lethal guitar

In the following examples we illustrate a basic Mixolydian scale, a 7th arpeggio or two and finally, examples of the minor five chord in melodic ideas.

Print it!
Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.
I’ve heard people use some crazy names for the mixolydian mode—one of my favorites has to be the “Nickelodeon” scale! This scale is very similar to the Ionian or major scale. As a matter of fact, it’s identical with the exception of a flatted 7th scale degree (1–2–3–4–5–6–b7) and can really add new color to your lead work. A common vantage point is that the Mixolydian scale is based off the 5th degree of the major scale. For example, a C major scale would be C–D–E–F–G–A–B. If we use the same notes but start on the 5th degree we have G Mixolydian. If you compare that with a G major scale (G–A–B–C–D–E–F#) you can see how the flat 7th changes things. If we extract and combine the 1–3–5–b7 from the scale, we have a dominant 7th chord. This scale can also be utilized over other forms of the dominant chord, such as 9th, 11th, and 13th chords since each of these contain the basic dominant 7th chord tones.

As a young guitarist, I noticed that a progression that I kept coming across was I–I7–IV. When I would solo over the I-IV chord change I’d emphasize the b7, giving my lead work some Mixolydian characteristics. The b7 of the one-chord (I), is the 4th degree of the four-chord (IV), and when I move to the (IV), it resolves the tension by creating the 4-3 suspension, as the (IV) chord contains the 3rd. It leads the melodic line smoothly from the I to IV.

This concept is simple enough but there are other elements to this mode that are certainly noteworthy. The diatonic chords in the Mixolydian mode are a bit different than the chords in a typical Ionian. One of my favorite differences is the minor dominant chord or minor five. Playing in major keys, and even in minor keys (harmonic or melodic minor) you get a major dominant chord. The minor dominant chord is one of the defining characteristics of the mixolydian mode.

By studying and applying the Mixolydian mode, I made use of this minor dominant when moving from the I chord to the IV chord. Instead of I–I7–IV I would use I–v–IV or G–Dm–C, if we were in the key of G. In my soloing, it gives an almost outside sound and allows me to break out of typical blues based lead guitar work.

In the following examples I’ll first illustrate a basic Mixolydian scale, a 7th arpeggio or two and finally, examples of the minor five chord in melodic ideas.

Example 1 is a Mixolydian scale encompassing all six strings. Remember the Mixolydian scale is based on the 5th degree of the major scale. You could say this is a D major parent scale making the 5th (A) the new root. Download example audio...

Read MoreShow less

Using the Lydian mode in the style of Steve Vai

Back in the day, I used to listen to quite a bit of Steve Vai. I first heard him in 1981 with Frank Zappa on Halloween at the Fillmore East. I was a freshman in college and he totally blew me away. I was impressed with his seemingly effortless virtuosity and flamboyant stage performance. Next, I heard a floppy single of a tune entitled “Blue Powder” and was even more impressed. Finally, after seeing his performance of “Eugene’s Trick Bag” in the movie Crossroads, I decided to give this guy some serious listening time. For a few years, I saturated myself with various recordings and noticed some things about his soloing techniques. One of those things was his use of the Lydian mode (1–2–3–#4–5–6–7) In a number of his solos I noticed he used the main element of this mode (#4) as a sort of spice to liven things up. In other words, he didn’t use it constantly, but added color to his melodies with it. When I started to analyze his soloing techniques it revealed quite a bit about how to properly use this and other modes.

The Lydian scale is identical to the major scale, but with a raised 4th degree. Also, the Lydian and Ionian scales contain a major seventh. These scales go great over a major seventh chord. With these concepts in mind, I’ve illustrated some examples of easy ways to implement this mode into your playing.

Here is an arpeggio based on an A major triad with a raised 4th at the peak of the arpeggio giving it the Lydian quality. Download example audio...

Read MoreShow less

Jeff Beasley covers two approaches to harmonization that are used in virtually all styles of music.

Harmony in Western music can be broken into two basic categories: consonance and dissonance. Consonance is synonymous with “stability” and dissonance with “instability.” Harmony in its most basic form can be considered as two or more notes sounded simultaneously. There is a distance, or interval, between the two notes and on the guitar we judge those distances in frets. If you look at the guitar fretboard, one could assume that there are many different possibilities for intervals. You can however divide those possibilities into two categories: simple intervals and compound intervals. A simple interval is any interval that is smaller than an octave (12 frets) and a compound interval is any interval that is greater than an octave.

The interval of a major third consists of two notes that are four half steps apart in pitch, while the minor third consists of two notes that are three half steps apart. Many chords are built using these two intervals in various combinations. To gain a good grasp of applying these harmonic ideas, let’s focus on harmonizing the major scale in major and minor thirds. Notice the first, fourth, and fifth tones are harmonized using major thirds and the rest of the tones are harmonized using minor thirds (the second, third, sixth, and seventh).

Example 1
The G major scale harmonized in thirds. Download Example Audio...

Read MoreShow less