Phrygian Dominant Scales

This lesson attempts to explain the very basics of the Phrygian dominant scale.

logo
Ultimate Guitar
1
The Phrygian Dominant scales are some of the most popular scales in music, especially in the Middle East. The Phrygian dominant scale is widely used in flamenco, as the scale sounds very exotic. Many artists use the scale, including Dream Theater and Joe Satriani. In fact, Satch even once said that this is his favorite scale! The solo in Metallica's 'Wherever I May Roam' is a great example of the scale, along with Iron Maiden's whole song 'Powerslave'. Another example is the solo in Rush's 'YYZ'. So, onto the lesson... You've learned the pentatonic scales, and you've played them to death. You have no idea where else to turn, and you've heard of people referring to all kinds of different scales. There are numerous scales, some incredibly difficult to learn, and some, like the pentatonic, that are simplistic in nature but really fun to play. The Phrygian dominant scale has a kind of Middle Eastern flavor to it. Once you play it, you'll see what I mean. The Phrygian dominant scale isn't really all that different than the pentatonic; the overall shape is similar. Below are the Phrygian dominant scales in F, G, A, B, C, D and E. After you take a quick look at them, I'll explain over what kind of chords you can play the Phrygian dominant scales.
In F:
e|-----------------------------1-2-5-|
B|-----------------------1-2-4-------|
G|-------------------2-3-------------|
D|-------------1-3-4-----------------|
A|-------1-3-4-----------------------|
E|-1-2-5-----------------------------|

In G:
e|-----------------------------3-4-7-|
B|-----------------------3-4-6-------|
G|-------------------4-5-------------|
D|-------------3-5-6-----------------|
A|-------3-5-6-----------------------|
E|-3-4-7-----------------------------|

In A:
e|-----------------------------5-6-9-|
B|-----------------------5-6-8-------|
G|-------------------6-7-------------|
D|-------------5-7-8-----------------|
A|-------5-7-8-----------------------|
E|-5-6-9-----------------------------|

In B:
e|---------------------------------7-8-11-|
B|--------------------------7-8-10--------|
G|----------------------8-9---------------|
D|---------------7-9-10-------------------|
A|--------7-9-10--------------------------|
E|-7-8-11---------------------------------|

In C:
e|----------------------------------8-9-12-|
B|----------------------------8-9-11-------|
G|-----------------------9-10--------------|
D|---------------8-10-11-------------------|
A|-------8-10-11---------------------------|
E|-8-9-12----------------------------------|

In D:
e|-----------------------------------------10-11-14-|
B|---------------------------------10-11-13---------|
G|---------------------------11-12------------------|
D|------------------10-12-13------------------------|
A|---------10-12-13---------------------------------|
E|-10-11-14-----------------------------------------|

