Phrygian Dominant Introduction Essential Reading


D Phrygian Dominant...Introduction

This Introduction will be VERY wordy to explain a few things. I figure you need to get a few things out of the way to make sense of what I'm doing. I promise the lessons will be less wordy.

A quickie about me:

I didn't learn this scale in a book, I had picked the notes out by ear for a song I had written about 8 years ago. Since then, it has become one of my favorite sounds. And, I've done many dark explorations of it. I do not have any "book" knowledge of this scale and these are my observations of using it. More on the line of how I apply it.

For the last 20 years, of my 30 years of playing/learning time, I have tried to take what I had learned and turn it into my own theory on things, per say. I've always tried to do things my own way but, always tried to have THE actual theory to supplement things to make sense of the things that I do, and to be able to explain them. So by all means, feel free to research the "book" type theory if you think I miss something.

Also, I've been teach guitar/theory in some capacity for the last 20 years in stores, private lesson, and classes.

But again, I do not consider myself a leading authority on anything. I just like playing around with the sound of this scale. I think I can help make it accessible to others to be able to use and enjoy it as I do.

Ok, let's get on with it:

This will be a series of ideas based on the D Phrygian Dominant scale. Most of the examples will be played against a droning D major chord and then will advance from there. The tuning for the guitar in most of the examples (unless noted) will be:

DADGBE from low to high. (For audio of the tuning see the links below)

This tuning allows me to use the low D string in different spots during single note soloing to fill out the overall sound of just one guitar playing.

The D droning in the background simulates a second instrument accompaniment playing the Root of the D chord.

The initial ideas are things I use during an improv song I do when I play live. The name of the song is “To There” (see link below).

Most of these lessons will lean towards the sound of a Sitar, Oud, or other Middle Eastern type instrument. Although, I should note, I’ve never really learned any actual Sitar, Oud, etc… music in the past.

The droning D could also be thought of as a way to simulate Sympathetic Strings of different Middle-Eastern instruments.

Playing the scale in this vein will lead you to realize that you can leave any D string ringing (6th and 4th string in our case). Also, you could leave the Open A and (sometimes) even the open G string ringing to. Using this "Open strings ringing/droning" technique will take a while to get the feel of it. But, I think the easiest way to use it is, to just play the ideas a little sloppy. Playing sloppy will leave strings ringing all over the place. And, they usually all fit or harmonizes against each other to create the Sympathetic String sound. You'll find that some work better at different times than others, so pay attention.

This strumming open strings while fretting single notes will be come more apparent in a few lessons down the road.

A little theory background on the scale:

The Phrygian Dominant scale is actually derived from the 5th mode of a Harmonic Minor scale. But, for these examples, in D, we won't be concerned that they actually stem from the G Harmonic Minor scale. We'll call it a D Phrygian Dominant scale, and the "tonal-center" of the lessons will be D.

The scale fits nicely over a straight Major chord or a Dominant 7th chord. For these examples we'll be playing it over the straight D Major chord and let the notes of the scale determine some of the chord extension sounds.

The Phrygian Dominant scale can also be referred to by the name: Phrygian/M3. The Phrygian/M3 "name" is derived from the fact that we are essentially playing a Phrygian mode with a raised 3rd.

For comparison:

this is a D Phrygian mode - D Eb F G A Bb C D

this is a  D Phrigian/M3 scale is - D Eb F# G A Bb C D.

Notice the notes are the same except that we've taken the third note of the Phrygian scale and raised it a half step. Essentially we changed it from a b3 to a M3 (F to F#)…hence the name Phrygian/M3 scale.

The Phrygian Dominant name come from the fact that by change the b3 to a M3, we now have a Dominant 7 chord within the scale. The chord consists of D F# A C (or R M3 5 b7).

It's also a known fact a dim7 chord lies within this scale (actually four, Ebdim7, Gbdim7, Adim7, and Cdim7). Some more on this later, but there won't be a whole lot of it since the diminished sound is very distinct and recognizable but doesn't quite sound as open as the style I'm trying to use this scale for. But, it is in there and will be discussed.

Also, the scale is used quite frequently in the Flamenco style of music. We will not delve too much into this but use it more for a Middle-Eastern sound. But, everything in these ideas can fit the Flamenco style of playing if adjusted accordingly.

Reference Links:

Drop D Tuning for Lessons

To There (youtube video of a song using most of the ideas in this tutorial)

A very informative site into the world of Middle-Eastern Music

Another very informative site regarding Middle-Eastern Music