Mixolydian's b7 Degree is NOT a "Strange" Note! (HERE'S WHY)...

Sometimes chord riffs or melody lines can come across as sounding rather "strange." This will tend to leave the uneducated player somewhat confused as to what they should play over them.

It's tough to find a musician who could play over literally "any" chord progression. However, the good news is that every musician can learn how to understand what is happening musically with almost "any" musical phrase.




Strange Major sounds are very popular when it comes to students dealing with confusing musical concepts. This tends to happen the most in Rock, Country and Folk styles.

In order to get rid of that confusion we first have to break down all the possibilities for "where" the music comes from. That's exactly what we're going to do in this lesson.

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STRANGE SOUNDS:
I want to discuss a common problem I’ve come across when working with my students. It has to do with a sound that will often show up in styles like, Southern Rock, Country Music, and even in Folk music.

My students will often come into their class telling me that there’s this "note" being played in these certain songs that (even though it seems “major” it really isn’t).

When it happens, this notes appearance always catches them off guard – sends them back to the drawing board, and they can’t understand what to play over this notes’ particular sound.

Popular songs that pose this issue include; “Copperhead Road,” by Steve Earle, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and another one is the song, “Stuck In The Middle With You,” by Steelers Wheel.

There are of course many other songs that use this note (this sound) into riffs – these here, I gave are just a few examples. But, in this lesson, we’re going to discover exactly what this note is and how to cover its appearance in a song.




NOT MAJOR /NOT MINOR:
When used, this note catches a lot of attention in a song because it plays a role in altering the effect of the scales color.

Most students who get curious about this note, and this notes effect within a song, often say that it seems to sound Major, but they can’t get the Major Scale key to work properly.

To fully understand this idea, the best way to learn what’s happening here is to start with the Major Scale and take notice of the alteration that we’re dealing with.

If we look at a basic “C” Major Scale, we notice right away that it contains all natural tones from the root up to the octave. 




However, to achieve this unique type of sound, (that we’ll hear in songs by bands we’ve already mentioned like Steve Earl and Lynard Skynard), we need to alter the 7th note of the Major Scale by lowering it down a ½ step.

When we do this, we get the "strange" sound that’s heard in all of those songs we had stated earlier. And, the name of this sound is called, “Mixolydian.”




IMPORTANT:
The Mixolydian mode is essentially a "Major" scale but the off-color effect of the scale is produced by the lowered 7th degree. Our ears "expect" that Major 7 at the point of resolution, but instead we get that unique color of Minor 7 instead.





MIXOLYDIAN SCALE:
The Mixolydian scale is essentially a Major Scale but it gets played with the 7th degree lowered down by way a ½ step.

This ends up giving us a Major scale - with a “Minor 7th” (replacing the standard “Major 7th”). And, with that information, we can work toward better understanding what happens within the general theory behind creating this “strange sounding note.”

Mixolydian is such a unique effect musically (and certainly one that catches the attention of guitar players).

There's no getting around it that this mode is a great sound when it’s used in a song that supports it. So, with the theory breakdown out of the way, now we’ll move on to start working at putting this idea to use by composing a, “Mixolydian Riff.”


Mixolydian Riff Example:



Now that you have a Mixolydian riff which focuses on maintaining the keys Major 3rd (along with adding in that lowered 7th degree), the next step is to move on to exploring the melodic sounds of Mixolydian.

We will move the scale through developing a linear note pattern that will be helpful for producing a great sounding "along the neck" Mixolydian fret-board shape.


Mixolydian Along the Neck Scale:



Record the riff shown above and then apply the, "Mixolydian Along the Neck Scale," over the chord progression, (Mixolydian Riff Example).





CONCLUSION:
With those two ideas in play (the scale and the riff), you can start working toward applying Mixolydian aspects in your own guitar playing.

Spend time practicing on the fret-board and commit this “along the neck Mixolydian scale pattern,” to memory. Over time, this sound won't seem to be strange anymore. You'll gain control over it and learn to recognize it in music going forward.


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