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Mixolydian mode

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Subject: Diatonic scale, Reel (dance), Locrian mode, Traditional Nordic dance music, Hungarian gypsy scale
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Mixolydian mode

Modern Mixolydian scale on C[1] About this sound Play  .

Mixolydian mode may refer to one of three things: the name applied to one of the ancient Greek harmoniai or tonoi, based on a particular octave species or scale; one of the medieval church modes; a modern musical mode or diatonic scale, related to the medieval mode. (The Hypomixolydian mode of medieval music, by contrast, has no modern counterpart.)

This mode is known as Harikambhoji in Carnatic music, the classical music form of southern India.


  • Greek Mixolydian 1
  • Medieval Mixolydian and Hypomixolydian 2
  • Modern Mixolydian 3
  • Moloch scale 4
  • Notable music in Mixolydian mode 5
    • Traditional 5.1
    • Popular 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Greek Mixolydian

Diatonic genus of the Greek Mixolydian scale on B About this sound Play  .
Chromatic genus of the Greek Mixolydian scale on E: conjunct tetrachords a and b, with note of conjunction c, and interval of disjunction d About this sound Play  
Enharmonic genus of the Greek Mixolydian scale on E: conjunct tetrachords a and b, with note of conjunction c, and interval of disjunction d About this sound Play  

The idea of a Mixolydian mode comes from the music theory of ancient Greece. The ancient Greek Mixolydian mode was invented by Sappho, the 7th century B.C. poet and musician.[2] However, what the ancient Greeks thought of as Mixolydian was very different from the modern interpretation of the mode.

In Greek theory, the Mixolydian tonos (the term "mode" is a later Latin term) employs a scale (or "octave species") corresponding to the Greek Hypolydian mode inverted: in its diatonic genus, this is a scale descending from paramese to hypate hypaton: in the diatonic genus, a whole tone (paramese to mese) followed by two conjunct inverted Lydian tetrachords (each being two whole tones followed by a semitone descending). This diatonic genus of the scale is roughly the equivalent of playing all the "white notes" of a piano from B to B, or B | A G F E | (E) D C B, which is also known as modern Locrian mode. (In the chromatic and enharmonic genera, each tetrachord consists of a minor third plus two semitones, and a major third plus two quarter-tones, respectively).[3]

Medieval Mixolydian and Hypomixolydian

The term Mixolydian was originally used to designate one of the traditional harmoniai of Greek theory. It was appropriated later (along with six other names) by 2nd-century theorist Ptolemy to designate his seven tonoi or transposition keys. Four centuries later, Boethius interpreted Ptolemy in Latin, still with the meaning of transposition keys, not scales. When chant theory was first being formulated in the 9th century, these seven names plus an eighth, Hypermixolydian (later changed to Hypomixolydian), were again re-appropriated in the anonymous treatise Alia Musica. A commentary on that treatise, called the Nova expositio, first gave it a new sense as one of a set of eight diatonic species of the octave, or scales.[4] The name Mixolydian came to be applied to one of the eight modes of medieval church music: the seventh mode. This mode does not run from B to B on white notes, as the Greek mode, but was defined in two ways: as the diatonic octave species from G up one octave to the G above, or as a mode whose final was G and whose ambitus runs from the F below the final to the G above, with possible extensions "by licence" up to A above and even down to E below, and in which the note D (the tenor of the corresponding seventh psalm tone) had an important melodic function.[5] This medieval theoretical construction led to the modern use of the term for the natural scale from G to G.

The seventh mode of western church music is an authentic mode based on and encompassing the natural scale from G to G, with the perfect fifth (the D in a G to G scale) as the dominant, reciting note or tenor.

The plagal eighth mode was termed Hypomixolydian (or "lower Mixolydian") and, like the Mixolydian, was defined in two ways: as the diatonic octave species from D to the D an octave higher, divided at the mode final, G (thus D–E–F–G + G–A–B–C–D); or as a mode with a final of G and an ambitus from C below the final to E above it, in which the note C (the tenor of the corresponding eighth psalm tone) had an important melodic function.[6]

Modern Mixolydian

Modern Mixolydian scale on G About this sound Play  .

This modern scale has the same series of tones and semitones as the major scale, except the seventh degree is a semitone lower.[1] The Mixolydian mode is sometimes called the dominant scale,[7] because it is the mode built on the fifth degree (the dominant) of the major scale. The flattened seventh of the scale is a tritone away from the mediant (major-third degree) of the key.

It is common in non-classical harmony, such as jazz, funk, blues and rock music.

The order of tones and semitones in a Mixolydian scale is TTSTTST (T = tone; S = semitone), while the major scale is TTSTTTS. The key signature varies accordingly (it will be the same as that of the major key a fifth below).[1]

Some examples:

  • The G Mixolydian mode (related to the key of C major – on a piano it is all the white keys from one G to the next: GABCDEFG)[1]
  • The C Mixolydian mode (related to the key of F major – CDEFGABC)[1]
  • The D Mixolydian mode (related to the key of G major – DEFGABCD)[1]
  • The E Mixolydian mode (related to the key of A major – EFGABCDE)[1]
  • The A Mixolydian mode (related to the key of D major – the scale used on the Great Highland Bagpipes: ABCDEFGA. This scale applies to the bagpipes in name only. The tonic note of bagpipes, A, is currently pitched in between B and B without special adaptation of the instrument.[8]

Moloch scale

Moloch scale on C. About this sound Play  .

