Scales and Beyond

Thoughts about modes and scales. Occasionally going beyond them.

May 26, 2022

My long and passionate love affair with Phrygian mode

I’ve played many, actually a huge amount of improvisations using only Phrygian mode. I can’t help it, but Phrygian scale sounds seductive and sincere to my ears. It’s a natural minor scale with a lowered second note of the scale. That flattened second creates a very melancholic flavour. It has Spanish/Oriental mood also.

Phrygian is an empowering possibility of emphasizing the minor, and expressing your anxiety by staying far away from the major!

Four examples:

1. Part 006 on YouTube:

Part 006 in the video series “3-minute improvisations on guitar” is a special one. Phrygian works very well in hard rock. Turn up the volume!

2. Ultraviolet on YouTube:

For some more mysterious melancholy, expressed with Phrygian mode, check out the track Ultraviolet by Bogdo Ula. We are not going deeper into pain and anxiety. Instead, we are expressing that anxiety through music. Duration 5:08.

3. Ömnögovi Zone on YouTube:

An even stronger expression of a mental state is heard on Bogdo Ula track Ömnögovi Zone. Here the intensity of Phrygian mode is obvious and transparent. Duration 6:09.

4. Angular Distance on YouTube:

This one requires a little patience from you. It’s 10 minutes long. It’s a duet with guitar and drums. Oh yes, Phrygian all the way! Can you feel an emotion that needs to be expressed? Can you hear the loudness of the guitar amp? It’s a 100 watt Marshall Super Lead (1976 model) with 6550 power tubes. 6550 power tubes give even more power than usual EL34 power tubes. It can go over 100 watts. You know, it’s loud. It’s loud. Loud! Did you hear me? Loud!

June 9, 2022

Dorian Scale: Opening the Minor

Some days ago I wrote about my long-lasting love affair with Phrygian mode.

Another great mode is Dorian.

Phrygian scale has a strong melancholic mood. Dorian scale is a minor scale too (lowered 3rd), but it has a raised 6th note as opposed to a natural (Aeolian) minor scale. That sharpened 6th note is “borrowed” from a major scale. That note brings to Dorian scale a subtle nuance of a major scale, without altering its substance into a major scale.

That’s why Dorian is a wonderful scale. I play it a lot. I like the sound of it so much more than the sound of a natural minor scale (Aeolian).

Phrygian scale is very expressive in creating a melancholic mood.
Dorian scale creates a more open atmosphere.

Dorian is a major possibility of opening the minor, without leaving the minor.

As an example of Dorian, you can listen to Part 013 in my series 3-minute improvisations on guitar.

Part 013 on YouTube:

Another example: Bogdo Ula – Olympic Green.

Olympic Green on YouTube:

September 2, 2022

Mixolydian – The Best Major

The best major scale is Mixolydian mode. It has a lowered 7th note as opposed to a normal major scale (Ionian). That lowered 7th note brings to the sound of the scale a very special flavour.

The lowered 7th note is a deviation, a bias, a mistake. In a normal minor scale (Aeolian), the 7th note is also lowered. Mixolydian borrowed that lowered 7th from a normal minor scale. Mixolydian has a subtle nuance of a minor sale, without altering its substance into a minor scale.

A normal major scale has no mistakes. A normal major scale is accurate, perfect, flawless. That’s why a normal major scale is actually more withdrawn and isolated. Mixolydian scale has a window to a landscape. It’s a quite beautiful view. It opens up a possibility for departure, for change.

Mixolydian is a liberating possibility of opening the major, without adjusting to minor.

As an example of Mixolydian scale in action, you can watch my video “Part 005” in the series “3-minute improvisations on guitar“.


September 3, 2022

Lydian Heights

Lydian mode is a major scale. Very much major.

However, there’s something a little disturbing in Lydian mode.
It’s that tritone interval. The 4th note is raised.

It creates a little annoying sound. That’s why the sound of the scale is not in balance. It’s going “over” all the time. It’s trying to climb up, purposefully. It’s trying to reach something. It’s trying to reach the heights.

Lydian is a high possibility of opening the major, and trying to reach the height, while keeping the base camp in sight.

Anyway, trying to achieve something higher is a good thing. You are trying to achieve something, and you are taking action to achieve it, by playing Lydian mode. That’s good. Keep playing! Go ahead!

As an example of Lydian mode in action, you can watch my video “Part 015” in the series “3-minute improvisations on guitar“. I’m trying to climb higher on this one. I’m really trying. I almost get there. Trying to reach the height is beautiful.


September 4, 2022

Going up from Lydian

How can you actually reach the heights, that Lydian mode promised you to be able to reach?

Let’s think for a while about the idea of “base camp”. I wrote before:

“Lydian is a high possibility of opening the major, and trying to reach the height, while keeping the base camp in sight.”

I have a solution to reaching the height:

You must leave the base camp, because in Lydian mode the base camp stays in sight. The base camp is the base note. It’s the first note of the scale. Tonic.

You must leave the tonic behind. You must take a step away from it. You must take a step higher.

If you are playing in F Lydian, you should take a full step higher to G note. G is the new tonic note.
You don’t change any note in F Lydian scale. You just make G note the new tonic.

What happens?
You are now playing G Mixolydian.

That’s amazing!

As I wrote before, Mixolydian is the best major scale. There is a window to a landscape. Now you can see more clearly far away. You are higher. You climbed up a whole step from F note to G note. Now, playing G Mixolydian, you have reached the height, that F Lydian promised you to be able to reach.


As an example of Mixolydian in action, you can listen to Bogdo Ula track Chord of a Circle. On that track I play the guitar solo in F# Mixolydian.


A classic example of Mixolydian in a guitar solo is heard on Frank Zappa’s song Shut Up ‘n’ Play Yer Guitar (all three versions). Some music scientist has claimed, that Zappa plays in those songs Lydian mode. That’s not true. Absolutely not. It’s Mixolydian. You must realize, that Zappa left the base camp behind and climbed higher. He reached the higher altitude, the next phase.

Frank Zappa: “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”