The Musicarta Modes Workbook

The Mixolydian Mode (2)

Mixolydian ëVII–IV–I riffs

NOTE: Some computer systems do not represent sharp and flat signs as entered by the author. ë indicates a flat sign and ì a sharp.

The most recognisable Mixolydian chord sequence is ëVII–IV–I (Flat Seven, Four, One).

Download up=to-date MIDI files for this page.

Riff One

Find the chords on the right hand side of this keyboards diagram.

Play the four chords from the top down.

mix_02_01

The chords are written an octave higher than they are played, to save you reading lots of ledger lines.

For our classic ëVII–IV–I riff, we need just the last three chords.

mix_02_02

The falling top line (scale tones m7 – 6 – 5) is instantly recognisable. You can play either the roots in the bass, or a G pedal bass.

This combination of chords is the basis of lots of driving rock riffs.Here’s an example.

mix_02_03

Riff Two

Here is a less powered-up riff which uses the same chords. In the audio clip you hear a pedal G bass, a root-of-the-chord bass, and a walking bass (which uses a Bë descending for effect).

mix_02_04

Riff Three

Here is a riff in rock three-four time using all four chords.

mix_02_05

This music is very simplified.

Here is the chord sequence.

Riff Four

Now find the chords on the left hand side of the keyboards diagram.

Play them from the bottom up. Watch out for the bass clef in the written-out music.

Here’s the riff based on these chords.

mix_02_06

We have changed the inversions, we’re playing the chords in the reverse order, and the chords are rising rather than falling.

Note how, in all these manuscript examples, the key signature is the classical G major (to indicate that g is still the tonic/home chord. The F natural throughout indicates the Mixolydian mode.

Riff Five – a four-chord Mixolydian sequence

Here is a riff which uses the Mixolydian minor dominant (D minor in G Mixolydian).

Find the chords in this keyboards diagram.

We use the top four chords first.

mix_02_07

Play that in an easy groove like this.

mix_02_08

Note: To avoid leger lines, the chords are written an octave higher than they are played.

Play it through twice. So far, our chord sequence looks like this:

Then use the bottom four chords from the keyboards diagram (from F down).

mix_02_09

Play them twice and add them onto the first chord sequence.

Double up phrases to make the whole thing longer. Use the first four chords for your song verse and the second four chords for the chorus.

Mixed major/Mixolydian sequences

Notice the  restlessness of these Mixolydian chord sequences. You don’t quite know where ‘home’ is. To out modern ear, the modes (except for the Ionian) aren’t quite fully formed as a key system – which is precisely whty the Ionian ‘won out’ as the modern major, and the minor modes got a major dominant (V) chord and became the modern classical minor key.

The mixed riff

There’s no rule to say we can’t mix and match, though. In fact, the ëVII chord is often ‘borrowed in’ to regular Ionian-mode pop songs.

Listen to these four chords.

mix_02_10

The only difference to the previous riff is that there is no F natural sign (ì) in the D chord, so the D chord stays major. Notice how the top note falls a semi-tone every chord change – something considered desirable in music generally.

Here’s a riff based on the four chords.      

mix_02_11

The left hand in this riff uses different inversions of the same chords.

mix_02_12

Use them on their own as a simpler riff left hand if you wish.

Finally, here’s the third and final set of possible inversions, and a riff built on them.

mix_02_13
mix_02_14

Here’s a beat map for the complicated rhythm in the last audio clip.

mix_02_01

Get a full description of the Musicarta beat maps and how to use them in  Module Four of Musicarta’s Beat and Rhythm series: Exercises for Rhythm and Syncopation. The series also has graded exercise to help you build up to complicated rhythms like the attractive one used here.


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