World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Phrygian mode

Article Id: WHEBN0000523016
Reproduction Date:

Title: Phrygian mode  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Phrygian dominant scale, Diatonic scale, Double harmonic scale, Minor scale, Hungarian gypsy scale
Collection: Culture of Phrygia, Modes
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Phrygian mode

Modern Phrygian mode on C About this sound Play  .
Use of the Phrygian mode on A in Respighi's Trittico Botticelliano (Botticelli Triptych, 1927).(Benward & Saker 2009), p.244) About this sound Play  

The Phrygian mode (pronounced ) can refer to three different musical modes: the ancient Greek tonos or harmonia sometimes called Phrygian, formed on a particular set of octave species or scales; the Medieval Phrygian mode, and the modern conception of the Phrygian mode as a diatonic scale, based on the latter.


  • Ancient Greek Phrygian mode 1
  • Medieval Phrygian mode 2
  • Modern Phrygian mode 3
  • Modern uses of the Phrygian mode 4
    • Phrygian dominant 4.1
    • The Phrygian Mode in Jazz 4.2
  • Examples 5
    • Ancient Greek 5.1
    • Medieval and Renaissance 5.2
    • Baroque 5.3

Ancient Greek Phrygian mode

Diatonic genus of the Phrygian tonos on D About this sound Play  .
Enharmonic genus of the Phrygian tonos on E (barlines mark the enharmonic tetrachord) About this sound Play  

The Phrygian tonos or harmonia is named after the ancient kingdom of Phrygia in Anatolia. The octave species (scale) underlying the ancient-Greek Phrygian tonos (in its diatonic genus) corresponds to the medieval and modern Dorian mode.

In Greek music theory, the harmonia given this name was based on a tonos, in turn based on a scale or octave species built from a tetrachord which, in its diatonic genus, consisted of a series of rising intervals of a whole tone, followed by a semitone, followed by a whole tone (in the chromatic genus, this was a minor third followed by two semitones, and in the enharmonic, a major third and two quarter tones). An octave species was then built upon two of these tetrachords separated by a whole tone. This is equivalent to playing all the white notes on a piano keyboard from D to D:

D E F G | A B C D

This scale, combined with a set of characteristic melodic behaviours and associated ethoi, constituted the harmonia which was given the ethnic name "Phrygian", after the "unbounded, ecstatic peoples of the wild, mountainous regions of the Anatolian highlands" (Solomon 1984, 249). This ethnic name was also confusingly applied by theorists such as Cleonides to one of thirteen chromatic transposition levels, regardless of the intervallic makeup of the scale (Solomon 1984, 244–46).

Medieval Phrygian mode

The early Catholic church developed a system of eight musical modes that medieval music scholars gave names drawn from the ones used to describe the ancient Greek harmoniai. The name "Phrygian" was applied to the third of these eight church modes, the authentic mode on E, described as the diatonic octave extending from E to the E an octave higher and divided at B, therefore beginning with a semitone-tone-tone-tone pentachord, followed by a semitone-tone-tone tetrachord (Powers 2001): E F G A B + B C D E

The ambitus of this mode extended one tone lower, to D. The sixth degree, C, which is the tenor of the corresponding third psalm tone, was regarded by most theorists as the most important note after the final, though the fifteenth-century theorist Johannes Tinctoris implied that the fourth degree, A, could be so regarded instead (Powers 2001).

Placing the two tetrachords together, and the single tone at bottom of the scale produces the Hypophrygian mode (below Phrygian):

G | A B C D | (D) E F G

Modern Phrygian mode

Modern Phrygian modal scale on E About this sound Play  .

In modern western music (from the 18th century onward), the Phrygian mode is related to the modern natural minor musical mode, also known as the Aeolian mode: the Phrygian scale differs in its second scale degree, which is a semitone lower than that of the Aeolian.

The following is the Phrygian mode starting on E, or E Phrygian, with corresponding tonal scale degrees illustrating how the modern major mode and natural minor mode can be altered to produce the Phrygian mode:

E Phrygian
Mode:  E  F  G  A  B  C  D  E
Major: 1 2  3 4  5 6  7 1
Minor: 1 2  3  4  5  6  7  1

Therefore, the Phrygian mode consists of: root, minor second, minor third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, minor sixth, minor seventh, and octave. Alternatively written as a pattern of: Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone.

Modern uses of the Phrygian mode

Phrygian dominant

A Phrygian dominant scale is produced by raising the third scale degree of the mode:

E Phrygian dominant
Mode:  E  F G  A  B  C  D  E
Major: 1 2  3  4  5 6  7 1
Minor: 1 2 3  4  5  6  7  1

The Phrygian dominant is also known as the Spanish gypsy scale, because it resembles the scales found in flamenco music (see Flamenco mode). Flamenco music uses the Phrygian scale, together with a modified scale resembling the Arab maqām Ḥijāzī (like the Phrygian dominant but with a major sixth scale degree), and a bimodal configuration using both major and minor second and third scale degrees (Katz 2001).

The Phrygian Mode in Jazz

In contemporary jazz, the Phrygian mode is used over chords and sonorities built on the mode, such as the sus4(9) chord (see Suspended chord), which is sometimes called a phrygian suspended chord. For example, a soloist might play an E Phrygian over an Esus4(9) chord (E-A-B-D-F).


Ancient Greek

  • The First Delphic Hymn, written in 128 BC by the Athenian composer Limenius, is in the Phrygian and Hyperphrygian tonoi, with much variation (Pöhlmann and West 2001, 73).
  • The Seikilos epitaph (1st century AD) is in the Phrygian species (diatonic genus), in the Iastian (or low Phrygian) transposition (Solomon 1985, 459, 461n14, 470).

Medieval and Renaissance

  • The Roman chant variant of the Requiem introit "Rogamus te" is in the (authentic) Phrygian mode, or 3rd tone (Karp, Fitch, and Smallman 2001, §1).
  • The following compositions of Josquin are written in the Phrygian mode:


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.