Mixolydian mode

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.


Greek Mixolydian

Diatonic genus of the Greek Mixolydian scale on B 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 mode (or tonos) 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 is 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

Originally used to designate one of the traditional harmoniai of Greek theory, the name was appropriated (along with six others) by the 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 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]

Moloch scale

Moloch scale on C. About this sound Play .

Moloch scale is the name used by Klezmer musicians for the Mixolydian scale, with which it is identical. In Klezmer, it is usually transposed to C, where the main chords used are C, F, and G7 (sometimes Gm).[8]

Notable songs in Mixolydian mode


  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 978-0375724510. 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:[page needed] (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 9780898987058.
  8. ^ Dick Weissman and Dan Fox, A Guide to Non-Jazz Improvisation: Guitar Edition (Pacific, Missouri: Mel Bay Publications, 2009): p. 130. ISBN 9780786607518.
  9. ^ Wendy Anthony, "Building a Traditional Tune Repertoire: Old Joe Clark (Key of A-Mixolydian)", Mandolin Sessions webzine (February 2007) |(Accessed 2 February 2010).
  10. ^ a b c Ted Eschliman, "Something Old. Something New", Mandolin Sessions webzine (November 2009) (Accessed 2 February 2010).
  11. ^ Jack Morer, Rolling Stones: "Exile on Main Street" (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation, 1995): p. 100. ISBN 0-7935-4094-1 OCLC 49627026
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ "Marquee Moon tab", Joe Hartley's generic homepage.
  14. ^ Rooksby, Rikky (2001). Inside Classic Rock Tracks, p.86. ISBN 9780879306540.
  15. ^ 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 9780791467152 (cloth); ISBN 9780791467169 (pbk).
  16. ^ a b Stephenson, Ken (2002). What to Listen for in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis, p.39. ISBN 9780300092394.
  17. ^ Ed Friedlander, "The Ancient Musical Modes: What Were They? (Accessed 6 October 2011).

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mixolydian mode — Mix o*lyd i*an mode [Gr. ? a mixing + E. Lydian.] (Mus.) The seventh ecclesiastical mode, whose scale commences on G. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mixolydian mode — |miksə|lidēən noun Etymology: mixolydian from Greek mixolydios mixolydian (from mixo + lydios Lydian) + English an; mixolydian mode translation of Greek mixolydios harmonia 1. : a Greek mode consisting of two disjunct tetrachords represented on… …   Useful english dictionary

  • mixolydian mode — /mik seuh lid ee euhn, mik /, Music. an authentic church mode represented on the white keys of a keyboard instrument by an ascending scale from G to G. [1770 80; < Gk mixolýdi(os) (mixo , comb. form of míxis a mingling + Lýdios Lydian) + AN] * *… …   Universalium

  • Mixolydian mode — /mɪksoʊˈlɪdiən moʊd/ (say miksoh lideeuhn mohd) noun a scale represented by the white keys of a keyboard instrument, beginning on G. {Greek mixolydios mixed Lydian + an} …  

  • mode — mode1 /mohd/, n. 1. a manner of acting or doing; method; way: modern modes of transportation. 2. a particular type or form of something: Heat is a mode of motion. 3. a designated condition or status, as for performing a task or responding to a… …   Universalium

  • mode — Synonyms and related words: Aeolian mode, Aristotelian sorites, Dorian mode, Goclenian sorites, Greek modes, Hindu mode, Indian mode, Locrian mode, Lydian mode, MO, Phrygian mode, Platonic form, Platonic idea, SOP, aesthetic form, affectation,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • mixolydian — adjective /mɪksəˈlɪdɪən/ designating a mode in music, the highest of the ancient Greek modes, and now having final G and D dominant It is susceptible of nodes or modes as far apart as hyperphrygian and mixolydian …   Wiktionary

  • mixolydian — mixolydˈian adjective 1. (also with cap) (in ancient Greek music) the same as ↑hyperdorian (see under ↑hyper ) 2. (in old church music) applied to an authentic mode extending from g to g, with g for its final • • • Main Entry: ↑mixo …   Useful english dictionary

  • Musical mode — This article is about modes as used in music. For other uses, see Mode (disambiguation). Modern Dorian mode on C  Play …   Wikipedia

  • hypomixolydian mode — “+... noun Etymology: hypo + mixolydian (mode) : a plagal ecclesiastical mode consisting of a tetrachord and an upper conjunct pentachord represented on the white keys of the piano by an ascending diatonic scale from D to D see mode illustration… …   Useful english dictionary

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