Moloch scale is the name used by Klezmer musicians for the Mixolydian scale, to which it is identical. In Klezmer, it is usually transposed to C, where the main chords used are C, F, and G7 (sometimes Gm).[9]

Notable music in Mixolydian mode



See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Arnie Berle, "The Mixolydian Mode/Dominant Seventh Scale", in Mel Bay's Encyclopedia of Scales, Modes and Melodic Patterns: A Unique Approach to Developing Ear, Mind and Finger Coordination (Pacific, Missouri: Mel Bay Publications, 1997): p. 33. ISBN 978-0-7866-1791-3 OCLC 48534968
  2. ^ Anne Carson (ed.), If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (New York: Vintage Books, 2002), p. ix. ISBN 978-0-375-72451-0. Carson cites Pseudo-Plutarch, On Music 16.113c, who in turn names Aristoxenus as his authority.
  3. ^ Thomas J. Mathiesen, "Greece", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, 29 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell, 10: (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001), 10:339. ISBN 1-56159-239-0 OCLC 44391762.
  4. ^ Harold S. Powers, "Dorian", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  5. ^ Harold S. Powers and Frans Wiering, "Mixolydian", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, 29 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 16:766–67 (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001), 767. ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5.
  6. ^ Harold S. Powers and Frans Wiering, "Hypomixolydian", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, 29 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 12:38 (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001) ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5.
  7. ^ Dan Haerle, Scales for Jazz Improvisation (Hialeah: Columbia Pictures Publications; Lebanon, Indiana: Studio P/R; Miami: Warner Bros, 1983), p. 15. ISBN 978-0-89898-705-8.
  8. ^ Ewan MacPherson. "The Pitch and Scale of the Great Highland Bagpipe". The University of Western Ontario. Retrieved 9 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Dick Weissman and Dan Fox, A Guide to Non-Jazz Improvisation: Guitar Edition (Pacific, Missouri: Mel Bay Publications, 2009): p. 130. ISBN 978-0-7866-0751-8.
  10. ^ Wendy Anthony, "Building a Traditional Tune Repertoire: Old Joe Clark (Key of A-Mixolydian)", Mandolin Sessions webzine (February 2007) |(Accessed 2 February 2010).
  11. ^ a b c Ted Eschliman, "Something Old. Something New", Mandolin Sessions webzine (November 2009) (Accessed 2 February 2010).
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Jack Morer, Rolling Stones: "Exile on Main Street" (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation, 1995): p. 100. ISBN 0-7935-4094-1 OCLC 49627026
  14. ^ "Marquee Moon tab", Joe Hartley's generic homepage.
  15. ^ Rooksby, Rikky (2001). Inside Classic Rock Tracks, p.86. ISBN 978-0-87930-654-0.
  16. ^ Ed Friedlander, "The Ancient Musical Modes: What Were They?" (Accessed 6 October 2011).
  17. ^ Dan Bennett, "The Mixolydian Mode", in The Total Rock Bassist (Van Nuys and Los Angeles: Alfred Publishing, 2008): p. 90. ISBN 978-0-7390-5269-3 OCLC 230193269
  18. ^ Kenneth Womack and Todd F. Davis, Reading the Beatles: Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism, and the Fab Four (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006): p. 45. ISBN 978-0-7914-6715-2 (cloth); ISBN 978-0-7914-6716-9 (pbk).
  19. ^ a b Ken Stephenson, What to Listen for in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), p.39. ISBN 978-0-300-09239-4.
  20. ^ a b Albin Zak III. The Velvet Underground Companion: Four Decades of Commentary. (New York: Schirmer Books; London: Prentice Hall International, 2010). p. 333.  
  21. ^ Lloyd Whitesell (2008). The Music of Joni Mitchell. Oxford University Press. p. 119.  
  22. ^ Stefani Germanotta. "Digital Sheet Music – Lady Gaga – You and I"., 2011 ( 
  23. ^ Nate Comp (2009). "The Fretlight Guitar Blog". The Moods of the Modes. Fretlight. Archived from the original on 4 September 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  24. ^ "Grateful Dead master class with Dave Frank". Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  25. ^ "King of Off-Beat Samba Limbs". Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  26. ^

Further reading

  • Hewitt, Michael. Musical Scales of the World. The Note Tree. 2013. ISBN 978-0957547001.

External links

  • "Mixolydian scale for guitar". The Guitarist's Online Survival Kit. Retrieved 27 June 2008. 
  • "Edmund Fitzgerald Chords by Gordon Lightfoot, www.Ultimate-Guitar.Com". www.Ultimate-Guitar.Com. Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
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