Shred­ded Metal

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

Over the many years that I’ve been writ­ing this col­umn, one scale that I’ve never taken an in-depth look at is the mixoly­dian mode. This is be­cause it’s a ma­jor type mode fea­tur­ing a ma­jor third de­gree. As such, it sounds a bit too ‘happy’ to ever be used in tra­di­tional heavy metal (which is what I pri­mar­ily fo­cus on in this col­umn).

Never the less, the mode is very com­mon in hard rock mu­sic. From AC/DC to Guns N’ Roses, mixoly­dian riffs and chord pro­gres­sions can be heard in abun­dance. In shred and in­stru­men­tal rock gui­tar mu­sic, two no­table songs based on the mixoly­dian mode are Joe Satriani’s “Sum­mer Song” and Steve Vai’s “Erotic Night­mares”.


Mixoly­dian is the fifth mode of the ma­jor scale. This means that you play the same notes as you would in a ba­sic ma­jor scale, but start and end on the fifth de­gree (so the fifth step be­comes the root note).

This re­sults in the mixoly­dian mode – a ma­jor scale with a flat­tened seventh de­gree (1-2-3-4-5-6-b7). Rather than the su­per bright and happy ma­jor scale sound, the b7 takes the edge off, so to speak – this is why it works so well for clas­sic hard rock.

Ex­er­cise #1 il­lus­trates two pat­terns for play­ing the mixoly­dian mode – on one string, and a ba­sic ‘box’ pat­tern. Prac­tise improvising over a static tonic chord (A in this case), and em­pha­sise the b7 de­gree to re­ally get a feel for the sound. Th­ese ex­er­cises (as with the oth­ers) are writ­ten in the key of A, but you should move them around the neck and make sure you can play them in all twelve keys.


Of course, know­ing how to play a scale is fairly point­less un­less you know what to use it over. The most com­mon mixoly­dian chord progression is I-bVII (A-G, E-D, etc.). As an ex­am­ple, the first half of Ex­er­cise #2 is a ba­sic I-bVII-IV (A-G-D) mixoly­dian chord loop that you could jam the mode over.

You can also write riffs based on scales and modes, and ac­cord­ingly solo over them us­ing said mode. The sec­ond half of Ex­er­cise #2 is an ex­am­ple of a riff based on the mixoly­dian mode. This riff is in the style of the Frank Zappa clas­sic “My Gui­tar Wants to Kill Your Mama”. As an aside, check out the awe­some cover of this track on the first G3 live al­bum.


Here, I’ve in­cluded two more mixoly­dian pat­terns to prac­tise. The first is a stan­dard three-note-per-string fin­ger­ing, which is per­fect for fast shred or le­gato lines. The sec­ond pat­tern is a sort of ‘mixoly­dian pen­ta­tonic’ shape that I like to use. Here, the sec­ond and sixth de­grees are omit­ted, leav­ing a scale for­mula of 1-3-4-5-b7.

This is es­sen­tially a mi­nor pen­ta­tonic scale, but with a raised/ma­jor third. It works great since it tar­gets the re­ally per­ti­nent notes of the mode. Prac­tise th­ese pat­terns as­cend­ing and de­scend­ing, and then try improvising with them


This is a repet­i­tive pull-off style lick us­ing the afore­men­tioned ‘mixoly­dian pen­ta­tonic’ pat­tern. The lick could be used over ei­ther the chord progression or the riff from Ex­er­cise #2.


Al­though not as ‘heavy’ as the mi­nor modes, the mixoly­dian mode still has a pretty cool, hard rock­ing sound. Check it out!

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