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Video Tutorial: Make Dorian mode chord progressions and Melodies
Modes made easy: Many people see the musical modes as being part of a bigger mode or parent scale, which is the Ionian mode. But 90% of the time I don’t approach the music modes this way. I like to see each mode as a separate scale. So it’s not part of something bigger. The Dorian mode scale is what it is and not some kind of small brother from the major scale. So is D Dorian the same as C major? Short answer: No
I will explain how you make a Dorian scale and chord progression. You can use this for writing beautiful melodies and full songs. Just follow these four steps below.
How do you make a Dorian Scale?
Music is often in a certain key. Which could be A minor or D major for example. When we talk about music being in a certain key. We actually refer to the notes that can be used in our song or composition. And also which note feels like our home base. These notes together often form a scale. To start our Dorian journey first we need the formula for a minor scale.
Minor scale blueprint / minor scale formula
If you follow this formula or blueprint of whole and half steps, then you can make a natural minor scale in any key that you like! Whole step – Half step – Whole step – Whole step – Half step – Whole step – Whole step
Just keep in mind when naming the notes, that each step needs to be a different letter from the alphabet. So you cannot have C and Cb or A and A#. It should be C and B or A and Bb.
How to make a Dorian scale?
Remember our A minor scale from above? To make the A Dorian scale, you just raise the 6th note or the note on the 6th scale degree with half a step. The rest of the notes in the scale stay the same! So the formula for making a Dorian scale is: Whole Step – Half Step -Whole Step – Whole Step – Whole Step – Half Step – Whole Step.
How To Make Dorian Mode Chord Progressions
Just as with all other modal chord progressions. We will use the Dorian scale to find out what chords you can play or what chords you have in this musical mode. You need to create a chord or triad on each scale degree. And you do this by only using notes from the scale!
How do you make a triad? When you make a chord, just skip one scale tone and choose the next one. So for example in A Dorian, the chord on the first scale degree is A Minor. And the notes are A-C-E. We skipped the tones B and D.
Chord Progression No.1 in B Dorian (the jam session)
The Dorian mode is perfect for when you want to have a jam session. And the best chord progression for some tasty melodies is going from the minor tonic chord to the major chord on the 4th scale degree. Pink Floyd has used this with great success in their Dorian mode songs.
Chord Progression No.2 in D Dorian
If you stick to ‘normal’ chords or triads, then you have three chords that have the tone that’s unique to the Dorian mode in them. But if you would add 7th chords to your chord progression, then another chord becomes available. In this example, the C major seven chord has the B in it, which is the raised sixth scale degree.
Chord Progression No.3 in A Dorian
A great way to discover any musical mode is to improvise over a pedal note. A pedal note is a sustained tone (that does not change) on which you play chords or notes. This next chord progression in A Dorian can be used for some dark rock or for some beautiful film music. Try it out for yourself!
You decide what mood the Dorian mode can have. Mysterious, dark, edgy or melancholic.
Chord Progression No.4 in E Dorian
In this chord progression in E Dorian, you see the beautiful possibilities that the Dorian mode has. It can sound bright and just a couple of seconds later it sounds dark and full of tension. This is especially true if you add some extensions to your chords.
Chord Progression No.5 and Melody in D Dorian
When you really want to use the Dorian sound and feel, then you have to also use the Dorian note in your melody. In this chord progression, the B is the raised 6th scale degree. This is the note unique to D Dorian.
When you look at the chord progression, we have a G major chord. The notes of G major are G – B – D. This means that G major has the raised 6th scale degree in it. So with the chords in our chord progression we are ok.
Now with the melody you also want to emphasize the B note, because this will confirm the Dorian mode. You can either play it on the tonic chord, or on the chord that is on the 4th scale degree, which is G major.
Or dive into the beautiful technique of modal mixture, modal interchange and borrowed chords. Lydian & Ionian, Phrygian & Aeolian.
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Suggested Video Tutorial: Combining The Lydian Mode and Ionian mode Through Modal Interchange
The Dorian mode is really a beautiful mode and its unique colors can be used in practically any style of music. The Dorian mode was the first mode that i learned during my guitar lessons when I was younger, until this day it still inspires me to write music in it.
So let’s get creative!
