Dorian Guitar Lesson – Step 6

Minor Scales Guitar Lesson - S6
The best way to play and understand Dorian is to start with the Minor Pentatonic, then add two notes!

Dorian Is The Cool Minor

The Dorian mode is sometimes used in jazz-influenced music as a blanket scale when soloing.

Miles Davis’s So What, Van Morrison’s Moondance, Chic’s Good Times, and Stevie Wonder’s I Wish, all call the Dorian mode home. So does Scarborough Fair and Mad World.

This means you could use Dorian as a blanket scale when improvising over them, kind of like a blues player use the Minor Blues Scale.

Should you use the technique of playing a new scale every time the chord changes, you would use the Dorian mode every time you solo over chord II.

Below is the scale formula in relation to the Minor Pentatonic.

Minor Pentatonic:1m345b7

To learn to play the Dorian mode you must first practice each shape individually in Am (see playlist above), then play all those shapes in the remaining eleven “keys”.

When You Can Play Each Shape – Connect

The next exercise connects the Dorian shapes in Am, when you can do this, try all other keys and push that BPM!

Also, you want to find variations to this exercise. What rhythmical pattern are you working on when practising the chromatic exercises at the moment, can you use them instead of the triplets?

Pairing exercises like this is a great idea, but don’t forget, you must also play in all twelve keys. So when you can connect in Am as the video demonstrates, try it in Dm, Gm, Cm, Fm, and all other keys as well.

The Final Step – Cycle Of 4th

The final exercise takes the Dorian mode and runs it through the cycle of 4th, always moving to the closest shape possible.

Make sure your transitions are exactly as in the video lesson. The full exercises move like this:

A Dorian – E shape, D Dorian – A shape, G Dorian – D shape, C Dorian – G shape, F Dorian – C shape.

This then starts one fret up, on a Bb.

When you can play all these exercises, move on to the next mode, the angry minor and her evil cousins, Phrygian & Phrygian Dominant.

Dorian Improvisation

Before you move to a new scale to play up and down in all shapes and keys, take some time to improvise using Dorian without any chords.

Start with the Minor Pentatonic, target the m3rd and b7 and then add the 2 and 6 so you can really hear the Dorian sound.

Make sure you do this in all shapes and keys, not just in Am as I do above.

Finally, you need to discover Dorian in real music, I’ve mentioned a few tunes already that are very Dorian sounding but don’t forget, every time you come across the II chord, that’s Dorian!

Dorian | Related Pages

Minor Scales | Step-by-step guitar course

The Minor Scales Course cover Dorian as the second mode.

Using the CAGED system and the Minor Pentatonic as our foundation, we can build all possible minor scales.

The minor scales course takes care of this in just 8 steps. All you have to do is put the time in, following the step-by-step format.

Advanced Acoustic Course

There are loads of Dorian examples in the Advanced Acoustic Guitar Course.

In the Advanced Acoustic Course, we find huge chord extensions and unique chords using open strings. A few solos are incorporated as well.

Perhaps most importantly, we create 2nd guitar parts for most of these tunes, enabling you to play along with me and the singers as if we were a band.

Minor Pentatonic | Minor Scales

The Minor Pentatonic form the foundation for Dorian.

This is where it all starts. You must learn all five positions of the Minor Pentatonic. Without this, the guitar will never make sense,

Using the video lessons demonstrating this in Am, you can move on once you have practised in all other keys as well.

Min7 | Arpeggios

The min7 arpeggios can be found inside Dorian scale shapes.

In this first step, we practice the min7 arpeggios in all CAGED shapes. This is easy if you know your minor pentatonic shapes.

Video lessons are available starting on an A. To complete this step, you must play starting on the remaining 11 notes as well.

Guitar Chords | The CAGED System

To understand the Dorian mode, you must connect them with the CAGED guitar chord shapes.

With traditional music theory, the stave, and a piano, you’ll get easy-to-understand chords but they will not help if you want to play chords on the guitar.

Instead, on the guitar we use chord shapes derived from the five open-position chords, C, A, G, E, and D, hence CAGED.


Chordacus can show you all Dorian shapes in all keys.

Spytunes chords, scale, and arpeggio software, Chordacus is a refined version of the so-called CAGED system.

Now available as both a chromatic (original version) and “within a key”, developed with the help of a Spytunes student.

Good Times | Chords + Lyrics

Good Times is in Dorian

You can learn how to play Good Times by Chic using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recording.

Em7 | E7sus4 | Asus4 | A6 |
Good times, these are the good times…

I Wish | Chords + Lyrics

I Wish is in Dorian.

You can learn how to play I Wish by Stevie Wonder using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and a Spytunes video guitar lesson.

Emb7 Ab | Ebm7 Ab | Emb7 Ab | Ebm7 Ab |
Looking back on when I was a little nappy-headed boy…

Moondance | Chords + Lyrics

Moondance is in Dorian

You can learn how to play Moondance by Van Morrison using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recording.

Am7 Bm7 | Am7 Bm7 | Am7 Bm7 | Am7/C Bm7 |
Well, it’s a marvelous night for a Moondance with the stars up above in your eyes…

Scarborough Fair | Chords + Lyrics

Scarborough Fair Chords

You can learn how to play Scarborough Fair by Simon & Garfunkel using chords, lyrics, TAB, chord analysis, and Spytunes video guitar lessons.

A13sus4 | Asus2 | G C/E G | A13sus4 | A7sus2 |
Are you going to Scarborough Fair…

About me | Dan Lundholm

Dan Lundholm wrote this guitar lesson on Dorain.

This was a guitar lesson about Dorian, by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and learn guitar with Spytunes.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.

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