Phrygian Scales

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

E PhrygianE Phrygian scale
A PhrygianA Phrygian scale
D PhrygianD Phrygian scale
G PhrygianG Phrygian scale
C PhrygianC Phrygian scale
F PhrygianF Phrygian scale
Bb PhrygianBb Phrygian scale
Eb PhrygianEb Phrygian scale
E# PhrygianE# Phrygian scale
A# PhrygianA# Phrygian scale
D# PhrygianD# Phrygian scale
G# PhrygianG# Phrygian scale
C# PhrygianC# Phrygian scale
F# PhrygianF# Phrygian scale
B PhrygianB Phrygian scale