How to Fix Dorian Mode Soloing (INSTANTLY)

Are you confused about the modes? I'm not surprised... Many players are because they get told that modes are "just major scales." But, they're not... Modes are separate scales that offer a distinctive tonality and they offer unique intervals. Find out how you can fix your Dorian mode problems once and for all...



When a student enrolls in my studio and they're confused about modes like Dorian, it's often due to some other teacher having stressed that they didn't need to learn Dorian patterns, because it's just the 2nd mode of the major scale.

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The student is fed some crazy story that, if they need to play a "C Dorian mode" solo, all they need to do is play "Bb Major" scale and that's it. The trouble is that these students will often keep trying this approach for months even a year or more, and still not be able to play a decent Dorian Mode solo.

It's almost like they can't phrase lines in Dorian - for some strange reason - I wonder why!

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When I work with my private students who want to play a solo in a mode like Dorian, I get them to begin by thinking of the mode in respect to its tonality. The Dorian mode tonality is "Minor," and this means that the student can use this to start soloing right away over a "Dorian Mode Progression," by simply using the "Minor Pentatonic," scale off of the same key center.

This means, if we had a chord progression in "C Dorian," the "C Minor Pentatonic," will function perfectly to get the student started with hammering out some leads.



STEP 1). ESTABLISH YOUR PROGRESSION
Let's get things going by establishing a solid "C Dorian Mode" chord progression. Here's the progression that we're going to use...

C DORIAN MODE PROGRESSION:

 click on the above image to enlarge full-screen

One of the first things that you end up noticing right away with this jam-track is that the progression has no "Bb" chord whatsoever. The idea that we're after with any of these modal jams, is to apply chord sounds that highlight two things. #1). The tonality, (which is, in this case, "C Minor), #2). the unique color tone of Dorian (which is the raised 6th interval).

In the above key (of "C" Dorian), progression that unique color tone is an, "A Natural" tone. That sound of the "A Natural," is applied across my jam-track in measures two and four, and the minor tonality is firmly established off of the root of, "Cm7" in measure one, as well as, through the progressions third measure with that minor "V-chord" of "G Minor 7."



STEP 2). START LEARNING TO PHRASE OVER THIS MODE
now that we've established our chord progression (and we thoroughly understand why the sound generated is "C Dorian"), the next step is to start making some music over the chord changes.

Since we fully comprehend that the sound of the progression is "C Minor," our first scale type that we know will work for creating melodies is the "C Minor Pentatonic." Practice how that sounds.... Improvise with "C Minor" Pent. Scale...


STEP 3). "FIXING" THE SOUND FOR THE DORIAN MODE
Even though the "C Minor" Pentatonic sounds decent, it still doesn't do much for emphasizing the effect of the Dorian mode. But, this can be FIXED very easily by adding that Major 6th ("A Natural" interval) into the "C Minor" Pentatonic giving us our first taste of the color of Dorian Mode. Here's how that would work...



Once you're organized with the sounds of that major 6th interval ("A" tone) being added around the other scale tones of the Minor Pentatonic, the next step is to add in the remaining second degree interval.

STEP 4). JAMMING WITH THE COMPLETE MODE
This final note is going to be a "D Natural" note located a whole step above your Tonic Note of "C." And, with this final tone, you've achieved the complete Dorian Mode scale. Here's the final product...


Applying the Dorian mode in this way never has you off-base and thinking in terms of the old parent major scale, (so for our example we never placed any weight upon the modes parent, the "Bb Major" Scale).

Plus, if you'd like to add another layer to all of these ideas here, you could take things a step further by focusing on the arpeggio tones of the, "Cm7," arpeggio while you're practicing building melody with the, "C Minor Pentatonic."

So there ya have it, this is a fantastic fix that I've used with great success for many years when working with my own private students to help them apply the Dorian mode using a system that allows them to become much better at using the scale, and at phrasing licks and lines, without any direct relationship being tied over to the sound of the parent major scale.

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