The Dorian Mode

closeup1Students often ask about the modes of the major scale.  They have heard or read about them and wonder what they are and how to use them.  I used to give the theoretical answer, (in nerdy professor voice) “From the modal point of view, the interval sequence of the major scale is called the Ionian or Major mode. It is one of the seven modern modes—seven because only seven diatonic notes can be used as the tonic. Using any major scale, a new scale is obtained by taking a different degree of the major scale as the tonic. With this method, from each major scale it is possible to generate six other scales or modes, each characterized by a different interval sequence.”

In the modern context, the modes can be thought of as alterations of the major and natural minor scales.  This streamlines the learning process, but is not a replacement for learning the modes as they relate to ancient musical structures and forms.  Most bassist aren’t trying to use the Dorian mode to write a Renaissance Motet, but if you really want to get into the history and evolution of the modes you can click here for a detailed explanation.

The Dorian mode can be thought of as the natural minor scale with a raised 6th degree.  If we use the A Minor scale as an example, then the A natural minor scale would contain the notes A B C D E F G A.  The Dorian Mode would raise the 6th degree a half step to F# instead of F.  A B C D E F# G A.

Below are some videos showing how to construct and play the Dorian mode on the bass.  Don’t over think it right now, just get started.  There is more on this subject coming soon.  Look for it!



From Josh Fossgreen


From Dana B. Goods