Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dorian in a Blues

Q: Any tips on using the dorian mode over a 12 bar blues?

A: The dorian mode looks a lot like the major pentatonic and minor pentatonic scale superimposed over one another. In this respect, it seems like a logical choice to use over the blues progression but there are problems with this approach. I think it is a little too bulky for this application myself and leaves out the most important note, the major 3rd over the "I" chord. I think better use for the dorian mode would be over the "IV" chord. Let me explain: let's say we are playing an A Blues, I might use:

1) A minor pentatonic scale over the A7 chord (this might just as well be the major pentatonic or combintation of the two as well).

2) The A dorian mode over the D7 chord. The A minor pentatonic scale sits inside the A dorian scale nicely and allows a lot of interplay.

The A dorian mode over the D7 chord is really just a D mixolydian mode, but relating it to the Blues key center of A makes it seem a lot simpler to me. Especially as I am way more familiar with the dorian mode than the mixolydian mode. Matter of fact you can think dorian up a 5th for any dominant chord: A7=E dorian, D7=A dorian and E7=B dorian. It is really a matter of perspective though. I am not really a big fan of using modes too much over blues, it seems to complicate something that was meant to be simple. I do however use the dorian (based on the "I" chord key) over the "IV" chord quite a lot, it creates a few moments of interest and creates a jazzy sound. Now, a jazz blues is a different thing all together, using modes is fine. I would also be using the lydian dominant and altered modes in this situation.

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