The Amazing & Mystical Win of the Spanish Phrygian Scale

Hey guys. Lamb of God, Dimebag Darrel, Yngwie, Alex Skolnick and many other players use this exotic and "evil" scale in riffs and solos. Here's a brief video explaining the basics to get you started.

Ultimate Guitar
Firstly... What is Spanish Phrygian? It's essentially a branch of harmonic minor, but I like to this of it as a slightly augmented Phrygian scale. All you're doing is taking the 3rd note of a Phrygian (minor) scale and raising it a semi tone (1 fret). E Phrygian: E F G A B C D E

E Spanish Phrygian: E F G# (raised 3rd) A B C D E

This sounds so cool because you've got the evilness of the semi tone interval between the root and the 2nd but there's a major third which is kinda happy and exotic too. See the tab below for a straight "E" Spanish Phrygian descend.

Once this settles in you'll find yourself using it to spice up riffs, interesting bridge sections and solos. You can also jump between pentatonics, Mixolydian feels and diminished arpeggios with this scale, if the chord progression and context are right. Happy evil and exotic shredding!

By Chris Zoupa

28 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Phrygian Dominant a.k.a. "spanish phrygian". it's the fifth mode of the Harmonic Minor and it's not what you call it, it's what you play with it and how you play it.
    I'm surprised nobody has shat on you for using the word mode instead of interval yet.
    What's so scandalous about "spanish phrygian" being relative to harmonic minor? Especially since it is explicitly stated to be such in the article: "It's essentially a branch of harmonic minor"
    It amazes me how many misinformed people, or people that just simply don't READ the lesson thoroughly, jump down here to sh!t on the guy doing the lesson. LOL... where is you tutorial??
    The chordal harmony for the harm. minor (which phrygian dominant is the 5th mode of) is pretty tricky but certainly worth figuring out if you're interested in this spanish kinda sound, learning a scale is pointless unless you get the chords of the scale degrees down, you can actually start writing music then!
    Wait, the tabs look all the same
    Did you notice how the first tab has 7-8-10 on the A string, while the 2nd tab has 7-8-11 on the A string? That's key difference here.
    3rd and 4th scale degrees in phryg. are 5th and 6th in Maj. and 7th and 1st/8th in Min. BTW-FYI...
    as someone who hates technicality in music (I'm not an 'emotion' player, before you ask, I'm an 'atmosphere' player. Listen to some Neurosis for god sakes), I would have to disagree that bands aren't using chords anymore. You're listening to the wrong bands and/or not listening hard enough. Even without explicitly playing an open chord, chords are implied in nearly all forms of music. Besides, you should never make excuses for not learning theory, you absolutely need to know what you're playing if you intend on it sounding good most of the time, and non-theory players develop a form of theory themselves, the brain has to in order to remember how to play the guitar
    Just learn the fricken modes of Harm-minor for starters. And a tip for those looking for an improved way to add a small latin-blues-ish flair to phrygian(which I do find to be the easiest latin scale because of the chord shapes found in and around it) is to add a note between the the 3rd and 4th scale degree creating a chromatic run. Yea its basically adding the note this feller is talking about but it doesn't take any notes out. Works for the rest of harmonic minor as well and can bring out those evil dimebagish blues runs depending on backing chords rhythms, and structures(which are also what latin guitar is really about, not doodly-diddly running.)
    Sounds like something the Offspring would play...although that's probably a coincidence
    Ryan Withers
    so am i the only one that caught that this scale is actually an A melodic minor scale? with a melodic minor scale the 7th is raised a semi tone, so in the key of A minor the G would be G#. no need to confuse people who are new to these kind of ideas. i agree though it adds an interesting element to your playing.
    It's just a mode of the A harmonic minor scale. So, it's like playing an A harmonic scale, A B C D E F G# A, just starting on the fifth note, E F G# A B C D E. Think of it like our normal Major Modes. D Dorian is just a C Major Scale played through on the second scale degree, D E F G A B C D instead of the first, C D E F G A B C.
    The scale degree's are not that of a Melodic Minor, but rather the Harmonic Minor. So, in the key of A (harmonic) minor, E (a fifth above the A note) will be your beginning point of the Phrygian Dominant mode.
    Keep in mind that the melodic minor scale changes depending on whether you're ascending or descending. Melodic and harmonic minor (which you're referring to) are two very different scales.
    Depends if you're using it in a classical-music context or not; most jazz artists play it the same way (that is, the ascending form of b3, 6 7)
    Cmd. Cool
    An A melodic minor would have a b3 and a raised 6th and 7th degree (ascending). I think you may have meant to say harmonic minor (the two can be used interchangeable in music much of the time). I which case you'd be sort of right: the Spanish Phrygian is the 5th mode of the harmonic minor.