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I understand that Dorian is a commonly used mode in rock. I am starting to play / improvise in the mode and would like to learn some guitar solos that are good examples of this scale so that I see how other people use it. What are some famous solos in contemporary or classic rock that make use of this scale / mode?

Update: I asked the question in this form because I thought it was more genericly useful, but some of the answers aren't quite getting at the question because they're assuming I'm a begininer (which is how I phrased the question) and giving other advise. I'm a teacher, and I find that my students learn scales, theory, and improvisation much better if they learn it in the context of a song they might know. I was looking for some new examples to change up my teaching a little. I didn't ask about minor pentatonic, because it's everywhere and is easy enough to find.

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Johnny B. Goode –  luser droog Dec 10 '11 at 20:57

5 Answers 5

It's absolutely not a rock solo (and would likely need some adaptation to move to rock from the fingerpicking style it is written in) but your stated purpose is that your pupils learn better in the context of songs they know. So for whatever it may be worth, check out this arrangement of Greensleeves. In a manner this is cheating since the known early sources of that song are actually in Minor. But no need to tell that to people and the Dorian runs in that arrangement are both basic and catchy.

Others mentioned Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel. Again, not really rock. Also fingerpicking style and quite cleverly done. I prefer using the traditional lyrics with that accompaniment, but of course you can only get a faithful transcription of the Simon accompaniment in music stores, and it turns out that there are quite a number of non-improvements among the versions you can find.

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Don't know about solos, but some classic songs that are in Dorian mode are:

  • Break On Through (To the Other Side) - The Doors
  • Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles
  • Scarborough Fair - Simon and Garfunkel
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It's not a guitar solo, but that said, nothing will help you to understand the Dorian mode as well as Miles Davis's solo to "So What" off of Kind Of Blue. It's basically a primer on "What is the Dorian mode and how you can use it in a solo." Maybe later, I'll post the tab for the first several bars.

Update: Here are the first eight bars of the solo as I play it, somewhat oversimplified (I've taken out much of the inflection).

$e 10 | $D 12 | $D 12 $B 10 $G 12 $B 10 | $D 12 12 | $D 12 $G 10 $B 10 $G 12 $B 10 | $D 12 $G 10 $B 10 $G 12 $B 10 | $B 13 12 13 12 10 | $G 10 $B 10 $G 12 $B 10 $D 12 12 |

(Btw: is there a way to post standard notation in addition to or instead of tab? I can't figure out how to notate the time values of the notes, and besides, the tab is sort of irrelevant to the discussion below; it's the actual pitches that are important.)

Right, so what's going on here? First of all, keep in mind that a Dorian scale is almost exactly like a minor scale, the only difference being that a Dorian has a major sixth instead of a minor sixth.

So Miles starts of with an emphatic statement of the key: high D to low D, which he lets sit there for an entire bar, playing no other notes to distract the ear from the D-ness of the beginning. Then he plays D-A-G-A-D-D; in other words roots, fourths, and fifths in the key of D. Can't get much more basic than that: he's saying "I'm playing in D, got it?".

Next phrase: mix in an F to get the third in there, so that we know it's D-Minor and not D-Major. So far, so good. We're five bars into this solo and he's played only roots, thirds, fourths, and fifths. Can you imagine playing this solo over a bebop tune? No ninths or thirteenths? No altered chord tones or tones from outside the scale? Not even a seventh, for crying out loud! For five whole bars, he's done nothing but play a D-Minor triad.

So ok, fine, so far Miles is saying, "Just in case you didn't already figure it out, I'm playing in D-Minor. That's D-MINOR, okay? Just making sure you all got it."

And then what? C-B-C-B-A. That's right: the seventh and the major sixth. It's not D-Minor after all: it's D-Dorian. And right after dropping that bomb, he plays F-A-G-A-D-D, echoing the A-G-A-D-D from bars 3-4, just to make sure we put it in context of the entire eight-bar phrase.

It's amazing stuff, even more so when placed in its historical context. Remember, this was the first modal jazz song. No one played like this or knew how to play like this: bebop songs changed chords every two beats---that's two chord changes per bar, and soloists used those changes like a scaffolding on which to hang their solos---and here comes Miles writing a song that stays on the same chord for sixteen bars in a row. It's as if Miles, in playing this solo, was saying, "Look, I've invented this totally new song structure, and you're not going to understand what to do with it unless I show you how, so let me start from first principles." Pure brilliance.

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Great update. Thanks a lot. –  yossarian Jan 25 '11 at 14:59
    
+1 Interesting stuff: btw how did you do the line through this? "Maybe later, I'll post the tab for the first several bars", is that horizontal rule in the editor? –  DRL Jan 25 '11 at 20:10
    
@DRL: I used the html entities <strike> and </strike>. –  Alex Basson Jan 25 '11 at 20:21
    
The commentary/analysis in this answer is riveting. I love it, sincerely. –  Michael Easter yesterday

Many jazz pieces in minor are based on the dorian mode. It is the preferred mode in jazz because it is not as dissonant as the other minor modes. Probably the most famous piece in dorian is Scarborough Fair.

Remember though that dorian is a mode and most pieces do not stay specifically in a single mode or key the whole song unless they are really short.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorian_mode

gives a few songs too...

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I think a lot of things David Gilmour did with Pink Floyd are Dorian based, check out Another Brick in the Wall Another brick in the wall solo

This is D Dorian / D (minor)pentatonic / D minor

You could also try jamming over the entire song. I love Gilmour's playing, he really makes it soar. All Pink Floyds music is worth a listen and also his solo work.

Edit:

Reference your other questions about minor and major solos this isn't an answer, but you can think of D Dorian as, A minor, and C Major.

You can think of D minor as F Major and G Dorian.

I find making these links helps me choose where to go next, and also how and where I might modulate into another key.

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Love that solo. –  Jduv Jan 24 '11 at 14:49

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