Musician’s Corner Part III


By now you should be starting to be able to conceptualize how these scales fit together. Today’s exercise will be to examine E Phrygian mode. At this point you might be wondering why you need to know all of this stuff. Do people really use this? Well, the truth is that if your ear is perfect then you don’t need to know all of this stuff. There are some musicians out there who understand what I am explaining on an intuitive level and their ear leads them to these same note choices without a full intellectual understanding of what they are doing. These people are very lucky, but they are few and far between. The vast majority of musicians stand to benefit greatly by delving into the intellectual side of music theory. Eventually, I will talk about incorporating ear training exercises, but first I want to finish the discussion of the modes so that they are presented in one large group that can be referenced. Let’s proceed.

Diving right in, here is the E Phrygian scale:


Here it is in relation to C major (the parent key) and D Dorian:


Just like D Dorian is the C major scale starting on D, E Phrygian is the C major scale starting on E. Now we will revisit relationship #1 and find the number of steps between each scale degree.

Relationship #1

This yields the formula for E Phrygian:

½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 1

Relationship #2, scale degree and interval from the root.

1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8

Again, here is the chart showing the derivation of intervals between each scale degree:

Note➙Note Number of Steps Interval
E➙F ½ minor 2nd
E➙G ½+1=1½ minor 3rd
E➙A ½+1+1=2½ perfect 4th
E➙B ½+1+1+1=3½ perfect 5th
E➙C ½+1+1+1+½=4 minor 6th
E➙D ½+1+1+1+½+1=5 minor 7th
E➙E ½+1+1+1+½+1+1=6 perfect Octave

Relationship #3, relation to the root of the key:


Now things begin to really get complex. We have a multitude of ways that we can refer to each note. For example, the note C is the root of the key, the first degree of the C major scale, the 7th degree of D Dorian, and the 6th degree of E Phrygian. Because we know the intervallic distances between each note, we know what kind of 6th or 7th degree that C is in each scale.
This sums up E Phrygian. Next time we will take a look at F Lydian.

Read Chapter IV

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