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Phrygian dominant scale

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musical notation of the Phrygian dominant scale
Phrygian dominant scale (Ahavah Rabbah written)

In music, the Phrygian dominant scale is the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale, the fifth being the dominant.[1] Also called the altered Phrygian scale, dominant flat 2 flat 6 (in jazz), or Freygish scale (also spelled Fraigish[2]). It resembles the Phrygian mode but with a major third, rather than a minor third. The augmented second between its second and third scale degrees gives it an "Arabic" or Middle Eastern flavor to Western listeners.

In the Berklee method, it is known as the Mixolydian 9 13 chord scale, a Mixolydian scale with a lowered 9th (2nd) and lowered 13th (6th), used in secondary dominant chord scales for V7/III and V7/VI.



Built on C, the scale is as follows.

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
\relative c' {
  \clef treble \time 7/4
  c4^\markup { Phrygian dominant scale on C } des e f g aes bes c2
} }

When related to the scale degrees of the major scale, it reads:

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 1

The sequence of steps forming the Phrygian dominant scale is:

Traditional use


This scale occurs in Indian, Middle Eastern, Balkan, Eastern European, Central Asian, and flamenco music. It is common in Arabic and Egyptian music, in which it is called Hijaz-Nahawand or Hijaz maqam,[3] and used in Hebrew prayers and Klezmer music, where it is known as Ahava Rabbah, Freygish or just the "Jewish scale", and is called Dastgāh-e Homāyoun in Iran.[citation needed] It is the most common scale in North Indian classical raga Hijaz Bhairav (Basant Mukhari) and South Indian raga Vakulabharanam.[4]

It is sometimes called the Spanish Phrygian scale, Spanish Gypsy scale (see: gypsy scale) or Phrygian major scale (see: phrygian mode and major scale) and is common in flamenco music.[5] It can also be found in traditional Spanish songs outside flamenco, everywhere in Spain to varying amounts, but especially in southern and central areas of the country, often being also known as escala andaluza (Andalusian scale) in Spanish.[6] Related scales in Spanish traditional music with chromatic notes in the second degree, varying between a semitone and a tone, are also known as "gama española" ("Spanish gamut") or "gama de Castilla y León" (gamut of Castile and León) and, though found all over Spain, are particularly common in Castilian and Leonese traditional songs.[6]

The flatted second and the augmented second between the second and third scale degrees of the scale create its distinctive sound. Examples include some versions of "Hava Nagila",[1] "Sha Shtil" and "Misirlou", while other versions of those melodies use the closely related "double harmonic scale".[2] The main chords derived from this scale are I, II, iv, and vii.[2]

When the Freygish scale is used in Klezmer music, the sixth degree may be left unflatted if it is melodically approached and left from above,[7] or the seventh degree may be raised as well.

The Phrygian dominant scale is often used in jazz composition and improvisation over secondary dominants of minor chords in a major key, such as the VI7 chord in a VI7-ii7-V7-I progression. Some modal jazz compositions, such as "Nardis" by Miles Davis, are composed in the Phrygian dominant mode.

See also



  1. ^ a b Dave Hunter (2005). Play Acoustic, San Francisco: Backbeat, p. 226. ISBN 978-0-87930-853-7.
  2. ^ a b c Dick Weissman, Dan Fox (2009). A Guide to Non-Jazz Improvisation, guitar edition, Pacific, Missouri: Mel Bay, p. 130. ISBN 978-0-7866-0751-8.
  3. ^ Peter Manuel (2006). Michael Tenzer (ed.). Analytical Studies in World Music. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 96.
  4. ^ "Raga Basant Mukhari". srutimag.blogspot.com. 2 September 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  5. ^ Scott Jarrett; Holly Day (2008). Music Composition for Dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-470-22421-2.
  6. ^ a b Crivillé i Bargalló, Josep (1981). "Sistemas, modos y escalas en la música tradicional española (notas para un estudio), Revista de Folklore Nº 6" (PDF). media.cervantesvirtual.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-04-17. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  7. ^ Ilana Cravitz (January 2004) Klezmer – Modes and Scales", ManchesterKlezmer.org at archive.org (Accessed 23 November 2014).

Further reading