'E' Dominant Phrygian Shred Lick

Check out this cool lick to build speed with an exotic edge!

Ultimate Guitar
When people think "Dominant Phrygian" they generally associate the scale and sound with Yngwie Malmsteen. I've also noticed Alex Skolnick from Testament, Lamb Of God and Dimebag use this scale quite a bit too. Whilst exploring Dominant Phrygian I wanted to make a shred lick that would work over over an E7 chord that resolves to an Am. First let's take a look at one of the most common scale shapes you'll see for Dominant Phrygian in the key of "E." (see diagram below)

You'll notice Dominant Phrygian and Harmonic Minor have a few interesting scale shapes and finger patterns due to occasionally having an interval of 1 and a 1/2 tones. These shapes may look and feel strange as all of the standard diatonic scales are made up of only full tones and semitones. Let's have a look at the full exercise.

The first 2 bars are using the "E" Dominant Phrygian scale starting from a G# across 3 Octaves. You'll notice even though we're not using a conventional diatonic scale, the shapes are pretty simple 3 note per string patterns we would've seen countless times before. You'll notice from the 3rd bar till the end of the exercise we're using the original Dominant Phrygian shape starting from 16th fret of the first string. If you're comfortable enough with the original shape you can add the epic shred pattern to put together the full exercise. Try just working through the the whole exercise in little chunks of 4 semiquavers/sixteenth notes at a time. 

Enjoy the exercise guys! Happy Shredding!

