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I'm currently jamming a song in G Major with focus on the A Minor. The chord progression goes Am C D. I know that the A Minor Blues Scale sounds pretty sleek, but I just have the feeling that A Dorian makes it a lot more interesting, which makes sense to me because I put the focus on the second chord of G Major which is A Minor.

Are there "compulsory" chord progressions in a Dorian Mode? Or can I just jam the Dorian scale over any progression that starts with the Dorian root and has chords the chords of the key? And theoretically I play a I IV V in A Dorian, which gives it this Bluesy/Funky feeling, a bit like Zappa.

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  • Sorry for my typos though :D – Finn May 9 '20 at 19:49
  • I'm not sure what you mean by "compulsory." Since it seems like you understand the theory of which scales contain which chords, it sounds like you have already answered your own question: The A dorian scale is a great choice for this progression. – Max May 12 '20 at 5:52
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    If the song is in Am and you notice that nobody is playing or singing an F note, it's your chance to throw in a D or Bm chord --> boom, you made a little bit Dorian! – piiperi Reinstate Monica May 12 '20 at 6:27
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There are no "compulsory" chords, but if the music is to sound Dorian, then you want to emphasize A and the total progression should have every note in the mode represented, so it could help to add a chord including 'b' in your progression, such as G Major, B minor or E minor. Depending upon how much you want to follow historical practice, a cadence involving E Major was often added.

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I put the focus on the second chord of G Major which is A Minor

Not only is A minor the "second chord" (i.e., the ii chord) of G major, but A Dorian is the "second mode" of G major. That is, the A Dorian and G major scales have the same key signature. Put another way, A dorian and G major have exactly the same pitches in them.

Are there "compulsory" chord progressions in a Dorian Mode?

In order to make a mode sound "modal", one should simultaneously emphasize the unique pitches in that mode — the ones that differentiate it from other, similar modes — and deemphasize the similarities.

Dorian and (natural) minor are very similar, differing only by the sixth note in the scale:
A minor = A B C D E F G
A dorian = A B C D E F# G
More specifically, a scalar passage in minor might contain adjacent F# and G#, F and G, or F and G#, but not F# and G – the latter is unique to Dorian.

Thus, to create a "dorian" chord progression, it helps to emphasize the shift from F# to G or G to F#. VI VII i and III ii i will accomplish this while also clarifying the tonic pitch, which is also necessary to ground the mode. (For example, if you emphasize G instead of A, it's going to wind up sounding like G major.) The progression mentioned in the OP, Am C D, is i III IV in A dorian and also prominently employs the F# G shift.

While i IV v also includes the tonic and the 5-6 (F# G) point of emphasis, the progression overall is so characteristic of major and minor that should be used carefully, if not avoided.

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