I’m trying to write a metal song so I would like to know any suggestions for a dark or melodic modulation from e Phrygian to C minor. Preferably on guitar thanks.

2 Answers 2


Since E Phrygian and C major share the same set of pitches, transitioning to C minor can be fairly straightforward. Transitioning through G major would be the most direct.

However, since you're looking to keep things dark. I suggest moving from an E minor chord to F minor and then to C minor. The F in the F minor chord takes advantage of the characteristic F from the E Phrygian mode, but the F minor chord itself is part of C minor, so makes for a smooth transition.

Another darkish possibility would be to go through B diminished. It is part of both E Phrygian and C Minor, and is also dark as long as that level of dissonance fits in the music.

Similarly, Eb augmented is possible. From E minor, drop the E to Eb and leave the G and B alone. Then move the B up to C to get a C minor chord.

  • Interesting considerations. Thanks // Just wondering what makes music feel dark: choice of chords and their progression, shift to lower octaves, chord construction i.e. shifting pitches while keeping the chord, else?
    – MS-SPO
    Mar 31 at 8:00
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    @MS-SPO All of that, plus the timbre of the instruments, the tempo, the lyrics if present, and no doubt any number of elements neither of us is thinking of.
    – Aaron
    Mar 31 at 8:16
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    Thanks will try each of those out and see what I like best👍
    – Guy29756
    Mar 31 at 12:15
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    @MS-SPO All of what Aaron said being the case, chords are a pretty powerful way to do it. Moving counterclockwise in the circle of fifths (adding flats) isn't the only way, but it's a straight-line path. Mar 31 at 19:55

You're composing heavy metal. Especially for extreme metal subgenres like death metal and thrash metal, you don't need smooth modulations with pivot chords. You might need smoother modulations for power metal and maybe some of that symphonic metal stuff, but heavy metal can withstand a jump from E minor chords (in E Phrygian) straight to C minor chords just fine. And, as modulations go, E Phrygian straight to C minor is dark enough.

Take this as an example of how sudden modulations can be in heavy metal (this is admittedly death metal - I think the modulations are clearer in this instrumental version):

Note the Cm-Em chord progression in 1:02-1:05 of this video, with the song modulating straight from a rather chromatic G sharp minor to E minor there.

  • Ye I get you I’m trying to make it less jarring tho because what I have before is a metalcore style riff in e Phrygian. I want the chorus to be in c minor without it being a blatantly obvious change in key. Thanks though I will try your approach
    – Guy29756
    Mar 31 at 12:17
  • @Guy29756 - From the (relatively few) metalcore songs I've listened too, that subgenre also has pretty blatantly obvious changes in key, even to distantly related keys.
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 31 at 14:53
  • That's an epic drum part BTW!
    – Kaddath
    Apr 1 at 15:49

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