Elephant (Top 3 examples of Phrygian tonality in easily recognizable songs)
Let’s address the elephant in the room – Music Class has now gone virtual as everything is shutting down for COVID-19. All of us are trying to handle this elephantine issue with as much normalcy as possible, switching to virtual meetings, virtual workouts, and virtual Music Class, of course! Just like any small business, this of course has been difficult for our company. All of us have been putting in overtime, working our tails and trunks off, to try and provide all of our families with real interactive classes that ARE NOT passive screen time for our kids.
(To be clear, passive screen time = bad. Face timing with grandma = good. The distinction is in the interaction. Check out this article for more info.)
So without further ado, I am here to keep our routine going with this week’s Song Of The Week: Elephant!
The reason "Elephant" is such a cool song is that it features the Phrygian scale. This is a super unusual scale, and I actually had a really hard time finding recognizable song examples to share with you guys. But persevere I did, these challenges are irrelephant.
#1 most recognizable example of a Phrygian scale: Jaws
Those two notes played over and over again to create the unforgettably scary, instantly recognizable theme song for Jaws are the first two notes of a Phrygian scale. Maybe the reason it’s so recognizable is that it’s so unusual. For our music people out there, this is a “semi-tone” or “minor-second” interval. This is the most distinctive feature of the Phrygian scale, the unusual interval between the first and second note.
#2 most recognizable example of a Phrygian scale: Lord of The Rings, One Ring to Rule Them All
If you start at the 40-second mark, you can hear that haunting and incredibly recognizable theme for the one ring, the master ring, the ruling ring, the precious. Hobbits and Wizards and Elves all agree, this Phrygian melody drives the entire Tolkein universe forward.
#3 most recognizable example of a Phrygian scale: Missy Elliot’s Get Your Freak On
Ok so I can’t post the video link here because it’s not totally child-friendly, but if you’re like me you can instantly hear this song in your head. (And if you’re like me it’ll also be stuck there for the rest of the day.) The main riff that plays over and over again throughout the song is in Phrygian! More points for you, Missy Elliot.
This brings us back to the most recognizable Music Class song with a Phrygian scale: "Elephant!"
Try using a piano or keyboard at home (this virtual one works great too) to play only the white keys from E to E. You’ve got yourself a Phrygian scale! Way to go! You’re teaching your kids something complex and unusual now so that it won’t be difficult for them to understand and recognize later! And when they’re old enough to watch Jaws (or listen to Missy Elliot) you can harken back to The Music Class days and the beginning of their Phrygian education with "Elephant." :)