What Is The Dorian Pentatonic Scale, Learn to build and play dorian pentatonic scales on guitar
The Professor
Jun 4 2013, 08:28 AM
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What Are Dorian Pentatonic Scales

Though many of us learn and use the Minor Pentatonic Scale in our soloing, we tend to stop there when it comes to exploring minor sounds in our pentatonic scales.

While the minor pentatonic scale can cover a lot of ground, sometimes we want to zoom in on a specific modal sound, such as a m6 chord or other tonality, and this is where the other minor-sounding pentatonic scales come into play.

In this lesson, we’ll take a look at the theory behind the Dorian Pentatonic Scale, how it is built, how to apply it to your soloing and a few common fingerings that you can explore in the practice room.

How to Build a Dorian Pentatonic Scale

The Dorian Pentatonic Scale is built from the following interval pattern.

Root - 2 - b3 - 5 - 6

Notice that this is only 1 note different from the Major Pentatonic Scale, the 3rd has been flattened. This will help you learn this scale as you can take any Major Pentatonic Scale shape you know, lower the 3rd note and you will have created a Dorian Pentatonic Scale shape.

You can see these notes laid out in tab and notation for an A Dorian Pentatonic Scale here.

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You can also think of the Dorian Pentatonic Scale as being a fragment of the corresponding Dorian Scale.

If you have an A Dorian Scale, A B C D E F# G A, and you take out the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes, A B C E F#, you now have a Dorian Pentatonic Scale.

To apply this scale in a soloing situation, you can use the Dorian Pentatonic Scale over just about any minor-sounding chord, depending on style, and it will work to varying degrees of success.

It works over Minor chords, as well as m7, m6, m9 and m11 chords, which is why it can be used over a variety of progressions when using this scale to build solos on the guitar.

2 Common Dorian Pentatonic Scale Fingerings

To help get you started, here are two common fingerings for the A Dorian Pentatonic Scale, one with a 6-string root, and one with a 5-string root.

Try memorizing these Dorian Pentatonic scales in the key of A first, then take them to the other 11 keys around the neck as you expand on these scale shapes in your guitar practice routine.

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Dorian Pentatonic Scale Practice Guide

To finish up, here are a number of ways that you can practice Dorian Pentatonic scales in order to get the fingerings, and theory, behind these scales under your fingers and into your guitar playing.

1. Sing the root note, A for example, and play the corresponding Dorian Pentatonic Scales over that root.
2. Play a root note on the guitar, A for example, and then sing the corresponding Dorian Pentatonic Scale over that root note.
3. Say the note names, or interval numbers, such as A B C E F# or 1 2 b3 5 6, as you play and sing the notes in the above exercises.
4. Put on a static vamp, Am, Am6, Am7, Am9 or Am11 for example, and practice soloing over those chords using the related Dorian Pentatonic Scale as the basis for your solo.
5. Repeat any/all of the above exercises in all 12 keys.

Do you have a question or comment about Dorian Pentatonic Scales? If so, share them in the comments section below this thread.

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Simon Love
Nov 20 2017, 06:02 PM
Posts: 4
Joined: 1-February 12
Just for your reference, the scale you've shown here is actually the minor 6th pentatonic and not the Dorian Pentatonic. The Dorian Pentatonic is actually the Dorian Scale with the 4th and the 6th removed - running down that would be tonic, flat7th, 5th, minor 3rd, 2nd and root.

The three main modal Pentatonics are all derived from major & minor primary triads with the 2nd added to create what is the most common melodic cells in jazz - The 1,2,3,5 and 1,2,b3,5 - Once we have this basic, major/minor 4 note cell, we can add various single note extensions to create different flavoured pentatonics (any 5 note scale essentially) e.g.

Ionian Pentatonic = 1,2,3,5+7
Mixolydian Pentatonic = 1,2,3,5 +b7
Dorian Pentatonic = 1,2,b3,5, +b7

Remember that in musical theory, 7th/b7th has precedence over 6th/b6th. Since the Dorian scale contains both a flat 7th AND a sixth, then the b7th wins out, because of its hierarchal importance over 6th/b6th. If a b7th AND a b3rd are not present in a Pentatonic condensation of a classical Dorian mode, then it cannot be a Pentatonic Dorian since the flat 7th & flat 3rd are the all important 'colour tones' of the Dorian scale.

To understand this more clearly, think of it like this - The major Pentatonic, can also be accurately described as the major 6th Pentatonic because of its spelling e.g. 1,2,3,5 + 6th - The scale you've shown is the same except for the flat 3rd which means your scale is the minor 6th pentatonic...

I'm quite knowledgeable on the topic of so called Modal Pentatonics because I've studied them extensively.

Hope this helps to clear up any confusion.

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This post has been edited by Simon Love: Nov 20 2017, 06:16 PM
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