Phrygian Songs

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by jkendrick, Apr 27, 2015.

  1. jkendrick

    jkendrick Supporting Member

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    I am trying to get the phrygian sound in my head and am looking for good listening examples. So far I only have:

    -White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)
    - Wherever I May Roam (Metallica)
    - Mr. Man (Alicia Keys)
    - Bemsha Swing (Thelonious Monk)

    Please also feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on any of these.

    Thanks.
     
  2. tenchijin2

    tenchijin2 Member

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    Pretty sure White Rabbit can't be Phrygian. Phrygian is a minor mode, and the song uses either F# major, or A major as it's tonal center depending on your perspective. It would seem to use multiple modes.
     
  3. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Given that pure Phrygian is comparatively rare (given the billions of songs out there, it's actually extremely rare) you're unlikely to be able to get the sound of it in your head with the few examples in existence. You'd be better off to work with it on your own (and maybe add some Phrygian songs to this severely lacking category!).

    Many metal songs have "Phrygian leanings" - meaning, the bII.

    Don't Tell Me You Love Me, by Night Ranger, is purely F#m, but when it gets to the last chord before the repeat of the phrase, it's a bII - a Phrygian element.

    It's similar in the breakdown part of "The Still of the Night" by Whitesnake which has that beautiful F chord (the section is in E, but uses a modal A chord (Dorian) right before the modal F chord (Phrygian) as the final chord of each pass (continues under the solo).

    The main intro riff to "Mr. Scary" by Dokken includes a Phrygian line but it constantly shifts between minor and Phrygian (as many songs do).

    And that's the problem: a lot of rock/pop music freely borrows elements from all the modes without necessarily sticking to any one mode. Minor especially freely mixes Dorian (and Phrygian) elements as well as the "classical" Harmonic and Melodic Minor elements. Major is more likely to remain purely in Major, and some Mixolydian songs stay primarily if not exclusively in that mode, but those two often freely intermix.

    The intro to Megadeth's "Symphony of Destruction" is Phrygian, but the rest of the song becomes chromatic - again mixing of minor modalities.

    The *sound* of Phrygian is Minor with a bII. In Em, that means an F chord.

    One of the odd things about metal, and other, shall we call them "primitive" styles of music where knowing stuff is considered counterproductive, is that part of the reason they don't stay in a mode is that, they don't know how necessarily.

    In E Phrygian, bII is F. But this also means the B chord should be Bo. But people rarely do that. What they do is play Power Chords based on Roots of the Scale Notes.

    You'll see this in songs in C Major where the B chord is a B5 power chord rather than Bo - in fact, happens in Am way more, where it should be iio, but it's just "ii". Same with F# chords in E Minor - you'll get F#5, which brings in a Dorian element (the C# as the 5th of the F# chord) which doesn't really belong in the mode. Same with the F chord - - they don't change the B chord to fit the mode (there are exceptions of course).

    So your Root notes of the chords might be Phrygian (or Dorian, etc.) but the upper notes of those chords may sit in another mode - in fact, it's a form of bi-modality.

    But we just call it "Mode Mixture" because really it's simply mixing elements of all the modes (or of all the minor modes, etc.).

    What you're hearing in White Rabbit is a move from what sounds like the Tonic note to a b2 note, but that doesn't make it Phrygian. To be purely Phrygian all the notes would have to be in the mode (at least to a significant degree, chromatics excluded).

    Steve
     
  4. Tritone

    Tritone Member

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    Hmm, I guess Radiohead's Pyramid Song is at least partially in Spanish Phrygian (i.e. 5th mode of harmonic minor), the opening chords are I - bII - biii.

    How about Return to Forever's La Fiesta? IIRC it's I bII bIII
     
  5. cram

    cram Member

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    I'd say it was phrygian or phrased in that way only because the only other flat 2 is Locrian and that'd have a flat fifth on the E chord. Perhaps you just mean it doesn't relate all 7 notes or much of them to get you to say it's in that mode.

    But I'm not an expert... only something that I learned how to interpret at a young age.

    Gin and Juice bass line is there!
    I wonder if snoop knows it's phrygian... we'd blow his mind if he knew this!
    Better just keep it to ourselves.
     
  6. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    Mahavoodo Orchestra : Meeting of the Spirits.
    I don't know of anything that is 'in' phyrgian. It's a flavor.
     
  7. jkendrick

    jkendrick Supporting Member

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    Yeah, I always think of it a middle eastern or Spanish flavor with a slightly dark or "evil" sound. But I also think of melodic minor and diminished in the same way. Am I crazy? If not how would one go about conditioning one's ear to the subtle differences? But then Alicia Keys Mr. Man doesn't sound anything like middle eastern Spanish to me. So who knows.
     
  8. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    Get yourself an oud.
     
  9. Baminated

    Baminated Member

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  10. Lephty

    Lephty Member

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    You could think of this as C# phrygian or D lydian (six of one...)

