Mode II Dorian

Favorite jazz mode

View or Download Dorian

Dorian is 2 to 2 in any major scale.  That may seem like the simplest way to get there, but we don’t hear it that way. We don’t hear a major scale, starting on a different note or degree.

Instead, we hear something new:

  • 1 2 3 4 5 6 maj7 8
  • 1 2 b3 4 5 6 (b)7 8

There is no simpler way to get to Dorian from major, but you can also get there from Aeolian or natural minor, and using this method you only make one change, so if you are very familiar with natural minor, this may be faster.

  • 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 (b)7 8
  • 1 2 b3 4 5 6 (b)7 8

And there is a third way.  You can start with simple minor, if you know it,  and again make only one change. Each of these methods produces the same result, but it is probably best to use only one way and stick with it.

  • 1 2 b3 4 5 6 maj7 8
  • 1 2 b3 4 5 6 (b)7 8

And there is a third way.  You can start with simple minor, if you know it,  and again make only one change. Each of these methods produces the same result, but it is probably best to use only one way and stick with it.

So What…

Miles Davis used Dorian for his composition, “So What”, one of the most iconic modal jazz pieces ever written. After an intro that is more complicated, he settles into D Dorian, stays there for around 16 measures, modulates up 1/2 step to Eb Dorian, then comes back down again. That’s not the whole story, but it’s the most important part.

View or Download So What

Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Fair may be the most famous folk tune every written in Dorian, and there is no more famous recording of it than this one. Unfortunately the beautiful guitar accompaniment does not work well on the piano unless you are singing the tune.

3 thoughts on “Mode II Dorian

  1. Gary, Miles Davis – Is it around 0:34 that the Dorian scale starts, in the “riff”? What is a good way of getting our ears to be able to hear Dorian and other modes in music? I’m thinking of maybe trying to duplicate a small melody passage on the piano and suss it out from there, using what you teach about Dorian (b3, b7).

  2. Some interesting facts about Scarboro Fair. Apparently it’s really old, and there was a time when Dorian was what was used, just like nowadays it’s mostly major and minor. And also, I had sung it wrong for decades (!), and not as the mode, because I bent it to the kinds of scales I was used to. I like it much better this way.

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