Modal Study of the Week: C# Mixolydian from the Parent Key of F# Major

Every morning, I challenge myself to write a modal study. You should try it out for yourself! The basic idea is to push the envelope and discover chord progressions that aren’t generic but still catchy.

Now, when most people think of modes, they usually think of the corresponding scale patterns. But a mode is so much more than that. Think of it more like a chord progression that emphasizes the degree of the parent key upon which the mode is based. Scales are one dimensional while chords are multi-dimensional. Starting with a basic progression, I then expand it to discover interesting ways to incorporate color in music. Today it was C# Mixolydian mode from the parent key of F# Major.

Incorporating color in music is a huge part of what makes music so appealing, and musicians from Beethoven to the Beatles have harnessed it’s power to create unforgettable and timeless music. Color is usually what’s being used when you really like a song but can’t explain why, as it’s generally not that well understood. Color in music comes from three primary sources: modes, borrowed chords from related keys, secondary dominants, blue notes (and chords that can be created with them) and modulation.

This has been an ongoing project of mine for over two years now and to date, I have written over 130 such studies. I’ll be sharing them periodically here on SMG and am excited to get your guys feedback.

These studies that I work on each morning are sort of like seeds that can later be expanded, by using chord substitutions, adding a melody, etc., and combined into ideas for songs. Remember, the whole point is in finding a creative chord progression. The key, rhythm, and voicings can always be altered, while keeping the original concept intact. Many already have become songs. Even when I was called upon to write for the symphony orchestra, the first thing I referred to was my idea bank of modal studies. And as you might imagine, being well prepared made the task seem far less daunting. So whether you want to write a smokin’ hot original-sounding rock song or compose for an entire symphony, here’s a glimpse of how to get started.

Here’s today’s study; C# Mixolydian from the key of F#

I was especially happy with the way the first four bars turned out. See if you can follow the changes:



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