Dorian Modes – How to Use And Apply Them With the Bass

dorian modesDid you know that major, minor, and even diminished and augmented scales are relatively new scales in music? It’s true; there are scales, called modes, that have been around far longer than these scales that we know today.

The cool part is that they are all built off of our all-time favorite, super easy scale; the C Major scale. All in all, there are seven total modes of the C Major scale, and in this article we are going to talk about the second mode.

The Dorian mode on bass guitar.

The Dorian mode is, as we said, the second mode of the C Major scale. Modes are built from the scale degrees of the scale, which is to say that the Dorian mode it built off of the second scale degree of C Major, which is D.

The Dorian mode is built of a strange formula of half steps and whole steps, and can be created as follows:

Whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step

This formula will give us the notes D, E, F, G, A, B, and C.

The uniqueness of a mode is created by the fact that it is very close to the C Major scale, in that it has no accidental notes whatsoever (sharp or flats), and since it isn’t played off of the C to make the C Major scale, it attains a fully different sound.

How Do You Use the Dorian Scale in Real Music?

create a unique mood to your musicOne of the great things about this scale is that it can be used to improvise over C Major progressions that deal with the second scale degree. Let’s say you are playing a C Major progression that consists of the notes D, F, A, F, C, outlining the supertonic (second scale degree) triad of the C Major scale and then reverting back to the C at the end.

You can use the Dorian mode to improvise over this progression and it will fit much better than the C Major scale itself would. This is because the Dorian mode is simply a reworking of the C Major scale, and gives the freedom of taking a scale and playing it absolutely differently without changing the key properties (seeing as playing the B Major scale wouldn’t fit due to the accidental notes involved in it).

Getting Yourself Familiar is as Easy as ABC

The Dorian mode on bass guitar is one of the simplest modes to get a handle of as it is fairly close to the original scale. To play this mode in your guitar, using the low E string, you would need to start on the tenth fret for the note D, move to the twelfth fret for E, then the thirteen fret for F, the fifteenth fret for G, the seventeenth fret for A, the nineteenth fret for B, the twentieth fret for C, and finally bring it home to D with the twenty-second fret.

Now that you know how to play the Dorian mode on the bass guitar, the next thing to do is practice. Try using it to make some simple melodies and then move on to improvisation. Good luck!


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