The Dorian Pentatonic Scale aka Kumoï - 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. It is sometimes referred to as  "Kumoï scale" (a Japanese scale) and also known as the "John Coltrane Pentatonic Scale". The formula is : 1 (tonic), 2 (second), b3 (minor third), 5 (perfect fifth) and 6 (natural sixth).

How is Built The Dorian Pentatonic Scale?

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, by leaving out the fourth (4) and the minor seventh (b7) you get the 5 notes of the Dorian pentatonic scale. 

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

One Octave Shapes

Here are four guitar diagrams showing how to play the Dorian pentatonic scale (Kumoi scale) within the space of one octave.

Dorian pentatonic kumoi scale guitar charts

Two Octave Shapes

The following shapes show how to play the Kumoï scale within two octaves.

Dorian pentatonic scale kumoi guitar positions

5 Positions

Here are five positions for the Dorian pentatonic scale spanning the whole guitar neck. Notice that each shape starts from a different degree of the scale.

Dorian pentatonic scale kumoi guitar shapes

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.

What's the Difference With Hirajoshi Scale?

The only difference between these two scales is that the Hirajoshi scale has a b6 whereas the Kumoi has a natural 6, thgus giving the interval pattern 1 - 2 - b3 - 5 - b6 for the Irajoshi scale and 1 - 2 - b3 - 5 - 6 for the Kumoï scale.

Difference kumoi and hirajoshi

Confusions and Differences

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.
  • 1 - 2 - 4 - 5 - b7, second mode of the major pentatonic scale.
  • 1 - 2 - b3 - 5 - b7, 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 these Dorian pentatonic scales.

Differences between dorian pentatonic scales

Dorian Pentatonic Lick Over 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.

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Last edited: 2023-12-29

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