How to Use the Dorian Scale

The Dorian scale, or mode, entails a minor scale that includes the natural six instead of the flat six when thinking in terms of scale degrees. Blues, jazz, funk and rhythm and blues all have uses for this scale, and some intuitive single note lines can come from it. Single note lines denote solos on an instrument. The Dorian mode creates a mysterious sound that inspires feelings such as vitality and vibrancy, but because of the minor third in the scale it also evokes sorrow.

Start from any tonic, using C minor, and play scale degree one, two, minor three, four, five, natural six, flat seven and then of course the tonic again. In C minor, the note names for these scale degrees would be, respectively, C, D, E flat, F, G, A, B flat and, again, C.

Try out different variations of melodies on this scale. For instance, play the notes C, E flat, G and then A, in that order, and notice the striking sound you get with the minor third and the natural six. Create many variations of this; you will see that with different types of rhythms, there are limitless melodies or solos that you can create.

Put on a jam track that lies in the minor mode, or listen to the radio and find a minor mode song, but also make sure you can hear the natural six in the song instead of the flat six. Play this scale in whatever way you want over your chosen song and notice its moody sound.

A jazz melody using the Dorian scale could be going from the flat three up to the two using, somewhere in there, a natural six. The flat three going to the two creates a major seventh relationship, such as E flat to D in C minor. This entails a groovy, stylish approach to jazz. Make sure you are using a specific rhythm when playing any scale, such as eighth notes or 16th notes, because this will keep you within the tempo of the song.

Approved by Jesse Anderson