Play The Mixolydian Mode Part 3 – Arpeggios and Pentatonics

This is part 3 of our study on how to play the Mixolydian Mode on guitar. To check out the previous lesson click here.

Continuing with our theme of learning to play the Mixolydian mode by breaking it down into 2, 3, 4, and 5 note chunks let’s look at the 4 note arpeggios hiding within the scale.

4-Note Arpeggios

Building a 4 note arpeggio from each degree of Mixolydian generates the following soloing options:

Scale Degree 4 Note Arpeggios in Mixolydian Intervals Against Tonic
1 I7 1, 3, 5, b7
2 ii minor 7 9, 11, 13, 1
3 iii minor 7 3, 5, b7, 9
4 IV major 7 11, 13, 1, 3
5 V minor 7 5, b7, 9, 11
6 vi minor 7 13, 1, 3, 5
b7 bVII major b7, 9, 11, 13

Common approaches include playing a minor 7b5 arpeggio from the 3rd. (C# minor 7b5 over A Mixolydian) (3, 5, b7, 9).

Also playing a minor 7 arpeggio from the 5th (E minor 7 over A Mixolydian) (5, b7, 9, 11).

5-Note Pentatonic Scales

Minor pentatonic scales are often combined with the Mixolydian mode to create a rocky, bluesy feel. Despite the Mixolydian mode being a major type mode (it has a major 3rd), the most common minor pentatonic scale to combine it with is built from the root and would contain a minor 3rd. For example, you would use A minor pentatonic in conjunction with A Mixolydian. A big part of blues vocabulary is bending the minor 3rd in the pentatonic towards the major 3rd in Mixolydian. Many rock guitar licks begin as minor pentatonic lines and then ‘borrow’ notes from Mixolydian to give a slightly happier vibe.

Examine the following line:

Example 15q:

This line begins clearly as an A minor lick, but borrows some notes from A Mixolydian in beats 2 and 3. Joe Satriani, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix are great players to listen to in order to hear this idea.

While the minor pentatonic scale from the root is not an ‘organic’ derivative of the Mixolydian mode, it is probably the most commonly used approach when soloing in a rock/blues context.

The minor pentatonic scales that exist naturally in the Mixolydian mode are built on the 5th, 6th (13th) and 2nd (9th).

Example 15r: Minor Pentatonic on 5.

Intervals played against the root of Mixolydian: 1, 5 b7, 9, 11.

Example 15s: Minor Pentatonic on 6/13.

Intervals played against the root of Mixolydian: 1, 3, 5, 9, 13.

Example 15t: Minor Pentatonic on 9.

Intervals played against the root of Mixolydian: 1, 5, 9, 11, 13.

It is really worth pointing out that if we include the minor pentatonic scale from the root, (A minor pentatonic), the Mixolydian mode contains 2 pairs of minor pentatonic scales, both one tone apart.

We have: A minor and B minor pentatonics. (Minor pentatonic on root and 9)

And E minor and F# minor pentatonics. (Minor pentatonic on 5 and 6)

In other words, you can shift an E minor pentatonic idea up one tone, or vice versa, and the same with an A minor pentatonic idea.

First Choice Soloing Summary for the Mixolydian Mode

Parent Scale: Mixolydian.

Intervals: 3rds and 6ths.

Triad: Minor triad on 5.

Arpeggio: Minor 7b5 on 3 / Minor 7 on 5.

Pentatonic: Minor pentatonic on 5 / Minor pentatonic on the 1.