Dorian Mode – Application in Modern Music

Dorian ModeMany guitarists simply play pentatonic and blues scales. While there is nothing wrong with that (musicians have actually made millions from it) some of us like to delve further into music, to help our writing attain a unique flavor.

This is where modes come in.

Before get into our full lesson, it is important that you understand what a mode is. A musical mode is a scale. While that may sound like an easy way out of explaining it, it isn’t. Modes are simply very old scales, most of which predate our modern Major and minor scales. Modes are also an enormous part of western music.

If you have ever heard cultural music that sounded strange, as if it were following a bizarre scale, chances are you were actually listening to your first modes.

What Is Dorian Guitar Mode?

Today we are going to discuss the most common mode in modern music, the Dorian guitar mode. Like the C Major scale, the Dorian mode is the mode which contains absolutely no sharps or flats. In fact, if you were to play the Dorian mode over a C Major scale, they would sound identical. This is because, besides starting on different notes, they are the same scale.

The Dorian guitar mode starts on the note D and ends on the note D. The notes in the Dorian mode are D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. Notice how if you were to start on the leading tone, you would have a C Major scale. This makes the Dorian mode perfect for improvisation over songs in C Major, or even its relative minor, A minor.

In fact, the Dorian mode is the easiest mode to remember because Dorian starts on D.

This mode is just like a major scale with a flat third and a flat seventh. That being said, it is the perfect companion to pentatonic and blues scales. The odd quality of this mode is that in different positions, it has different qualities. If you use a Dorian scale in the key of A, it will take on a minor quality. This is neat because it means that the Dorian mode can blend with different keys and patterns.

Now that we understand the properties of the Dorian mode, we can learn a few Dorian mode licks. When playing these licks, be sure to try them out in different keys and try to see for yourself where they fit best.

Example 1:

dorian guitar mode

Download the .gtp file for the lesson ( Right click and Save As… )

First up is a basic Dorian lick. This lick follows a simple pattern ending on an octave. You can play this lick fast, but be sure to use a metronome and get a handle of the notes first.

Be aware of your alternate picking with this lick. You want to be as fluid and accurate is physically possible. If you have trouble with it, simply slow down a bit.

Example 2:

dorian guitar scale

Download the .gtp file for the lesson ( Right click and Save As… )

Our second Dorian lick is a bit faster. This is a fun lick to impress your friends with once you have it down. Start off slowly with a metronome to develop good muscle memory of the fingering.

Now that you know a couple Dorian licks and you know the mode itself, it’s your turn. Practice the mode and try using it to craft some of your own licks. Have fun!

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