How to use modes Episode 1 - Dorian mode

Hey guys, here’s another video for you.

This is a tutorial on how to use Dorian mode. We look at the notes used and how to utilise them. Plus we bust a few myths along the way.

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Hello Geoff.

This is a nice overview of the Dorian mode.

As a horn player, I have always thought of modes in the use of melodic lines. When I think of the Dorian scale, the obvious thing that comes to mind is Miles Davis’ “So What” tune and solo. It is interesting for me to see the choral aspect you present here. Not having a strong dominant (V) chord to get back to I is interesting to me as we often rely on the dominant so much in western music.

This video caught my eye as I just finished a string quartet movement which is basically all Dorian mode. I kept within the mode (no accidentals at all!) but modulated to different to keep interest. It was something different for me writing-wise, but I like the Dorian mood that came out of it. I can post the piece here or elsewhere on the forum if of interest.

You asked for feedback in the video…
I’d like to see a tighter and a bit faster presentation (My time for learning and exploring on the internet is limited). But perhaps it is a good tempo for a tutorial for those new to modes. In the intro, perhaps a quick slide on what modes and how Dorian relates would be good for newcomers.

Keep up the great work!


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Hey Brandon. Yes Miles most definitely would have deviated from the typical Dorian scale, to create a strong cadential pull. As soon as you start to add the B natural (maj7) you end up mixing modes, or you switch to the harmonic Minor.

This is the main way you’d use this scale but it’s not the only way. I’ve left it open for another video. As you rightly say, you can think of Dorian in different ways, such as miles Davies in So what, where he moves through different keys while still using Dorian mode, and that creates tension, so you end up with a chord progression and the mode following the chords rather than the key.

So you hear a lilt in that track as they typical 251 progression is played, as the mode switches on the 2 by a 4th briefly. There are other parts of that track that deviate further but this is the easiest to comprehend as you get the major chord outlined with a dominant sound. Very good piece to compare Dorian to, but a bit too advanced for an intro video :stuck_out_tongue:

Thank you for your feedback, speed is something I’m not quite good at yet, so I’ll definitely try to be a bit faster.

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If you want to hear and understand what Dorian mode sounds like go listen to Carlos Santana he maximises his solos in Dorian mode.

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Hey man, yeah he sure does :slight_smile: