Phrygian Mode: Music Modes Series

Phrygian Mode: Music Modes Series

The Phrygian mode is one of the seven main music modes in Western music, and it has a unique and exotic sound that sets it apart from other modes. It’s characterized by a specific pattern of whole and half-steps and is associated with minor keys, giving it a dark and haunting sound.

Phrygian Mode Formula

The Phrygian mode is defined by the pattern of whole and half-steps, starting from the third note of a major scale. The formula follows these intervals: H – W – W – W – H – W – W (W = “whole step” or “tone” and H = “half step” or “semitone”).

Example: C Phrygian Mode

Phrygian Mode - musical modes

Minor Second Interval

One of the most distinctive features of the Phrygian mode is its minor second interval, as in the semitone interval between the first and second notes. This minor second interval largely contributes to the Phrygian’s intense and unusual sound. This is in contrast to modes like the Ionian, which has a major second interval and a brighter and happier sound.

Key Signatures & Example Songs

In terms of key signatures, the Phrygian mode is associated with minor keys. When played in a minor key, the Phrygian mode creates a sense of unease and drama, making it a popular choice for ominous and suspenseful music. When played in a minor key, the Phrygian mode creates a sense of tension and unpredictability, making it a popular choice for dark and dramatic music. Many famous pieces of folk and pop music are written in the Phrygian mode, including Spanish flamenco, metal, and rock music.

Understanding the Phrygian Mode

To understand the Phrygian mode, it’s essential to practice playing it on an instrument or singing it. Start by playing the scale ascending and descending, then try playing simple melodies using only the notes of the Phrygian mode. You can also try playing chord progressions using the Phrygian mode and experiment with different rhythms and dynamics.


In conclusion, the Phrygian mode is a versatile and powerful mode for musicians of all levels. Whether you’re a beginner just starting to explore modes or an experienced musician looking to expand your knowledge, taking the time to learn and understand the Phrygian mode is a valuable investment. By incorporating the Phrygian mode into your playing, you’ll be able to create music with a dark and dramatic sound that’s sure to captivate your listeners.

Learn the Phrygian Mode with an Expert Music Teacher

Get a better understanding of the Phrygian mode as well as the other six main modes with an expert music teacher at Hodis Learning & Music. Our private, 1-on-1 lessons, provide an efficient and effective way to study music theory and hone your music skills. Learn more or schedule your first session today by calling or emailing us.


Music Mode Series

The Dorian Mode (II)  |  The Lydian Mode (IV)