The Phyrigian Mode: Jazz Guitar GUIDE

Get a little exotic with the phryigian mode – the 3rd mode of the Major Scale. There are some really spicy notes in the phyrigian mode for you to explore, play around with it. You will be surprised with what you can do.

Use this lesson to:

  • Learn basic modal theory.
  • Tune your ears to this mode’s unique sound.
  • Know how to improvise with it musically.
  • Have fun while you learn!

This lesson is part 3 of my major scale modes series. I recommend you have a good understanding of the Aeolian mode before checking out this scale. Why? Because there is only one note different between the two scales. Accustom your fingers and ears to the aeolian mode first and the phryigian mode will be easy as pie.

Phryigian Mode Example

phyrigian mode Can you see how E phryigian is just C major scale starting from E?

Visual Example

phyrigian mode If you play the white keys on a piano from E to E you play E phyrigian mode, the third mode of C major scale.


Here is how to play the Phryigian Mode on the guitar in two positions. A white circle means that note is the root note of the scale. Numbers indicate what finger to use (1: first finger, 2: second finger, etc). phyrigian mode phyrigian mode

How to HEAR the Phrygian Mode

To start off with, you can think of C major scale = E phyrigian. But to really HEAR the unique sound of a phrygian mode you need appreciate this mode as its own entity. Try this:

  • Forget about C major.
  • Play a Em7 chord and play through the E phryigian mode slowly.
  • Accustom your ears to the sound of the b9.
  • Try this with all your modes, think of each mode as its own unique scale.

To sum up, modes are easy to learn because they share the same notes. But to really get your ears around them, think of each mode as a unique scale and key center. I remember modes being confusing to me when I started out, let me know in the comment section below if this trick works for you!

When to use the Phyrigian Mode

  • Minor 7 chords (functioning as III).
  • Susb9 chords -see the susb9 scale for a better option for this.
  • Tonic min 7 (for an exotic/flamenco sound) *not often used*.

How to use the Phyrigian Mode

This mode has a very specific sound. Use it when you are specifically aiming for this sound. In the Phrygian Mode, your ‘inside sounding’ notes are 1, b3, 5 and b7. Add in the spicy notes, b9 and b13, for that unique Phyrigian sound.

Phyrigian Mode Summary

ScalePhyrigian Mode
NotesR, b9, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7
C Phyrigian C, Db, Eb, F, G, bA , Bb
Chord/ Guide Tonesb3 and b7
Color Tones11, b13
Avoid Notesb9
Sam's TipPlay around with this exotic scale. It isn't used much but is a cool flamenco-like sound.
Well done on making it through this lesson! I recommend you immediately check out ‘How to Practice Jazz Guitar Scales’ to ingrain the dorian mode in your ears and fingers. Return to jazz guitar scales here to learn another cool scale.

Free Major Scale Mode Lessons

  1. Ionian
  2. Dorian
  3. Phryigian
  4. Lydian
  5. Mixolydian
  6. Aeolian
  7. Locrian

Thanks for checking out this lesson, please feel free to leave a comment below with any suggestions or questions. ~ Sam Blakelock |

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