Phrygian Dominant

The Phrygian Dominant mode belongs to chord IIIx!

Phrygian Dominant is a modified Phrygian scale.

It is the most common mode in popular music that isn’t directly linked to the major scale.

Even though Phrygian Dominant is a major scale, the similarity to Phrygian makes it easier to learn as if it comes from a minor pentatonic shape.

PD is also used when Phrygian has been replaced, so this approach makes more musical sense than building it from a major scale shape.

This is what both scales look like using just the intervals. Only the third differ.

Phrygian Dominant:
3 4

The E(m) shaped Phrygian Dominant

The first scale played in the video is a normal Phrygian scale.

This is then modified into a Phrygian Dominant scale, pictured below as a Chordacus image.

Should you have built from a major pentatonic instead, then the 5th string would have had four notes on it: 3, 4, 5 and b6.

Since the shape remains looking like a minor shape we still think of Phrygian Dominant as a minor shape, but with a major third!
A Phrygian Dominant, E(m) shape
When practicing Phrygian Dominant as a variation like this you will be able to more clearly understand the connections in music theory and therefore solo with more ease.

Since the scale appears when a chord has been modified from III to IIIx, this will make more sense.

The A(m) shaped Phrygian Dominant

A(m) shaped Phrygian Dominant, possibly the easiest shape to remember!

Notice how Phrygian Dominant looks like two major chord shapes one fret apart.

In this case it’s A and Bb, both are A shapes.

Can you see these two chords inside the scale shape?

Phrygian Dominant A shape

Just like with the E(m) shape, first play the Phrygian scale, then change the minor third into a major third. This approach will assure your fingers know the the difference.

The D(m) shaped Phrygian Dominant

D(m) shaped Phrygian Dominant, same concept here:

1. Two D shapes a semitone apart
2.Think of this scale as a variation on a Phrygian scale

As always, the Dm and D shape is difficult to remember below the root, call out intervals as you go along. Or even better, sing along!

A Phrygian Dominant, D(m) Shape

The G(m) shaped Phrygian Dominant

The G(m) shaped Phrygian Dominant, pretty awkward for scale runs!

Again, looks like two G major shapes next to each other.

Compare this to Phrygian which looks like a Gm shape next to a G shape.

Phrygian Dominant G shape

So maybe not the best shape for quick scale runs, but that’s cool.

Remember, complicated scales like this rarely last for longer than a bar. And, more importantly, why would you play the entire scale when you improvise?

In an improvisation you might use three notes from this scale as the IIIx chord come around for one bar. Then it’s on to the next chord and mode!

The C(m) shaped Phrygian Dominant

The C(m) shaped Phrygian Dominant is another awkward shape to improvise with.

When soloing with this shape, try using big interval jumps rather than one note after another.

Another trick would be to just leave the 3rd out, this might be a good idea in the C shape if you are just passing through.

However, if you leave it out all together then there is nothing that says you are in a major, apart from the chord behind off course!

A Phrygian Dominant, C(m) chape

Connect Phrygian Dominant scale shapes

This is much more difficult than previous modes due to the more angular layout of Phrygian Dominant.

Use the video lesson to see how this is done, for Phrygian Dominant in any key, turn to Chordacus.

Phrygian Dominant through the cycle of 4th

Your final variation takes the Phrygian Dominant mode and runs it through the cycle of 4th.

This is an important step when teaching your hands the shapes of the mode.

Should you get stuck in a shape, go back and practice that shape individually.

The full exercise reads:

A Phrygian Dominant – E(m) shape
D Phrygian Dominant – A(m) shape
G Phrygian Dominant – D(m) shape
C Phrygian Dominant – G(m) shape
F Phrygian Dominant – C(m) shape

This is repeated a fret up:

Bb Phrygian Dominant – E(m) shape
Eb Phrygian Dominant – A(m) shape
Ab Phrygian Dominant – D(m) shape
Db Phrygian Dominant – G(m) shape
Gb Phrygian Dominant – C(m) shape

When you can do it without making any mistakes you can stop practicing the Phrygian Dominant scale and start playing it instead.

Phrygian Dominant Improvisation

When you can play all shapes it’s a good idea to start improvising with the scale.

By sticking to just one scale for a while you can really get into the sound of it.

Try this concept in a couple of keys until you feel you got the hang of what Phrygian Dominant sounds like.

Conclusion Phrygian Dominant

The Phrygian Dominant scale is not a scale you hang around on for too long.

As an improviser you need to practice the same thing for long periods of time to properly hear it. To become familiar with the sound of a scale.

However, in a real playing situation, it’ll only appear for a bar or so.

Take the Advance Guitar Course and start making some music with this scale.

Once you know how this scale work and when it can be used, you’ll find that it pops up everywhere!