Does the following collection represent a Gregorian chant mode, or is it a scale?

Gregorian mode?

(cf. "How to know if it's a mode or scale?" or these resources on the 8 modes of chant)

3 Answers 3


This is the C-Dorian scale. We know this because Dorian lowers the third and seventh of the major scale, so from C major:


we just lower the third and seventh (E and B) to get the collection you posted.

(Dorian is also the natural minor scale with a raised sixth, if you want to go that route. You'll get the same result.)

As for whether or not it's a mode or a scale: in this case, it's kind of both. (It's a bit like how a square is a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares.) This is a scale of the C-Dorian mode.

With such little context, I think it's better to ask "What collection is this?" instead of "Is this a mode or a scale?"

Edit: Just to add some further clarification, a mode is often understood as a rotation of a scale. So if we take the B♭-major scale:

B♭ C D E♭ F G A B♭

we can "rotate" it to begin on different members of that scale. If you rotate to start on C, you get:

C D E♭ F G A B♭ C

the exact same C Dorian from your question.


Another way of looking at this is that all of the notes belong in a major scale and key. The key of Bb major. When a set of notes starts and centres on the second note of the major scale, it's known as Dorian mode. And because this set starts on C, it's C Dorian. Please note - it's not known as Bb Dorian - for reasons Richard has noted.


It's a scale in the Dorian mode transposed down a whole step (C → B♭).


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