In medieval and modern music, the Dorian mode is a diatonic (seven-note) scale or musical mode which corresponds to the white keys of the piano from D to D. It may be considered an “excerpt” of a major scale played from the pitch a whole tone above the major scale's tonic, i.e., a major scale played from its second scale degree up to its second degree again. The resulting scale is minor, because as the D becomes the new tonal centre the minor third between the D and the F makes us “hear minor”. If we build a chord on the tonic, third and fifth, it is a minor chord.
The difference between the Dorian mode and the modern natural minor (Aeolian) scale is well exemplified in the relative “hardness” of the 6th note of the tune. In the modern minor scale, this note would be a semitone lower about half of the time. You can also say that the Dorian mode is equivalent to the natural minor scale but with the sixth degree raised by a semitone.
An interesting fact: the Dorian mode is the only mode that is symmetric, meaning that the pattern of tones and semitones (T-s-T-T-T-s-T) is the same ascending or descending.
Some notable compositions in Dorian mode:
- “Scarborough Fair”
- “Drunken Sailor”
- “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles
- “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple
- “So What” by Miles Davis
Two-octave Dorian scales are also available: PDF