If you’re looking for some fresh rock tonalities, then you’re in luck, for Shaun Baxter has a useful and interesting scale to show you.
Shaun Baxter has another amazingly creative lesson lined up for you... can you handle it?
So far in this current series we’ve looked at triadic arpeggios, pedal tones and targeting. This month we move on to a scale that occurs in many ethnic music forms and is particularly prominent in neo-classical rock guitar.
Phrygian Dominant is mode five of the harmonic minor scale; so, for example, E Phrygian Dominant is the fifth mode of A harmonic minor. This means that it has the same notes, but should be treated as an E scale, with the notes of an E triad (E, G# and B) acting as the settled ‘home’ notes, rather than Am (A, C and E). A Harmonic minor: AB CD E F G# 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7 E Phrygian Dominant: E F G# A B CD 1 b2 3 4 5 b6 b7 Phrygian Dominant is also known as Phrygian major and is so-called because it is like Phrygian, but with a major 3rd instead of a minor 3rd. Like any mode of Harmonic minor, there is a characteristic minor 3rd leap (in this case, between b2 and 3) that gives it a certain Eastern quality, and is a scale that crops up in a host of different European and Asian cultures (Spanish, Turkish, Greek, Indian, Jewish etc). It also has three semitone intervals per octave (one a semitone above each of the notes of the parental triad), plus just one other note. It contains two major triads a semitone apart (in this case E and F); plus a diminished 7th arpeggio (in this case G#dim7, which contains the notes G#, B, D and F).
As you see, it is possible to view E Phrygian Dominant in several ways: 1) E Phrygian with a major 3rd (G#) instead of a minor 3rd (G); a parental E triad with a semitone interval above each of its three notes (therefore an F triad), and a final D note (b7) that resides a tone below the root note; or a parental E triad with an F triad a semitone higher; plus a b7 (D).
Diagram 1 shows the Phrygian dominant scale viewed from the latter perspective. You will see that the notes of the F triad will sound tense, suspended or unresolved, whereas the notes of the E triad sound settled, and therefore resolved.
A characteristic minor 3rd leap between the b2 and 3 gives Phrygian Dominant a certain Eastern quality, and it crops up in a host of different European and Asian cultures.
On guitar, it is common to compress the notes of any scale onto the bottom string pair (sixth and fifth), and shift the same resultant scale pattern up in octaves unchanged: first to the middle string pair (fourth and third) and then the top string pair (second and first).
For E Phrygian Dominant, one could start with D, E and F on the sixth string, and G#, A, B and C on the fifth, giving us all seven notes of the scale compressed into one string pair (try shifting it up in octaves on the middle and top string pairs as described, to produce a 3-4-3-4-3-4 scale configuration). Yngwie uses this approach a lot, as well as an inversion of the same thing that can be established if one plays G#, A, B and C on the sixth string, and D, E and F on the fifth (again, try moving this up in octaves on the middle and top string pairs in the prescribed manner to get a 4-3-4-3-4-3 configuration).
Shaun Baxter & Uli Jon Roth