Named after the blue fish in Finding Nemo, the Dorian Minor Scale is a way to instantly sound cool, and clever…
You say to someone you play the normal minor scale, they’ll be like, “meh”.
You say to someone you play the Dorian minor scale, they’ll be like, “Shiver me timbers!” and then faint or something.
So today I’ll be going over how to play, connect and use all 5 B Dorian Minor Scale guitar shapes so that you can sound like a soloing pro, in no time.
B Dorian – Shape 1
Ooh, fun(ish) fact before I show you the first shape… The Dorian minor scale is actually really similar to the normal minor scale.
Natural minor: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Dorian minor: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
The only difference is that the 6th note of the scale is a major 6th instead of a minor 6th. This gives that groovy Dorian sound. *Mind blown.
So, here’s the first shape:
Woah there! What do all those colours mean?!
Aha! How sweet of you to ask…
Red = Tonic/Root note (B, in this case). Blue = The other notes of a B minor chord.
You’ll want to spend some time really noticing these notes as you go through practising. Just like how you know the exact isle, shelf and column of your favourite chocolate bar in the local supermarket.
Green = The note that sounds super Dorian.
This is that major 6th that differs in a Dorian scale compared to a normal minor scale. So hit this, and you’ll get some proper colour out of this thing.
I like to call these kinds of coloured notes, Bingo notes.
That’s because these are the notes that you’ll be aiming for when you start soloing with this scale in the future. Why? Because hitting the Bingo notes makes your solos instantly more melodic.
And to make sure that you can hit these notes in your soloing, I recommend pausing on each one as you go up and down the scale:
This way, you’ll get used to knowing where these notes are so that you can hit them on the fly.
Would he care that I nicked his idea? Yeah, probably. But if he wants to take me on, then tell him to meet me down the park in 5 minutes for a man’s game of Uno. That’ll show him…
B Dorian – Shape 2
Now that that’s settled, let’s get on the 2nd B Dorian guitar scale shape.
Notice how the top half of this shape is the exact same as the bottom half of Shape 1? So if we connected shapes 1 and 2 next to each other to make 1 large shape, then we’d get this:
It’s this way of thinking that’ll enable us to connect all the scale shapes and slide between them like a giraffe on ice.
And there’s a few things that we can do to make life easier for ourselves along the way.
*How to Connect Scale Shapes Properly
We want to learn the scale shapes like Buddhas, and make them all feel in harmony together as one…
And learning all 5 B Dorian guitar scale shapes at once will have a very unharmonious effect, that will probably upset a lot of Buddhas.
So to make sure we achieve scale shape fluency, I recommend using The Glue Method:
Man, that name still kicks ass!
- Step one is to choose 2 shapes (in this case, shapes 1 & 2), and practice them separately for a bit. Just get comfortable with how to play both the shapes, ready for the next step.
- Now ascend through Shape 1 to the highest note, then slide up to the highest note of Shape 2, and descend through Shape 2.
And you can even invert this by ascending through Shape 2, sliding down to Shape 1 when you reach the top, and descending through Shape 1.
3. This time, ascend through Shape 1 as normal, but slide up to the extra Shape 2 notes on each string.
And again, you can invert this by descending through Shape 2 and sliding down to the lower notes in Shape 1 on each string too.
This is the stuff that’ll really help to connect those two shapes.
- Have a go improvising between the shapes you’ve just connected. Slide about and try to form some kind of musicalness, just playing whatever comes naturally.
It doesn’t have to sound great, just get that improvisation ball rolling. If you still feel a bit hesitant when sliding between them, just repeat step 3 until they’re nicely conjoined.
And then once you’ve done that, congrats! You’ve successfully glued the two B Dorian guitar shapes together like a professional glue artist.
Yes, that is actually a thing…
And when you learn any extra shapes, just use the Glue Method again to connect them to a shape you already know.
B Dorian – Shape 5
If you’ve ever read any of my other blog posts on learning scales like a boss, you’ll know that I like teaching Shape 5 after Shape 2.
Why do I do that? I do that because it aggravates people and enriches my inbox with abusive emails :).
I actually do it because it connects nicely to the top half of Shape 1. This means that we can form a nice 5-1-2 megashape with our home Shape 1 cosy in the middle.
It also means that we unlock a whole new direction that we can go when improvising, and we don’t get stuck only ascending from Shape 1 because we just learnt the shapes upwards.
BAM! Audience speechless.
So here it is in all its glory:
Like with before, you’ll want to use the glue method to connect this bad boy to Shape 1.
Then you’ll be ready for more shapes!!!!!!!
And even more exclamation marks!!!!!!
B Dorian – Shape 3
Okay, Shape 3. I don’t really have anything interesting to say about Shape 3.
B Dorian – Shape 4
Whoop whoop! You’ve made it to the last shape. Everybody dance!
