Dorian Bass Scale

Well, here you have a lesson to play the Dorian scale for bass. This is a fundamental scale for any musician, as it is widely used over minor chords. Many times it is interchanged with the natural minor scale. First of all, let’s listen to the Dorian mode on electric bass. The truth is that the Dorian scale is used very often. There are a lot of songs that are composed using this scale. When a song is composed with a certain scale or mode, we say that the music is modal.
Because we are actually making music around a certain mode. In this case, with the Dorian mode we can find different songs that you have heard all your life that have that Dorian modal feel.
Many times it is exchanged with the minor pentatonic scale.

It is the grade II of the major tonality, therefore, we can use two names to name this scale:

  • Dorian Scale bass
  • Dorian Mode bass

👉🏻Listen to Dorian Scale in Bass👇🏻

You have just heard the D Dorian scale or mode. This would be related to the key of C major.
The main characteristic of the Dorian mode is the major sixth interval that occurs with the fundamental.
This major sixth is precisely the characteristic note of the Dorian mode and will differentiate this minor scale from its two minor sister scales of the major key.

The Phrygian mode and the Aeolian mode, these two scales have a minor sixth that is at a distance of a semitone from the fifth, while in the Dorian mode, we have a major sixth at a distance of a tone.

Fingering to play the Dorian scale on Bass

In this bass pdf you will see 3 ways that exist to play the scale or Dorian mode in bass.

the dorian bass scale

The next dorian bass scale fingering is with the two finger:

the dorian mode on bass

Another alternative fingering for the Dorian scale bass is with finger four:

dorian scale for bass guitar

💥Finger position 1

As you can see this is the fingering that starts with the index finger of your left hand if you are right-handed.

As always we put the fingers with numbers and we also give you the relationship of the notes.
Notice how the notes of the arpeggio or minor chord that generates the Dorian mode are colored. This will facilitate your learning and you will see clearly that the minor arpeggio 7 is included in this scale.

This fingering is the first one you should master, pay special attention to the transition or backward displacement that you should make when you place the little finger on the fifth of the scale. You will have to move the hand one semitone down to get the sixth of the scale.

dorian scale bass finger 1

💥Position with finger 4

This pattern starting with finger 4 or little finger is quite comfortable, because you don’t have to shift your hand at all. I want full vertical predominance and it is a bass pattern that you will use frequently as soon as you learn it.
The little finger fingering is ideal to combine with the major scale.
Notice how, depending on how your hand is positioned with finger 4, you can use the major scale or Ionian mode on finger 3.

This can be achieved if you use the finger 2 position of the major scale.

dorian bass scale finger 4

How is the Dorian scale formed ?

The Doric mode has seven notes and these are the distances between them.


As you can see this scale has a major 6th !! this is its characteristic note.

The intervalic of the Dorian bass scale is:

  • Root
  • major second
  • minor third
  • perfect fourth
  • perfect fifth
  • major sixth
  • minor seventh

1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7

Triad Chord of the Dorian Mode

Within the Dorian mode we have a minor triad chord included in it, this we have pointed out perfectly in the bass positions already explained, with the numbers in another color.

The triad chord of the Dorian mode is a minor chord formed by:

  • Root
  • Minor third
  • perfect fifth

1, b3, 5

The harmonic key for this chord is , example in A:


Dorian Mode Tetrad Chord

In the Dorian mode a minor four-note chord with a minor seventh is formed. It is marked in the bass positions. Knowing which chord is formed within a scale is fundamental to use that scale correctly. Next we will see how it is formed:

  • Root
  • Minor third
  • perfect fifth
  • Minor seventh

Dorian Four-note formula

1, 3, 5, b7

The harmonic coding is:

Am 7
A- 7

As a curiosity we will say that the Dorian scale has no sensitive, this means that its last note is not at a distance of semitone from the tonic.
This happens with the three minor scales of the major key.

Because the Dorian mode does not contain this sensitive, we call it subtonic instead.
However, if we apply a pitch distance between the sixth of the scale and the seventh we obtain a Dorian scale with a sensible. This is what we call melodic minor scale, and we can say that it is its big sister. But we will study this scale in another section.

Now as a bass player, your work, or your homework, is coming up. Although at the end of this lesson you will have a guide to all the doric scales that exist. You will learn how to form any Dorian scale with the Dorian scale distance pattern that we have explained.

For example, let’s do an exercise! See if you can answer these questions, leave the answer in the comments:

How is the Dorian scale of D formed, what notes does it have?
If we are in the key of E major, from what note does the Dorian scale arise?

