The Dorian Mode

Dorian Mode

Dorian is the second mode of a major scale and in our example it is D Dorian mode. As you know that every mode has a unique sound quality or emotional identity that is used to incorporate within songs/instrumentals. Musicians and particularly famous guitarists like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, John Petrucci and many others use modes to compose killer instrumentals and provide an other-worldly experience with their music. The Dorian mode has the following interval structure that distinguishes it from others;

R 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 8

From the above interval structure you may have noticed that Dorian has two differences as compared to the Ionian mode; flat 3rd and flat 7th. In order to construct the D Dorian mode you can apply the above interval structure to C major scale after taking D as the root note. The notes of D Dorian mode will therefore be D E F G A B C. The following image shows you an exact position of D Dorian mode;

Dorian Mode

The above is only one position but you shall learn to use the same notes all over the fret-board so that you can enjoy playing in different pitches (low to high) like a pro who has mastered the fret-board. If you are smart enough, you may have spot the differences in Ionian and Dorian modes and have understood how the two flat notes will come in to play. You’re right if you thought that these two notes will actually make all the difference and unique sound of the Dorian. The flavor added to Dorian will be hugely dependent upon flat 3rd and flat 7th. The 6th note also adds a lot of flavor to the Dorian mode.

A Dorian is a minor mode that sounds smooth and hip or bluesy depending on its usage. Dorian is identifiable because it has a soulful and emotional sound quality. This mode also represents hope if used having that emotion in mind. Dorian is used by many famous guitar players in their solos and is also used extensively in Blues and Fusion.

Relevant Chords of Dorian

The next part of understanding any mode is to learn the chords which help a musician get the most out of a mode and to use it practically. The chord structure that can be used for Dorian mode is dependent upon the flavor adding notes and some other approaches discussed earlier. We can either use IV and V degree chords in addition to the root chord or alternatively we can use the chords which add flavor to the mode. These chords in addition to the root chord are as follows;

  • bII min 7th
  • IV min 7th
  • VI
  • bVII min 7th

You can use one or two out of the above chords in addition to the root chord. We suggest not using all of the chords at once because adding a lot of flavor to any mode can make it difficult to handle the sound. The above chords are suggestions and may vary depending upon the taste of a guitar player and how he/she uses these chords.

Famous Compositions in Dorian

As mentioned above, the Dorian mode has been used by many rock guitarists in their solos we can find a lot of examples in Rock music or Instrumental Rock. Following are few famous tracks in Dorian;

  • Miles Davis – So What
  • David Gilmour – Marooned
  • The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby
  • Joe Satriani – Made of Tears
  • Greensleeves

There are yet many other examples which can be found in your music library. This is one of the very creative modes used in instrumentals and is best used in deep hopeful instrumentals. You are suggested to practice this mode by using the above chords and also try to identify the miracles this mode can do for you.

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Ahmed is a regular contributor to GuitarChords 247 and brings you in-depth guitar lessons and music theory.
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1 comment

  • ‘Anon they move
    In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood..’
    Milton, Paradise Lost:, Book i, 549-550