May 14, 2019 by Klaus Crow
If you know your way around the pentatonic / blues scale, the major scale and minor scale and you feel like you’re up for a new challenge, it’s time to expand your soloing vocabulary.
Let’s take a look at one of the 7 modes of the Major scale. Dorian might be your new endeavor.
The Dorian scale is very common scale in the jazz music, but it can also be applied to pop, rock and metal to give your soloing some fresh and lively colors.
The dorian scale is the second mode of the major scale.
All 7 modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian) are derived from the major scale. Each mode starts and stops on a different note within the major scale. Dorian starts on the second degree of the major scale all the way up to an octave higher.
C Major = C D E F G A B C
D Dorian = D E F G A B C D
Major scale = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Dorian scale = 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
If you start on a random note to build a Dorian scale the pattern of whole and half steps would be: “whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half, whole”. (a whole step = 2 frets, a half step = 1 fret). So the formula in semitones = 2 1 2 2 2 1 2
Modes are scales derived from the major scale. There are major modes and minor modes. If we look at the minor modes (they contain a b3) you can see the Aeolian mode (natural minor scale) and Phrygian mode both contain a minor 6 (or b6), whereas the Dorian mode contains a major 6. The 6th sets it apart. It becomes the characteristic note and identifies the Dorian sound.
Aeolian = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Phrygian = 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Dorian = 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
The Dorian scale is a minor scale and is used to play over minor chords.
By stacking up thirds you can determine over what chord you can play your scale. If you take the first, third and fifth note (1-b3-5) of the dorian scale you will have a minor chord. Stack up another third, the seventh (1-b3-5-b7) and you have a minor 7 chord. So you can play the dorian scale over minor and minor 7 chords.
Let’s say you have a chord progression like C – Am – Dm – G. Now you can go either two ways. You can play a C major scale (C Ionian) throughout the entire chord progression which is a common way to improvise or you can make things interesting by choosing a mode for each chord.
You can choose any mode of your liking. Major modes to play over a major chord and minor modes over a minor chord.
Let’s see what modes you can play over your C – Am – Dm – G chord progression:
C Ionian, C Lydian and C Mixolydian over C major.
A Dorian, A Phrygian and A Aeolian over Am
D Dorian, D Phrygian and D Aeolian over Dm
G Ionian, G Lydian and G Mixolydian over G major.
To keep things simple and mainly dorian you could choose C Ionian – A Dorian – D Dorian – G Ionian for your chord progression.
The first thing you probably want to do is to just practice D dorian over a Dm one chord vamp to really get the hang of it.
DORIAN SCALE POSITIONS
Below you can see two positions for the Dorian scale.
The A Dorian scale starting with the root (red note) on the low E-string 5th fret and the D Dorian scale starting with the root on the A-string 5th fret.
You can play both dorian scale positions in all keys. If you want to play the Dorian scale in a different key, just move the entire scale up or down.
For example: If you move A dorian scale up a whole step (2 frets) you’re playing B dorian. If you move D Dorian down a whole step you’re playing C dorian.
Practice both Dorian scale positions thoroughly:
A Dorian Scale
D Dorian Scale
SCALE INTERVAL PATTERNS
Once you feel comfortable playing both scales positions ascending and descending you can start practicing scale interval patterns. These are interval patterns within in the scale.
You can play scales in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths and octaves. Today we’ll practice the dorian scale in interval of 3rds using an alternating pattern that will alternate the direction of the intervals to give it a more melodic approach. This exercise will really help you getting the dorian scale under your fingers.
The first two examples are A dorian scale in 3rds alternating played ascending and descending. Examples three and four are D dorian scale in 3rds alternating played ascending and descending.
Take your time and enjoy while you’re at it.
A Dorian Scale in 3rds alternating – Ascending
A Dorian Scale in 3rds alternating – Descending
D Dorian Scale in 3rds alternating – Ascending
D Dorian Scale in 3rds alternating – Descending
Here are some examples to listen to and study to get familiar with dorian soloing and the dorian sound.
“So what” by Miles Davis Tabs
“Oye como va” by Santana Tabs
“Impressions” by John Coltrane Tabs
“Moondance” by Van Morrison (verses) Tabs
– Practice each scale ascending and descending using alternate picking technique.
– Practice each scale in all keys starting on the 1st fret all the way up to the 12th fret and back again.
– Practice the interval patterns in different keys.
– Incorporate some interval pattern ideas into your soloing.
– Transcribe, study and learn dorian solos.
– Create your own dorian licks.
– Practice your dorian soloing ideas over a backing track.
Have a good one!
The Dorian scale is a new term to me(since I’m a beginner).I always concentrated on pentatonic scales.I come across all the names of 7 modes of a major scale in this post.I will learn this dorian scale and play it on a another day.You have given good explanation in how to apply this dorian scale.There are some dorian songs which makes it easier to learn and study it.The tips you provided are helpful.The tips section in your post is what makes it easier to learn and try different ideas.Thanks for sharing.
Very clear explanation Klaus … Now to get to work!
No body says
Can any one see the scales ? I just have blanks ,on all scales examples
Claes Carlberg says
This is a really great lesson on the dorian scale. Thanks a lot for posting this.