Do you know how to do it? Please, answers in the comments….

How do I use the Dorian mode on Bass?

Whenever we have a minor chord we will be able to use it, although it must be taken into account that the grade from where it starts is the second of the tonality.

We will combine it perfectly with the minor blues scale or the minor pentatonic scale.

We will have to be careful with the characteristic note when resting on it because it forms tritone with the third of the chord, even so, in a modal context this should not worry us at all because it is its note of color.

We will be able to use the Dorian scale over these chords:

Examples from (A) pitch note:

  • Minor triad chords – Am ✅
  • Suspended chords 2 or 4  – Asus2, Asus4 ✅
  • Minor chords with add 9 – Am add9 ✅
  • Minor sixth chords – Am6  ✅
  • Minor seventh chords, 9 and 11– Am7, Am9, Am11 ✅

✅How to improvise in the Dorian Mode

That’s it, suddenly you are playing in a song and you discover that it is on the second degree of the key, this must be the minor chord which corresponds to the Dorian mode. to have freedom of movement and how can you improvise, well, the first thing is to know the positions well and the second thing is to play the scale emphasizing the characteristic note of this one, the major sixth.

But you will say to me, of course that is very difficult! Well, I don’t deny it, but you must begin to differentiate the scales by the singular notes they contain.

Let’s take an example:

  • Play the natural minor scale of D
  • Play the Dorian scale of D

As you may have noticed, both scales start from the note D, but they contain a difference, the difference is the sixth note of the scale. That’s what you have to pay attention to.
When you want to sound Dorian you should emphasize the major sixth of the Dorian scale. But before we get down to business I would like you to listen to melodies that have been composed with the Dorian scale, also called modal themes. This will give you a melodic insight into these sides and will be a great help when improvising.

The song “So what” by Miles Davis

The song “Oye como va” by Manolo Santana

⚠️Dorian mistakes

Attention bass player, most people don’t understand modes, and by this I mean, when we talk about a particular song being in a mode, it’s because a set of rules must be met.

  • Each mode contains a characteristic note and this note must be in the melody of the song.
  • Each mode contains modal chords which contain the characteristic note.
  • In modal themes there are no dominant functions that evoke the main key.
  • That a song begins on the second degree of a scale as a major chord is not conclusive in determining that song to be in that particular mode.

⚠️Boulevard of broken dreams is not a Dorian song⚠️as many people believe, ⚠️nor is it, Wonerwall by Oasis⚠️.

Even though they start on the second degree of the key does not mean they are modal themes in Dorian the major sixth is never in the melody.

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet, if you have doubts ask me. On this I assure you that I can help you, it is my profession.

At this point, I understand that it can be difficult to digest the modes, in fact, many people are left with the idea that they are simply scales that start from the major scale.

If we want to make modal music or modal melodies we will have to pay attention to these rules, otherwise we will be falling into the ignorance of the modes.
Therefore, I want you to begin to differentiate the Dorian scale by its particularity from the characteristic note which is the major sixth.

Right now I have prepared a backing track for you to use the Dorian scale and see how it sounds.

It is a Dorian modal harmonic progression. That means, if you play the Dorian scale on top of these modal chords you will be able to feel the melodic sense of the Dorian mode.
You can rest on the sixth of the scale without any problem. You can make melodies that go through the sixth of the scale to get that modal flavor that I’m talking about.
If you want to make the Dorian mode sound try it.

This backing track is in D Dorian, you should use this scale over the modal chords.

After you have done it I want you to leave me a comment if you have never played the Dorian mode before.

Exercise for bass with the Dorian scale

Next I’m going to give you some guidelines with this bass exercise so you can use the Dorian mode with this backing track. I do this for bass players who are not familiar with modal music, follow these steps and you will get a taste of the Dorian mode:

Play the Dm7 quad arpeggio.
Try to rest on the minor seventh
Play the arpeggio again and slide your finger down a semitone from the minor seventh to the major sixth, which is the characteristic note of the Dorian mode.
Rest on that note and listen to what tension it makes in relation to the harmony.
Play the arpeggio with melody again, but this time unordered.
Try to go through the sixth of the scale, in this case the B note.
Use also the minor pentatonic scale of RE and also add a rest on the major sixth (B, in this example).

With these guidelines, as soon as you practice this exercise, you will finally see what a mode is, and what that particular mode sounds like.

It is very difficult to make a mode sound without harmony behind it, in this case, this backing track is an excellent tool to practice the Dorian mode.

Well, have you done it yet, I’d like to know what you think. Leave me a comment

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