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The Dorian Mode: Essential Guitar Scales

Today’s lesson is a quick style file focus on the Dorian mode. It includes all five shapes of the scale, a neck diagram, triad and arpeggio shapes, some useful progressions and three essential licks! 

One octave of the Dorian mode can be played as follows:

the dorian mode 1

Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7

Parent Scale: Major

Mode: 2

In a sentence: Cool, funky and relaxed.

So What – Miles Davis

Billy Jean – Michael Jackson

Tender Surrender – Steve Vai (with a few key changes to related modes)

The Dorian mode creates a laid back, chilled out vibe and as such it is commonly used to solo in downbeat rock, funk and jazz. It is heard in the A sections of Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles and Paradise by Coldplay.

It is often used in modern rock and blues (such as the middle section of Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin) and is one of the most commonly used minor modes.

C Dorian Scale Shapes

the dorian mode 2the dorian mode 3 the dorian mode 4 the dorian mode 5 the dorian mode 6

the dorian mode 7

C Dorian Triad and Arpeggio Shapes


the dorian mode 8 the dorian mode 9 the dorian mode 10 the dorian mode 11 the dorian mode 12


the dorian mode 13 the dorian mode 14 the dorian mode 15 the dorian mode 16 the dorian mode 17

Typical Chord Progressions

Backing Track Dorian 1:

the dorian mode 18


Backing Track Dorian 2:

the dorian mode 19


Backing Track Dorian 3:

the dorian mode 20


Useful Licks

Dorian Scale Lick 1:

the dorian mode 21


Dorian Scale Lick 2:

the dorian mode 22


Dorian Scale Lick 3:

the dorian mode 23


Obviously there is loads more we can look at in the Dorian mode. Fro more ideas, check out my book Guitar Scales in Context, available on Amazon now.

In the next lesson, we will be looking at an incredible useful sound: The Mixolydian Mode

Joseph Alexander, guitarist & guitar teacher - Fundamental Changes for guitar

Author - Joseph Alexander

Joseph Alexander has been a guitarist and expert music tutor for over 20 years. His tuition books are published in four languages and have sold over 200,000 copies to widespread critical acclaim. He is currently writing and publishing cutting edge-material that breaks down the barriers between learning and playing the guitar. As well as a…

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