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Thread: Harmonic Minor/Phrygian Dominant

  1. #1
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    Harmonic Minor/Phrygian Dominant

    I printed out a map of the fretboard for Phrygian Dominant and have memorized all the fingerings. I can improvise using the notes but I always end up playing stuff that sounds like Harmonic Minor (with the emphasis in the sweeter sounding notes). I can't seem to wrap my mind around the actual Spanish/Egyptian phrygian dominant sound (that more revolves around the tri-tone part with the m3). Does anyone have any suggestions as to why I'm having trouble? Perhaps I'm doing the wrong chord progressions or something? Thanks for your help!

    I know that the last few threads I've posted I haven't gotten the chance to get back on to say thank you to all your replies... but thanks alot to all you guys who helped me out.

  2. #2
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    What chords are you playing over? record a backing track in e.g. E major or a vamp of E major and F major and play over that to "learn" and internalize the phrygian major feel.

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    The perfect 9the of the harmonic minor and the b9 of the phrygian dominant is the note to focus on. Focus on the b9. And more important like gersdal is asking "What chords are you playing over?"

    Hope i've understand all i have learn here...

  4. #4
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    The modal mood, sound, feel, whatever happens when you play the mode over a modal vamp.

    Modal vamp. Just two chords one of them the tonic and the other one having the characteristic note of the mode in it's make up. For phrygian that would be the b2 or b9.

    A chord progression does a great job of calling attention to the tonal center of the progression --- and does little about sustaining the mood of the mode. So if you are playing Phrygian over a chord progression good luck getting that exotic middle Eastern sound.

    Try modal vamps and see what happens. http://www.riddleworks.com/modalharm3.html
    This site leaves Locrian up in the air. I have found that just the diminished chord (a one chord vamp) is the best choice for Locrian.

    Ionian - hard to make the major scale into a mode of the major scale.
    Lydian the characteristic note is the #4.
    Mixolydian is the b7
    Aeolian is the b6
    Dorian is the natural 6
    Phrygian is the b2
    Locrian has both the b2 and the b5, I think that is why it is best over just the diminished chord droning in the background.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 09-01-2011 at 10:42 PM.

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    Oups..... Sorry i was out of the track. It sounds like the harmonic minor cause it is the harmonic minor starting on the 5th of the harmonic scale. Use it over V7 (+5, -13) (-9) and maybe V7sus.

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    Yeah, I guess in the key of C I would end up playing F then down to C#...

    What would I have to do instead? C to F?

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    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Yeah, I guess in the key of C I would end up playing F then down to C#...

    What would I have to do instead? C to F?
    Not following your question, re-phrase.

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    Or Bb up to C, Db Are you playing the scale (C Db E F G Ab Bb) over power chord (tonic and fifth ? Then it should sound good if you focus on the Db E and the Bb

    Db E and Bb are the Color of the scale. C F G Ab shares both scales

    I may be wrong....

  9. #9
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    Phrygian dominant I guess is what I normally call the phrygian major (or phrygian nat3 as it is called in the table below). It comes out of the harmonic minor scale.



    So if you're playing in C the vamp normally would be C and Db, and the scale would be as you say (C Db E F G Ab Bb).

    The Bb you mention would not fit in a standard vamp for phrygian major, as the D in Bb doesn't fit with the Db in the scale.
    Last edited by gersdal; 09-04-2011 at 01:03 PM.

  10. #10
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Yeah, I guess in the key of C I would end up playing F then down to C#...
    Just confirming what Michel and gersdal are saying - Yes, assuming you mean F minor. And that would be Db, not C#.
    C phrygian dominant = C Db E F G Ab Bb C. (5th mode of F harmonic minor.)

    C major is your "key" chord, and the contrasting chord (the bII) would be Db major.

    However, if you're new to this (and you're a guitarist ) I suggest starting with E phrygian dominant (A harmonic minor), which is a lot easier to experiment with. That's how most guitarists first approach it. "Key" chord E, bII chord F.

    Just remember "key" is not quite the right word here - which is why I put it in quotes - because phrygian dominant is not a "key", it's a "mode". The key in question would be A minor - which is probably why you're having problems hearing the "phrygian dominant" sound. Modes of harmonic minor will naturally draw the ear towards the minor key tonic - unless you stress the chord you actually want as your key chord, and try and minimise the minor key tonic.
    So for E phrygian dominant, make sure you keep coming back to an E note and an E chord. Avoid Am altogether.

    For C phrygian dominant (if you want to work with that), keep resolving to C (via Db), and avoid Fm.

    The other common key in flamenco is D (harmonic) minor, whose 5th mode is A phrygian dominant. To hear A phrygian dominant, resolve the D harmonic minor scale to A (major) via a Bb chord.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Just confirming what Michel and gersdal are saying - Yes, assuming you mean F minor. And that would be Db, not C#.
    C phrygian dominant = C Db E F G Ab Bb C. (5th mode of F harmonic minor.)
    Yes that's exactly what I meant. Fm then C is my chord progression that I always do.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    However, if you're new to this (and you're a guitarist ) I suggest starting with E phrygian dominant (A harmonic minor), which is a lot easier to experiment with. That's how most guitarists first approach it. "Key" chord E, bII chord F.
    Yeah, actually I play in Drop C (C,G,C,F,A,D) so it's easier for me to do it in the key of C.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    For C phrygian dominant (if you want to work with that), keep resolving to C (via Db), and avoid Fm.
    So you're saying I need to be doing C and Db? It just feels so incomplete with just those two chords...

