How ToMusic Theory

Using pentatonic scales to create major modes: Dorian

Okay, to continue the idea of the last post, we’re going to superimpose pentatonic major scales over a minor chord/key to make dorian. First of all, what is the sound of dorian? The best pop tune example is Oye Como Va. You get a minor one chord, and a major four chord. Another example is the two five progression in jazz, which amounts to the same thing, interval-wise.

Let’s take C dorian: C D Eb F G A Bb C, notice that if this were pure C minor, the A would be an Ab; in other words, the raised sixth note makes it dorian. Now, you would play Eb major pentatonic over this: Eb F G Bb C. As you can see, this gets all the “minor” sounding notes: the flat 3rd and the flat 7th. This is the most “inside” choice to use over a minor chord. The next choice would be Bb major pentatonic: Bb C D F G. Try playing this over a C minor chord, and you get a much more ambiguous “outside” sound. The next choice is F major: F G A C D. This is the BIG choice of the three, as it has the A, which is the dorian note.

So to sum up, with a minor chord that you want to have a dorian sound, you have three choices: bIII/i (read flat three over one), bVII/i (read flat seven over one), and IV/i (read four over one). None of these choices are particularly outside, but each one definitely has its own sound that you can use to create tension and release, with the bVII/i and the IV/i being more tension oriented and the bIII/i being more release oriented.

An example in a different key would be, if you have an F minor chord, you would use Ab major pent, Eb major pent, and Bb major pent.

Hope you enjoy experimenting with these!

Next time, Phrygian!