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  • rbedwell3

Playing outside I: Dorian Alternatives part one

As many of you know, the Dorian mode is played over a minor chord, or a bass note and contains the fundamental characteristic of a Major 6th. Its formula is 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7. The only note that is not suitable to play over the Dorian mode other than the notes of the mode is the minor 6th. This is because the fundamental characteristic of the mode is lost when it is played.

That leaves the notes of #1, minor 2nd(b2), Major 3rd, #4, b5, #5, and Major 7th. I avoid using any modes with more than seven notes as this confuses matters, at least for me. So with each of these altered notes we will be introducing an alternative mode with one or more altered notes into the Dorian sound.

Modes that work well over an A Dorian chord or vamp that have only one altered note are:

A Melodic minor (A B C D E F# G#)

A# Alt bb37 (Mode VII of B Neapolitan minor) (A# B C D E F# G)

A Dorian #4 (Mode IV of E Harmonic minor) (A B C D# E F# G)

A Dorian + (Mode III of F# Locrian nat7) (A B C D E# F# G)

As with any outside notes, use it sparingly and resolve quickly, until you at least get the hang of using it well. The longer it is held or the more frequently it is played the more outside it will sound. Too much and you lose the listener.

I recommend learning all seven modes of the above scales and placing them over the modes of the Major scale so the A Melodic aligns with A Dorian, B Dorian b5 with B Phrygian etc.

Let me know if you want to hear what these modes sound like when played over the Dorian mode.

The next step is combing modes with single alterations which I'll look at next time.


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