Phrygian Mode Guitar Lesson

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Learn how how to use Phrygian with this step-by-step Phrygian mode guitar lesson.

You’ll learn scale shapes for the mode, what gives it that “dark” sound, and tips for applying it.

What is the phrygian mode?

The phrygian mode is the third mode of the major scale.

It’s a minor scale, and sets itself apart from the natural minor scale with the incorporation of a b2 interval.

Phrygian mode formula

The formula for the phrygian mode is:


What does a Phrygian mode do?

A phrygian mode has the same intervals as the natural minor scale + an additional b2. Doing this creates a mode that’s darker sounding and “exotic”.

How to play the Phrygian mode on guitar

Open/ standard Phrygian scale guitar shape

This is considered the standard Phrygian shape. The example used E phrygian, because the notes are natural, and E phrygian can easily be played in the open position.

The E Phrygian mode has the same notes as C major, containing the notes:


E phrygian guitar mode shape 1 (CAGED)

3 notes-per string Phrygian scale shape

3 notes-per-string shapes match their modal position in the major scale, so that makes the third 3 notes-per-string shape Phrygian, because Phrygian is the third mode in the major scale.

You can learn all seven 3 notes-per-string shapes here.

B Phrygian 3 Notes-Per-String Shape

B phrygian 3-notes-per-string shape pdf

Phrygian mode guitar playing tips

When to use the Phrygian mode

The Phrygian mode can be used over a minor triad or minor 7th chord. Try playing playing the Open E Phrygian shape over an Em chord, then play the B phrygian shape over a Bm chord.

You can also try playing the mode a half step down from any major chord. For example, try playing the B Phrygian 3 notes-per-string shape over a C major chord.

Genres that use the Phrygian mode

The Phrygian mode is used in nearly all genres, but is mostly known for its use in metal guitar.

Phrygian chords

The Phrygian mode uses the same diatonic and 7th chords as any major mode. Being Phrygian, these chords are built from the 3rd degree of the major scale.

Understanding Phrygian chords takes up a whole lesson, and you can find that lesson here.

Phrygian Guitar Mode Summary

The Phrygian mode is the third mode of the major scale, it works well over a minor triad, and it’s usually found in metal music.

To understand it more in-depth I suggest studying the Phrygian Chords lesson I linked to above.

Aside from that, here are some more metal guitar and scale resources!

10 Fundamental Metal Guitar Techniques

Top 10 Best Heavy Metal Guitar Solos Ever

Minor Scale Chords Guitar Lesson

Chromatic Scale Guitar Lesson (How to Play)

Extended Pentatonic Scale Guitar Lesson (PDF Included)

Music Theory Terms List (PDF & Definitions)