AskDefine | Define mixolydian

User Contributed Dictionary



Greek μιξο-Λυδιος ‘half-Lydian’, from μιξο- (from base of μιγνυναι ‘to mix’) + Λυδιος (Lydia, an ancient country in Asia Minor, which gave its name to another Greek mode).


IPA: /mɪksə'lɪdɪən/


  1. designating a mode in music, the highest of the ancient Greek modes, and now having final G and D dominant
    • 1922: It is susceptible of nodes or modes as far apart as hyperphrygian and mixolydian — James Joyce, Ulysses

Extensive Definition

The Mixolydian mode is a musical mode or diatonic scale. It has the same series of tones and semitones as the major scale, except the fifth (dominant) note is taken as the tonic or starting (beginning) pitch of the scale. It may also be considered a major scale with the leading tone moved down by a semitone.
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).
Incidentally, the order of Mixolydian tones and semitones is identical to the Dominant 7th scale. In other words, the C Mixolydian mode and the C Dominant 7th scale are identical.
Some examples:
  • The G Mixolydian mode (Based on C major - on a piano it is all the white keys from one G to the next. GABCDEFG)
  • The C Mixolydian mode (Based on F major. CDEFGAB♭C)
  • The D Mixolydian mode (Based on G major. DEF♯GABCD)
  • The E Mixolydian mode (Based on A major. EF♯G♯ABC♯DE)

Greek Mixolydian

The idea of a Mixolydian mode comes from the music theory of ancient Greece. However, what the ancient Greeks thought of as Mixolydian was very different from the modern interpretation of the mode.
In Greek theory, the Mixolydian is the Hypolydian mode inverted: a descending scale of a whole tone followed by two 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 C D (E) | E F G A | B. This happens to be theoretically the same as Hyperdorian mode, but Mixolydian seems to have been the preferred name. It also seems that this Mixolydian mode was little used by the ancient Greeks, and that it was deemed unfit for any kind of music. It is the same as the modern Locrian mode.
The ancient Greek Mixolydian mode was invented by Sappho, the 7th century B.C. poet and musician, according to Anne Carson. In the introduction to her translation of Sappho's work, "If Not, Winter" (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002), Carson attributes this fact to Aristoxenos, who, in turn (Carson writes), was citing Plutarch in his "On Music."

Mediaeval Mixolydian and Hypomixolydian

Mediaeval European music scholars understood the Greek system of modes through the Latin works of Boethius. However, his work was misinterpreted, and the name Mixolydian came to be applied to one of the eight modes of mediaeval church music: the seventh mode. This mode does not run from B to B on white notes, as the Greek mode, but from G to G. 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.
Hand in hand with this mode goes the plagal eighth mode, which was termed Hypomixolydian (or under Mixolydian). This mode was based on the same scale, but used the perfect fourth (the C in a G to G scale) as the reciting note, and had a melodic range from the perfect fourth below the tonic to the perfect fifth above it.

External links

mixolydian in Czech: Mixolydický modus
mixolydian in Danish: Mixolydisk
mixolydian in German: Mixolydischer Modus
mixolydian in Estonian: Miksolüüdia helilaad
mixolydian in Dutch: Mixolydisch
mixolydian in Polish: Skala miksolidyjska kościelna
mixolydian in Portuguese: Modo mixolídio
mixolydian in Vietnamese: Âm giai Mixolidian
mixolydian in Ukrainian: Міксолідійський лад
Notable songs in Mixolydian mode This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2008) Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unverifiable material may be challenged and removed.
* Tom Verlaine's solo in " Marquee Moon " is in D Mixolydian. * Dave Murray's solo in "Fear of the Dark" by Iron Maiden is in E Mixolydian. * "China Grove" by The Doobie Brothers is in E Mixolydian. * Bodysnatchers by Radiohead is in D Mixolydian * "Europa and the Pirate Twins" by Thomas Dolby is in A Mixolydian. * "Old Joe Clark" traditional American folk song. * "Breaking Us In Two" by Joe Jackson is in F# Mixolydian. * "Change" by Tears for Fears is in C Mixolydian. * "Back In Black" by AC/DC is in E Mixolydian. * "It's a Long Way to the Top" by AC/DC is in A# Mixolydian. * "I Can't Explain" by The Who, E Mixolydian. * "All Blues" by Miles Davis is a blues in G Mixolydian. * "In God's Country" by U2 is in D Mixolydian. * "I Feel Free" by Cream is in E Mixolydian. * "New Life" by Depeche Mode is in D Mixolydian. * "Norwegian Wood" by The Beatles is in E Mixolydian. * "The Extremist" by Joe Satriani. The chorus of "Summer Song" is in the Mixolydian mode. * "Transmission" by Joy Division is in D Mixolydian. * "China Cat Sunflower" by The Grateful Dead is in G Mixolydian. * "Hold Me Now" by the Thompson Twins is in D Mixolydian. * The solo/jam segment of "Simple" and "Limb By Limb" by Phish are in F Mixolydian. Also, the song "NICU" by Phish contains jams and chords in Eb Mixolydian. * "Taxman" by The Beatles (D Mixolydian) * "Jane Says" by Jane's Addiction (A Mixolydian) * "She Said She Said" by The Beatles * "Tomorrow Never Knows" by The Beatles * "Third Stone From the Sun" by Jimi Hendrix * "I Will Follow" by U2 (E Mixolydian) * "The Number Of The Beast" by Iron Maiden * "Glasgow Kiss" by John Petrucci * "Stream" by Tim Reynolds is in D Mixolydian * "Six Feet Under Theme" by Thomas Newman * "The Hero's Return" by Pink Floyd (D Mixolydian) * "Louie Louie" by Richard Berry, popularized by The Kingsmen (A Mixolydian) * "Clocks" by Coldplay (Eb Mixolydian) * "She Bangs The Drums" by The Stone Roses, E Mixolydian * "She Moved Through the Fair" (Traditional) * "Shine" by Collective Soul (Db Mixolydian) * "Sister Ray" by the Velvet Underground (G Mixolydian) * "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones (E Mixolydian) * "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses (Db Mixolydian) * "Thorn in my Pride" by the Black Crowes (B Mixolydian) * "The Visitors (Crackin' Up)" by ABBA (A Mixolydian) * "Good Love Is On The Way" by John Mayer * "Silverfuck" and "Hummer" (both D Mixolydian) by Smashing Pumpkins * "Journey to the End of East Bay" by Rancid * "(Lough) Erin Shore" by The Corrs (in D Mixolydian, in A when used as intro to "Forgiven Not Forgotten") * "Down Rodeo" by Rage Against the Machine (main riff in F# Mixolydian) * "Burned us Alive" by Eighteen Visions * "One Day Remains" by Alter Bridge (B Mixolydian) * "Chicago" by Sufjan Stevens is in D Mixolydian * "Flower of Scotland" (Mixolydian) * "Dark Star" by Grateful Dead (instrumental part) (Mixolydian) * "War Pigs by Black Sabbath (Ozzy's singing part is in E Mixolydian) * "Warning" by Green Day is in A Mixolydian. * "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys (1966): refrain is in Gb Mixolydian, then Ab Mixolydian, then Bb Mixolydian, a thematic motif repeating in sequence a whole-tone higher each time. * "Millennium" by Robbie Williams is in D Myxolydian. * Most of the Band Land theme in Rayman is in A Mixolydian. * "How's My Driving, Doug Hastings?" by Less Than Jake (B flat mixolydian, and A flat mixolydian) * "Angels We Have Heard on High" (Refrain)
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