Why is the 'standard chord' for Dorian b9 a sus chord? More specifically, a sus4. Instead of stacking triads, i often see people (most notably Rick Beato on youtube) use a sus chord on the first step of this mode. No real explanation is given anywhere apart from' this is the sound of the mode'.

Does anyone have an explanation of why we use a sus4(maybe add a b2) as the base-chord of dorianb2? And why do we not translate this further trhough the scale when we keep stacking chord tones? E.g. in Adorianb2: First chord is A, D, E; second chord is Bb, D, F#. Why not Bb, E, F#?

  • Would you add more detail? I'm unclear whether you mean that for your scale starting on A you're using notes from the ascending melodic minor scale starting on Bb or the one starting on G. Both present problems because the Bb minor scale does not contain D natural or E natural, so you couldn't have the A, D, E chord you describe, whilst the G minor scale doesn't contain an F natural so you couldn't have the Bb E F chord. Dec 7, 2018 at 13:02
  • I thought the triad on the first chord would be ACE. The second would be Bb D F#. Can't be Bb E F, as there's no F in A Dorian b9. That's augmented, and not a lot of use because of it. Gets even less use than the 1st chord of Locrian.
    – Tim
    Dec 7, 2018 at 13:18
  • It may be this 'standard chord' is sort of borrowing from quartal (based on 4ths rather than 3rds) style harmony. But the rest of your descriptions shows triads. I'm just not sure about it being a 'standard' approach to harmony. Dec 7, 2018 at 14:25
  • This theory seems to be from jazz harmony. Does jazz really use the melodic minor as a basis for generating chords? I thought the harmonic basis was diatonic (ii,V,I with a lot of tonal shifting and chromatic alteration) while the 'exotic' scales like modes of the melodic minor where melodic options matched to chords. Dec 7, 2018 at 14:42
  • I'm sorry. I was unclear. I meant the question in the context of Jazz harmony. So ascending and descending the same melodic minor scale. Also i mentioned F in the triads whilst it should be F# as Tim pointed out. Michael Curtis, this certainly is true for more 'old skool' jazz and swing, but in fusion and modern jazz these are go to chords and scales. Reharmonizing standards using 'exotic modes' is done all the time. I am not that much in to harmonic theory so i was hoping to get an answer here. Maybe its just a matter of taste turned into a dogma? Dec 7, 2018 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


I think this can largely be traced to Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book." Levine spends a great deal of time going through the modes of the melodic minor scale, which he believes is the key to the modern jazz sound (modern meaning post-1960s).

Levine has observed that it is common for jazz musicians to use the Dorian b2 mode over sus chords (and he supports this with examples). Even though it is theoretically possible to play the Dorian b2 over a pure minor chord, in practice musicians will choose regular Dorian in those situations.

So this is a convention based more out of practice than pure theory.


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