If you feel stuck just playing pentatonic scales and want to get into playing modes, Dorian mode is a great mode to discover. Modes are simply scales starting at a different note other than the “root” note (e.g. C for C major scale). Generally when people talk about modes they mean the “modes of the major scale” which are Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. For more info and examples of the modes of the major scale check out this previous post.
Dorian is a minor mode which means that it works in a minor key. The exercises here will use the A Dorian mode which uses the notes of the G major scale starting on A (A B C D E F# G) and played in the key of A minor. Some songs that use the Dorian mode include:
- Another Brick in The Wall Part 2 (Solo) – Pink Floyd
- Get Lucky – Daft Punk
- Light My Fire (solos) – The Doors
- Oye Come Va – Santana
- Riders On The Storm – The Doors
- Surfing With The Alien – Joe Satriani
- So What – Miles Davis
The main pattern used for A Dorian is easy to learn as its very similar to the main pattern used for the A minor pentatonic scale. I like to view it as the A minor pentatonic scale pattern with a couple of extra notes added.
Listen to the audio of A Dorian.
The following A Dorian exercise will help you to learn to the main fretboard pattern that the mode uses and can also be used for ideas in guitar solos based on the mode. All of these exercises work well over an A minor (or Am7) and D major (or D7) chords which are the 2 chords used in Oye Come Va recorded by Carlos Santana. You can use the backing track to practice the exercises over and even to improvise solos using the Dorian mode or even the A minor pentatonic scale.
Listen to the audio of A Dorian Backing.
The first exercise plays through the mode pattern skipping one note at a time which also happens to play scale steps in 3rds. A good example of this is the keyboard run down at the start of The Doors song Riders On The Storm.
Listen to the audio of A Dorian Skipping 3rds.
This exercise is similar to the skipping 3rds exercise except it skips in 4ths scale steps for a more angular sound. Here work on rolling the fingers where there are 2 notes on the same frets over two strings. For example roll finger 1 across the two 5th fret notes at the start of the exercise then finger 3 over the two 7th fret notes and so on.
Listen to the audio of A Dorian Skipping 4ths.
3 Scale Steps
The next exercise is a bit different as it plays 3 scale steps in a row then up one note and another 3 scale steps.
Listen to the audio of A Dorian 3 Steps.
4 Scale Steps
The final exercise is similar to the last except it plays 4 scale steps in a row.
Listen to the audio of A Dorian 4 Steps.
You can also challenge yourself further by skipping 5ths of 6ths or 5 or 6 scale steps. One other variation of these exercises to vary the rhythms used try playing them in triplets (3 notes over 2 beats).
There are many ways you can play the Dorian mode so have fun discovering what you can do with it.