If you’re still with me on this epic series of posts in this part we’ll finish looking at the diatonic modes within the CAGED system, but based on triads instead of the five clunky chord shapes. There are just two modes left: the Phrygian, which is quite a versatile scale; it can be used in a very obvious (cheesy) way but becomes less obvious when you start using it in fusion and jazz playing. We’ll also take a quick look at the Locrian mode, which you probably won’t use an awful lot to begin with but can be extremely useful if you’re stuck for something to play over a m7b5 chord, or are looking for a particularly dark sound.
Remember we’re taking these modes from the C major CAGED shapes which means that E Phrygian is the scale that shares its notes with the C major scale, just starting on E. As usual, let’s start with a few triads around which to base our shapes:
By far the most interesting notes in the Phrygian scale are the b2 and the b7. The b2 is what gives the scale its distinctive sound, some call it a Spanish sound but it really depends on the context in which you use it. If you’ve started to play as we’ve been doing in these posts you’ll find that your focus shifts, or has shifted, to note choice rather than note quantity. The problem with the scalar approach, and running up and down them, is that it gives all the notes equal weighting. As you can probably tell, this will never do as with the modes you need to consciously bring out their flavors by choosing the notes you play.
Use the following diagrams to add in the b2 and the b7 and (hopefully) bring out that Phrygian sound.
Here’s the backing track:
Up to now we’ve been using major and minor triads, and adding notes to them. The Locrian mode, however, requires us to start with a different set of three notes: the diminished triad. This is made up of the following intervals: 1 b3 b5, and in this case we’ll be using B Locrian as we’re still in the key of C. You can check out diminished triads in B all over the neck in this article. For the purposes of this article we’ll grab the following three comfortable shapes, and as virtually every note in the Locrian mode is flattened, it’s simply a question of adding notes in from the C major CAGED shapes as we’ve been doing all along.