Mixolydian mode

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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

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.[1] 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 a 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).[2]

Medieval Mixolydian and Hypomixolydian

Medieval European music scholars understood the Greek system of modes through the Latin works of Boethius. However, his work was misinterpreted,[vague] and 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.[3] This misinterpretation led to the current 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.[4]

Modern Mixolydian

Modern Mixolydian scale on C[5] 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.[5]

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).[5]

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)[5]
  • The C Mixolydian mode (Related to the key of F major. CDEFGABC)[5]
  • The D Mixolydian mode (Related to the key of G major. DEFGABCD)[5]
  • The E Mixolydian mode (Related to the key of A major. EFGABCDE)[5]

Notable songs in Mixolydian mode


  1. ^ Anne Carson, ed (2002). If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho. Vintage. p. ix. ISBN 978-0375724510.  Editor Carson cites Pseudo-Plutarch, On Music 16.113c, who in turn names Aristoxenus as his authority.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Berle, Arnie (1997). "The Mixolydian Mode/Dominant Seventh Scale". 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. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-7866-1791-3. OCLC 48534968. http://books.google.com/books?id=5YpeM9mTRIAC&pg=PA33. 
  6. ^ Anthony, Wendy (February 2007). "Building a Traditional Tune Repertoire: Old Joe Clark". Mandolin Sessions (Mel Bay Publications). http://archive.mandolinsessions.com/feb07/Anthony.html. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c Eschliman, Ted (November 2009). "Something Old. Something New.". Mandolin Sessions (Mel Bay Publications). http://www.mandolinsessions.com/?p=460. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  8. ^ Pollack, Alan W. (1997). "Notes on 'Dear Prudence'". Archived from the original on 23 September 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20060923185210/http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/dp.shtml. Retrieved 7 August 2008. 
  9. ^ Allen, Patrick (1999). Developing Singing Matters. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers. p. 22. ISBN 0-435-81018-9. OCLC 42040205. 
  10. ^ Morer, Jack; Rolling Stones (1995). Exile on Main Street. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 100. ISBN 0-7935-4094-1. OCLC 49627026. 
  11. ^ Bennett, Dan (2008). "The Mixolydian Mode". The Total Rock Bassist. Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California: Alfred Publishing. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-7390-5269-3. OCLC 230193269. http://books.google.com/books?id=vRgI4W_dN5IC&pg=PA90. 
  12. ^ http://zappa.brainiac.com/tab/marquee.tab.txt

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Mixolydian mode". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.

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