The Dorian Mode | Guitar Lesson With Diagrams, Theory & Licks

The Dorian mode is the second of the seven musical modes. 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. 

How is Built the Dorian Mode?

As shown in the chart below, the Dorian mode is built with tonic (1), 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), eleventh (11) and 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)

As shown below, the Dorian mode is simply the major scale (Ionian mode) starting on the second degree. It means that the Dorian mode of C major is D Dorian. Once you know the major scale you know the Dorian mode because they contain the same notes.

The Dorian Mode in Twelve Keys

Now that you are aware of its composition, you should be able to build and play any Dorian scale in twelve keys. Here is a summary chart.

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

Dorian Mode One Octave Shapes

You will find four guitar neck diagrams to play the Dorian mode within one octave.

  • This first shape has tonic (1) on the E and the D string.
  • Second shape, tonic on the A and G string.
  • Third diagram, tonic on the D and B string.
  • Fourth shape, tonic on the G and E string.

To understand and hear the Dorian mode, it is advisable to play these patterns starting with the tonic representented by the orange note (1).

For example, to play the D Dorian mode using the first shape you have to put your first finger on the sixth string at the tenth fret.

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

Of course, it is very important to play the Dorian mode in twelve keys. You just have to move the root to the desired note keeping the same intervals. 

Dorian Mode and Minor Triad Chord - Audio file

Dorian mode guitar shapes

Dorian Mode Two Octave Shapes

The two shapes on the right show how to play the Dorian mode within two octaves in order to cover the strings on the guitar. Once achieved, try to transpose these patterns in all twelve keys and add some extra notes as discussed in this lesson.

Dorian mode for guitar two octave shapes

Dorian Mode | 3 Notes Per String

Practicing scales using 3 notes per string shapes is a good way to cover the whole guitar neck.

With this method you learn how to play the Dorian mode using different fingerings and how to start from each degree of this mode.

Dorian mode guitar shapes 2

Harmonization Of The Dorian Mode

Here is a chart and a cheat sheet showing the chords (triads and seventh chords) of the Dorian mode and the related Roman Numerals. This example is in C, notice that it can obviously be applied to any key.

C Dorian C D Eb F G A Bb
Intervals 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
Roman Numerals i ii bIII IV v vi° bVII
Triads Cm Dm Eb F Gm Adim Bb
Seventh Chords C-7 D-7 Ebmaj7 FMaj7 G-7 A-7b5 BbMaj7

Related Chords and Arpeggios

Here are the main chords and arpeggios related to the Dorian mode. (examples given in Dm)

  • D minor triad / chord : is made up of a root (D) minor third (F) and perfect fifth (A).
    • Related abbreviated chord symbols are : Dm, Dmin, D-.
D minor triad / chord D F A
Formula R (1) b3 5


  • D minor seventh arpeggio / chord : root (D) minor third (F), perfect fifth (A) and minor seventh (C).
    • Related chord notation : Dmin7, Dmi7, D-7.
D minor seventh arpeggio / chord D F A C
Formula R (1) 3b 5 7b


  • D minor sixth arpeggio / chord : root (D) minor third (F), perfect fifth (A) and sixth (B).
    • Related chord notation : Dm6, Dmin6, D-6, Dm13, Dmin13.
D minor sixth arpeggio / chord D F A B
Formula R (1) b3 5 6


  • D minor ninth arpeggio / chord  : root (D) minor third (F), perfect fifth (F), minor seventh (C) and ninth (E)
    • Related chord notation : Dmin9, Dmi9, D-9, Dm9.
C minor ninth arpeggio / chord D F A C E
Formula R (1) b3 5 b7 9


  • D minor eleventh arpeggio / chord : root (D) major third (F), perfect fifth (A), major seventh (C), ninth (E) and eleventh (G).
    • Chord Notation : Dm11, Dmi11, C-11.
 D minor eleventh arpeggio / chord D F A C E G
Formula R (1) b3 5 b7 9 11


  • D minor thirteenth arpeggio / chord : root (D) major third (F), perfect fifth (A), major seventh (C), ninth (E), eleventh (G) and thirteenth (B).
    • Notation : Dm13, Dmi13, C-13.
 D minor thirteenth arpeggio / chord D F A C E G B
Formula R (1) b3 5 b7 9 11 13

How To Apply the Dorian Scale?

The Dorian mode is a minor scale, so it is basically played over minor chords as min (R-b3-5), min7 (R-b3-5-b7), min6 (R-b3-5-b6) , min9 (R-b3-5-b7-9), min11 (R-b3-5-b7-9-11), min13 (R-b3-5-b7-9-11-13).

The Dorian mode is surely one of the most used scales in jazz music.

Minor Chord Shapes

Here are some minor chord shapes that fit with the Dorian mode. Try to associate them with the Dorian mode as shown in the first two examples below.

Dorian minor guitar chord diagrams

Exercise 1 - Dorian Lick With Chord

In this line you hear the D Dorian mode in intervals of sixths ending with an inverted drop 2 voicing chord (Dm7 : R - b3 - b7).

Dorian lick and chords

Exercise 2 - Dorian Line With Chord

This line mixes the D dorian scale with two D minor 9 chords. The voicings for these chords are b7 - b3 - 5 - 9 for the first and b7 - 9 - 5 - R for the second.


Dorian lick and chords for guitar

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Last edited: 2024-05-14

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