In music, the third mode of the major scale, with the following half step/whole step progression: H-W-W-W-H-W-W.
Simliar to the natural minor scale, except that it contains a minor second.
For example:
  • C Phyrigian contains the notes C Db Eb F G Ab Bb
  • Bb Phyrigian contains the notes Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb Ab
  • F# Phrygian contains the notes F# G A B C# D E#
Two ways of playing the G Phrygian scale in guitar tablature form:
Three notes per string:

Staying in the same neck position:

The Phrygian mode is quite possibly the most common-used mode (besides the major and minor keys). It is found most commonly in Metal music, although it is also commonly found in Industrial, General Rock, and to a lesser extent Folk and Classical.

The Phrygian scale starts on the third degree of the Major scale. In other words, from E to E on only white keys. It only varies from the Minor key by the minor second degree.

It has an interesting characteristic that differentiates it from many other modes. The second degree of the scale is minor, meaning that there is but a half-step melodic interval between the first and second degrees. The only other unmodified mode to exhibit this characteristic is the Hypophrygian, which occurs on the seventh degree of the Major scale.

What makes this interesting? Well, psychoacoustically, this makes the mode sound (depending on who you ask) Mediterranean (especially Spanish) passionate, or angry. Although Spanish music uses slightly different scales and modes, it exhibits similar characteristics as the Phrygian, and as such music imitating that of the area commonly uses the Phrygian mode. This is contrasting to the Hypophrygian key (they both have the minor second), which tends to sound dark, whimsical, or eccentric (due to the Diminished fifth scale degree).

Although the Phrygian scale is of the Minor side of the "feeling" spectrum, it is not at all uncommon to use a major chord in exchange for the first or seventh degree. By having a major chord in the first degree, it causes the scale to become a #3 Phrygian, which is an altered mode of the Harmonic Minor scale. However, a Major chord on the seventh degree is used only on the chord as an accidental, not the meoldy, as this destroys the Phrygian sound of the mode.

Many new popular bands of late, most notably Linkin Park, have abused this scale to great effect. In fact, a large amount of songs on their CD are Phrygian or have Phrygian "tendencies".

The Phrygian scale is composed like this:

1/2 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1/2 | 1 | 1

Below is the scale on guitar and bass:


* * * * | |
* | | | * *
| * * * | |
* * * | * *
| | | * | |
| | | | * *


* * * *
* | | |
| * * *
* * * |
| | | *
| | | |

Chord Scale Analysis of the Phrygian Mode

The Phrygian mode of the Major Scale is the only minor mode to have a minor second off of the root. This can be used to great affect in melody writing, as it provides and about 1.86 ounces of dissonance. For a good example of Phrygian mode usage, listen to Woodpecker from Mars off of Faith No More's 1988 album The Real Thing. The Phrygian is a tonic mode, and can be used to write melodies over the Ionian or Aeolian modes as well. It takes a minor seven chord, but and has the most avoid notes of any minor mode off of the major scale. The flat two, the four, and the flat six are all off limits for chord construction.

Analysis of E Phrygian

E (Root)

F (Scale Flat two, or Scale Minor Second)

G (minor third, or Flat Three)

A (Scale four, or Scale Perfect Fourth)

B (Five, or Perfect Fifth)

C (Scale flat six, or Scale Minor Sixth)

D (Minor Seventh, or Flat Seven)

Avoid Notes

Since the Phrygian mode has so many avoid notes; I bet everyone is wondering why the hell anyone would want to use this scale at all. Well, it's the avoid notes that make this scale so friggin' cool. The reason they are called avoid notes is to make you find a use for them. Since when have good musicians followed the rules? Anyhow, the minor second just makes this mode, and you can use it to great effect. Just be sure not to voice it in a chord unless you enjoy the sound of the insidious flat nine, same thing with the minor sixth. The minor sixth and the fourth are also on the list of avoid notes for another reason. The Minor sixth is the root of the Major Scale, and when you voice the sixth in the chord, it will change the feel from that minor sound to a major sound. The fourth is also the sixth of the Major Scale, and will take your nice Phrygian chord and transform it into and equally nice, but not really what we're looking for Aeolian chord.

Phryg"i*an (?), a. [L. Phrygius, Gr. , fr. Phrygia, a country of Asia Minor.]

Of or pertaining to Phrygia, or to its inhabitants.

Phrygian mode Mus., one of the ancient Greek modes, very bold and vehement in style; -- so called because fabled to have been invented by the Phrygian Marsyas. Moore (Encyc. of Music). -- Phrygian stone, a light, spongy stone, resembling a pumice, -- used by the ancients in dyeing, and said to be drying and astringent.


© Webster 1913.

Phryg"i*an, n.


A native or inhabitant of Phrygia.

2. Eccl. Hist.

A Montanist.


© Webster 1913.

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