The phrygian mode is another kind of minor scale. The characteristics of the phrygian mode are the flattened:
- Sixth and
The flattened third is the distinguishing trait that denotes a scale is a minor one versus a major one.
The phrygian mode is based off the third step, or third note, of a major scale. In other words, the first note of the scale will be the third note of the scale from which it derives from. The scale will ascend 8 notes from octave to octave like most other scales and the same notes will be affected based on the key signature.
For example, given a C major scale in the key of C – no sharps or flats – that looks like this:
The phrygian mode in the key of C would look like this:
The scale begins on E and has:
Because the key of C has no sharps or flats by default E phrygian will also include no sharps and flats by default. What makes the phrygian scale the phrygian scale is the application of 4 flattened notes mentioned above.
But let’s say also were in the key of F, where there’s one flat (Bb):
And we want to play a phrygian scale in the key of F. We would first find the third note of an F major scale (A), write out each of the notes then apply our flats. These flats would be:
As you can see, Bb is still Bb in A phrygian. It doesn’t change to, say, Bnatural or B-sharp But because when the scale starts on A, the Bb becomes the second note of the scale and therefore affected by the phrygian scale modifiers, making it B-double flat or Bbb.
Additional Reading on the Phrygian Mode and Musical Modes:
- The Phrygian Mode – Justin Guitar
- The Phrygian Mode – Basic Music Theory
- Phrygian mode in the key of C major – Guitar Secrets