Guest Post by George Ramsay
Every serious guitarist inevitably comes across modes as they hone their improvisational chops. Unfortunately, they often confuse and in turn aren’t used very much because they aren’t understood. The goal of part 1 of this posting is to simplify the Dorian mode, eliminating confusion while providing a few practice tips. Part 2 will explain why we use Dorian, and what chord progressions lead to Dorian being applicable.
First, notice the end of the previous paragraph. I referred to the Dorian mode as a scale. Why? Partly because I am already getting tired of typing D-o-r-i-a-n, but also because for us to use it when we improvise, we should think of it as just another scale—much like the major scale, and even more like the minor scale.
In fact, all Dorian really is at the most basic level is a minor scale with one “altered” note. In other words, we play a minor scale with one note raised—the 6th, by a half-step—and we have Dorian.
For example, if we play an A Minor scale, our notes would be A-B-C-D-E-F-G (exactly the same as C major, except starting on an A). To make this Dorian, just raise the 6th note by a half step: A-B-C-D-E-F#-G.
How do we use this in our playing? I will offer two suggestions, the latter being my mode of choice. Pun intended. Read more…