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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 2 - Part 4: Mega Mixolydian Runs

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 15 **

In this Pro Concepts guitar lesson we are going to have some fun with some good old fashioned guitar licks that we will string together to make a cool sounding run. The scale we are going to be thinking about while doing this is the dominant 7 scale, which is also commonly known as the Mixolydian mode.

The Mixolydian mode is the 5th mode in a diatonic sequence, and is the scale you want to know when playing over a dominant 7, but also sounds good wherever you have 2 major chords 2 frets (or a tone) apart. These 2 chords will be the 4 and 5 of a harmonized major scale. So for instance, if you think of the riff in You Really Got Me by the Kinks, you are actually hearing 2 major chords a tone apart. A lot of less able guitarists might go to the 'default' pentatonic, which can work OK, but is basic at best. Break out the Mixolydian and you start to sound like you know what you are doing. And in the case of You Really Got Me you could actually blend your stock minor pentatonic with the mixolydian to create a musically strong approach but with the attitude that suits that song.

If you think it's a case of having to learn a new scale from scratch, well then you might be wrong, because you probably already know it! If we want the A mixolydian sound then as long as you know a D major scale, you should already be there. 'A' is the 5th note in a D major scale, so if want create that 'A' dominant sound, try playing the D major scale but really highlight, phrase from, start and end, on that A note, and you will be playing the mixolydian mode. Or you could see it as a major scale with a flattened 7th degree. Whatever it takes to get you seeing the mode quickly is the way to go. Not just this mode, but all the modes. As long as you know a major scale and can harmonize a major scale with the chords that belong to that key, you are virtually there. You need to know the diatonic chords so that you can recognize the majority of Rock, Pop, Blues, Funk chord progressions used in contemporary music, and therefore know which mode you are supposed to be using when soloing and improvising.

I am going to piece a run together in the key of G7, and then another one in A7. If you can't play all of the runs in each key, try to pick up on the separate ideas that make up the finished sequence. In bite size chunks, it is a lot easier to get under your fingers. A lot of this, or any technically challenging playing, boils down to muscle memory. Start slow and accurate so you can teach your brain and hand what it is supposed to be doing. Gradually build up speed till you can reproduce the ideas without it sounding untidy or messy. The ideas should still sound strong played at a modest tempo if you have your touch and tone together.

This is also an exercise in hybrid picking, which gives our ideas here, a smooth, almost Nashville 'new country' type sound. The session guys in Nashville are the best shredders on the planet, and I strongly suggest you check out anything that involves a guitar played by the legend that is Brent Mason. Brent is one of my favourite guitarists, and to put it simply, he could make the best of the best sound average with his technique, musicality and modesty.

So we are looking at creative licks, linked seamlessly, using the mixolydian mode and hybrid picking, whilst doing my usual party trick of composing on the spot in front of the cameras, so that you can have an insight into how I might approach coming up with a cool run. I will leave you to decide if it's 'mega' or not....... I will settle for cool as a description!


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