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By Chris Zoupa

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I've been watching every lesson you have posted for awhile now and I can't thank you enough! Your lessons not only for learning solo's, but on different scales have helped me out big time with my guitar playing. Thank you!
    Nice lesson. Could you give us something more exotic? Sure Dominant Phrygian does have an exotic sound but there are lots of players using it out there.
    The name of that scale alone turned me off from learning scales. Like, seriously, were all the simple letter combinations, like "Fram" taken? Why couldn't they have called it the "Fram Scale"? Surely every possible simple combination of letters has not been taken?
    It's historical stuff dude. Dominant because of the major 3rd and Phrygian because of the kingdom of Phrygia where, I suppose, the Phrygian mode was widely used. It's actually easier to call it Dominant Phrygian than simply Fram. Why? Because someone who knows what a phrygian mode is and what dominant means can know the scale by simply looking at its name. If it were "Fram" this person would have to look at the notes that compose the scale and it would also be harder to remember all of them.
    Chris, I think I have a problem with my left hand choice of my fingers. for instance, on the 0:22 mark of the exemple you use the fingers 1-2-4 to play the notes, and, in a similar situation, I may use the fingers 1-4-5 to play then. I don't know if my doubts are clear(as you can see, my english is quite sh*tty) but, as a player who's been struggling to shred for quite some time now, you think that doing basic finger positions wrong such as that I explained can be a dragging factor? should I change it? Thanks for the lesson and sorry for the long post.
    Pretty cool lick here. However if we played this over an E7 resolving to Am like you say, the key would be A minor. This means that you are not in fact using the E phrygian dominant scale, but the A melodic minor scale. I'm sure you'll say "it's the shape, not the scale or key" and that's all good. I'm saying that the exercise when used in the key of A minor has no phrygian "sound" or "flavour" because it is not functioning as the phrygian scale, but the minor scale. If you want a real phrygian sound, you could use the lick over a E - Fmaj7 vamp.
    Turning this into a discussion on whether yo can use modal labels in a tonal context is pretty far fetched! It is always a point of discussion, and surely this is not a place where it will give you a meaningful conversation. You seem to be grasping for something to critize and leaving a troll comment like this is not what I would expect from a moderator. To me it is really out of line. It is indeed harmonic minor, not melodic as have been mentioned. The lick has 'no phrygian "sound" or "flavour"' to you because it resolves to A. What does it then sound like if you leave out the last chord and the two notes preceding it? (You could try try to play it over a sort of E - F vamp, or just an E chord). Labeling something E mixolydian b9b13, E phrygian dominant or E dominant from A minor Harmonic, they are all just names. Why is it so important if the song later moves to A or not?
    Chris Zoupa
    Thanks Jens. I think I'll take my theory and jazz lessons from a genius like yourself. Loving your new album. It's so awesome!
    Hi Jens, Thanks for correcting me - it is definitely A harmonic minor with the major 7, not melodic minor. I don't think pointing out that a progression that goes E7 - Am is in the key of A minor is "trolling". I think it is important to note because it affects how the lick is heard by the audience. I don't think it's an argument about whether modal labels can be used in a tonal context, it's just hard to determine what benefit giving this particular lick a modal label in this particular context is. Like we both said, it would sound phrygian if you played over an E - Fmaj7 vamp. The thing is, it's not being played over an E - F vamp, so the point is moot. We actually agreed on most points here so I'm not sure why you are criticising me.
    Hi Alan! Cool that you answered! I do think that we are discussing if you can label something with a "modal" label in a tonal context. That is exactly what we don't agree on. Referring to the scales used over a tonal chord progression with modal names is fairly normal in a lot jazz books (or at least quite a few of the ones I have read) I would even go so far as to say it is tradition (the whole II Dorian, V mixolydian, I ionian..I am sure you have seen it somewhere). In an example like this the E7 is taking up 99.9% of the focus (and melodic space) and the A chord is so unimportant that we don't even know if it is major or minor, so to me it seems quite logical to name it after the sound of that type of scale over an E7 chord. To me it seems pedantic to insist on naming it in a key, it is a lick not a complete song. Furthermore the name of the key is a scale that most of us almost never play on the tonic chord, and only on the dominant. So to me that would actually be a benefit in the modal label. My point of saying it is trolling is because you seem to very often appear on Chris' lessons and always arguing against him with some theoretical detail that is almost off topic or a bit far fetched. I never see you anywhere else. Of course I haven't been around here so long, so it could just be that, but I think this is the 4th or the 5th time. Since you're not around when my lessons on jazz get critized for not following medieval composing traditions I am left wondering how you interpret the job moderator. But again maybe I just haven't been around here long enough.
    Hi Jens, I don't think we are disagreeing of whether you can use modal labels in a tonal context. We both think you can. However the focus is on this specific part. What I think it really comes down to for us whether we would like to use this lick in isolation only, an E7 - Am chord progression, cycling once and ending forever, or whether we would like to use it as part of a song, where there would be a chord structure preceding (and generally following) the excerpt that makes up this exercise. I'm willing to back you in saying that if this phrase was heard in isloation, not part of a song, with the chords supplied, it would likely be heard as an E phrygian lick. Furthermore it's appropriate to call it E phrygian (before the Am chord) as when the E chord starts, no harmonic context has been previously established. However when the Am hits, it would move to Am. My argument is that if you played this lick in the context of a song, and encountered this particular chord change, 90% of the time the song in its entirety, and the lick, are in the key of A minor, the lick using the scale of A harmonic minor. If in this latter argument you would still argue that E phrygian is a valid name, I already addressed this point in my first post stating that it's ok to call it the "E phrygian shape", it just won't be heard as E phrygian. I have written a blog on my own views using modal names in a tonal context here http://profile.ultimate-guitar.com/AlanH... , I won't seek to repeat it in these comments. As for other personal shots you make (attack the person, not the argument right?), I do regularly comment on Chris' articles, I actually watch a lot of his videos too and enjoy them a lot. I simply disagree with his usage of modal names. I don't think this is trolling. I also make my points in a pretty respectful manner, never attacking Chris or anyone else personally. It kinda sucks that other people can't play by the same rules. I've read a couple of your lessons too and they're quite good. I tend to hang out in the Musicians Talk forum where these points are argued on a daily basis (the focus of the forum is music theory).
    Haha! So we first have to agree on what we don't agree on. As far as I am concerned it is fine to use this lick as an intro or interlude to Tico Tico and still refer to it as E Phrygian Dominant, E mixolydian b9b13 or any of the other names that is given to this sound of a dominant (in a modal context or in a tonal context) That is common practice isn't it? I don't like the fact that there has to be a "right" way to interpret this, it closes so many doors in how to use it. To me understanding the key of a piece is obviously valuable, but at the same time isolating a chord and giving it a life of it's own is opening up for so many creative options. Maybe it's a bit like light being rays and particles at the same time? So can we agree to disagree on that? As far as statistics: I encounter this sort of dominant sound all the time in major, so 90% is really way off. I was really trying not to take a personal shot at you, I was however trying to explain how it looks from my point of view. I think that is the best way to clarify my reaction. If you read it like that do you then see what I mean?
