The Phrygian mode | Guitar Lesson With Diagrams and Theory

What's the phrygian mode ?

What is the Phrygian mode

The Phrygian mode is the third mode of the major scale. It is one of the three minor modes of the major scale, the other minor modes are called Dorian and Aeolian (natural minor scale). The Phrygian mode is a minor type scale. Indeed, it contains a b3. It can be played over minor chords, but it is rarely used because of its b2 scale tone.

E Phrygian mode E F G A B C D
Formula 1 b2 (b9) b3 4(11) 5 b6 (b13) b7
Intervals H W W W H W W

(W = whole step ; H = half step)

The Phrygian mode can be used in your guitar improvisations over the following chords :

min, min7, min7b9, 7sus4​

The Phrygian mode in twelve keys

The Phrygian mode contain a b2, b3, b6 and b7. Here is a helpful chart to know the Phrygian mode in a all keys.

A Phrygian Mode A,Bb,C,D,E,F,G
Bb Phrygian Mode Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G, Ab
B Phrygian Mode B,C,D,E,F#,G,A
C Phrygian Mode C,Db,Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb
Db Phrygian Mode Db,Eb,F,Gb,Ab,Bb,Cb
D Phrygian Mode D,Eb,F,G,A,Bb,C
Eb Phrygian Mode Eb,Fb,Gb,Ab,Bb,Cb,Db
E Phrygian Mode E,F,G,A,B,C,D
F Phrygian Mode F,Gb,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb
F# Phrygian Mode F#,G,A,B,C#,D,E
G Phrygian Mode G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb,F
Ab Phrygian Mode Ab,Bb,Cb,Db,Eb,Fb,Gb


Other minor scales

Modes of the major scale

Modes of the harmonic minor scale

Modes of the melodic minor scale

Comparison between the Dorian b9 and the Aeolian modes :

The Phrygian mode is characterized by the minor second (b2) which can be considered a flat ninth (b9). However, it should not be confused with the Dorian b9 scale, which is the second mode of the melodic minor scale. Indeed, the Dorian b9 as a natural 6 instead of a flat sixth. Therefore, the Phrygian mode formula is similar to the Aeolian mode which have a major second (2) whereas the Phrygian scale has a minor second (b2). 

Related triads, chords and arpeggios.

How to make chords from the Phrygian mode ?

Triads from the Phrygian mode are built in the same manner as the other minor scales (Dorian, Dorian #11, Dorian b9 and Aeolian). This means that the minor triad from the Phrygian mode is built with a root (1), a minor third (b3) and a perfect fifth (5). 

  • C minor triad / chord : is made up of a root (C) minor third (Eb) and perfect fifth (G).
    • Related abbreviated chord symbols are : Cm, Cmin,C-.
C minor triad / chord C Eb G
Formula 1 b3 5


All the minor seventh arpeggios built from minor modes previously discussed contain a root (1), a minor third (b3), a perfect fifth (5) and a minor seventh (b7) :

C minor seventh arpeggio / chord C Eb G Bb
Formula 1 3b 5 7b


When you want to built a minor sixth arpeggio from the Phrygian mode you have to play the root (1), the minor third (b3), the fifth (5) and the flat sixth (b6). 

C minor sixth arpeggio / chord C Eb G Ab
Formula 1 b3 5 b6


The minor ninth arpeggio built from the Phrygian mode contains a flat ninth (b9), thus giving the formula 1-b3-5-b7-b9

  • C minor ninth arpeggio / chord  : root (C) minor third (Eb), perfect fifth (G), minor seventh (Bb) and ninth (D)
    • Related chords notation : Cmin9, Cmi9, C-9, Cm9.
C minor ninth arpeggio / chord C E G B Db
Formula 1 b3 5 b7 b9


  • Building a minor eleventh chord (or arpeggio) from the Phrygian scale requires a perfect fourth (11). The formula will therefore be : 1-b3-5-b7-b9-11
    • Chords notation : Cmin11, Cmi11, C-11, Cm11.
C minor eleventh arpeggio / chord C E G B Db F
Formula 1 b3 5 b7 b9 11

Phrygian guitar diagrams

Here are two guitar patterns to play the Phrygian mode on guitar. To hear and perceive correctly the sound of this mode, it is recommended to play these patterns by starting with the "root".

Pattern 1 :

  • To play the E Phrygian mode by starting with the lowest note (E), put your first finger on the sixth string at the twelfth fret. Be sure to play it ascending and descending.

Pattern 2 :

  • To play the E Phrygian mode put your first finger on the fifth string to the seventh fret to play this pattern starting with the lowest root. 

Once you have learned these patterns you have to play them in twelve keys by moving the root "R"  to the desired tonality while still preserving the intervals.

Pattern 1

Roots on the sixth, fourth and first string.

Phrygian mode guitar diagrams patterns

Pattern 2

Roots on the fifth and the third string.

Phrygian mode guitar diagrams patterns 2

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Last edited: 25/05/2018