The Dorian mode belong to chord II

Not just appearing whenever chord II pops up, the Dorian mode is sometimes used in jazz influenced music as a blanket scale.

Miles Davis ‘So What’, Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ and Stevie Wonder’s – ‘I Wish’ all use the Dorian mode, so does ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘Mad World’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’, although Stairway mix Dorian with Aeolian.

Should you use the technique of new chord = new scale, you would use Dorian every time you play over the II chord.

Below is the scale formula in relation to the minor pentatonic:

Minor Pentatonic: 1
Dorian: 2

To learn to play the Dorian mode you must look at each shape individually, then connect the shapes.

As you go along you need to play in every key and even vary the rhythm of the exercises. Let’s start with the Em shape.

The Em shaped Dorian mode

The Em shaped Dorian mode is a good one to get started with.

Compare to Em shaped Aeolian and Phrygian to see the difference between the intervals.

The layout of the Em shape is in the case of Dorian easier to remember than the other modes as it’s more symmetrical.

A Dorian, Em shape

Play the exercise as in the video, by adding the 2nd and 6th to the minor pentatonic. When you can do it in A, move it around the cycle of 4th, like this: A – D – G – C – F – Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb – B – E.

The Am shaped Dorian mode

Am shaped Dorian mode, this shape is not that hard to get along with.

Practice the Am shape just like you did with the Em shape, slowly at first, then through the cycle of 4th.

A Dorian, Am shape

The Dm shaped Dorian mode

The Dm shaped Dorian mode is trickier to phrase with than the Em shape.

Because of this, make sure you know where all the intervals are in the shape.

  1. Can you see the Dm chord?
  2. Can you see the Dm shaped minor pentatonic?
  3. Can you translate your Em shaped licks to the Dm shape?

A Dorian, Dm shape
As always, the scale should be practiced using the technique of:

Chord shape - Minor Pentatonic - add 2nd - Minor Pentatonic - add 6th - Minor Pentatonic - Dorian - Chord shape.

Follow this by taking it through the cycle of 4th. The Advanced Guitar Course look at using the Dorian mode when writing and improvising.

The Gm shaped Dorian mode

Gm shaped Dorian mode, this is great shape!

When you can play this shape, run it through the cycle of 4th up and down the neck, just like you have with all other shapes.

A Dorian, Gm shape

An idea for a bigger exercise could be to run the Em shaped Dorian scale through the cycle of 4th, followed by the Dm shape, Cm shape etc.

When you can do this, you can definitely move on to connecting Dorian scale shapes.

The Cm shaped Dorian mode

Cm shaped Dorian mode, this one needs a lot of practice!

Compare with Aeolian and Phrygian Cm shaped modes in order to reach a deeper understanding of the intervals.

A Dorian, Cm shape

Practice along with the video lesson first, followed by on your own to a metronome.

Connect Dorian scale shapes

This exercise connect the Dorian shapes in Am, when you can do this, try all other key and push that BPM!

Also, you wanna find variations to this exercise.

What rhythmical pattern are you working on when practicing Chromatic Exercises at the moment, can you use that instead of the triplets?

Pairing exercises like this is a great idea, I would even go as far as saying: aim to synchronise your entire practice routine like this!

Dorian mode through the cycle of 4th

This exercise takes the Dorian mode and runs it through the cycle of 4th, going to closest shape possible.

Make sure your transitions are exactly as in video.

The full exercises reads:

A Dorian – Em shape
D Dorian – Am shape
G Dorian – Dm shape
C Dorian – Gm shape
F Dorian – Cm shape

This then starts one fret up, like this:

Bb Dorian – Em shape
Eb Dorian – Am shape
Ab Dorian – Dm shape
Db Dorian – Gm shape
Gb Dorian – Cm shape

Watch the video lesson below for a demonstration, when you can do it along with the video, try it on your own, pushing the BPM.

Dorian Improvisation

This improvisation in Am use the Dorian mode.

Can you see the minor pentatonic shapes?

Can you see the 2nd and 6th?

Start by calling the shapes out as you watch the video lesson, then try it yourself.

Aim to really hear the difference the natural 6th makes to the minor pentatonic.

In order to distinguish a natural 6th you have to know what a b6th sounds like, then compare the two.

This would best be achieved by comparing Aeolian to Dorian since the 6th is the only note that differ.

Dorian Conclusion

The best way to learn the Dorian mode is to build it from the pentatonic scale.

Not only does this allow you to target the notes that make it Dorian, it’s quicker as you already know the frame work.

Once you practiced the shapes individually in all keys you must connect them, first horizontally, then vertically by going to closest shape possible.

Following this it’s time to put the scale into context. For this you need songs that use Dorian occasionally as well as throughout.

You get these real musical examples when you take the Advanced Guitar Course.