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When the Guitarist Plays all Phrygian...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MEKer, Mar 28, 2013.

  1. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    So this guitarist plays most everything in Phrygian mode. He makes sure you know that. Uh...OK.
    I DO like his music. It is very well played. That's cool.

    Now, what would be the best approach to that?. Don't want to be stuck always 1-4-5-8. Should I just play getting into the 3rd in major or what? Maybe just make a pentatonic to fit (not using the 2nd) and cruise in that?

  2. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    The best approach to that is to teach him there are many other modes :D Seriously, I have a guitarist stuck in arabic minor scale, I am actually pushing him to play something else, noting that he will never improve as a musician if he abuses one scale his whole life. It is good to have a 'signature' mode and use it in an unique way, but abusing and forcing it all the time only leads to stagnation and boredom, so it's good you've noticed that and tried to help, but the real help comes if you help him get out of that phase.
  3. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    Of course I am doing that, also my own songs are well distributed between maj/min/modes as needed.

    But meanwhile overall--best approach to phrygian is....
  4. The minor pentatonic will work for sure. Minor arpegios will work as long as you stay away from 2nds and 9ths. You can always harmonize as well.
  5. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Forgetting that he's playing in Phrygian and just using your ears. All you can do for any song you didn't write is listen to what's written and try to come up with something appropriate. Since you know what Phrygian is already, that's half the battle. The rest is using your good judgment and finding the notes that work on a per song basis.
  6. Play strictly Locrian over it.
  7. anonymous111813

    anonymous111813 Guest

    Mar 1, 2011

    E-phrygian mode two octaves

    Get comfortable with this. Playing along with the guitar player can help. Using a drone note can sound good too. It is hard to give you any advice without some sound files, though.
  8. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Well like any other modes, the root is the first note to use then the fifth.

    But there are some very interesting notes to play under that scale: 1-b2-b3 and b7 are great to play some mean riffs. Don't forget the other ones like the 4 and b6. Great patterns can be created with those notes as well.

    Learn how to harmonize the scale, after all it is just a major scale starting on the third. You can use these scales tones to make some pedal points to energize the music.
  9. Yes to Johannes' and Grove Master's post. And by the way the following speaks to parallel modes, not relative. Parallel modes keep the same key and the notes change. Relative modes changes the key and the notes stay the some........ both end up being the same notes. Kinda depends on which way you were taught. IMO - Relative is easy to teach, parallel is easy to use.

    If he plays Phrygian over any chord progression, well hang on and do the best you can to make him sound good. I think you will find that the mode lead break has more to do with what the soloist is comfortable with than what chord progression he/she is playing over, i.e. I bet the other guys do not change the chord progression they are using to accommodate the mode the soloist decided to use. So, in affect, all his modal efforts are not being utilized to their fullest. Going deep hang on.....

    First Phrygian is a minor mode, what chords are the rest of the guys using, i.e. what progression is he playing Phrygian over? Old rule of thumb is major chords use the major modes, minor chords use the minor modes and use a droning vamp instead of a V-I chord progression. http://www.riddleworks.com/modalharm3.html Yes modal harmony is different.

    Chords used under any mode should sustain the mode. A V-I cadence is not our first choice. A V-I cadence brings closure, a mode wants to sustain. We sustain the mode by using a vamp or droning progression. Phrygian signature note is the b2 so that note should be found in the droning chord. That's the first hint that the b2, b3 and b7 are going to be important notes in a bass line for Phrygian.

    • Ionian is the same notes as the major scale R-2-3-4-5-6-7. I really do not count Ionian as a mode of the major scale as it is the major scale. IMO Ionian goes best with a V-I "normal" progression. Long story....
    • Lydian is the same notes as the major scale with the 4th sharped. So it's signature note is the #4.
    • Mixolydian is the same notes as the major scale with the 7th flatted. So it's signature note is the b7.
    • Aeolian is the same notes as the major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted so we end up with R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 as the notes in the natural minor scale . Pretty much like Ionian, if I wanted a minor mode I'd be using Dorian or Phrygian - Aeolian like Ionian begs for the ole major or minor V-I cadence.
    • Phrygian is the same notes as the natural minor scale with the 2 flatted. So the b2 is the signature note.
    • Dorian is the same notes as the natural minor scale with the b6 sharped back to a natural 6. Signature note is the natural 6.
    • Locrian is the same notes as the natural minor scale with the 2 and 5 flatted. Locrian IMO is best served with a m7b5 one chord vamp droning under it.