     
  11. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Steve is right that you'll find it difficult to find anything wholly in phrygian. (Bemsha Swing is not really phrygian at all, btw. Just having a bII7 chord resolving to a tonic doesn't make the tune phrygian. bII7 chords are common tritone subs in jazz.)

    The two I can think of (not so far mentioned) are:
    Pink Floyd - Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (E phrygian riff, moving to A phrygian and back)
    Clash - London Calling (mostly Em and C chords, but the C often has an F bass on it)

    Phrygian dominant (ie major tonic with bII) is maybe more common, a popular pseudo-Spanish sound.

    Eg, White Rabbit. To me, the opening F#-G chords sound like V-bVI in B minor; they just never resolve there. And the rest of the song goes elsewhere anyway, using various other major chords (or power chords): A, C, D, E.
    Pyramid Song is similar, the opening F# being major, followed by G(maj7) and A(6) - again, a "B minor" ballpark without Bm ever appearing. Question is: (as with White Rabbit) does F# actually sound like a tonic chord? Or a chord waiting to resolve somewhere else? If the latter, then we can't call it phrygian, IMO.
    La Fiesta too: E major chord, along with F and G. And it resolves into A (major) eventually anyway.

    Alicia Keys' Mr Man? Sounds more like a traditional minor key Andalusian cadence to me (Am-G-F-E), in parts anyway. (A minor key, not E phrygian dominant.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015
  12. donnyjaguar

    donnyjaguar Member

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    Dick Dale used it on a couple of instrumental tunes. I can dig up the names if you can't find them yourself.
     
  13. JonR

    JonR Member

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    If you're thinking of Misirlou, that's the rare "double harmonic" or "byzantine" scale:
    E F G# A B C D# E
    (The tune was originally Greek, with Arabic influence).

    If you're thinking of others, I'd be interested!
     
  14. donnyjaguar

    donnyjaguar Member

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    No, its not that one. Its The Wedge or The Victor or one of those. I play the damn thing and can't remember the name. Its based around an Em with typical speed picking and rapid scale runs.
     
  15. jay42

    jay42 Member

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    El Matador, as performed by the Kingston Trio
     
  16. diego

    diego Member

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  17. dsimon665

    dsimon665 Supporting Member

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    powerslave maiden
    perfect strangers deep purple (chorus riff)
    Master's Apprentices - opeth (verse...kinda)
    46 & 2 - tool
    home - dream theater
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015
  18. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Neither of those. I thought I remembered a surf tune that was Phrygian too so I checked these out.

    The Wedge is really in A minor, and so is the melody. What happens is, when it gets down to the E chord to F chord deal, he's over top of it with and E and F notes which, in that local area, has a Phrygian flavor to it. But the overall tonality is A minor.

    A lot of surf songs used that Andalusian Cadence formula, which, in Am would be Am - G - F - E.

    And many songs would focus on that E to F as The Victor does - but the melodic material that gets played over this is typically A Harmonic Minor, which, when taken "in E" is the Phrygian Dominant - Phrygian with a MAJOR 3rd, which is like a rotation of (mode of) the Harmonic Minor scale (in A, which is where these chords come from).

    Even Rush's YYZ does this - the whole B to C move is B Major to C Major, like V to VI in Em. The song is clearly "in B" though, and you can easily see in the solo in that one how it's "E Harmonic Minor", but a rotation (mode) of it based on B - Phrygian Dominant.

    That gives it that "Spanish" sound.

    There's a George Benson tune called "Bullfight" - uses that same E to F idea with some Phrygian-sounding riffs over top (listen at :25 and the following solo).

    But it's over an E chord, and he also makes liberal use of the G# (instead of the Phrygian G) in the soloing (though there are other chromatics too of course, as well as some blues licks)

    So just the "apparent" I to bII movement is not enough nor is the use of b2 in the melody - especially when the I chord is a major chord - and more especially, if the music does eventually gravitate towards the "actual" tonic of Am (Benson's sort of sounds that way, but it really remains in E, making it the Phrygian Dominant).



    IOW, most things that seem Phrygian are really just "touching on a Phrygian element", which is the bII or b2, but are either actually in Phrygian Dominant, or those chords are V and bVI and the key is something else.

    Steve
     
  19. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Well, only for a very tiny bit. It's like Am, until the Bb chord, which then does put it firmly in Phrygian, but then when the riff comes it turns it into Phrygian Dominant instead (notice it has that "Egyptian" sound).
     
  20. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Sorry, it's just plain old minor.

    It does have some interesting changes.

    The version I listened to sounded in Fm.

    In order to be F Phrygian the "7" chord would have to be minor, but it's clearly Eb Major.

    It uses a modal Cm once, but otherwise it's that same kind of "Spanish" flavored Andalusian style chords - Fm, Eb, Db, and C.

    The chorus is very interesting in that the vocal harmonies going up on the word "Ole" actually use a D natural to make it suddenly Dorian at that point, which has its own unique character to it (quite crafty IMHO).

    The strummy part that sounds Phrygian actually changes the Fm to F Major so we're back to Phrygian Dominant again.

    So at best, a "Phrygian Element" in the use of that bII chord.
     

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