    Hi Jens, I'll just address each point you raise separately: 1. I think as an intro it would sound phygrian as no harmonic context has been defined, at least until the A minor chord hits. As an interlude it would sound phrygian, if the key of A minor has not already been established. If it has, then it will simply sound like the A harmonic minor scale. 2. I understand that you don't like how there has to be a "right" way an a "wrong" way. I'm not saying that one way is "right" and one way is "wrong". I'm saying that the E dominant phrygian scale sounds like, and functions as the A harmonic minor in the key of A minor. I am being criticised for stating this. 3. I think that chords really should be considered within the key as a whole, as the harmonic context establishes an omnipresent tonic that affects everything you hear, irrespective of the chord that is being played at any one time. To separate the chords from the key gives a distorted view of how they "really" sound within the context of a song. So we do disagree on that point. 4. I'd be interested in how often you would encounter a chord progression that shifts with the same intervals of a V7 - i cadence in a major song. I can think of perhaps one progression off the top of my head where it works - I III7 vii IV would be one with the III7 vii thing in there. That said, I'm sure you'd recognise in isolation that it is a V7 - i cadence, derived straight from the harmonic minor. 5. It's hard to say that you were not taking personal shots at me when you were in fact, taking personal shots at me. Thankfully we're now debating points of theory which is more to the point. You've probably realised that we share pretty similar opinions on this piece.
    Great! Thanks for answering, and sorry that I was not checking here before. I think you didn't get that I am referring to the times when you play the V chord as if it is in minor, but the song is in major, that happens all the time. It is also very common to harmonize #IV dim chords as a VII dominant from harmonic minor. so to answer question 4: Almost everything I play. As for 5: Ironically I was taking personal shots at you by accusing you of taking personal shots at Chris. I have already explained is how it looks to me. I am sorry if that is a language thing, but I would not have brought it up otherwise. Why should I? You keep saying we agree, and I keep saying get over modal labels and explain stuff to people in the terms that they undestand. It is not about being the rightst Don't forget that not all songs are strictly in a key, a lot of music is written by connecting chords at what might almost be random, and using them as periods of a sound, and a lot of songs have places that work like that even when the rest is completely tonal.
    Hi dude, no worries - our conversation is starting to go in circles anyways. Just in case you missed it, I am deriving my argument from the article. It states in the first paragraph: "I wanted to make a shred lick that would work over over an E7 chord that resolves to an Am." For this reason I'm not considering progressions in a major key, as major keys do not resolve to minor chords. I'm also not considering #IV chords, or VII chords, as neither feature in the example. I'm not considering V-I cadences in major progressions (yes there's a whole heap of those, I thought you were talking about V-i cadences like the article which confused me a little). There's a whole heap of reasons why a song may be in a key, a mode, both, neither, a combination of all of these. However, in this context: Am G F E7 Am If you played this lick over the E7-Am at the end, it will function as the A harmonic minor. I don't mind if you call it the E phrygian scale, I'm just pointing out it will be heard by the audience as the A harmonic minor.
    Or what the audience might choose to call E phrygian dominant, when they post it on their Facebook page, because they also use modal names in a tonal context (like almost everybody else....)
    ^ I'm assuming that most of the audience are not musicians. They wouldn't know what a phrygian scale or a minor scale was. In my example they would hear the notes of the E phyrgian scale resolving to A. They would hear that run of notes differently if they heard the E phyrgian scale resolving to E. The first is functioning as the A harmonic minor. The guitarist can call it E phrygian, but as is in the key of A minor, there is an omnipresent pull to A which affects how the scale sounds. The latter is functioning as the E phrygian scale. Same reasoning as above. Omnipresent pull to E affects how it is heard. Modal labels and whatnot are not figuring into my argument.
    *note to self* NEVER post a topic on MODAL theory again. I know that many guitar players know theory and whatnot. No doubt about that. But Jens is a beast. Like no joke. I would hate to get in any theory discussion with him because he LIVES it and don't forget he is formally educated by it. Just because someone has a degree in music doesn't mean we're right but we did go through HELL getting it and to have someone who "reads articles online" telling us what is right and wrong seems a bit silly to me. Jens knows his shit. What he hears and what others hear is always different and that's ok but sometimes you have to listen to someone and take in knowledge rather than trying to seem like you know it all.
    I agree with Alan. Janslarsen, it's not important if the piece 'moves to A', but it does become important when the piece 'resolves' to A (minor). If modes were 'just names' for the same key why would they exist? That's like saying anything in the key of A harmonic minor is also in 7 other modes. I think the problem is we get taught a mode is 'just starting somewhere else in a scale'. What really defines a mode is the resolve of the piece. In this case, Am. Edit: Playing Am, G, F and resolving to E is an example of E dominant phrygian. It's called the andalusian cadance. Western musicians like to end the cadence with an extra Am because resolving to E doesn't sound finished in our minds.
    Phrygian Dominant is the 5th mode of the Harmonic Minor scale. This is E Phrygian Dominant.
    Chris Zoupa
    It's definitely not melodic minor. They have a special place in the galaxy for people like you and John Edward. I looked at your band to see if your opinions were credible... They weren't.
    I find it pretty hurtful that you have to insult me to get your point across. I think you're a great guitarist and teacher. You're correct, it's harmonic minor.
    bit of an amateur question, but can anyone suggest some good chords to go with this? im playin in drop c if that helps so thinkin some heavy power chords ha, be grateful for some help!
    Nice job!!! I cannot seem to get a good, clean fast picking technique down. It's driving me nuts!
    In addition to long exercises try building alternate picking speed in bursts i.e. - take a very short cross-section of a long piece and repeat it over and over. I would recommend mastering common finger movements on ONE-STRING before proceeding to large interval leaps or wide string skips. For example, take just the first 4 notes of the main exercise that Chris showed and practice it with a metronome. Play it looped about 8 to 24 times and then increase the tempo by about 1 to 5 notches as you go along. Add a little silence in between the loops so your wrist won't experience fatigue and try to end the loop on a down stroke D-U-D-U-D----, 4-7-5-7-(4). Start at about 100 beats per minute (for 16th notes) and gradually increase the tempo until you can play short note sequences at least 150 beats per minute (or beyond ---> 250 BPM). I would suggest using a MIDI sequencer or Guitar Pro so you don't have to increment the tempo every now and then. Once you are comfortable playing the 1st 4 notes fast and clean at higher speeds, try adding the next 4 notes and so on. The goal is to go beyond your current maximum speed when playing long lines. Keep your pick close to the intended string and keep your picking hand relaxed. Avoid gritting your teeth even when you are nearing your max.
    Nice exercise. The first part feels like "I'll See the Light Tonight" done in reverse.