In order to understand the modes of the major scale, you have to understand what intervals are and how they affect the way that we perceive a given tonality. Check out the thread on intervals here.
So we know that the major scale comes from playing from C to C on the white keys of a piano, and we are familiar with that tonality. What gives major tonality its flavor is the order of whole steps and half steps between each step, which create these intervals:
Cool. Now if change the root from C to D, and we are now playing from D to to D on the white keys, we have a different order of half steps and whole steps creating a whole new tonality.
D to D is the 2nd mode, because it’s starts on the 2nd degree of the Major scale, and it’s name is The Dorian Mode.
Each of the modes has a Greek name. My understanding is the names go back to ancient Greek provinces where that kind of tonality was prevalent in the local music.
The 5th mode, from G to G on the white keys, is called the Mixolydian mode.
People always get confused about the modes early on because it’s like “If you’re playing from G to G on the white keys, how is that different from playing from C to C on the white keys? It’s the SAME FRICKEN NOTES!”
Yes, that’s true, and the answer is that CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING. By changing the note that we are making are root, we are changing the intervals from the root, which creates a different sounding tonality.
G Mixolydian is exactly what we play when we play in 2nd position on the C harmonica.
Analyzing the notes from G to G on the white keys of the piano (which we now know is called the Mixolydian mode) we find that the intervals of the scale are identical to a major scale except that the 7th degree is lowered by a half-step.
So the intervals of Mixolydian are:
That makes the Mixolydian a great mode to play over a G7 chord, which is a I chord in a standard blues song in G, because G7 is composed of:
Notice all of those intervals are contained in the Mixolydian mode.
Now let’s talk a little bit about how we use bends when we are playing in 2nd position.
There are 3 places we need to use bends to play a complete diatonic scale in all 3 octaves on the harmonica.
- We need to utilize 2 draw bends to play the bottom octave.
- We need to utilize 0 bends to play the middle octave.
- We need to utilize 1 blow bend to play the top octave.
In the bottom octave:
- To get the note between 2 and -2, we need to play -2".
- To get the note between 3 and -3, we need to play -3"
In the top octave:
- To get the note between -10 and 10 we need to play 10’
So to play G Mixolydian we start on the root which can be either -2 or 3. I’m going to give you the tabs starting on -2, but of course we always have the option of substituting 3 for -2 since it’s the same note.
-2 -3" -3 4 -4 5 -5 6
The intervals of each:
Root = -2
Major 2nd = -3"
Major 3rd = -3
Perfect 4th = 4
Perfect 5th = -4
Major 6th. = 5
Minor 7th = -5
Octave = 6
Continuing up from there:
6 -6 -7 7 -8 8 -9 9
These intervals are the same as the lower octave:
Root = 6
Major 2nd = -6
Major 3rd = -7
Perfect 4th = 7
Perfect 5th = -8
Major 6th. = 8
Minor 7th = -9
Octave = 9
And then going DOWN from the -2
Root = -2
Minor 7th = -2"
Major 6th = 2
Perfect 5th = -1
Perfect 4th = 1
So if you can do all these bends, I would recommend practicing the Mixolydian mode starting on the root, going up 2 octaves, coming down, going to the bottom of the harmonica and returning to the root. Like this:
-2 -3" -3 4 -4 5 -5
6 -6 -7 7 -8 8 -9
9 -9 8 -8 7 -7 -6
6 -5 5 -4 4 -3 -3"
-2 -2" 2 -1 1
-1 2 -2" -2
We can utilize bends to play other types of scales in 2nd position, but this is what exists “naturally” in 2nd position, the same way that you naturally play from G to G on the white keys of a piano without adding any sharps and flats.
By the way, Mixolydian is a great mode for jamming on tunes that that go from a I chord to a flat VII chord. In our example that would be G and F.
Examples of this could be ‘Fire on the Mountain’ by the Grateful Dead and ‘On Broadway’ by George Benson.
Have fun with this, and LMK if you have any questions!