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Phrygian mode

From Academic Kids

Due to historical confusion, Phrygian mode can refer to two very different musical modes or diatonic scales.

Greek Phrygian mode

The Phrygian mode is named after the ancient kingdom of Phrygia in Anatolia. In Greek music theory it was based on the Phrygian tetrachord: a series of rising intervals of a whole tone, followed by a semitone, followed by a whole tone. Applied to a whole octave, the Phrygian mode was built upon two Phrygian tetrachords separated by a whole tone. This is the same as playing all the white notes on a piano keyboard from D to D: D E F G | A B C D. 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. Placing the two tetrachords together, and the single tone at the top of the scale produces the Hyperphrygian mode (above Phrygian), which is effectively the same as the Hypodorian mode: A B C D | (D) E F G | A. Confusingly, the Phrygian mode is the same as the mediaeval and modern Dorian mode.

Mediaeval and modern Phrygian mode

The early Christian church developed a system of eight musical modes (the octoechos), which mediaeval music scholars related to the ancient Greek modes. misinterpreting the Latin texts of Boethius, mediaeval modes were given the wrong Greek names. Thus, in mediaeval and modern music, the Phrygian mode is a minor musical mode or diatonic scale and may be constructed from the major scale starting on the third scale degree. The scale consists of flat 2, flat 3, flat 6, and flat 7 in the starting pitch's major scale.

Examples include the following:

  • The E Phrygian mode is the C major scale starting on E.
  • The A Phrygian mode is the F major scale starting on A.
  • The B Phrygian mode is the G major scale starting on B.

If the third note is sharpened back to its major scale value, a Phrygian dominant scale results. Confusingly, the Phrygian mode is the same as the Greek Dorian mode.

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