A phrygian mode

The Solution below shows the A phrygian mode notes on the piano, treble clef and bass clef.

The Lesson steps then explain how to identify the mode note interval positions, choose note names and scale degree names.

For a quick summary of this topic, have a look at Mode.

Mode keys
KeyCC#DbDD#EbEE#FbFF#GbGG#Ab[A]A#BbBB#Cb

Solution - 2 parts

1. A phrygian mode

This step shows the ascending A phrygian mode on the piano, treble clef and bass clef. It also shows the scale degree chart for all 8 notes.

The A phrygian mode has 1 flat.

A phrygian mode note names
Note no.Note intervalNote name
1tonicThe 1st note of the A phrygian mode is A
2A-min-2ndThe 2nd note of the A phrygian mode is Bb
3A-min-3rdThe 3rd note of the A phrygian mode is C
4A-perf-4thThe 4th note of the A phrygian mode is D
5A-perf-5thThe 5th note of the A phrygian mode is E
6A-min-6thThe 6th note of the A phrygian mode is F
7A-min-7thThe 7th note of the A phrygian mode is G
8A-perf-8thThe 8th note of the A phrygian mode is A

A phrygian mode

Middle C (midi note 60) is shown with an orange line under the 2nd note on the piano diagram.

These note names are shown below on the treble clef followed by the bass clef.

A phrygian mode

A phrygian mode

A phrygian mode degrees
Note no.Degree name
1A is the tonic of the A phrygian mode
2Bb is the supertonic of the A phrygian mode
3C is the mediant of the A phrygian mode
4D is the subdominant of the A phrygian mode
5E is the dominant of the A phrygian mode
6F is the submediant of the A phrygian mode
7G is the subtonic of the A phrygian mode
8A is the octave of the A phrygian mode
Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

2. A phrygian mode descending

This step shows the descending A phrygian mode on the piano, treble clef and bass clef.
A phrygian mode descending
No.1234567
NoteGFEDCBbA

A phrygian mode descending

A phrygian mode descending

A phrygian mode descending

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

Lesson steps

1. Piano key note names

This step shows the white and black note names on a piano keyboard so that the note names are familiar for later steps, and to show that the note names start repeating themselves after 12 notes.

The white keys are named using the alphabetic letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, which is a pattern that repeats up the piano keyboard.

Every white or black key could have a flat(b) or sharp(#) accidental name, depending on how that note is used. In a later step, if sharp or flat notes are used, the exact accidental names will be chosen.

Sharp and flat note names

The audio files below play every note shown on the piano above, so middle C (marked with an orange line at the bottom) is the 2nd note heard.

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

2. A phrygian mode tonic note and one octave of notes

This step shows an octave of notes in the A phrygian mode to identify the start and end notes of the mode.

The numbered notes are those that might be used when building this mode.

The A phrygian mode starts on note A.

Since this mode begins with note A, it is certain that notes 1 and 13 will be used in this mode.

Note 1 is the tonic note - the starting note - A, and note 13 is the same note name but one octave higher.

A phrygian mode chromatic scale-1 octave

A phrygian mode chromatic scale-1 octave
No.12345678910111213
NoteAA# / BbBCC# / DbDD# / EbEFF# / GbGG# / AbA
Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

3. A phrygian mode note interval positions

This step applies the A phrygian mode note positions to so that the correct piano keys and note pitches can be identified.

In their simplest / untransposed form, modes do not contain any sharp or flat notes.

This can be seen by looking at the Mode table showing all mode names with only white / natural notes used.

The phrygian mode uses the  H-W-W-W-H-W-W  note counting rule to identify the note positions of 7 natural white notes starting from note E.

The A phrygian mode re-uses this mode counting pattern, but starts from note A instead.

To count up a Whole tone, count up by two physical piano keys, either white or black.

To count up a Half-tone (semitone), count up from the last note up by one physical piano key, either white or black.

The tonic note (shown as *) is the starting point and is always the 1st note in the mode.

A phrygian mode note positions

Again, the final 8th note is the octave note, having the same name as the tonic note.
A phrygian mode
No.12345678
NoteAA# / BbCDEFGA

One or more note in this mode has a sharp or flat, which means that this mode has been transposed to another key.

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

4. A phrygian mode notes

This step tries to assign note names to the piano keys identified in the previous step, so that they can be written on a note staff in the Solution section.

The 7 unique notes in a mode need to be named such that each letter from A to G is used once only - and so each note name is either a natural white name(A..G) , a sharp(eg. F-sharp) or a flat(eg. G-flat).

The rule ensures that every position of a staff is used once and once only - whether that position be a note in a space, or a note on a line.

This is needed to ensure that when it comes to writing the mode notes on a musical staff (eg. a treble or bass clef), there is no possibility of having 2 G-type notes, for example, with one of the notes needing an accidental next to it on the staff (a sharp, flat or natural symbol).

Applying the rule below ensures that when accidental adjustment symbols are added next to staff notes as part of composing music based on that mode, these accidentals will indicate that the adjusted note is not in that mode.

To apply this rule, firstly list the white key names starting from the tonic, which are shown the white column below.

Then list the 7 notes in the mode so far, shown in the next column.

For each of the 7 notes, look across and try to find the white note name in the mode note name.

If the natural white note can be found in the mode note, the mode note is written in the Match? column.

The 8th note - the octave note, will have the same name as the first note, the tonic note.

A phrygian mode
No.WhiteMode NoteMatch?
1AAA
2BA# / BbBb
3CCC
4DDD
5EEE
6FFF
7GGG
8AAA

For this mode, all notes have a match, and so the Match? column shows the mode note names.

A phrygian mode

5. A phrygian mode descending

This step shows the notes when descending the A phrygian mode, going from the highest note sound back to the starting note.

For all modes, the notes names when descending are just the reverse of the ascending names.

So assuming octave note 8 has been played in the step above, the notes now descend back to the tonic.

A phrygian mode descending

A phrygian mode descending
No.1234567
NoteGFEDCBbA
Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

6. A phrygian mode degrees

This step shows the A scale degrees - Tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, etc.
Each of the notes in this mode has a degree name, which describes the relationship of that note to the tonic(1st) note.

Scale degree names 1,2,3,4,5,6, and 8 below are always the same for all modes (ie. 1st note is always tonic, 2nd is supertonic etc.) , but obviously the note names will be different for each mode / key combination.

In this mode, the 7th note is called the subtonic, and it has a whole tone (two semi-tones, two notes on the piano keyboard) between the 7th and 8th notes.

In contrast, for example, the lydian mode has only one semitone / half-tone separating the 7th and 8th notes, and in this case the Seventh note is called the leading note or leading tone, as the 7th note feels like it wants to resolve and finish at the octave note, when all mode notes are played in sequence.

The modes that have a subtonic as the 7th note are dorian mode, phrygian mode, mixolydian mode, aeolian mode and the locrian mode.

A phrygian mode degrees
Note no.Degree name
1A is the tonic of the A phrygian mode
2Bb is the supertonic of the A phrygian mode
3C is the mediant of the A phrygian mode
4D is the subdominant of the A phrygian mode
5E is the dominant of the A phrygian mode
6F is the submediant of the A phrygian mode
7G is the subtonic of the A phrygian mode
8A is the octave of the A phrygian mode