The Dorian Pentatonic Scale - Guitar Lesson with Neck Diagrams, Formulas and Licks

What's the Dorian pentatonic scale?

The Dorian pentatonic scale is a minor scale built with five notes. There are four main types of Dorian pentatonic scales, the most known is also named "Kumoï scale", a Japanese scale. It has this interval pattern : 1 (root), 2 (second), b3 (minor third), 5 (perfect fifth) and 6 (natural sixth).

You can consider it as a part of the Dorian mode, the second mode of the major scale. Indeed, the Dorian mode is spelled 1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - b7. If you leave out the fourth (4) and the minor seventh (b7) you get 5 notes making the Dorian pentatonic scale.

How is Built The Dorian Pentatonic Scale?

Here is a comparison with the Dorian mode. You can see that the Dorian pentatonic scale has no fourth (4) and no minor seventh (b7).

D Dorian mode D E F G A B C
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
D Dorian pentatonic scale D E F x A B x


What's The Difference with the Kumoï Scale?

The Dorian pentatonic and the Kumoï scales are simply the same. The name is different according to the country and the style of music.

How To Use The Dorian Pentatonic Scale?

The Dorian pentatonic scale is designed to be played over minor chords as m7, m11 but mostly over m9 and m11 chords. Indeed, the Dorian pentatonic scale highlights the ninth (9) and the thirteenth (13).

Dorian pentatonic scale guitar diagrams

Confusions and Differences - Pygmy Scale

It seems there are many confusions about the construction of the Dorian pentatonic scale. Some books and teachers give three other formulas : 1 - 2 - 4 - 5 - 6 or  1 - 2 - 4 - 5 - b7 or 1 - 2 - b3 - 5 - b7.

The pentatonic scale formula starting on the degree II of the major pentatonic scale would be 1 - 2 - 4 - 5 - b7. The 1 - 2 - b3 - 5 - b7 version is also known as Pygmy scale, an African scale from Rwanda. In any event, they all derive from the Dorian mode and works well over minor chords, it is up to you to choose the one you prefer, depending on the harmonic context.

Dorian pentatonic scale (Kumoï) 1 2 b3 5 6
Dorian pentatonic scale (2) 1 2 4 5 6
Dorian pentatonic scale (Degree II of the major pentatonic scale)  1 2 4 5 b7
Dorian pentatonic scale (Pygmy scale) 1 2 b3 5 b7


Here are four guitar neck diagrams to make the difference between the four Dorian pentatonic scales.

5 Positions of The Dorian Pentatonic Scale (Kumoï)

Here are 5 Dorian pentatonic shapes covering the entire neck.

Dorian pentatonic scale 5 positions for guitar

Dorian Pentatonic Lick

How to Apply the Dorian Pentatonic Scale to a Major II-V-I

This simple lick below shows how the Dorian pentatonic scale can be applied to the ii chord of a basic II-V-I progression. You can notice that this II-V-I jazz line is built only with pentatonic scales. This is the purpose of this PDF eBook named "Mastering the pentatonic scale", check it out.

  • 40 II V I Jazz Guitar Licks

    This pdf method for guitar contains 40 II V I jazz guitar lines with tab, standard notation, analysis, scale charts and audio files.
  • 50 II-V-I voicings

    This guitar method is a printable PDF eBook containing 50 exercises with audio files, analysis, tab & standard notation.
  • 40 Minor 2 5 1 Chord Voicings

    This PDF method contains 40 exercices with tabs, scores and audio files for practicing jazz guitar chords over the minor 2 5 1 progression.
  • 40 Minor II V I Licks

    This guitar method is a printable PDF with tabs, diagrams, theory and audio files providing 40 minor II V I jazz licks.
  • II V I Bundle

    This package contains 3 PDF methods for jazz guitarists with tabs, audio files, analysis about the II V I progression.
  • 40 Mixolydian Jazz Guitar Lick

    This package contains a guitar method available as a PDF with tabs, audio files and theory providing 40 dominant jazz guitar lines for teachers and students.
  • 40 Minor Jazz Guitar Licks

    This printable guitar method in PDF format contains 40 easy minor jazz guitar lines based on the Dorian mode.
  • 40 Major Jazz Guitar Licks

    Printable PDF eBook method containing 40 major jazz guitar licks with tab, standard notation and audio files for beginners and intermediates.
  • Diatonic Licks Bundle

    This package contains 120 jazz guitar lines based on diatonic modes as Mixolydian, Dorian and Ionian. PDF format with tabs, audio files and analysis.
  • Guitar Walking Bass Lines

    This jazz guitar method about walking bass lines and chords is available as a PDF files containing 35 exercises with tabs, analysis and audio files
  • 101 Dominant Arpeggio Patterns

    This printable PDF method provides 101 dominant arpeggio exercises with tab, theory and standard notation for the jazz, blues and rock guitarist.
  • 49 Essential Jazz Lines

    This printable eBook method in PDF format provides 49 jazz solo transcriptions of the greatest jazz musicians of all times with TABS, standard notation, audio files and analysis both for guitar teachers and students.
  • 11 Jazz Blues Studies

    This PDF method contains 11 guitar lessons with chord studies, tabs, standard notation, analysis & audio files about the main blues progressions used in jazz music.
  • 25 Altered Jazz Guitar Lines

    This PDF eBook method contains 25 altered jazz guitar licks with tabs, patterns, scale charts and audio files to master, apply and develop the altered scale.
  • 40 Blues Dominant patterns

    This printable method is available as a PDF file containing 40 easy dominant jazz-blues guitar lines with tabs, standard notation, analysis, audio files and scale charts.
  • Mastering Pentatonic Scales

    This jazz guitar method is an eBook available as a PDF with standard notation, guitar tabs, diagrams, analysis, audio files and backing tracks. You will find in this booklet 25 easy jazz guitar lines with theory using common and rare pentatonic scales.
  • 25 Soul Jazz Guitar Licks

    You will find here an eBook available in PDF containing 25 soul jazz and hard bop guitar licks in the style of Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, George Benson. These jazz lines come with tabs, standard notation, guitar neck diagrams, backing track for practice and 25 audio files for each riff.
  • 25 Diminished Patterns

    This eBook PDF with audio files contains 25 dominant diminished jazz guitar patterns using the half-whole diminished scale and diminished 7th arpeggios.
  • 6 Tritone substitution licks

    This Printable PDF eBook available for free download contains 6 easy jazz guitar licks with tabs/notation, youtube video link and analysis about the tritone substitution.

Last edited: 08/04/2020