Tip #5 – Finding the Right Chords for your Phrygian-Dominant Scale

Or vice versa! Maybe you already have the chordal harmony, but are looking to see if playing a lead line over in a phrygian-dominant mode is appropriate.

The phrygian-dominant scale is a mode based off of starting from the fifth degree of the harmonic minor scale. So, to remind, a harmonic minor scale looks as such:

And if you were to start from the fifth degree, it would not look like this, becoming the phrygian-dominant scale:

Notice that the scale degrees are | 1 b2 3 4 5 b6 b7 1 | and what chords can be derived from them. The strongest chords built when playing in this mode are:

Harmonic movements between I – bII , and I – bvii are good indicators to the ear that you have now dove into the world of phrygian-dominant.

In the case that you are in a regular major/minor kay, but want to incorporate the phrygian-dominant, look to add chords like: 7alt , 7(b9b13) , V7/III , and V7/VI . These best fit the pitch collection of the mode. Also, a VImaj7 chord can possibly work if the melody has a raised sixth being approached from above.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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