• Here’s the secret to soloing over dominant chords

    in Scales

    In Friday’s lessons, I talked about the “altered” scale (or super locrian mode) and how you can use it to solo over various altered chords.

    Today, I want to talk about another mode you can use to solo or improvise over certain chords.

    That mode is called “mixolydian.” (If you didn’t see my last post, it’ll really catch you up).

    Basically, it’s when you play a major scale starting and ending on it’s fifth tone.

    For example, take the C major scale:

    C major scale

    The fifth degree of the scale is G.

    So if you wanted to play the mixolydian mode, just play these SAME exact notes starting and ending on G. Don’t change any notes. I repeat, keep the notes the same. Just change the starting and ending points.

    G mixolydian

    Notice that the mixolydian mode is just like a regular major scale with ONE change.

    Compare it to the regular G major scale:

    It’s the 7th tone. Yup, you guessed it.

    Basically, the 7th tone is lowered a half step in the mixolydian mode. So instead of F#, you play F.

    This works very well over dominant chords because if you think about the notes of the G dominant 7 chord (which falls on the fifth degree of the C major scale), its notes are:

    See the lowered “F?”

    That’s why the mixolydian mode works so well over dominant chords. In fact, not just dominant 7 chords either… you can use this same scale over 9th chords… 11th chords… 13th chords… even sus chords.


    So the next time you want to find something to do while you’re on the 5th degree of the scale, consider the mixolydian mode. You don’t have to learn anything “new” to employ it. Just think of it as your C major scale from “G” to “G” and you’ll be good to go! Skip notes, rearrange notes — just play around with those notes of the mode and see what you can come up with!

    Until next time —

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 15 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Thomas a.k.a. Tom Tom 3

    Hey Jermaine,
    When I was in school I was taught to remember the key signature of the music that I was reading. Here all I have to do is remember the position of notes of a particular scale sequence. Is that what you are saying? Hit me back. Tom Tom


    2 Josh

    This is awesome Jermiane. Thanks for another great lesson. This one combined with hte last one you showed us on the locrian mode means some heavy practicing for me!!!!



    3 Jermaine

    @Tom Tom: You’ll have to elaborate more on what you mean but in knowing the scale, you’re automatically operating in a particular key (“key signature”). Also, since we aren’t reading sheet music, we aren’t really looking at it in the same way.

    Simply put, if you know your major scales… you know your modes.

    The mixolydian mode is simply any major scale starting and ending on its 5th tones. If you know that, you’re good to go.

    Thanks Tom tom,



    4 Thomas a.k.a. Tom Tom 3

    What I am referring to is the recognition of which notes are flat or sharp based on a particular major scale vs. just knowing which sequence of piano keys go with which scale/key. That is what I am trying to say. I hope I am not making my this too complex. Just trying to have conversation on the post.


    5 Jermaine

    Gotcha Thomas!

    Well if you do it that way, there’s just TOO much thinking involved.

    Rather, if you take what you already know (the major scales) and think of the modes as being major scales starting and ending on certain notes, then you can virtually play ANY mode without any practice or prior knowledge. The activation of the principle is instant because technically, anyone can play the same scale they’ve mastered from the middle or from the 6th tone (that creates a minor scale if you do that, by the way).

    As for learnings scales from SCRATCH, there is work there but once you know them (either by using my “Why Won’t He Wear White When Hot” technique or the “circle of fifths” or otherwise), then modes are a piece of cake!



    6 Thomas a.k.a. Tom Tom 3

    Thank you Jermaine. Let’s talk about it on the radio show tomorrow. Be Blessed!!! You have given me new insight on this.



    Such Class….Such Clarity…Such a Great teacher!!!


    8 madcatmoore

    Men, do not worry about the site crashing over the weekend that was bound to happen. Even you must know that when some one is marketing a product as good as yours everyone that can and will wants to be the first one in line to get it. God said that he would bless the works of our hand and believe me he is really giving you the touch. I pray that all those who are subscriding to the site well have patience and plenty of understanding with mercy knowing that you are doing your best with such a large demand. (Prov. 1:6-9) I thank God continually for the family of Hear and Play Music company because no one could have made it more easier and affordable for the masses like me. Thank God for people like you!!!!!


    9 Evelyn


    I am probably one of your oldest fans and student. I have purchased quite a few of your CD’s, DvD’s and The Secret to Playing Piano By Ear 300 page book.

    I listen to your broadcast, I do the online music excercises.

    I admit some of the excercises take awhile for me to digest but Iam coming along slowly but surely.
    I was not going to comment ,thought I would let the younger people do it, but you have apologized to us so many times and seem to feel so down and disgusted I thought I’d at least try and encourage you. Read: EPHESIANS 3:20,21.

    If you don’t be able to give out a Freeeeeeeeeeeee CD, look how much free online
    stuff you have already blessed us with through your Music Ministry.

    May God
    Continue to Bless You, Your Family & Staff


    10 Jermaine

    Thanks Evelyn and everyone for your encouragement!


    11 Autokosmetik

    Autopflege ist eine tolle Sache um den Wert des Fahrzeugs zu erhöhen. Schauen Sie vorbei!


    12 Keith Hassel

    i’ve had this melody in my head since 6 after hearing my Dad listening to Jazz music and didn’t know what it was till later. when i play i hear these jazz licks and go searching to recreate them. this is a big piece in a big musical puzzle rolling around in my daily for years.
    you just added another notch in my confidence belt. armed and ready for battle.
    more,more more.
    thanks guys it’s starting to look like something. i’m starting to sound like someone. lol.


    13 Scott Pithan

    Hello Mr. Evelyn,

    My goal is to play at a level to sing and play keyboard well enough to entertain alone or in a band. I practice chording, inversions, and using right hand chords with root notes, 3rds and 5ths with a an octave base of the chord in the left hand to songs while singing. However, I am fumbling around on how to improvise and/or solo within a song. Do you have suggestions on the best and efficient way to do the above to meet my goals?


    14 Kismet

    Helpful. Thanks. But what’s the difference between a dominant chord and the relative minor of a chord or scale(if there be a thing like relative minor of a chord or scale). Thank you Sir.


    15 Neo

    Hi one thing I don’t clear is that
    In the C major scale , I use C mixolydian mode on the G dominant chord or use G mixolydian mode over the G chord in C major scale ?


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