Watch the Phrygian Application online guitar lesson by Kenny Wessel from Shades of Jazz
The Phrygian mode is the mode built on the 3rd degree of the major scale. It is one of the seven modes that are derived from our major scales. In other words, the notes in a phyrgian mode are identical to the parent major scale that it's derived from. What differentiates the phyrgian mode from the parent major scale is semantics - the notes that we choose to accent or target. If we target the chord tones from the Phrygian mode (root, b3, 5, b7), and the phrygian colors/tensions (b9, 11, b13), we will get a Phrygian sound and start to leave the “major” feeling behind. For example, a D Phrygian mode is a Bb major scale starting on (or targeting) the third note in the major scale, or the D. The seven notes in the two scales are identical, but if we target the Phrygian root - the D, and the Phrygian chord tones, D, F, A, C, we will get a minor sound, not a major sound.
It's important to get the Phrygian mode (and all the modes) under our fingers and understand it across the whole fingerboard. Since it's the same notes as the Bb major scale, we should already be familiar with the positions (5 of them, as I lay it out in the course material) across the neck. The crucial thing is to now play the scales, but target and identify the notes central to the Phrygian sound. Its like looking at the same material from a different angle, but this is central to getting the sound and feel of the modes. What we choose to emphasize is going to affect the sound and shape of our lines. Something in music is always something else, so context is key!! Bb major is D Phrygian; it's also F mixolydian, or C dorian, etc. So get these notes under your fingers - take responsibility for finding the pitches, chord tones... no more skating unconsciously on the fretboard! (Well once in a while, that's ok.)