The modes are some of the oldest scales in music. Each mode is a separate branch from the C Major scale, starting from the tonic and ending with the leading tone.
Each mode has its own properties that make it unique and set it apart from average scales, and each work well with a different form of music.
In this article we will discuss the use of the Phrygian mode and how it relates to flamenco music.
The Phrygian mode is the third of the modes, starting on E, the mediant of the C Major scale. The notes of the Phrygian mode are as follows; E, F, G, A, B, C, D.
Due to the properties of the mode, while it does start on E, it cannot be used with E Major in a casual context. This is because the properties of the E Major scale and the Phrygian mode are too different. The Phrygian mode is best used when paired with the C Major scale itself.
Before you worry about using the Phrygian mode for flamenco, you should try and familiarize yourself with it. Like all modes, the Phrygian mode is a set pattern on the guitar. Find the mode and play it a few times over along to a metronome. Allow yourself to get a feel for the notes and their relations. Remember that while it is very similar to the C Major scale, it is played completely different.
While the dominant of the C Major scale is G, the dominant of the Phrygian mode is B. All of the scale degrees are completely different. This means that when you are playing over a progression, you have one of two options. The first is to play to the same scale degree as the progression itself. This would involve using two completely different sets of notes.
The second is to play the scale degree of the Phrygian that matches the scale degree of the progression. Take for instance a C Major progression that involves the tonic. Using a basic triad, this would be C, E, G. To match this, we would need to play the submediant of the Phrygian mode, which is C.
The Phrygian mode works perfectly within flamenco due to these exact qualities. The overall feel of the Phrygian mode is very exotic. Playing the same scale degrees between the mode and the C Major scale gives us a unique feeling and contrast that is common with Spanish-styled music.
Take for instance our above example of the two tonics. One would be C, the other would be E. The basic guitar triads, when outlines, would be C, E, G, and E, G, B. Notice how they almost fit together.
The Phrygian mode pulls the C Major scale through into the seventh. This makes for a unique contrast as the Phrygian mode lacks a C, giving the overall triad a complete different feel.
The best way to become familiar with Flamenco guitar in the Phrygian mode is to practice. Take some time each practice to work on the mode within the key of C Major. Good luck and have fun.
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