phrygian modesBelieve it or not, major, minor, diminished, and augmented scales aren’t the first scales that we created. Yes, that’s true!

You may have thought that, seeing as most modern music of the last century or so is based completely around these scales, these scales are the end all be all scales of music, but that isn’t true.

In fact, these seven scale called modes, all variants of the C Major scale, have been around for a lot longer than the rest of our modern scale.

In this article, we will be discussing the third mode of the C Major scale, the Phrygian mode, on bass guitar.

The Fun, Mysterious And Spanish Mode

So what does it mean to be the third mode of a set of seven? Well, the modes coincide with the scale degrees of the C Major scale in the exact order in which they are written, and the Phrygian mode being the third of these modes, it is a scale built completely off of the third scale degree of C Major.

The Phrygian mode is constructed using an odd set of whole steps and half steps, and can be built with the following formula:

Half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step

Using this formula, we can take the C Major scale and find out exactly what notes are in the Phrygian mode. To do this, we need to find the third scale degree of C Major. This is E. Following the formula above, we get E, F, G, A, B, C, and D as our Phrygian mode.

applications to various genresNow, what use is it to have a scale that is solely built off of the C Major scale? A lot of use. In fact, modes are some of the most commonly used scales in jazz guitar, as well as blues and various forms of heavy metal and hard rock, such as progressive metal, death metal, power metal, neo-classical metal, and many, many more.

When Can You Use the Phrygian Scale?

Let’s say we have a C Major progression that is set off of the third sale degree, building from E to G, G to B, B to C, then back to B, back to G, and finally stopping at E.

This is a mediant progression, as it is built off of the mediant (third scale degree) triad of the C Major scale. Playing off of this with the C Major scale just wouldn’t quite cut it. That’s where this great mode, Phrygian, comes in to show us all about playing along with others.

The progression outlines the mediant triad, using the root, third, and fifth of the mediant scale degree, and then it touches the original note of C and comes back down the triad.

This is one example of the Phrygian mode on bass guitar. There are a ton more uses for this great little mode. The best way to discover them is through practice. Try creating some simple melodies, and when you are more comfortable, some licks and riffs using this mode. Good luck, and have fun with this advanced bass guitar lesson!


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