    The droning note you want under the mode being played is the signature note of that mode. So long story to get to what Johannes and Groove Master said; If he plays Phrygian, the b2, b3 and b7 are going to be important to your bass line.

    Something to think about.
  10. seang15


    Aug 28, 2008
    Cary NC
    What mode do you like? Perhaps fall back to Ionian. Obviously a comfort zone, and creates some tension too.

    And/or another "comfort-zone" mode. I like Dorian and Aeolian. If he's in B phrygian, I would rock it in G Ionian, A Dorian and E Aeolian. :bassist:
  11. I find this video to be most helpful for understanding relationships between the various modes and how to utilize them for improv.

  12. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    This is where knowledge of chord substitutions comes in handy. Especially as the bass player. Say said guitarist is playing in E Phrygian (E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E).

    Basic starting point would be a Mediant Substitution (off the b6) making that E Phrygian into C Ionian. The next one would be a Submediant Substitution (off the b3) making that E Phrygian into a G Mixolydian. Granted that is assuming that he is playing Phrygian over an E minor chord.

    The thing is that any of the other notes should work as a "New Root". As long as you know about tension and release you should be able to find ways to string together different bass notes to create it here's a little chart sticking diatonicaly to E Phrygian and how each note creates new chords starting with a basic E minor Triad:

    E- Emin (E, E, G, B)
    F- FMaj9sus#4 (F, E, G, B)
    G- GMaj6 (G, E, G, B)
    A- Asus2 (A, E, G, B)
    B- Bsus4b6 (B, E, G, B)
    C- CMaj7 (C, E, G, B)
    D- D6sus4 (D, E, G, B)

    Naturally the notes that are already in the chord will create more consonant sounds that you can rest on where as the ones that aren't already in the chord will be more dissonant. Great music to me isn't always consonant or dissonant but moves between the two. You can easily take that little chart and mix and match tones against that simple Eminor triad until your hearts content. Listen to how the tension resolves and let that be your guide.

    Rev J
  13. BawanaRik


    Mar 6, 2012
    New Jersey
    Like the mixlolidian some players use?

  14. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    If the guitarist in question is Carlos Santana, I'd suggest you just keep it to yourself.....
  15. seang15


    Aug 28, 2008
    Cary NC
    Hmm...interesting. Well it's not Vai, he's a Lydian guy :)
  16. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    Absolutely terrific advice from all. I knew the 3rd lapses into the major, but I'd never thought about the b2 as drone or b4 in any context. I am going to study all your responses and practice them against the signatures he is using. And you are all right about the tension like that, almost contra punctional---as long as the endings meet or harmonize as the final "there--that worked nicely". The ear will tell us that. As always, with all the silliness we indulge in here on TB (I am certainly a main offender ;) ), the collective knowledge and wisdom is always here to underwrite it. Awesome.
  17. Sloop John D

    Sloop John D

    Jun 29, 2012
    When he starts playing his Phrygian mode solo, drop the root down two steps so it's all in Ionian.:D
  18. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    If everything else fails, walk the chromatic scale, people will apploud you how jazzy you are :D
  19. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Just to make sure, I'm talking about the perfect fourth, not b4, which would be equal to the major third !

    While I'm talking about the third, you may would like to know that the Phrygian mode can be spiced with the major third instead of the minor third. This scale is often called the Phrygian dominant scale because it is the same thing as the Phrygian mode but with a major third. It is also the fifth mode of a minor harmonic scale.

    Let say you play in E minor Phrygian ( E-G-B-D) with F-A-C as modal notes:
    This mode is the 3rd mode of the C major scale.

    If the third is raised (E-G#-B-D) with the same extra modal notes F-A-C:

    We get the A minor harmonic scale which is the relative minor of C major !

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