Phrygian Mode Explained

To catch up on the theory discussed in earlier posts on this topic, click here and here to be brought up to speed.

To create a modal chord progression in the Phrygian mode, which is Mode III, the III chord from the harmonised Major Scale is now the ‘home’ chord. As described in the earlier posts I like to begin my modal experimentation in a simple way. I use two bar chord progressions and give the ‘home’ chord a more prominent position to mark it as the chord which anchors the intervals of the mode. This is a process I follow, and will do so throughout this series of posts, to offer up a basic understanding of modal theory and compliment this with some chord theory and melodic improvisation/composition. Once the basic composition or bed has been set we can play the notes of the Phrygian mode melodically (remember my advice in the Ionian post about chord tones and complimentary melody notes)

The intervals that hit our ear to form the Phrygian mode are –

Root Note (B)

Minor 2nd (C)

Minor 3rd (D)

Perfect 4th (E)

Perfect 5th (F#)

Minor 6th (G)

Minor 7th (A)

This makes Phrygian a dark sounding mode indeed – a minor sounding scale with a minor 2nd interval. This makes Phrygian a good candidate for styles/genres that naturally lend themselves to a dark sound. Metal music often makes good use of the minor 2nd interval and the additional minor 6th interval only strengthens this darkness.

Phrygian Mode Explained

Here are a few chord progressions using the Phrygian mode and the above basic chord progression building process –

Chord Progression 1

Riff

I thought I would start with the style I play and mentioned in my description. A riff based metal progression which suits the genre nicely

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Chord Progression 2

   Bm7     |Bm7 /CMaj7|Bm7     |Bm7/Cmaj7/Em7

Now a move away from riff based metal to a more chilled style. This mode can also sound quite continental, if that is not too broad a description

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Chord Progression 3

 Bm7       |Bm7      |Am7     |Csus2/Dsus2    

A fun exercise, when experimenting with modes, is to try to move away from a given modes clichéd sound and surprise a listener with an original slant its sound. That was my goal with this chord progression

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