How to Play Mixolydian on Guitar
As you learn to solo over the blues, you start with the minor blues scale, maybe move on to the major blues scale, then stop from there.
But, there’s a whole world of sounds that you can explore beyond the blues scales in your blues soloing, modes.
Modes, such as the one in this lesson, expand your soloing options, bring new sounds into your blues scales, and elevate your playing today.
In this lesson, you explore the Mixolydian mode, which you use when soloing over 7th chords, such as you find in a 12-bar blues progression.
Mixolydian is the 5th mode of the major scale, meaning that G Mixolydian has the same notes as C major, just starting on G instead of C.
C Major = C D E F G A B C
G Mixolydian = G A B C D E F G
From an interval standpoint, Mixolydian is built with the intervals 1-2-3-4-5-6-b7-1, which is very similar to the major scale, with the 7th flat here.
There are 6 mode fingerings for Mixolydian in this chapter, but that doesn’t mean you have to learn every shape to start soloing.
In fact, it’s better to explore these shapes, find the ones you like the most, stick with those for now, then come back to the others over time.
You might find that you play some shapes at slower tempos and others at faster tempos.
You can also use some shapes when you want to shift up the neck and others when you want to stay in place.
There’s a fingering for any situation in this lesson, so have fun exploring each shape in your studies.
Mixolydian Fingerings 1
To begin your study of the Mixolydian mode, you learn two fingerings that stay in place, no shifting up or down, on the fretboard.
Start by learning the 6th string first, then the 5th string, then mixing them both together to get the most out of these shapes in your studies.
Work them in as many keys as possible, all 12 if you can, and sing along to get this mode into your ears as well as into your hands.
Have fun as you begin your study of the Mixolydian mode and build a strong foundation with this essential blues sound.
Mixolydian Fingerings 2
The second group of fingerings starting with your middle finger and moves up the fretboard with the Mixolydian mode.
Start by learning the first shape, then the second shape, then mixing them both together in your studies from there.
Watch the shift on the 4th string, I recommend moving up to your middle or index finger on that root note to make that transition easier.
Use a metronome, start slow and only speed up when comfortable, then when ready, mix this fingering with the one you learned above.
This means picking a root note such as G on the 6th string, then playing all 4 shapes you’ve learned so far from that root.
You can then repeat that exercise from the 5th string on G and take it to other keys from there.
Have fun as you expand your Mixolydian mode knowledge with these two new shapes.
Mixolydian Fingerings 3
To finish your study of Mixolydian fingerings, here are 2 shapes that start on your pinky finger and work back towards the headstock of the guitar.
Start by learning the 6th string shape, then the 5th string, then playing both back-to-back in any key you play them in.
From there, you can mix these with the fingerings you learned previously.
This could mean playing the 1st fingering and then the 2nd fingering all from the same root note on the 6th string, then repeating from the 5th string.
Remember, you don’t have to use every mode fingering you learning in this lesson, some you’ll dig and some you won’t.
Try each fingering in your practicing, then over time some will stick, and some won’t, or you’ll rotate fingerings in your playing depending on the situation.
So, check out these two new Mixolydian fingerings, explore them in different keys, and have fun taking them around the fretboard in your studies.
To test your memory and skill set with this mode, you now take the Mixolydian technical challenge for this lesson.
In this challenge, you play the Mixolydian mode in different directions, on different string sets, and in all 12 keys.
Each key is written over 2-bars in the chart below, but that might be different for you depending on the rhythms you use in your playing.
Use the order of keys in the chart below, and if you move from chord to chord a bit faster or slower than written, all good.
To help you get started with this challenge, here are the goals to work on in your studies.
- Play up each mode that matches the chords below.
- Play down each mode that matches the chords below.
- Play up the first mode and down the second.
- Play down the first mode and up the second.
- Work these exercises with 6th string shape only.
- Work these exercises with 5th string shape only.
- Mix both string shapes together, 6th and 5th.
- Use a metronome and go slow.
- Sing along for added benefit.
- Say each chord/mode out loud to solidify that relationship.
- Have fun!
Now that you know how to work Mixolydian over these chords in 12 keys, now comes the fun part, getting it on the fretboard!
To finish your intro to the Mixolydian mode, you solo over a 24-bar blues in the key of A.
This means that you play the following modes over each chord.
A7 = A Mixolydian
D7 = D Mixolydian
E7 = E Mixolydian
As well, here are some tips on how to practice and get the most out of this challenge in your studies.
- Review the 6th string Mixolydian shape.
- Solo with that shape over A7 only, then only D7, then only E7.
- From there, solo over all 3 chords from the 6th string shape.
- Repeat with the 5th string Mixolydian shape.
- When ready, mix both mode shapes over each chord in the tune.
- Sing along for added benefit.
- Leave space and focus on dynamics, adding slides, hammers, etc.
- Record your solos and listen back for what’s solid and what needs work.
- Have fun!
Now that you know how to work on this challenge, time to take it to the fretboard and get it over the backing track in your studies.