After a while, even the most patient musician gets tired of the same Major and minor scales. Music is full of interesting sounds and shapes, and yet so many seem so incomprehensible, which makes it hard to move on no matter how tired of the same old scales we are. This is where modes come in.
Modes are actually scales. In fact, they are ancient scales that predate our Major and minor scales by a long shot.
Today we are going to discuss one of the most interesting of all of the scales for bass guitar, which is the Mixolydian mode.
The Mixolydian mode is the fifth of the modes, and just like all other modes, it has the characteristic traits of a minor scale. What makes this mode so interesting though, is its unique sound. Of all the modes, the Mixolydian mode has the most exotic feel to it.
So what is the Mixolydian mode? The Mixolydian mode is essentially a scale in the key of G. The notes of this mode are G, A, B, C, D, E, and F. Just like all of the other modes, the Mixolydian possesses no accidental notes –sharps or flats—which makes it easy to play anywhere on the neck.
To properly play the Mixolydian mode, you need to have full comprehension of your fret board. This means you need to understand the interval relationship between each fret and, most importantly, the notes of your bass guitar fret board. If you don’t already know these things, take a bit of time to study the fret board and learn the notes. The rest will fall in tow.
Because modes contain no accidentals, they bring a unique sound when used to play over average Major and minor scales. For instance, if we were to play the Mixolydian scale over the key of G Major, the two contrasts in notes would look like this:
G, A, B, C, D, E, F
G Major scale:
G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
Notice how the Mixolydian mode is nearly identical to the G Major scale. The only difference is that the leading to of the Mixolydian mode has been lowered a half step from the note F# to the note F.
This means that if we were to play the Mixolydian mode over the G Major scale, we would result with an almost chromatic feel starting on the submediant all the way back to the tonic. This gives for an interesting contrast which is very noticeable when used properly.
As with all scales and techniques, the most important step is the one you must do yourself; practice. Try creating melodies with the G Major scale, and then use the Mixolydian mode to play over it. Try purposely accentuating the contrasts of the submediant notes of both scales by playing them together.
Set aside a block of time each day in which to practice, and use that time to familiarize yourself with the subtle differences between the two scales. Pay close attention to their qualities and try to discern them. This will help you to better master the Mixolydian mode. Above all, be sure to practice hard, and have fun.
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