Dorian: A Modular Difference

Are you new to modes? Don’t fear! I was one of those poor souls not very long ago. I had no idea how guys were getting these amazing sounds over these crazy, yet beautiful, chords. Thankfully, I happened upon a scary word, MODE, and a great online teacher to explain them. There are many to choose from on any given song, although some may sound much better with the chord arrangement. Ionian is the most popular mode because it is essentially the Major scale (CDEFGAB), but today we will be discussing the Dorian Mode. I am more of a visual learner so flash cards help me to visualize where the modal shapes are in relation to other modes and scales. Take this for example.


Get right over to my Dropbox folder labeled Dorian (click link) and download the flashcards and tracks.

If we consider the D Dorian Modal Scale in relationship to the C Ionian Mode (C Major)  it begins on the 2 (2nd note) of the C Ionian Mode and it ends one note past the Ionian’s 2nd octave (C). You can think of it as D-D (DEFGABCD). Also, if you are familiar with the Minor scale when looking at your fret board, the D Dorian scale begins on the 4 of the A Minor scale. If you are looking at your fret board, find the A (5th fret) on the E string and go directly over 1 string to the 5th fret on the A string and you will find D Dorian’s beginning position. So, it is possible to play the D Dorian mode over an A minor because D Dorian is contained in the notes of A Minor.

If you’ve been following this blog then you have seen the Minor Pentatonic lesson. If we were in A minor we could go into the 3rd position and play D Dorian or the 3rd position pentatonic scale. The below figure can be transposed to the 3rd position (D) of the A minor scale as it is picturing the 3rd position (C) of the G minor scale.

Minor Pent. 3

Many jazz songs beginning on the II are considered Dorian. The best definition I could find of Mode or Modular is the definition for Modular in the mathematical sense:

Mathematics. (of a lattice) having the property that for any two elements with one less than the other, the union of the smaller element with the intersection of the larger element and any third element of the lattice is equal to the intersection of the larger element with the union of the smaller element and the third element.

That may sound confusing but just remember the modes all intersect. The Dorian Mode can be played in different positions, depending on which finger you start on. It is important to learn the different positions so that you have a great command on the language of your fret board. Here are a few examples, but be sure to download the rest from the Dropbox folder.

DorianfirstfingerA Doriansecondfinger DorianfirstfingerB

Now let’s get to practicing the Dorian Mode. Remember that D is not the only place you can begin a Dorian groove. If the tune is in G Minor or Bflat the Dorian Mode would begin on C.

Download the Dorian Modal Scale track first and get used to the sound of the Dorian sound. Play along to the track provided to get the timing down as well as you have the C Major (Ionian) scale memorized in all three positions

Download the Dorian Track Loopd and play along, make up your own groove or bass line! Also, check out these Dorian tracks on YouTube. These videos and tracks do not belong to me. (A Dorian) (G Dorian)

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