Bass Scales - Dorian Scale

01
of 07

Bass Scales - Dorian Scale

bass guitar
Hinterhaus Productions | Getty Images

The dorian scale is a useful variation of the minor scale. It is the same, except with the sixth note of the scale raised by a half-step. Like a minor scale, it sounds cool or sad, but the dorian scale has a slightly hallow, gothic touch to its character.

The dorian scale is one of the modes of the major scale, meaning that it uses the same pattern of notes but starts in a different place. If you play a major scale starting on the second note, you get a dorian scale.

Let's go through the different hand positions you use to play a dorian scale. You may wish to read about bass scales and hand positions if you haven't already.

02
of 07

Dorian Scale - Position 1

This fretboard diagram shows the first position of the dorian scale. To find this position, locate the root of the scale on the fourth string and put your first finger on it. Here, you can also play the root on the second string.

Notice the "q" and "L" shapes made by the notes. Looking at these shapes is a great way to memorize the hand positions.

In this position, the notes on the fourth string are played in one spot, and the notes on the first and second strings are played with your hand shifted back one fret. The two notes on the third string can be played either way. Often it is easiest to use your first and fourth fingers for them, letting you transition easily up or down.

03
of 07

Dorian Scale - Position 2

This is the second position of the dorian scale. It is two frets higher than the first position (from the fourth string notes; it is three frets higher than the first and second string notes of first position). Here, the root is under your first finger on the second string.

Notice that the "L" shape from the right side of first position is now on the left. On the right is a shape much like a natural sign.

04
of 07

Dorian Scale - Position 3

Two frets higher than second position is third position. In this position, the root is located under your fourth finger on the third string.

Now the natural sign shape is on the left and on the right is an upside-down "L" shape.

05
of 07

Dorian Scale - Position 4

Fourth position is three frets up from third position. Like first position, this one has two parts. The notes on the third and fourth strings are played with your hand in one spot, and the notes on the first string are played a fret back from there, with the second string working both ways.

Here, you can play the root on the third string with your first finger, or on the fourth string with your fourth finger and your hand moved back a fret.

The upside-down "L" is on the left side now, and a shape like a "b" is on the right.

06
of 07

Dorian Scale - Position 5

Finally, we get to fifth position, two frets higher than fourth (or three, if you go by the first string) and two frets lower than first. The root can be found under your first finger on the first string or under your fourth finger on the fourth string.

The "b" shape from fourth position is now on the left, and the "q" shape from first position is on the right.

07
of 07

Bass Scales - Dorian Scale

Practice the scale by playing it up and down in each of the five positions. Start from the root and go up to the highest note, then go down all the way to the lowest note, then back up to the root. Start on different notes. When you feel comfortable with each position, try switching between them. Play a two-octave scale, or just mess around.

Dorian scales can come in handy. If you are trying to make up a bass line or solo over a minor chord, you could use a dorian scale. A minor scale might be better, but sometimes the raised sixth note of the dorian scale adds a very nice touch. A lot of modern pop songs make use of dorian instead of minor, so you may find it useful here and there.