The dorian mode | Free guitar lesson, diagrams, theory & licks

The dorian mode

jazz guitar scalesThe dorian mode is the second of the seven musical modes. The other modes from the major scale are ionian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, aeolian and locrian. It is a minor type scale because of its minor third (b3), often the first choice to play over minor chords and one of the most important scale to know for a jazz guitar improviser. It is made up of seven notes, including a minor third (b3) and minor seventh (b7). It has the same notes as the ionian mode starting on the second degree.

As you can notice by refering to the scale chart below, the dorian mode is built with a root (1), a second (2), minor third (b3), fourth (4), perfect fifth (5), sixth (6) and minor seventh (b7). The second, fourth and sixth are respectively the ninth (9), the eleventh (11) and the thirteenth (13).

D Dorian mode D E F G A B C
Formula 1 2 (9) b3 4 (11) 5 6 (13) b7
Intervals W H W W W H W

(W = whole step ; H = half step)

The dorian mode is used to play over the following chords.

min, min7, min6 , min9, min11.

The dorian mode in twelve keys

Now that you are aware of its composition, you should be able to build and play any dorian mode related to the twelve keys. Here is a summary chart that shows you how are built the dorian mode in twelve keys.

A Dorian Mode A,B,C,D,E,F#,G
B Dorian Mode B,C#,D,E,F#,G#,A
Bb Dorian Mode Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G,Ab
C Dorian Mode C,D,Eb,F,G,A,Bb
Db Dorian Mode Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C
D Dorian Mode D,E,F,G,A,B,C
E Dorian Mode E,F#,G,A,B,C#,D
Eb Dorian Mode Eb,F,Gb,Ab,Bb,C,Db
F Dorian Mode F,G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb
F# Dorian Mode F#,G#,A,B,C#,D#,E
G Dorian Mode G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F
Ab Dorian Mode Ab,Bb,Cb,Db,Eb,F,Gb

Related minor chords , triads and arpeggios

You must bear in mind that the minor triad, m6, m7 and m9 chords all use the same basic scale, the dorian mode. First, you have to know that a minor triad is built with the same notes as a minor chord, this rule also applies to minor seventh (m7), minor sixth (m6) and minor ninth chords (m9). Here are the main triads, chords and arpeggios related to the dorian mode. (examples given in the key of C)

  • C minor triad / chord : is made up of a root (C) minor third (Eb) and perfect fifth (G).
    • Related abbreviated chord symbols are : Cm, Cmin,C-.
C minor triad / chord C Eb G
Formula 1 b3 5


  • C minor seventh arpeggio / chord : root (C) minor third (Eb), perfect fifth (G) and minor seventh (Bb).
    • Related chords notation : Cmin7, Cmi7, C-7.
C minor seventh arpeggio / chord C Eb G Bb
Formula 1 3b 5 7b


  • C minor sixth arpeggio / chord : root (C) minor third (Eb), perfect fifth (G) and sixth (A).
    • Related chords notation : Cm6, Cmin6, C-6, Cm13, Cmin13.
C major sixth arpeggio / chord C Eb G A
Formula 1 b3 5 6


  • C minor ninth arpeggio / chord  : root (C) minor third (Eb), perfect fifth (G), minor seventh (Bb) and ninth (D)
    • Related chords notation : Cmin9, Cmi9, C-9, Cm9.
C major ninth arpeggio / chord C E G B D
Formula 1 b3 5 b7 9


You can play any triad and arpeggio from the previous list over any minor chord and conversely. One of the most efficient exercises when you want to apply minor triads and arpeggios is to play them in twelve keys following a chromatic progression like C | Db | D | Eb | E | F and so on... You can also play them by intervals of fourths (circle of fourths), that gives this chord progression C | F | Bb | Eb | Ab | Db | Gb | B | E | A | D | G. 

MINOR SEVENTH ARPEGGIOS | Related lesson with diagrams and guitar licks

Other minor scales

Because there are many other minor modes, here is a quick comparison between them.

Modes of the major scales:

Modes of the harmonic minor scale :

Modes of the melodic minor scale :

Dorian jazz guitar lick

This is a lick using the D dorian scale. 

  • This minor lick starts with the second of D minor (E).
  • The third note (D) of the first bar is approached chromatically by the C# (also Db).
  • On bar 2 you can hear a major third (F#) as a chromatic passing tone between the fourth (G) and the minor third (F).
  • On bar 4 you will find the same passing tone as the bar 2 but an octave down.
  • Ending on a Dm chord (inverted chord).

The "25 minor jazz guitar licks" printable eBook pdf offers many other licks including the dorian mode to play over Dm7 chords.

Dm7 jazz guitar lick | Jazz guitar lesson # 1

Dorian guitar diagrams

Here are two recommended guitar patterns to play the dorian mode. You have to learn these fingerings and transpose these patterns in twelve keys.

To understand and "hear" this mode, it is recommended to play these patterns by starting with the root note "R".

To play the D dorian mode using the first pattern you have to put your fourth finger (little finger) on the sixth string at the tenth fret.

To play the D dorian mode using the second pattern you must put you fourth finger on the fifth string at the fifth fret.

If you want to play the dorian mode in other keys you just have to move the root to the desired note keeping the same intervals.


Pattern 1

(roots "R" on the sixth, third and first string)


Dorian mode guitar diagram

Pattern 2

(roots "R" on the fifth and second string)

Dorian mode 2 guitar diagram pattern 2

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Last edited: 10/12/2017

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