Tag Archives: mixolydian mode guitar lesson

How To Make Mixolydian Mode Licks – 5 New Useful Ideas

The dominant chord is a very common chord both in jazz chord progressions and in more modal settings as the Mixolydian Mode. It is important to have a vocabulary of ideas for improvising over it.

In this lesson I am going to focus on a G7 chord and give you 5 examples of licks over that chord. Each introducing a scale or arpeggio idea that you can use in your own licks.

The Mixolydian Mode

In most cases that you improvise over a dominant chord it is found in a chord progression and not really in a setting where it is modal. But outside jazz having static dominant chords is a lot more common. Thinking more about Funk, Rock and Fusion genres.

#1 Dominant Arpeggio Sequences

The first phrase is starting with a leading note to the 3rd(B) of G7. From there it starts a skipping pattern using the G7 arpeggio ending up on the 9th(A). The second bar is first a scale run with an added chromatic passing note and then finishing the line with a skip between the 3rd and the 5th.

Using Arpeggio sequences is a great way to come up with new material. The skipping pattern that I am using in this example you can practice on a G7 like this. Of course you can experiment with this sequence on all your arpeggios.

#2 Dm Pentatonic Scale 

Using Pentatonic scales is a very common device in modern jazz and fusion. In this lick I am using the Dm pentatonic scale over the G7 chord. The scale we use on G7 is G mixolydian or C major:


and Dm pentatonic is a part of that G A B C  D E

Which is Dm pentatonic: D F G A C

The lick is playing descending 4 note melodies first from the E string then B and then G. The final part of the lick is a chromatic phrase connecting the 3rd and the 5th. The lick ends by skipping up to the root and then down to the b7.

The Dm pentatonic scale position I am using in this example is shown here below. 

#3 Em Blues Scale

A closely related option is the Em Blues Scale. The Em pentatonic scale or G major pentatonic scale is of course a good fit for a G major chord, even though you don’t have the b7 in there.

The Blues scale adds an extra chromatic note as well, namely the A# (or Bb)

The line starts with a chromatic enclosure of the 3rd G. From there the melody is really just simple melodies within the blues scale. Again using the A# as a chromatic passing note.

You can use this position to practice the Em blues scale which is also the position I used in the lick above.

#4 Quartal Arpeggios

One of my favourite things to use when improvising is the quartal arpeggios. Having a structure that is not based on stacks of 3rds is a refreshing melodic idea to throw in there.

The beginning of the lick is an Fmaj7 arpeggio. The maj7 arpeggio from the b7 of the chord is another great choice when improvising. From there the line continues with an Am pentatonic scale run before going into a few quartal arpeggios

The quartal arpeggios I use here are actually coming out of an Em pentatonic scale. If you play a pentatonic scale in “diatonic chords” then you end up with a lot of quartal arpeggios.

The lick ends with an Em pentatonic melody.

The easiest way to start practicing quartal arpeggios is probably to start playing them on a string set through a scale. It does pay off to do this for all string sets of course, but below I have written out the C major or G mixolydian scale on the middle string set which is the most common range for the quartal arpeggios.

#5 Spread Triads – Large Intervals

One of the greatest way to add some large intervals to your playing is to use Spread Triads or Open-voiced triads. These are becoming more and more common in modern jazz, but you can also hear people like Eric Johnson and Steve Morse use them in their playing.

In the example below I am combing spread triads with quartal arpeggios and also a normal G major triad.

The first part of the line is using a “mirror” effect on the guitar neck. The beginning is a quartal arpeggio from F and this arpeggio mirrors into a G major triad (you can see clearly it in the video).

From there the lick continues into a G root position spread triad that takes us from G all the way up to B an octave higher. This ascending movement is resolved melodically by a descending scale run and the line ends on the 13th of the chord via a Dm triad.

If you want to practice the Spread Triads then a good place to start is to learn the inversions. I have a few videos on this that you can check out. A basic version

Check out more on Dom7th Chords

If you want to Check out more options for Dominant Chords and getting some ideas on how this works in the setting of a 12 bar blues then have a look at this WebStore Lesson with some exercises and a solo transcription on an F blues:

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Things You Never Use in Your Solos – Mixolydian

We are always looking for new ideas and things to use in our solos so that we can keep improving and stay inspired. In this lesson I am going to go over three examples of some less common ideas that you can add into you vocabulary when using Mixolydian, so if you are playing over a dominant chord. I chose to keep it in a more modal context than in a cadence since these ideas are very useful and easy to study on a static or modal background.