But when learning this shape, you have to promise me one thing…
You double glue it! This is the shape that completes the chain, so you’ll have to connect one end to Shape 3 and the other to Shape 5.
And once you’ve done that… then yeah, you’re done practising scale shapes.
Practice the Scale Vertically Too
Hahaha! You thought you were done practising scale shapes…
And to be fair, you mostly are. But before we get into actually using this scale, you should not neglect playing it on a single string too.
This’ll give you the power to make exciting phrasing, bend to higher notes in the scale, and even slide past entire shapes like they’re a broken down car on the side of the motorway. “So longgggg, hahaha!”.
So make sure you have a go at that. All the pros do it, so you should too.
Get the Dorian Flavour
Alright, let’s start having some fun.
When you’ve learnt a new scale, I think it’s really important that you get a feel for the colour of it. And for that, I recommend finding a drone pedal, and improvising over the top.
It’s my favourite thing to do in the entire world apart from going up staircases two steps at a time, and it just gives you a natural instinct for the different notes in the scale.
You’ll find the tense ones, the colourful Dorian ones, the homey ones, and the ones that are as boring as a pencil sharpener. And that’ll give you wayyyy more control over the notes you play in your improv.
Plus, as you learn more scales and modes in the future, you’ll be able to associate each with different colours and feels.
So just play about. Land on different notes and get to know the scale.
Tips to Improvise with Dorian Like a Pro
So we all know by now that just learning a scale ain’t gonna make you sound good.
And when I was learning, everyone online said the only way to make melody was just to practice with the scale and see what works.
And because that’s the most useless advice ever, here are some actually helpful tips to help you improve your improvisation…
Actually Helpful Tip 1: Hit the Bingo Notes
I briefly mentioned this earlier, but hitting those “home” notes at the end of runs, phrases and bends is where it is at.
It’ll stop you sounding like you’re just playing a scale, and will help to form some actual melody. So shimmy about, take two steps to the right, jump up and down and then BAM! Cap it on a Bingo note.
Actually Helpful Tip 2: Don’t use every note, please…
Oh my. If there’s one way to sound like a guitar playing robot instantly, it’s to play every note in the scale, all the time.
And that’s because as soon as you start playing so many different notes, they all lose their colour.
What do you get when you mix blue and yellow? Green. Yay!
What do you get when you mix blue, red and yellow? Browny green. Yuck!
*No offense to the 0.001% reading this who like actually browny green*
So skip notes & strings freely and ignore some like they’re an annoying sibling. Everything will start to sound better, trust me.
Actually Helpful Tip 3: Hit the notes of each chord
Ever wonder how some guitarists just make every note sound right? They’ll play a melody, and finish it on a note that makes you just go Ooooooooh.
That’s because they’ve probably just hit the Bingo note of a new chord.
This is a more advanced step btw, so if you’re new to improv, you might want to come back to this idea at a later stage.
Earlier, we learnt about using the B Dorian guitar scale as a route to hit the B minor Bingo notes. And this will 100% make you sound more melodic.
But when the E minor comes around, there are still notes that will sound better over Em than Bm. And these’ll be the notes of the E minor chord, aka, the E minor Bingo notes.
So as the Em chord comes around, you can still use the B Dorian guitar scale as passing notes, but just make an effort to land on Em chord notes instead. Then as the D chord comes, aim to hit the notes of a D chord.
To achieve this, you can either learn the major and minor arpeggio shapes, then aim to hit the notes of each chord’s arpeggio as it comes around. (My preferred method).
Or you can learn all the notes on the fretboard. Then hit the chord notes as they come if you know them.
Nope this ain’t easy, but oh boy will you sound like a pro.
Actually Helpful Tip 4: Use suspended notes
Finally got your head around that? Great! Because Joe Satriani aims to do the complete opposite.
He’ll try to hit the suspended 2nd, 4th and 6th notes of a chord first, then resolve to the cosy Bingo note, after.
This is just extra stuff at this point, but is cool to know about. Here’s his explanation on that if it sounds cool to you:
Awesome B Dorian Guitar Licks
Alright, let’s get this cuisine under way. My finest B Dorian minor inspired guitar licks, coming right up!
The Beverage – Lick 1:
Just a bit of Dorian flavour there to whet your appetite.
This is a great example of how to combine the Minor Pentatonic scale with that expressive Dorian 6th to create some epic sounds.
The Cheese Platter – Lick 2:
The tab maker I use doesn’t let me do this – Dammit! – but after each 12th fret bend, you’ll want to pull off to the 10th fret instead of picking it. Oh, and that’s also meant to be a slide from the 12th to the 14th fret at the end of the 1st bar.
Tab issues aside, MAN this is a sweet sounding lick. Some small, bluesy bends, one or two pull offs, and a couple of slides… What’s not to like?
