The Dorian mode belongs to the II chord!

The Dorian mode is sometimes used in jazz influenced music as a blanket scale when soloing.

Miles Davis’ ‘So What’, Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ and Stevie Wonder’s – ‘I Wish‘ all heavily rely on the Dorian mode. So does ‘Scarborough Fair‘, ‘Mad World‘ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’. Although ‘Stairway To Heaven’ blends Dorian with Aeolian.

Should you use the technique of playing a new scale every time the chord changes, you would use the Dorian mode every time you play over the II chord.

Below is the scale formula in relation to the Minor Pentatonic:

Minor Pentatonic:1

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

In the advanced guitar course, we dive deep and find many variations when practising Dorian.  For example, as you work your way through all five shapes, you’ll play them in every key and even vary the rhythm of the exercises.

The Em shape

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.


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 shape

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

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


The Dm shape

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. Can you:

  1. See the Dm chord?
  2. See the Dm shaped minor pentatonic?
  3. Translate your Em shaped licks to the Dm shape?


As always, the scale should be practised 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 Gm shape

The Gm shaped Dorian mode is a great shape and relatively easy to create licks in.

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.


An idea for a bigger exercise would 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 shape

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

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


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

Connect 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 practising the chromatic exercises at the moment, can you use them instead of the triplets?

Pairing exercises like this is a great idea, in the advanced step by step course, we synchronise your entire practise routine like this.

Cycle of 4th

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

Make sure your transitions are exactly as in the video lesson.

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.


This improvisation in Am uses 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 differs.


The best way to learn the Dorian mode is to build it from the Minor Pentatonic scale. Not only does this allow you to target the notes that make it Dorian, it’s also quicker as you already have a framework in the Minor Pentatonic.

Once you practised 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 step by step advanced course.