I'm confused about how to switch modes in song. When you switch modes, will it switch like this (C Ionian -> C Mixolydian) or like this (C Ionian -> G Mixolydian)? Also, how will you formulate chords that fit with the song when switching modes?

Also, there is this song that involves chords outside of the G Ionian Scale:

G Bm Em Dm G7 C Bm A D7

So what method did the artist use to create this chord progression?

2 Answers 2


will it switch like this (C Ionian -> C Mixolydian) or like this (C Ionian -> G Mixolydian)?

Both; depends on what you want to do and where you want to go from the mode you are on. Let's look closely at these two examples.

  • We are in C Ionian mode (C major); if you go to C Mixolydian, you'll find yourself in the V mode of the F Ionian mode.

  • We are in C Ionian mode; if you go to G Mixolydian, you find yourself in the V mode of the C Ionian mode. If you want to stay in the C major scale, you can use G mixolydian. If you want to go to F major, you can use C Mixolydian. You can also use other Mixolydian chords to lead to other scales.

So, both of these examples are correct. In order to see which one to use in your song, just see where you want the harmony to lead to.

In this progression:

G Bm Em Dm G7 C Bm A D7

It uses chords from the G major scale:

  • G Bm Em all belong to the G major scale as I,iii,vi.
  • Dm G7 C belong to the C major scale as ii,V,I; C is the IV of G, so this is a ii V which leads to a chord in the scale we were in. This is really common in Jazz songs.
  • Bm A D7 belong to the G major scale again, as iii,V/V, V.

V/V means that A is the V of D, which is the V of G; so V of V or V/V.

The progression ends on D7 which is the V of G and leads back to the starting chord, which is G.

  • 1
    The only thing I would add is the distinction between borrowing chords and changing key/mode. This song doesn't really modulate, but takes advantage of two secondary dominants (G7-> C and A -> D7) and the only other chord not native to G major (Dm) can be viewed as borrowed from the relative minor (or C major if you want to think in C) to make the G7 to C more convincing. Everything else is squarely in G major.
    – Dom
    Jan 21, 2016 at 16:32
  • Correct; ii V which leads to IV of G and the secondary dominant are the only chords that don't belong in G Jan 21, 2016 at 16:36
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    @Dom - 'borrowed from the parallel minor'?
    – Tim
    Jan 21, 2016 at 16:48
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    @Tim it depends if you want to look at it tonaly, modally, or part of the sequence. If just a Dm popped up in the key of G I'd go with it being borrowed from the parallel minor or mixolydian mode (C major in this case). It's typically not that big of a difference in how you look at it, but looking at it more like C major makes sense although then you kind of loose sight of it being from G.
    – Dom
    Jan 21, 2016 at 16:53
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    It's probably wisest to see this as G Major with a tonicisation of the subdominant, which is immediately contradicted by iii of G minor and V of V (which directly "cancels" C as a potential tonic). The use of secondary degrees on B and E gives it a slight Aeolian feel, but not enough to challenge the very strong cadential movements to C and G.
    – user16935
    Jan 21, 2016 at 19:22

It seems to me that playing 7 chords make mixo easy and a flat 7. I like bouncing modes/ in more of a chord tone type of way. It's like having what I would call pivot points in a song. You can pivot to another mode without traveling. I may start on e minor and pull a major swing out and float on down to mixolydian by using seventh chords and making sure to play a d7. While in ionian you should keep it vague bouncing between the 2 and the 3 chromatically because nothing else is shown it is able to be almost anything. All of this must be fit in the context of a groove of some sort but they are great ways to play melodically without resolving your lines. I find the minors easy too with aeolian and dorian. It seems that the odd modes are phrygian and lydian. The maneuvers are achievable with them but they're harder to do because they are so distinctive. If you pull out Dorian flat 2 or lydian dominant I find that's the easiest branch but I'm sure there are other ways

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