THE LEADS ARE WEAK: THE PHRYGIAN DOMINANT SCALE (“THE METAL SCALE”)
The Phrygian dominant scale is the most metal of all the possible combinations of notes. As metal musicians, we are practically born knowing the power of this scale and all the riffs that were forged in its might. One of my favorite examples of this scale and the best way to hear and recognize it is to listen to Behemoth’s “Sculpting the Throne ov Seth.” The intro is a sick example of the majesty of this scale.
Since it’s so very metal and epic, this scale tends to get somewhat watered down and overdone. It’s easy to do and it’s no one’s fault. This scale is to metal what the minor pentatonic scale is to blues and rock players. Let’s try and see if we can think outside the bun on this guy and summon some snakes.
First let’s look at its construction. The scale is technically the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale, so for example: In the A harmonic minor scale (A B C D E F G#) the fifth note is E. So if we played those notes starting at the fifth note, E, we would get: E F G# A B C D E. Because the E note is our best friend as metal guitar players, it’s easy to see how powerful this scale can be (assuming we are in standard tuning).
I don’t know if it’s helpful to think of it this way, but I think of the E phrygian dominant scale as just playing in A harmonic minor over an E chord, or with E in the bass. Since we all know the harmonic minor scale pretty well as minions of Satan, we can assume that all we have to do to use this scale is play with the fifth of our scale in the bass. Another example: if we were in F# phrygian dominant, F# is the fifth note of B, so we’d essentially be using the B harmonic minor scale. See? It’s easy.
Now for some examples.
The first five bars notate the scale on three strings going up the neck.
The sixth bar is a classic triplet run going up the last pattern fully before the entire scale would repeat an octave higher. A good way to practice this to develop speed would be to run each pattern in the same way as the triplet run in bar six, in each section of the fretboard.
The last two examples are ways I like to spice up this scale using a mixture of major, diminished and augmented arpeggio shapes. It’s a cool way to get around the board in this scale without running up and down a shape like a fucking nutcase. That can be cool too, but using arpeggios is a good way to fluidly navigate this scale like an adult.
Get out there and slay some dragons.
– Tony Sannicandro / Job For A Cowboy