In medieval and modern music, the Phrygian mode is a diatonic (seven-note) scale or musical mode which corresponds to the white keys of the piano from E to E. It may be considered an “excerpt” of a major scale played from the pitch a major third above the major scale's tonic, i.e., a major scale played from its third scale degree up to its third degree again. The resulting scale is minor, because as the E becomes the new tonal centre the minor third between the E and the G makes us “hear minor”. If we build a chord on the tonic, third and fifth, it is a minor chord.
The Phrygian mode is actually equivalent to the natural minor (Aeolian) scale but with the second degree lowered by a semitone.
This mode is also known in Arabic and in the Middle East as the Kurd mode.
Some notable compositions in Phrygian mode:
- “Mille Regretz” and “Missa Pange Lingua” by Josquin des Prez
- Cantata “Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes”, BWV 76 by Johann Sebastian Bach
- Several works by Anton Bruckner
- “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis” by Ralph Vaughan Williams
- “Olé” by John Coltrane
- “Sketches of Spain” by Miles Davis
- “Theme from Lawrence of Arabia” by Maurice Jarre
Two-octave Phrygian scales are also available: PDF