The Appetizer – Lick 3:
You wanted groove, you got groove! And that’s what Dorian is all about, ladies and gentlemen.
So enjoy having a bash at that before we get into the meaty bit…
The Main Course – Lick 4
Mmmm hmmm, that double stop bend at the end just kicks ass.
To us shredders, that’s the guitar equivalent of a stuffed crust pizza.
The Gourmet Dessert – Lick 5
This lick is so good that it even needs an intro:
Intro over, here’s the lick.
Thank you, thank you, oh you’re making me blush…
Now if that ain’t gonna win me a Michelin Star, I don’t know what will.
It’s just awesome! Not to brag, of course…
Anyway, all of these licks will work in B Dorian. Particularly over chord progressions using the B Dorian scale!
The Chords in the Dorian Scale
How’s that for a smooth transition? In case you weren’t aware, each scale has a set of chords that you can use with it.
We make these chords using the notes of that very scale.
So here’s a quick method to find them all out:
- Draw a 7 x 5 grid
2. In the second row from the bottom, write out the notes of the scale you want to find the chords for. In this case, I’ll write out the notes of the B Dorian guitar scale.
If you don’t know the notes in the scale you want to write with, then just go onto Google Images and type in, “Notes in the (insert your scale here) scale”.
3. Fill in the notes of the tonic chord vertically.
We are in B minor here, so I’ll write out a B minor chord. (Again, Google will tell you the notes in the tonic chord if you don’t know them)
4. Write out the scale twice more, starting from each new B minor chord note.
BOOYAKASHA! These are the notes in each chord in the B Dorian scale. And it wasn’t that hard, was it?
But at the moment, this just looks like a big bundle of notes. So let’s figure out whether each chord is major or minor.
5. Figure out each chord type
The best way to do this is to either make a chord out of these notes on your guitar and see whether the chord sounds major (yay), minor (sad) or diminished (death!).
Or if you know music theory, then you’ll be able to figure out the chord type by looking at the notes.
Either way, once you’ve figured out what type it is, just write it in that bottom row underneath the corresponding chord. A capital numeral for major (IV), lower case for minor (iv), and a lower case with a degree sign for diminished (iv°).
By the way, this Roman numeral sequence will be the same for EVERY Dorian key. E.g. the 4th chord in the C Dorian scale will also be major, and the 5th chord, minor etc.
EL BONÚS STEP: Add the 7th notes of each chord.
To achieve another level of spice, write the 7th note (A) of the B Dorian guitar scale in the top column. Then fill in the rest of the scale from there again.
|A (m7)||B (m7)||C# (maj7)||D (7)||E (m7)||F# (m7b5)||G# (maj7)|
And voilà. Then you can figure out what type of 7th you can add to jazz up a chord prog.
Speaking of chord progs…
Writing Some B Dorian Chord Progressions
Nailed it! MAN are my transitions on fire today…
Aaanyway, you might be wondering… Oh! Sam of Beast Mode Guitar, how do I write my own chord progressions?
Well, it’s as simple as chucking a few chords together and seeing what sounds good.
But to know what chords you can chuck together, you’ll need your chord grid handy to help.
Here’s a few that sounded nice to me:
- i – IV (Bm – E)
Oi, just because I only used two chords in a chord progression doesn’t make me lazy. It makes me a “minimalist”.
Anyway, this 2 chord progression perfectly encapsulates the Dorian sound.
Particularly when you add in a 7th to the chords.
i (m7) – IV (7) (Bm7 – E7)
- i – III – v – IV (Bm – D – F#m – E)
Then toss in a 7th or two.
i (m7) – III – v (m7)- IV (Bm7 – D – F#m7 – E)
Then throw in all the 7ths, ahhhhhhhh!
i (m7) – III (maj7) – v (m7)- IV (7) (Bm7 – Dmaj7 – F#m7 – E7)
- i – VII – IV – IV(7) (Bm – A – E – E7)
And why not add some more 7ths again. I mean, they’re free, right?
i (m7) – VII (maj7) – IV – IV(7) (Bm7 – Amaj7 – E- E7)
So knock yourself out with those home-grown Dorian progs.
Improvise over them, draw inspiration from them, or just flat-out steal them, play them off as your own and become a world-famous musician. Doesn’t bother me.
But if you have a deep and vengeful hatred for all of those progressions, then feel free to use the chord grid and make your own.
Wrapping it Up
Dorian… Dorian… Wherefore art thou Dori-
Whoops, didn’t see you there… #awkward.
Anyway, the B Dorian guitar scale is an awesome scale with a unique flavour. And it works great with the Minor Pentatonic scale for all you blues guys out there.
Just make sure you glue the shapes properly as you go along. Then you can start learning to use the scale like a pro… like me.
And on that arrogant note, I’ve been Sam Olverson,
P.S. If you want to learn the notes on the fretboard so that you can follow chord changes with more precision, click here to view my post on that.