Phrygian Mode

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E Phrygian mode in the key of C major

[C major modes intro] [ C Ionian ] [ Dorian mode ] [ Phrygian mode ] [ Lydian mode ] [ Mixolydian Mode ] [ Aeolian mode ] [ Locrian mode ]

Darker Phrygian Mode

C major and dorian mode and notes
  • The Phrygian mode is the 3rd mode of the Major Key. In the key of C major you would have E Phrygian.
  • We also learned the Dorian mode, which is played from D to D in C major. D is the second note of the key of C and is a minor mode.
  • Now we have to learn the Phrygian mode.
  • The third chord of any Major key is always a minor. It is also always the Phrygian mode. In the Key of G, B would be the Phrygian mode.
  • Remember, all major keys are constructed the same. Major, minor, minor, Major, Major, minor, diminished and Major.

E minor is the third chord or mode of C Major so we will learn that position now. Look at the image below and check out the notes and positioning of the E Phrygian mode. I prefer the dark sound of the minors over the happy sounding Major scales. You can write some really neat sounding progressions using the Phrygian mode. The Phrygian mode in the key of C major would have the notes and chords of: Em F G Am B dim C Dm. This would be E to E in the key of C major. Here’s one fingering pattern you can use to play this mode.

Tablature below.

Can see the Em pentatonic scale root note fret here in the illustration below? Since the Phrygian mode is a minor mode, you will also find the E minor pentatonic in there.

This is very important information. If you were playing over an Em progression, you could use this mode or the Em pentatonic scale or both.

Example of Phrygian played a little heavy.

Compare the Am pentatonic root note fret fingering pattern shown below, to the E Phrygian mode above. The fingering for the root note fret is:

1-4, 1-3, 1-3, 1-3, 1-4, 1-4

You also have that same fingering pattern above.

Take a look at the image below and notice the fingering pattern. Since this is one of the most popular positions to play this mode, I will concentrate on showing you it played starting at this position. But remember, this mode and all the other modes can be played in other positions. You just need to find an E at another location and play from E to E.

All of the modes in the Key of C major have the same notes. If you play from C to C you would be playing the C Major Ionian mode. If you played from D to D in C Major, you would be playing the Dorian mode. E to E is the Phrygian mode. Don’t let all the names get you confused. Once you learn the Key of C, all the other Major keys will be a breeze to learn. Notice the E notes are highlighted in the image below.

To play this mode you would start at the 12th fret Low E string 1 finger.  If you have a problem, please go back and review. Play this mode a few hundred times. Play this mode and all the others covered in the triplet form. 1,2,4,  2,4,1,  4,1,3,   1,3,4  3,4,1 and so on through the mode. 

I don’t want this to confuse you, but notice on the image above that you have an E minor root note fret, just like the A minor root note fret we learned at the 5th fret for A minor pentatonic. Soon you will see the big picture, that is if you haven’t all ready. You can play Em pentatonic since it fits in above or you can play E Phrygian. Lay down the Em, G, and C chords. Play E Phrygian and then Em pentatonic over the Em chord. Em pentatonic root note fret 12 fret, 1-4, 1-3, 1-3, 1-3, 1-4, 1-4. Play the same over the G chord or switch to E Aeolian. E, F#, G, A, B, C, D, E, This is in the key of G major.

Play C major pentatonic over the C,  but at the 12th fret position. Recall the Am pentatonic position starting on the E note 12th fret. Play from C to C. Don’t let this confuse you, you can play C major pentatonic over the C chord, Am pentatonic shares the same notes though.

In the next lesson we will cover F to F in C Major. This is called the Lydian mode and it is a Major mode, since the F is a major chord.

Good Luck,

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