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Discover the Phrygian ModeAn Improvising Tool

The Phrygian mode will give your licks a Spanish flamenco flare that will get your guitar playing noticed. It’s another tool to add to your improvising arsenal to put a stop to boring licks. You need more than the Pentatonic scales to get creative.

This mode comes from the 3rd note of the major scale.

You have to time the F note right so it doesn’t clash with the E note of the chord.

The F note should be a short one using it as a passing tone to lead into another note tone or a tone from the next chord.

The iii Minor Chord – Phrygian Mode

The 3 chord doesn’t get used as a home chord the way that the ii and the vi chord do.

The 3 chord lacks the major 2nd that are in the other two. This note is important for melodies. It has a minor 2nd instead which is too close to the root note and clashes with it.

It’s usually used as a passing chord like in a Dm(ii) to Em(iii) to F(IV) to Em(iii) Progression in the key of C.

If you are having trouble following the ii and iii chord things I’m talking about check out this page to understand better.

Guitar Chord Theory

Here is the music notation with tab for this mode.

I recorded a short piece using only the notes from the E phrygian scale played against an Em chord nothing fancy so you can hear the sound of the mode.

The E Phrygian played against an e minor chord

The Phrygian List

Remember this mode comes from the 3rd note of the minor scale>

Phrygian Mode Formula

Here is the formula as you would make it from the major scale.

Here is this modes formula 1-♭2-♭3-4-5-♭6-♭7

For some it might be easier to think of it as the major scale starting on the 3rd note. This would definitely be easier for some keys like C, F and G.

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Lead Guitar Scales