Mode III: Phrygian

Phrygian, the darkest of modes…

It’s no coincidence that a bit of Phrygian is often used in heavy metal. In more traditional music it has been avoided. The sound is too dark, too abrasive and too unsettling. In fact, it is so unusual in sound that I do not know of one famous piece of music that is entirely in Phrygian, meaning that there are no notes outside of the mode. To get an idea of how hard it is to use this mode, try to write a tune that starts and ends on an E, then use not sharps or flats for either the melody or any of the chords. No cheating. So far I have been unable to write anything that is purely in Phrygian.

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2 thoughts on “Mode III: Phrygian

  1. I was playing Phrygian by lowering the notes I knew got lowered. Then I went on your PDFs and saw your idea of starting with Aeolian and presto – only one new note to lower and a whole lot easier. 🙂

    1. My idea is that each new scale can be learned changing only one note or degree of a previous scale. In this way, each scale sort of piggybacks on another scale until it becomes its own thing or gets its own identity.


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