Soloing Concepts of the Dorian Mode

If you can already play scales like the pentatonic, blues, the major scale and the minor scale - perhaps it’s time to expand your soloing skills with a popular mode like Dorian...

One of the most popular of the 7 modes of the Major scale is the minor mode of Dorian. The Dorian scale is a common scale in many styles of music, and it will be applied most often to styles like; pop, rock and metal to give solos some interesting color.

All 7 modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian) are derived from different degrees the major scale. The dorian scale is the second mode of 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.

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.

The unique color-tone of Dorian is its "raised 6th." This raised degree produces the fresh and uplifting feel of this mode. It also affects the over-all tonal character of how the mode is applied musically. We need to pay attention to what this degree offers us and how it changes the underlying harmony of progressions we use to play over.

In this tutorial I will be supplying two Dorian scale patterns for you to study and eventually apply in a JamTrack exercise. These two patterns will be built off of the 6th and 5th string. Memorize their layouts as shown in the diagrams below.

6th-String Dorian Pattern:

5th-String Dorian Pattern:

The Dorian scale is a minor scale with a raised 6th and is used to play over minor chords as well as, minor tonality progressions.

However, many popular chord progressions (used commonly in most popular songs) will not favor the effect of Dorian scales raised 6th.

This means that we need to be mindful of what changes could occur in chord progressions and what effect that those changes will have in allowing us the use Dorian mode.

Study the example progression below. It is in the key of "D Natural Minor."

Example 1).

The chord changes above do not support the use of the Dorian mode.

This is due to the chord used in the second measure, (Gm). To understand this process, always analyze the chords that you find in your jamtrack progressions and determine the key signatures their notes will associate to.

Associating Keys:
Dorian mode comes from the second degree of a major scale.

This means that "D Dorian" is the second mode of the "C Major" scale. Since "C Major" has no sharps or flats. When we apply this information to the example we just studied, there is a conflict residing in "example progression one" shown above.

The conflict is within that "Gm" chord. It contains a "Bb" tone. There cannot be any sharps or flats in a key of "D Dorian" progression.

Therefore, if we remove the "Bb" tone from that "Gm" chord, (creating a "G Major" chord), we could then apply the sounds of "Dorian" mode successfully. See example two.

Example 2).

Our next example will look at one of my "JamTrack" progressions. It is built in "G Dorian." This mode comes from the second degree of the "F Major" scale. Therefore it contains one flat (Bb).

The chord progression for this JamTrack uses all of the notes of the key of "F Major," however it does not focus in on the "F major" chord, (the major key's tonic chord).

The focus of the Jam instead points at the chord of "Gm." This is the "Dorian" color and must be supported in order to establish Dorian scales use.

Learn the chord progression and practice using the Dorian mode over the Jam-Track.

Example 3).

Use the JamTrack below to practice using "Dorian" mode off of the tonic of "G" for this progression. The Dorian patterns on the neck (shown above) will operate in "G" by placing the 6th string pattern at the third position and the 5th string pattern at tenth position.



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