to be willing to put in the practice, and you’ll be rewarded with a new tool to help you grow as a guitarist. But what do you think? Did we leave out any helpful guidance for learning it? Let us know in the comments, and please don’t forget to like and share if you found our list useful!    

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