I have a chord progression that goes:

A Bm D A G

Other areas of the song also have an A, G, D, A progression.

Would this song considered to be in A mixolydian vs A major or D major since the root seems to A, and the 7th is a flat 7th?

  • Does the progression stay on each chord the same amount of time or are there parts where maybe two chords are played in the same measure. A sound file might also help clarify. Or some notation. What about the melody? More information might be needed to make a definitive declaration here. Mar 6, 2015 at 6:13
  • This can only be answered properly if you let us know the harmonic rhythm.
    – Matt L.
    Mar 6, 2015 at 8:08
  • It's a song in 4/4. The A Bm D A G progression is completely even except the last G, which is used as a quick turnaround to get back to the first A. In the A G D A progression each chord takes one measure. I'd love to be able to link to or specify the exact song, however, I'm afraid this will get closed because analysis of specific works are not allowed. Perhaps it's time we finally amend that rule, or is this question out of scope as well?
    – tarun
    Mar 6, 2015 at 13:12
  • The rule has been amended - check the help desk. Adding a specific work as an example here will not get your question closed. But the information you recently provided is very helpful. You could amend the question with the new information. Add it at bottom preceded by "EDIT:" (bold and all caps). Mar 8, 2015 at 7:01

5 Answers 5


The scale that fits over all the chords given is:

A B C# D E F# G A

Those notes are in the D Major Scale but the intended root is A as repeated at beginning and end of chord progression in other areas of song and starts the song. Therefore it is A Mixolydian.


The song definitely has the more an A Mixolydian feel then a D major feel. Both contain similar chord progressions, but there are a few signs showing A Mixolydian is the better way to look at it.

First of all, the progression itself centers around A as the tonic. Also note that the dominant chord (E major) is not present in this progression which would very strongly suggest an A major tonally. The VII chord (G major) is very present and used in a very Mixolydian way.

Let's examine the Roman Numeral Analysis that would be associated with each mode choice.

In D major the results would be

V  vi  I  V  IV 


V  IV  I  V  

Not unheard progressions, but if we instead analyze it in A Mixolydian we get:

I  ii  IV  I  VII 


I  VII  IV I  

This analysis shows how the progression centers more around A then D thus makes more sense to call it A Mixolydian.

  • If E major was present, wouldn't it suggest G major instead? Even though no E chord is present, the G major chord is, and it shares chord tones (G and B) with E minor, the dorian chord of D major. The same applies to the Bm chord, where D and F# - major 3rd of D - are present. Because of the common tones, the vi chord acts like a tonic and the IV chord acts like a subdominant. Are you sure there is no D major feel here?
    – Costagero
    Mar 5, 2015 at 22:47
  • @Costagero the progression obviously centers around A as tonic. While the A major chord occurs 4 time the D major occurs 2 times and the chord progressions start and end with it. E major being present would suggest A major not G major as E major is the dominant chord of A. It not being present, but A still being the center shows it's most appropriate to think modally.
    – Dom
    Mar 5, 2015 at 22:51
  • In the first section, there is harmonic motion from A major to B minor. The stress and resolution movement is there and D major follows. Particularly if this is the beggining of the piece, I don't think it is obvious that A is such a center.
    – Costagero
    Mar 5, 2015 at 22:58
  • @Costagero look at the two analysises. It's I ii IV I VII in A mixoldyian and V vi I V IV in D major. I think the analysis clearly show's what the progressions revolve around.
    – Dom
    Mar 5, 2015 at 23:05
  • 2
    My only problem with this, @Dom, is that G isn't a usual cadential point for the Mixolydian mode; it tends to have a "pre-dominant" function in Mixolydian. The Mixolydian tenor (quasi-dominant) is D, which might apply to the second phrase. G and A, however, are fairly normal cadential points for D Major, and the second progression is in fact a fairly standard half-cadence. It isn't that unusual to start with a dominant and avoid authentic cadences in a piece - it makes for a fairly restless character normally.
    – user16935
    Mar 6, 2015 at 1:24

All the notes involved are present in A mixolydian, which is the 5th mode of D major = D ionian. The two scales are relative to each other: they share the same notes. If it was a modal progression, staying in A7 for most of the time, you could say it was in A mixolydian. But that's not the case.

There is a G# in A major, not a G, so that's wrong too.

It would be more appropriate to say this chord progression is in D major. It is not that common to consider a mode as the key to a piece, unless it clearly has a modal flavor. We use the parent major scale for that.

Let's take a closer look:

  • Bm chord - B, D, F#
  • D chord - D, F#, A

As you can see, there is little difference between the two chords. In fact, Bm can be a voicing for a D6 chord! The vi chord can be a substitute for the I chord.

This also happens with the G:

  • G chord - G, B, D
  • Em chord - E, G, B

The happens here. The IV chord can be a substitute for the ii chord.

Because of the notes they share, the chords can be used to reharmonize progressions. Take a look at this Berklee course.

If you consider reharmonization, your original progression could be:

V I V ii

This has a clear D major feel, and it can be what your musical ear is actually perceiving.

  • Reharminization is not appropriate for an analysis as you are literally changing the harmony. It is done in playing to spice up a line and keep most of the function.
    – Dom
    Mar 6, 2015 at 0:07
  • I disagree. We are talking about simple reharmonization - reharminization by areas - in which you preserve the harmonic features of the chords. Dominants for dominant (V and vii); Predominants for predominant (ii and IV); Tonics for tonic (I, iii and vi). That's because the substitutions keep the important chord tones, the ones that define harmonic motion. Things like tritone substitutions and secondary dominants do alter the harmony, but that's not the case here.
    – Costagero
    Mar 6, 2015 at 0:16
  • If that was the case we would only ever use 3 chords in analysis.
    – Dom
    Mar 6, 2015 at 0:20
  • We do not use 3 chords in analysis, but we do think of harmonic motion when we want to find the key to a song :) Your analysis was correct. What I did was not an analysis, it was an explanation.
    – Costagero
    Mar 6, 2015 at 0:28
  • 1
    Since A Mixolydian contains exactly the notes in D major, the main factor will be about where the song gravitates to. D and Bm, and G and Em are NOT the same. D6 is a revoicing of Bm7 - not mentioned. To have a clear Dmaj feel it would gravitate to D, rather than the A used.
    – Tim
    Mar 6, 2015 at 7:29

It's very common to use chords 'borrowed' from the parallel. As in A maj - with A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m and ...Am, C, Dm, E (Em), F, G. Yes I left out the 'dim'.

Doing this in a song doesn't put it into a mode, but it still retains its original letter name as its key.

There is no mention about a G# NOTE in the song, at a different place. If that exists, then it can't be A Mixolydian, which is exactly the same note make up as D major.If every G is G natural, and the song gravitates to A, it could well be construed as A Mix.


both progressions you mentioned can definitely be attributed to the Mixolydian mode:

A–Bm–D–A–G or I–ii–IV–I–VII


the second progression is quite typical of the Mixolydian mode and can be found in Grateful Dead's Scarlet Begonias, Led Zeppelin's Thank You, The Doors' The End, and Steve Young's Seven Bridges Road.

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