The Phrygian Dominant Scale

The Phrygian Dominant scale is kinda like the Phrygian mode, only very different…

Ok, so I should probably explain that a in a bit more detail (this being a tuition website and everything…). The Phrygian Dominant scale was invented by playing the Harmonic minor scale from the 5th note- so in that sense it’s technically a “mode of the harmonic minor scale”. However, the easiest way to look at the Phrygian dominant scale is as an alteration of the Phrygian mode (to fit dominant 7th chords).

Think of it like this: the first chord you get when you harmonise the Phrygian mode (i.e. the chord build off the root note) is a minor 7th chord. It has this formula:

1 b3 5 b7

…and a Dominant 7th chord has this formula:

1 3 4 b7

See the difference? The dominant 7th chord has a major third, where as the Phrygian mode has a minor third (or flat third). This is the clever part: if you could take the Phrygian mode and turn the minor third into a major third, you could play the scale over dominant 7th chords- because then both would have the same notes. Make sense?

So, to get the Phrygian Dominant scale, we take the Phrygian mode and raise the minor third (to make it a major third). Then we end up with this scale (starting from A on the 5th fret of the E string):


e -------------------------------------------------6--8--10--
B ---------------------------------------6--8--10------------
G -----------------------------5--8--9-----------------------
D --------------------5--7--8--------------------------------
A -----------5--7--8-----------------------------------------
E --5--6--9--------------------------------------------------

The formula for this scale is:

1 b2 3 4 5 b6 b7

…and so the notes in the above tab are:

A Bb C# D E F G

This means that the new scale has a B flat AND a C sharp in it (crazy, huh?). It also means that it’ll fit over a dominant 7 chord (i.e. the above scale starting on an A will fit over an A7 chord).

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