The Dorian mode scale can be found by playing the second step of any major scale and continuing on till the second octave is reached. This minor flavoured sound has a different intervallic formula, scale degrees, sound and feel from the major scale, as follows:
Remember that when we use the terms ‘flat’ or ‘flattened’ scale degree, we are always referring to the Major scale from the tonic note – in this case, Dorian is a D major scale with a flattened 3rd and 7th.
Interval Order for the Domain Scale
tone – semitone – tone – tone – tone – semitone – tone –
Chords to improvise this sound over:
Minor triad, Mi6, Mi7, Mi9, Mi11, Mi6/9, Mi13
Practice the scale with the chords put into a rhythmical vamp (record your own or get a friend to play a static vamp / groove that uses these chords).
Dorian is the first ‘jazz’ minor that we commonly encounter, and is generally more ‘usable’ than the Natural minor (Aeolian mode) scale in that Dorian contains 7 consonant sounding tones – all the tones of the scale may be used at any one time as resolve tones. Where as the Natural minor has the more dissonant flattened 6th degree which often trips up novice improvisers who may place it on a strong beat rather than an upbeat, resulting in a more unresolved / tense linear phrase.
One jazz guitar great who uses this sound as an integral part of his playing is Pat Martino, whose theories on music simplify much of what is confusing for improvising guitarists; a serious player and well worth studying. This is one of my favourite sounds to use in improvising over minor chord types because of its consonant nature.
IDEAS FOR PRACTICE:
As with any new scale, make sure you play it on one string to see the formula of intervals (TSTTTST) and to learn the note names and scale degrees. Do this exercise slowly and thoroughly, without trying too hard to improvise at first, just letting the sound sink in to your ear and the distances between notes and order of notes sink into your fingers. You may want to play consecutively in a few different keys so you can get used to the idea of modulating the sound (changing key) without the scale structure changing. Then learn one octave mini-positions, which are best learnt root 6, 5 and 4, starting with either the first or second finger on your neck hand.
A good way of practicing every key is to play in the cycle of perfect fourths or perfect fifths. By doing this you play all the possible key centres within 12 movements then arrive back at the original key – how you do this is up to you. You could play with the tonic always on a selected string or you could play all scales in 12 keys in one region. See this example below:
To get a more ‘jazz’ sound, add in a bebop note or passing tone between the flattened 7th degree and the tonic, so it becomes an 8 note scale. This is commonly called the Dorian Bebop scale. It has a great sound when playing the scale linearly using consecutive tones and starting from either the tonic, flattened 3rd or 5th scale degrees.
You can play the scale ascending or descending. See below:
Be methodical – practice all keys, use a metronome, practice lots of 8th notes both straight and swung, do heavy reps, use either alternate picking or economy picking and ALWAYS practice in an environment with no distractions.
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