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:

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


C Dorian Triad and Arpeggio Shapes




Typical Chord Progressions

Backing Track Dorian 1:

Backing Track Dorian 2:

Backing Track Dorian 3:

Useful Licks

Dorian Scale Lick 1:

Dorian Scale Lick 2:

Dorian Scale Lick 3:

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