Showcase Music Magazine - Contemporay Bass
March 1997

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by Toshi Iseda

Hey there, hi there, ho there Showcase Music Magazine readers!!! How's everyone doing out there?! Thanx for tuning in to another installment of Contemporary Bass!reg.. I hope everyone's getting some time to practice. This month, I'd like to continue working on the modes with this next mode being the Phrygian mode.

If you tuned in last month, which I hope ya did, you'll remember we took a look at the Dorian mode. This month's Phrygian mode starts on the 3rd step of the Ionian mode (the Major scale), which is also the 2nd step of the Dorian mode. If you're in the key of C major, the notes would be E, F, G, A, B, C, D & E. The formula for this mode would be 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7 and 8(va).

The Phrygian mode is constructed of five whole steps and two half steps, with the half step occurring between steps 1 and 2 and steps 5 and 6 of the mode. There are basically two ways of conceiving a Phrygian mode: (a) a pure minor scale with a lowered 2nd scale step. For example, E Minor = E, F#, G, A, B, C, D and E; E Phrygian = E, F, G, A, B, C, D and E; and (b) a scale having the same key located a major 3rd key below (E Phrygian has the same key signature as C major).

This scale can be applied to minor keys, or to what would be momentary key centers, in which the II (2) chord is a major 7th chord, located one half- step above the tonic minor 7th.

In the progressions I've included, the E Phrygian mode can be used throughout the first progression since the II (2) chord, F major 7 is one half- step above the tonic minor chord Em7. See if you can figure out where you'd use the Phrygian mode in the second progression.

A few players that immediately come to mind who use the Phrygian mode include Anthony Jackson (with Al DiMeola), John Myung (Dream Theater), Stanley Clarke, John Patitucci, Fieldy (Korn), Mario Rodriguez (Al DiMeola), Bunny Brunel, Barry Sparks (Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Schenker) and yes, I hate to say it ... Yngwie Malmsteen (Yngwie does play bass on some of his albums), just to name a few.

When practicing these scales, be sure to use a metronome - - count 16th notes, play cleanly and accurately, start slow, memorize the fingerings for ample use and instant recall, and apply them whenever possible to your playing routine, band rehearsals, practice schedules, jamming, etc.

I also suggest using different combinations of right hand (left hand if you're "southpaw") fingers. For example, use finger combinations of 1 and 2, 1 and 3, 2 and 3, (and if you're really adventurous) 1 and 4, 2 and 4 and 3 and 4, etc. After you've done that, lead with the opposite finger you started with (ie, 2 and 1, 3 and 1, 3 and 2 and so- on). Believe me, it does make a difference!

Alrighty folks, I've got to blow this Popsicle stand! Anyone with questions, comments or bass lessons can do so by writing to: Toshi Iseda, c/o Over The Top Records, 9824 S. Western, Suite 331, Evergreen Park, IL 60805. Fax me at (773)233-1195, e-mail me at or call me at (773)233-2144. You can also drop e-mail at my website, To get full-size copies of this column’s tabs (past and present) can do so by sending $5.00 (for postage) to the above address.

Before I go, I want to thank Joe Mordarski, Jim Chowning and everyone at Rocktron for the endorsement! I'm looking forward to using Rocktron gear for a loooooong time!!! Thanks, Rocktron!!! Until next month, keep metronoming and I'll talk to ya then ... from Europe! C-YA!

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