The Phrygian Mode – How to use this Flamenco Guitar Mode


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The Phrygian mode is one of the main flamenco modes. It basically consists of the notes of the A minor scale starting on E. To add tension I also play G# on the 3rd string. This is very common in Spanish guitar.

What are modes?

A scale will generally consist of seven notes. These notes are separated by intervals of tones and semitones, and occasionally larger intervals like minor thirds. This series of intervals determines what sort of scale it is.

For example, a major scale has the following series of intervals:

Tone  – T

Semitone – ST

T – T- ST – T- T- T- ST- T

An easy way to remember this is to think of a piano keyboard:

When you have a black note in between the white note it is a tone etc.

So if we start the major scale on different notes we have a different order of intervals.  For example, starting on the second note we would have:

ST – T- T- T- ST- T- T -T

This is a new scale or mode called the Dorian Mode. Even though you are still using notes of that major scale it will definitely have a different character especially when you are playing this scale over the bass of this mode or the chord built on iT.

For example if we take the C major scale, we have the notes C D E F G A B C. The second mode of the C major is  D E F G A B C D also known as the D Dorian mode. If you practice this scale over a D bass or a D minor chord (build thirds on 1 3 5 = D F A) you will get a distinctive feel.

The third mode of a major scale is called the Phrygian mode. In C major it is the E Phrygian with the notes E F G A B C D. When this mode is used in Flamenco we tend to raise the G. This adds tension by creating a minor third between F and G#.

Below are some exercises for practicing the Phrygian mode.