Although the Dorian mode is very popular in guitar music it can be practically used in any other style or genre as well. Just like my other videos on the Lydian and on the Phrygian modes, I want to show you how versatile the Dorian mode actually is. So to do this I’ve written four chord progressions in four different styles. But of course before we start we need to know how to create a Dorian scale.
To make the Dorian mode you take the natural minor scale of any key that you want to write music in and then you raise the sixth scale degree to turn it into the Dorian mode. Now to find out what kind of chords we have in the Dorian mode we simply create a triad on each scale degree and there we go: we have our complete harmonic resource!
The Dorian mode can be used for great long jam sessions that give room for lots of improvisation.
Especially when you just switch between the minor chord on the first scale degree and the major chord on the fourth scale degree. This is such a famous and well-known sound that I did not make a separate example of this. Or actually… I did because you’re listening to it as we speak!
So the first official chord progression example is a very subtle one in D Dorian and it’s played on the piano, but you can literally play the same chord progression on guitar or any other instrument and make it sound just as good. When you only play triads you have three chords that have the raised sixth scale degree in them. But when you play seventh chords you add one extra option. Now also the chord on the seventh scale degree has the unique raised sixth scale degree in it.
The next example shows the mysterious rock and vintage vibe that the Dorian mode is very good at portraying. And if you’ve seen my other videos you might know that I really like bass pedal tones. This chord progression is in A Dorian and during the whole chord progression, I hold A as my bass note. So it doesn’t change. On top of this, I play the A minor which is the tonic chord, but I also play the F sharp diminished and the D major chord, which are the two chords that are unique to the Dorian mode.
This technique really creates a progression full of tension while the bass note stays stationary.
A progression like this really gives the lead instruments a lot of space and freedom to improvise and find new melodies. Or just rock out!
Did you notice how good the chords sound on the pedal tone? Because all the chords have the A in them, it sounds very natural yet also interesting.
The last example is a mix between synth, piano and guitar. And if you ask me it could be part of some kind of cinematic movie or some kind of outdoor sports commercial. But before we go there I want to show you that the Dorian mode can also be very beautiful in a more classical manner with string orchestra for example.
The mix of intrigue and soft minor textures really creates a sensational sound if you ask me. One moment it sounds bright and the other it sounds full of tension and dark. For this example which is in E dorian I’m going to add some extensions to the chords, but more about that after the example.
In the first round, we have the B minor chord which is on the fifth scale degree, but actually, this chord is not unique to the Dorian mode because we also have it in the natural minor mode. But when in the example it’s played for the second time we add the major 9th to it, which is the C sharp and this tone is the raised 6th scale degree that is unique to the Dorian mode.
The ninth interval can sound a bit dissonant especially in a minor chord. So what i did was i prepared this dissonance and what this means is that the note that’s going to be dissonant in our case the C sharp is already part of a previous chord. So in our case the dissonant tone C sharp was already part of the F sharp minor chord.
Let’s head on to our mixed style example in D Dorian.
You can really take advantage of the power of melody by emphasizing the raised sixth scale degree in your melody. It’s like an extra layer that you can add to confirm the mode that you’re writing in. So you can do this by playing the raised sixth scale degree on the tonic chord or you can also play this note when it’s part of the harmony for example one of the chords that have the raised sixth scale degree in them. Especially on the major chord on the fourth scale degree it really shines because then you play a major third and this always sounds very radiant.
Now here are some quick tips for you to remember:
To start writing in a certain mode it is important that you find the note that is unique to the mode that you want to write in. So find out which note it is and which chord have this note. Mainly use these chords and the tonic chord to strongly confirm the mode. In the case of the Dorian mode, you can really play around a lot with the dominant 7th chord because it’s just so conveniently placed on the fourth scale degree. Or you can use the diminished triad on a pedal tone like i did in my previous example.
And as always you should never forget the power of melody because this can steer you away or it can help you confirm the mode.
With these chord progressions, you can kickstart your creative sessions and start writing and playing immediately in the Dorian mode. And to help you out even further I made a handy cheat sheet about this episode for when you want to quickly check a chord progression or a certain technique. You can grab it and all the other cheat sheets from the link below. And by doing this you will also support the channel and new videos!
I really enjoy the Dorian mode and I hope this was inspirational and useful to you. Please leave a comment and press the like button because it really helps the video reach new people and for now…
See you next time!