In E:
e|-------------------------------------------12-13-16-|
B|----------------------------------12-13-15----------|
G|----------------------------13-14-------------------|
D|-------------------12-14-15-------------------------|
A|----------12-14-15----------------------------------|
E|-12-13-16-------------------------------------------|
The overall shape of the scale isn't that difficult to memorize, just take a few minutes and run over each scale quickly and you'll have it memorized in no time. The tricky part of the Phrygian dominant scale is to learn what chords to use it over. The kind chord that is mainly used over the Phrygian dominant scale is something called the 'dominant seventh chord'. The dominant seventh chord in E looks like this:
e|----|
B|----|
G|-13-|
D|-12-|
A|-14-|
E|-12-|
In case this lesson didn't cut it for you, there's plenty of great videos on Youtube you can check out. Thanks for reading, I hope it helped.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    angus_young_32
    i think it was pretty good. You could've done what buttcord said but overall it's good. I dont get what else you retards want, he showed what notes are where in which scale, how much clearer could he make it for you?
    |Long|
    I would hardly call this a lesson. You just posted one box shape in each key and didn't explain anything.
    buttcord
    Yeah it'd be a lot more useful to write about the tendencies of the different degrees in the scale and how they relate to each other, what specific elements give it the 'middle-eastern' feel, or some full progressions to play over. A single chord to play a collection of notes over? Not very useful. Is that E dominant seventh supposed to act as an I, V, VII or what? Just because this lesson's for beginners doesn't mean it can stand at barely half a page long.
    |Long|
    I mean it doesn't even talk about the notes involved. How can you give a lesson without explaining the fundamentals?
    AeolianWolf
    |Long| wrote: I would hardly call this a lesson. You just posted one box shape in each key and didn't explain anything.
    not even each key -- in only seven keys.
    |Long|
    AeolianWolf wrote: |Long| wrote: I would hardly call this a lesson. You just posted one box shape in each key and didn't explain anything. True. Only the naturals. Sigh. not even each key -- in only seven keys.
    millionsdollars
    hey guys sry to tell you but rush yyz solo is played in harmonic minor , which is a natural minor with a raised 7th, phrygian dominant is the 5th mode of the harmonic minor, and is used over a dominant7th chord
    glenthemann
    millionsdollars wrote: hey guys sry to tell you but rush yyz solo is played in harmonic minor , which is a natural minor with a raised 7th, phrygian dominant is the 5th mode of the harmonic minor, and is used over a dominant7th chord
    thank you for that, pretty much all I wanted.. show me the intervals and how they relate to each other and even possible why its called phrygian dominant.. I dont want stupid boxes
    SkilledNChilled
    Sorry if I'm wrong but shouldn't the chord of the scale (for E) look something like this: e|----| B|----| G|----| D|-9--| A|-11-| E|-12- | I'm only assuming this as I thought the chord was the 1st, 3rd, and 5th note of the scale. Help would be appreciated, thanks
    debasish.sarkar
    e|----| B|----| G|-13-| D|-12-| A|-14-| E|-12-| this is seventh chord.... dominant seventh chord and seventh chord is not the same i guess....
    garytelecastor
    A "dominant" seventh chord and a "seventh" chord are two names for the same chord. They consist of the 1st, 3rd, 5th, b7th. In this case the OP has an E7 which is a little confusing as the rest of the tab is in FM. So let's use an F7 instead. The F maj scale is: F G A Bb C D E F G A Bb C D E F 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 or8 9 10 11 12 13 14 The Phyrgian Dominant is: F Gb A Bb C Db Eb F In order to understand why this is constructed the way it is a person needs to have an understanding of how the modes relate to the given key. In this case, Phrygian is built off of the 3 tone in the scale. So the first thing we need to do is find the original key of the PDS (Phrygian Dominant Scale. This would make the F in the PDS the 3rd scale tone in the Db Major scale. If though we are playing in the key of F, the designation of the PDS tones are related with the key of F. Therefore: F is 1st, Gb is b2nd, A is 3rd, Bb is 4th, C is 5th, Db is 6th, F is 8. Looking at the tones that are diatonic to the F major scale we have the F, A, Bb, and C tones. The alterted tones in the scale are the Gb and Db. Looking at these two tones they become the b9(Gb) and b6(DB) of the F major scale. How to use it: We now have the makings for several different uses of the scale both over chords and in the FMaj key. When playing an Fb9, Gb, C7b5, Baug, etc. When using the whole scale in the key of FM you would want to use it in conjunction with other scales, such as the FM or Fminors or pentatonics. This would add a rather eastern diatonic element to your solos. Ask questions if you like.
    garytelecastor
    Just for those who need a brief refresher on the modes they are: 1.) Ionian the root note is the 1st note in the scale=F 2.) Dorian the root note is the 2nd note in the scale=G 3.) Phyrgian the root note is the 3rd note in the scale=A 4.) Lydian the root note is the 4th note in the scale=Bb 5.) Mixolydian the root note is the 5th note in the scale=C 6.) Aeolian (Natural Minor) the root note is the 6th note in the scale=D 7.) Locrian the root note is the 7th in the scale=E The modes that see the most use are Dorian, Mixolydian. Dorian was used a lot by the Allman Brothers. Mixolydian is used a lot by people who don't know they are using it. It contains the b7 tone of the chord built over the 5th. EX: We are playing in the key of GM and we go to the dominant 7th or D7. In the original key the 4th tone is a C. The 7th tone in the key of D is C#. The D7 chord contains a C natural and not a C sharp.So if we changed to the scale of Dmajor when playing over the 5th and began to play a C# over the D chord we would not be playing a D7 but rather a DM7.So in the future, when you are playing in a progression that contains the dominant 7 and you are playing over the top of it you are playing in Mixolydian and you may not know it. Well, at least until you read this.
    Neilo485
    Actually the third note of the f Phrygian is a flat not a..if you flatten the fifth you have a Lochran which can sound nice with the seventh tone in some tunes.