When writing a melody in the Mixolydian mode, you don't want it to sound as if it were in a major key. So how do you go about writing melodies in the Mixolydian mode, while maintaining the essence of the modality?

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    It actually is a major mode, with that M3. The only difference is the lack of leading note, having a b7 instead, giving it a bluesy sound. – Tim Apr 10 '19 at 14:56
  • @Tim Are there tips by which I can use the b7 without overpowering its use in the melody? – Grace Apr 11 '19 at 9:31

The ^7 scale degree is lowered (flattened.) Some features or qualities that will provide...

  • Generally it is one scale step in the direction of the minor mode, so that's a kind of "darkening" of mood or color.
  • Considering the primary triads - tonic, subdominant, dominant - the dominant become minor. A minor dominant is significant as it clearly moves out of the standard major/minor system.
  • When the ^7 is lowered the degree name changes from leading tone to subtonic, the triad built on the subtonic is a major triad which contrasts with the diminished leading tone triad in the major scale. That means the ^7 triad becomes a stable chord.
  • If the normally raised ^7 leading tone is characteristic of the major/minor system - with DO-TI-DO being a common melodic/cadence pattern, then the lowered ^7 in that melodic pattern using the lowered ^7 (solfege TA) helps make the modal quality clear: DO-TA-DO.

I don't know what style you intend to write in, but you might want to look for some folk tune examples that are in Mixolydian mode. That is fairly common and shouldn't be too hard to find either at online folk music sites or in folk song anthologies. Sometimes those resources are even indexed by key/mode which will make finding examples easy.

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  • The tunes always sound like they're in the major key. But I can't seem to get the essence of the Mixolydian mode in them. I know the flattened 7th is needed to be used, but I am not sure if I'm using it appropriately. – Grace Apr 11 '19 at 4:10
  • To some extent they should sound major. As @Tim pointed out Mixolydian is a major mode. Also, try to follow Larry's advice about the subdom IV chord, if you use too much the b^7 to ^6 of IV it may sound like you are moving the tonic to that IV chord. We can't really treat this forum as a composition lab, but try having the melody outline I and minor v a little bit, also bVII, and use the DO-TA-DO formula, and keep clear your tonic is that I. Compare with folk tunes as I suggested. – Michael Curtis Apr 11 '19 at 12:57

You flatten all the 7ths but avoid settling on the subdominant chord too much.

But really, why set out to write in Mixolydian? Write a tune, maybe it will turn out to be Mixolydian. Think 'Oh listen, that's Mixolydian. Interesting...' then carry on.

Maybe it will stay in Mixolydian, maybe not. Quite likely it will 'mix' a lot of modes. A basic blues starts out feeling a bit Mixolydian. Then we get a flattened 3rd. Then a dominant, complete with leading note. We know where the tonic is. Mode is pretty well up for grabs.

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  • I need to write tunes in Mixolydian mode for my Music Theory exam. – Grace Apr 11 '19 at 4:08
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    OK. Write a 12-bar blues, but only use the first 4 bars! – Laurence Payne Jun 19 at 18:48

I need to write tunes in Mixolydian mode for my Music Theory exam. (s. comment to L. Payne)

Even that Grace will have passed her exam meanwhile hopefully with success I’d like to add how helpful it is to write yourself melodies in a certain mode and using the triad of the 1. and 7. degrees: soresotire so fadofala so... etc.

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  • Haha yes, I did pass my Music Theory exam, & sadly, I was inactive on this site for a long time since then. But it would be great if you could elaborate on this :) – Grace Jul 24 at 9:52

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