What is The Dorian Mode?

Music consists of many different scales, also called modes. Some of these scales are more well-known than others, such as a major scale and a minor scale.

However, there are lots of different modes. One of these modes is called the Dorian mode.

In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the Dorian mode, what it is, and how it is formed. Then we’ll go over some examples of the Dorian mode in modern music.

Let’s start by talking about the definition of modes.

What are Modes in Music?

A scale is a group of ascending or descending notes, such as C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C. 

A mode is a particular kind of scale. 

The modal scales (also known as modes) are a series of seven different diatonic scales.

C major scale is a good example of Ionian mode. The notes are C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. In whole steps and half steps, the pattern is W W H W W W H.

Here is a chart of the different music modes and their note patterns:

Iconian ModeC – D – E – F – G – A – BW W H W W W H
Dorian ModeD – E – F – G – A – B – CW H W W W H W
Phyrgian ModeE – F – G – A – B – C – DH W W W H W W
Lydian ModeF – G – A – B – C – D – EW W W H W W H
Mixolydian ModeG – A – B – C – D – E – FW W H W W H W
Aeolian ModeA – B – C – D – E – F – GW H W W H W W
Locrian ModeB – C – D – E – F – G – AH W W H W W W

For more information about modes, check out our post on the Mixolydian mode HERE.

Different modes all start on a different note, but we assume that the base key is C major. Notice how the Dorian mode starts on D, but does not contain an F#.

The important thing to remember with modes is the whole step and half step patterns.

Modes might start on a different note. But the whole steps and half steps are the determining factor between major scale (Iconian mode), minor scale (Aeolian mode), and everything in between.

What is the Dorian Scale?

Now that we’ve talked about modes, what is the Dorian mode specifically?

Assuming we start in the key of C major, the first note of the Dorian mode is D.

D Dorian mode notes on the music staff

The pattern of whole steps and half steps in Dorian mode is W H W W W H W.

This means you can transpose the Dorian mode to any key, as long as the notes follow the pattern of W H W W W H W.

Dorian Mode Degrees

The Dorian scale is a minor mode. This means that the third and seventh notes of the scale are flattened (lowered by one half step).

The minor third and minor seventh make this mode sound a bit sad. However, it has a brighter sound than the other minor modes, and it’s an interesting scale to use in compositions.

Here are the Dorian scale intervals, in order:

  • 1. Root
  • 2. Major second
  • b3. Minor third
  • 4. Perfect fourth
  • 5. Perfect fifth
  • 6. Major sixth
  • b7. Minor seventh.

Remember, the difference between the Dorian scale and other scales is the pattern of whole steps and half steps. (W H W W W H W.)

List of Notes in Dorian Scales

So in our examples, we started the Dorian scale on D.

Starting with D, the notes would be D C E F G A B C.

But what if you wanted to start on a different note, or use a different key?

Here is a list of all the Dorian mode scales, and the notes for each one.

CC D Eb F G A Bb C
C#C# D# E F# G# A# B C#
DbDb Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb Cb Db
DD E F G A B C D
D#D# E# F# G# A# B# C# D#
EbEb F Gb Ab Bb C Db Eb
EE F# G A B C# D E
FF G Ab Bb C D Eb F
F#F# G# A B C# D# E F#
GbGb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb Fb Gb
GG A Bb C D E F G
G#G# A# B C# D# E# F# G#
AbAb Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb Ab
AA B C D E F# G A
BbBb C Db Eb F G Ab Bb
BB C# D E F# G# A B

Music Written in Dorian Mode

One of the most obvious examples of music in Dorian mode is “So What” by Miles Davis.

This song is mostly written in D Dorian scale, meaning all the white notes of the piano starting with D.

Later in the song, it modulates to Eb Dorian scale.

Another example of music written in Dorian mode is “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd.

This song is written in F Dorian mode.

Dorian Mode Summary

The Dorian mode is a musical mode scale that follows a certain pattern of whole steps and half steps.

Jessica Roberts
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