For each of the licks I have also added some exercises to get familiar with the new structure and talk a little about how to use them in jazz licks.

Scale, Chord, Mode and all that

The examples in this lesson are all on a D7 chord, so I am using D mixolydian which is of course the same as G major, since D7 is the dominant of G. Below in example 1 a position of the G major or D mixolyidan scale is shown.

Quintal Harmony – The sound of the Police.

The first structure you can experiment with is the quintal arpeggio. As you hear me play in the video this arpeggio is associated with the sound of Andy Sumners from the Police. That said, if you ask a jazz piano player he might talk about how Kenny Barron is using it a lot and Hendrix was fond of it as well, so it is certainly not unique to the Police.

A good way to check this arpeggio out is to consider it a diatonic arpeggio and play it through the scale, In example 2 I have done this on the A, D & G string set.

One note per string exercises like this are always great for your right hand if you alternate pick.

Another very useful exercise is to take the quintal arpeggio and play it through a position of the scale. Probably this is more for overview and to connect it with the scale than for speed.

A Jazz Guitar Lick with Quintal Arpeggios

On the D7 chord there are of course several different options for a quintal arpeggios. In this example I am using the one from the 5th: A E B, which related to a D root: 5th, 9th and 13th.

The lick starts with the quintal arpeggio and from there continues with a descending scale run down to the 1 of the 2nd bar. In the 2nd bar the melody is first a quartal arpeggio from C: C F# B which is also what you might know as a D7(13) without the root. The Last part of the lick is a scale run in a 3 note per string B minor (or D major) pentatonic scale.

The Forgotten Triad Pairs

Usually when you see people work with Triad Pairs in improvisation they stick with the two major triads next to each other and work with that sound. So in a C major context that would be F and G major triads.  In fact you can choose any set of two triads next to each other and use that as a triad pair and often you can find a set that works better with the chord you are using it on than the two major triads.

In this example I am making a triad pair by removing the one note that you can’t really emphasize on a D7: G. If we take that note a way we are left with 6 notes in the scale and those 6 notes form the Am and Bm triads.

There are several ways to work on these triad pairs. Here is first the Am and Bm triads in the position. I play them in inversions alternating the Am and Bm triads.

Here is a similar exercise but on the A,D and G string set.

Triad Pair melodies: Beautiful intervals

The lick using the triad pairs is almost exclusively using the triad pairs. The first part is chaining together Am root position and a Bm 2nd inversion. From there it continues with a 315 pattern of the Am and the same for the Bm triad. The ending is a smale melody fragment constructed from an Am triad.

The exotic Sus4 options

In my recent lesson on Melodic Minor I also talk about the diatonic sus4 triads (check it out: HERE).

The Sus4 triads are a great sound, they are of course also related to quintal and quartal harmony since: Asus4 is A D E,  E A D is a quartal arpeggio and D A E is a quintal arpeggio.

The first sus4 arpeggio that I am using is an F#dim(sus4). F#dim is F# A C, and F#dim(sus4) is F# B C.  This is in fact spelling out the core of the D7 Mixolydian with C and F# and adding a 13th with the B.

You may recognize the arpeggio as the opening statement in the Joe Henderson piece Inner Urge.

The arpeggio is shown in the position here below:

The other arpeggio I use is an Asus4 arpeggio. This is shown in position here below in example 9:

The sus4 triads are a great way to add extensions and also get some larger intervals in the lick because they by design already contain a 4th and a 5th interval.

Mixolydian Sus4 triads in Action!

The Line starts with a simple statement of the basic chord: D and F#. This is used as a motif and played in reverse a step lower: E C. The last half of the first bar is an Em pentatonic fragment. In the 2nd bar the melody is the F#dim(sus4) arpeggio in 2 octaves. 

Putting all of this to use!

Of course the point of these exercises and the licks are to demonstrate what is possible with these structures. For all of the ideas there are many more options available if you try to find other sus4 triads or triad pairs. 

The material in this lesson doesn’t become really useful until you work a bit with it and start making your own lines, so don’t forget to incorporate it in your own playing!

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Get the PDF!

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Thing You Never Use in Your Solos – Mixolydian

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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