Split: Chord theory (mixolydian mode)

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    I noticed some discussion of music theory here on the TN Waltz post, so I can’t help myself……Here’s some Music Theory tips that get a lot of hits on my website every day that may be helpful to those on this site:



    Off the topic of TN Waltz but following on to theory, perhaps Fred or John can answer:

    Why does the flatted 7th CHORD  (F in the key of G, C in the key of D, etc) sound so dang good and how does it fit, theoretically?  Are we in the area where we’re leaving Major & Minor “keys” and are now in “modes?”   Someone told me that songs with that flatted 7th chord (Little Maggie, etc) are Myxilodian, not necessarily “major.”

    Related: if any of you play Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” on guitar, the song verse is all in D.  The chorus goes to G  and C, then back to D.  So, is this song in the key of G (G, C & D chords I IV V) or D (chords I IV bVII)?

    Gunnar SalyerGunnar Salyer

    The flat seventh is used in modal (mixolydian) tunes. It takes the place of the fifth chord in most instances

    John (BGD)John (BGD)

    Fred, thanks for the great link! I have split this thread away from TN Waltz to give it a special place here.

    Mixolydian mode is what happens when you move the tonalatity of a major chord to from the root to the 5. You are right, a good example is Copperhead Road, also Seven Bridges Road.

    In Copperhead Road, the tonal center is D mixolydian, so the chord progression is the same as if the song were in G major (G, C, and D).

    However, if you are using the Nashville Number system, you will use D as the root chord, not G. Here is the typical mixolydian progression:

    Mixolydian: I – ii – iii° – IV – v – vi – VII

    As Gunnar mentioned, the 5 chord is a minor (lower case), so a tune in D mixolydian should have Am instead of A7. For this reason, Little Maggie is not strictly mixolydian unless you are playing the minor 5, or just playing two chords like the Kingston Trio.


    Lots of theory on that page, Fred!  All I know about modes came from playing the lap dulcimer, without the half frets.  You have to figure out the mode of the song and tune to it, or else it just won’t play on the instrument.  Chording is another matter…lol.  Sometimes I’m not sure what I want, sound wise, so I just play it on the dulcimer or the fiddle and leave off the chords.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be up on all the theory…it gets pretty hairy…lol.


    I love theory, Cricket. It truly helps so much in playing an instrument and in writing for an instrument. Glad you enjoyed reading through some of it.


    Yes, I did.  I enjoy it too, to a certain point…lol…and then my brain turns to oatmeal and it’s just time to stop.  It is interesting,though.

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