As a musician, you will come across many types of scales in music. While some may appear to be more familiar than others, there are a series of scales called modes. Modes are a type of scale based on one major scale, and of those that you will see is called the Dorian mode. 

The Dorian mode has become a very popular seven-note scale that has been put to use by many musicians. To help you get a better understanding of what it is, we will go over the important details.

What Is a Scale?

A scale is what a mode is created from. There are several intervals in a major scale:

  • 1. The root of the scale
  • 2. A whole step up from the root
  • 3. A whole step up from the second
  • 4. A half step up from the third
  • 5. A whole step up from fourth
  • 6. A whole step up from the fifth
  • 7. A whole step up from the sixth

There is also a natural minor scale, which is similar to a major scale, with some half steps where the whole steps used to be, making it an octave higher:

  • 1. The root of the scale
  • 2. A whole step up from the root
  • 3. A half step up from the second
  • 4. A whole step up from the third
  • 5. A whole step up from the fourth
  • 6. A half step up from the fifth
  • 7. A whole step up from the sixth 

 Because of the seven intervals, seven modes can be built off of it and can start in any degree of the scale. 

What Is a Mode?

A mode features a series of seven-note scales that are based on the major scale. They are put together by playing a major scale but starting on a different degree of the scale. 


  • C Ionian Mode: C D E F G A B. This major scale pattern starts on the root. It shares the same set of notes as the C major scale. 
  • D Dorian Mode: D E F G A B C. Starting on the second degree. This mode is a cousin to the minor scale and has become quite popular due to being used by musical artists like The Beatles in their song Eleanor Rigby, Michael Jackson in Billie Jean, and Miles Davis in So What.
  • E Phrygian Mode: E F G A B C D. In the third degree. According to Master Class, it features a minor tonality used to produce Arabian, Spanish, and North American music. 
  • F Lydian Mode: F G A B C D E. In the fourth degree. This mode creates an inspirational and uplifting sound popular in films and from composers like John Williams.
  • G Mixolydian Mode: G A B C D E F. In the fifth degree. This mode can be heard among the rock and blues scenes. 
  • A Aeolian Mode: A B C D E F G. In the sixth degree. Features the same note pattern as a minor scale. 
  • B Locrian Mode: B C D E F G A. In the seventh degree. This mode is rarely used, as it is considered dense and does not sound very pleasant. It is often used by musicians over diminished chords. 

Name Origin

Interestingly enough, all of the modes are named after cultures and religions found in ancient Greece. When looking at Homer’s Odyssey, “Dorian” is referred to as a group of people found in ancient Greek culture. 

The Dorian Mode

Often referred to as the Doric mode, the Dorian mode is the second of the seven mode scale. If you were to play all the notes in C major but started on D, you will have successfully played the Dorian scale. 

A combination of sad and brighter-sounding music can be made by using these scales, which other minor modes don’t have. 

Why Learn It?

If you are planning to write music, you will have more options by learning about modes. Each mode can be utilized to create different sounds of music, which is perfect for anyone wanting to play around with different genres.

Each of the modes can create a specific kind of mood. For example, the Lydian mode is quite effective in creating the improvisational intervals that are found in jazz music, while the Ionian mode creates a more upbeat feeling that is found in pop songs. The Dorian mode is known for its ability to produce both a melancholic and optimistic range of music, which provides more opportunities and fun for a musician to have. 

How To Learn?

Learning how to use the Dorian mode, as well as the other six, is not too difficult to achieve. Once you know a major scale, you can take the same notes and just start on a different scale step, and you will have successfully played in a different mode. 

If you have any confusion or questions about how the modes work or how to use them, you can find numerous resources like online music lessons that can equip you with everything you need to know. 

Practicing your listening skills can be an asset to understanding how the Dorian mode works. The Dorian mode can be tricky to track but can be found in many rock or metal songs. Songs that you can listen out for are Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd, Get Lucky by Daft Punk, Blue Jeans by Lana Del Ray, and Wicked Game by Chris Isaak. By actively listening for its use in other musical arrangements, you will be training yourself to know when it is present in a song. 

Not only can learning about the modes of music help you strengthen your understanding of music theory, but it can also improve how you play. There are countless instruments that something like the Dorian mode can be utilized on, from guitar to piano or violin; the choices are endless. Look into Academy of Music today to begin the betterment of your musical ambitions.