The second mode of the major scale is the Dorian mode. In the key of Bb Major, the second mode would be C Dorian. Shown below:
The Dorian Mode starts on the second note of the major scale and could be spelled:
2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 – using the example above this would be C D Eb F G A Bb C in the key of Bb.
The Dorian mode is more commonly spelled, and thought of, as the first note being “1.” This highlights the fact that The Dorian Mode is the same as the natural minor scale, but with a raised sixth note. This is spelled:
1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 1
In jazz, the dorian mode is often used to improvise over a minor seventh chord – regardless of whether that chord is the second chord in the current key. The reason is, the raised sixth tends to sound less dissonant than the flat sixth (sometimes considered a note to avoid) contained in natural minor.
To continue to use our C Dorian example: If one were to play C Dorian over a Cmin7 chord, the A might sound preferable to an Ab. Even if one is soloing in the key of Eb Major, which contains an Ab!
Experiment with using the Dorian mode over any min7 chord. You may be surprised of the possiblities!
Nate Dean is a session guitarist, arranger, Worship leader, and songwriter. He has played on hundreds of recording sessions in both Nashville and his hometown Kansas City.