    As far as playing melodically/soloing, is it those two notes that I should be landing on as well?

    Sorry if I sound like an idiot lol

  12. #12
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by threadsoffate View Post
    Yes that's exactly what I meant. Fm then C is my chord progression that I always do.


    Yeah, actually I play in Drop C (C,G,C,F,A,D) so it's easier for me to do it in the key of C.


    So you're saying I need to be doing C and Db? It just feels so incomplete with just those two chords...

    As far as playing melodically/soloing, is it those two notes that I should be landing on as well?

    Sorry if I sound like an idiot lol
    You need to make C sound like home, that's the issue. In drop C this shouldn't be too difficult (try leaving that bottom string open as a drone), but you probably need to avoid the Fm chord. That's because Fm is the natural target for this scale. If you use too many chords from the scale, then Fm is going to emerge as the "gravitational centre" of them all - even if you don't play it!
    So stick with a C chord as your main one. Use a Db chord as an occasional deviation away from your C chord. (This is just as an initial exercise so you can hear C phrygian dominant as your "tonality" - you may feel you can introduce other chords later, and still keep the sense of C as "home". But see the videos below too.)

    Melodically too, C should be your target, but it needn't be that low one. The phrygian dominant sound comes from those bottom 3 notes of the scale: E-Db-C, because of that unique combination of intervals. You can use the entire scale, of course, but try to finish your phrases on a C.

    You may still feel that the C (note and chord) is just some restless sound waiting for a resolution. (I feel that myself when I use it.) But that's just the nature of (a) the scale itself, and (b) our habits and expectations.

    You could also try - for comparison - experimenting with the Double Harmonic or Byzantine scale (the one used for Misirlou). That's phrygian dominant with a major 7th, which can help the sense of resolution to its root.
    Take any vamp you have with those C and Db chords, and try raising the Bb in your scale patterns to B. Now when you play those end phrases with E-Db-C, you can incorporate the B below.
    Here's Dick Dale's version of the tune:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UmmbF1Zyvk (E root)
    and here's a cool cheesy Latin version (odd mix of Brazil and Arabia??):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlAs33h8i3I&feature=fvst (D root)
    and a genuine Greek/Turkish one:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LW6qG...eature=related (A root)
    - loads more versions on youtube if you want em.

    Notice you don't hear many (indeed any) chords in the first section apart from the home chord.

    Here's a guy demonstrating how flamenco guitarists use phrygian dominant - handy for you, in the key of C (he's using mostly A and Bb shapes with capo on 3).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsuLg...eature=related
    From what I've seen, those shapes are real standard flamenco ones: ie they'll use D harmonic minor patterns based on A, but use a capo when they want different keys. (Not saying this is all they do, of course, but it's surprisingly common.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    You need to make C sound like home, that's the issue. In drop C this shouldn't be too difficult (try leaving that bottom string open as a drone), but you probably need to avoid the Fm chord. That's because Fm is the natural target for this scale. If you use too many chords from the scale, then Fm is going to emerge as the "gravitational centre" of them all - even if you don't play it!
    So stick with a C chord as your main one. Use a Db chord as an occasional deviation away from your C chord. (This is just as an initial exercise so you can hear C phrygian dominant as your "tonality" - you may feel you can introduce other chords later, and still keep the sense of C as "home". But see the videos below too.)

    Melodically too, C should be your target, but it needn't be that low one. The phrygian dominant sound comes from those bottom 3 notes of the scale: E-Db-C, because of that unique combination of intervals. You can use the entire scale, of course, but try to finish your phrases on a C.

    You may still feel that the C (note and chord) is just some restless sound waiting for a resolution. (I feel that myself when I use it.) But that's just the nature of (a) the scale itself, and (b) our habits and expectations.

    You could also try - for comparison - experimenting with the Double Harmonic or Byzantine scale (the one used for Misirlou). That's phrygian dominant with a major 7th, which can help the sense of resolution to its root.
    Take any vamp you have with those C and Db chords, and try raising the Bb in your scale patterns to B. Now when you play those end phrases with E-Db-C, you can incorporate the B below.
    Here's Dick Dale's version of the tune:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UmmbF1Zyvk (E root)
    and here's a cool cheesy Latin version (odd mix of Brazil and Arabia??):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlAs33h8i3I&feature=fvst (D root)
    and a genuine Greek/Turkish one:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LW6qG...eature=related (A root)
    - loads more versions on youtube if you want em.

    Notice you don't hear many (indeed any) chords in the first section apart from the home chord.

    Here's a guy demonstrating how flamenco guitarists use phrygian dominant - handy for you, in the key of C (he's using mostly A and Bb shapes with capo on 3).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsuLg...eature=related
    From what I've seen, those shapes are real standard flamenco ones: ie they'll use D harmonic minor patterns based on A, but use a capo when they want different keys. (Not saying this is all they do, of course, but it's surprisingly common.)
    Wow thanks man you are extremely helpful. I've managed to actually make it sound how I want it to. It really was just that I was using Fm alot, and that landing on C and Db gives me the Spanish sound.

    Again, thanks to all of your guys for your help!

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