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Phrygian Dominant Scale – Guitar Shapes, Licks, and Chords

Learning how to solo over 7th chords, especially 7alt chords, is daunting due to the amount of scale choices in front of you

One of the best places to start when soloing over 7alt chords is the Phrygian dominant Scale.

Phrygian dominant is the 5th mode of harmonic minor, and produces a 7b9b13 sound in your lines.

With only two altered notes, b9 and b13, this scale allows your ears to become accustomed to altered notes in your soloing.

It also provides material to use when soloing over 7alt chords in your solos.

In this lesson, you learn how to build and play Phrygian dominant, as well as study scale patterns, licks and a full guitar solo to build your chops.




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Phrygian Dominant Scale (Click to Skip Down)


  1. Phrygian Dominant Formula
  2. Phrygian Dominant Application
  3. 7b9b13 Chords
  4. One Octave Scale Shapes
  5. Two Octave Scale Shapes
  6. Scale Patterns
  7. Phrygian Dominant Licks
  8. Blue Bossa Guitar Solo

Phrygian Dominant Scale Formula


Phrygian dominant is the 5th mode of harmonic minor, meaning that G Phrygian dominant is the same as C harmonic minor starting from G.

Here’s the interval formula for this scale to memorize in order to understand the building blocks of this scale.




Here’s that same formula, and the notes in G, on the fretboard to see how this scale lies on the guitar.


phrygian dominant scale 1


You can also think of this scale as Phrygian with the 3rd raised by one fret, which you can see here.

This means that if you already know Phrygian shapes, you raise the 3rd of any of those shapes to create fingerings for Phrygian dominant.

This allows you to learn this new scale by adapting previous knowledge, rather than starting from scratch.


phrygian dominant scale 2







Phrygian Dominant Application


Phrygian dominant has two main applications.


  • Over 7alt chords to outline the altered sound.
  • Over 7th chords to create a b9,b13 sound.


When you apply this scale to either chord, you use two altered notes in your lines, the b9 and b13, every other note is diatonic to the chord.

Here’s an example of a two-octave scale with three chords derived from this shape, to see how they relate.


phrygian dominant scale 3.1


Play each of these chords one at a time, and then the scale fingering to hear how each chord sounds when played next to the scale.




7b9b13 Chords


Here are 8 different chord shapes take from Phrygian dominant that you can learn and add to your comping, chord soloing, and chord melody playing.

Each chord contains either the b9, b13, or both, as you bring these characteristic sounds to the fretboard.

To begin, here are four chords with a 6th-string root to check out.






Here are four 7alt chords, 7b9b13 specifically, that have a root on the 5th string.

Once you have these shapes down, take them to backing tracks and jazz tunes as you integrate them into your rhythm guitar playing.








Phrygian Dominant One Octave Shapes


Now that you know how to build and apply this scale, take that knowledge to the fretboard by learning one-octave shapes.

One-octave shapes are great for introducing your ears and fingers to new scales.

As well, they’re perfect for soloing over fast chords, where two-octave shapes are too bulky to quickly navigate these chords.

Here are four one-octave shapes that begin with your index finger.


phrygian dominant scale 4


Here are four shapes that begin with your middle finger, except the 3rd-string fingering, which begins with your index finger.


phrygian dominant scale 5.1


The last set of shapes begins with your pinky finger, except the fourth fingering, which begins with your ring finger.


phrygian dominant scale 6


After learning any of these shapes, move them to other keys to get a full understanding of how they sit on the fretboard.

As well, put on a V7alt or ii-V-I backing track and use these shape to create lines over these changes.





Phrygian Dominant Two Octave Shapes


You will also learn two-octave fingerings for this scale, with four shapes provided below to get you started.

Start by picking one shape, learn it in the given key, and then move it into all 12 keys as you expand these shapes in the woodshed.


phrygian dominant scale 7


After you have any of these fingerings down, put on a backing track and solo using the fingerings you’ve learned in this section of the lesson.




Phrygian Dominant Patterns


To help you build your chops, here are two scale patterns that you can apply to any fingerings you learned in this lesson, one and two-octaves.

When working on patterns, use a metronome and start slowly, as getting the rhythms even is as important as learning the pattern itself, especially when using patterns in your solos.

To begin, here’s a pattern over a two-octave scale shape.

This pattern is built with ascending 3rds through the scale.

This means that you play the first note, followed by the third note, then the second, then the fourth, etc., until you reach the top of the scale.


Click to hear phrygian dominant scale 8




The second example is the same ascending 3rds pattern, but this time you working down the scale. This means you play the intervals b6-8, 5-7, 4-6, etc., until you reach the 6th string.


Click to hear phrygian dominant scale 9




Once you have these patterns memorized, put on a backing track and solo with Phrygian dominant, using the scale patterns in as much as musical taste allows.





Phrygian Dominant Scale Licks


Here are six jazz guitar licks to learn as you take this scale to an improvisational context.

Practice each lick in 12 keys, and when comfortable, add these licks to your soloing ideas over jazz standards.

As well, here’s a backing track, Am7-Am7-F7-E7b9, where you can use Phrygian dominant to solo over the E7b9 chords.


YouTube Preview Image


This first lick is a short minor ii V I in the key of G, where Phrygian dominant is used to over the D7alt chord in this progression.


Click to hear this Phrygian Dominant Chord audio example.


phrygian dominant 3.1


Here’s a longer minor ii V I lick that you can explore in your minor key practicing in the woodshed.


Click to hear this Phrygian Dominant Chord audio example.




This lick is an example of how you apply Phrygian dominant to a major key, where it’s used to outline the V7 chord in a ii V I.

The key to this lick, is the resolution of the tension created by this scale to the Imaj7 chord in the third bar of the phrase.


Click to hear this Phrygian Dominant Chord audio example.




The fourth lick is a short phrase over a G7alt chord.


Click to hear phrygian dominant scale 10




Moving on, this lick uses Phrygian dominant over the V7alt chord in a short ii-V-I progression in the key of C minor.


Click to hear phrygian dominant scale 11




The final lick uses Phrygian dominant over the V7alt chord in a long ii-V-I progression in the key of C minor.


Click to hear phrygian dominant scale 12




Now that you’ve learned these three licks, write out 3 to 5 of your own as you work this scale into your soloing ideas.





Blue Bossa Guitar Solo


Here’s a solo over the chord changes to the jazz standard Blue Bossa that use the licks and scale shape from this lesson.

Practice this solo with a metronome then with the backing track as you expand upon this solo in the woodshed.

From there, write your own solos over jazz standards as you work the Phrygian dominant scale into your jazz guitar solos.


Backing Track blue-bossa-guide-tones-backing

Click to hear this Phrygian Dominant Chord audio example.



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