Shredding Dorian Blues – How to Play Blues Using the Dorian Mode

Dorian Blues

In this lesson you will learn:

  • Dorian Blues progression and Chords
  • Scales You can use to solo over the chords
  • Techniques you can employ to compose a solo
  • Improvising Ideas


Try playing a shuffle rhythm with these chords for one measure each. This is basic 12 bar blues progression. You can play it however you like rhythm wise. 

Dm Dm Dm Dm

G G Dm Dm

Am G Dm Dm

You can add 7ths if you wish, keeping in mind that we are in D Dorian which comes from C Major.

Dm7 Dm7 Dm7 Dm7

G7 G7 Dm7 Dm7

Am7 G7 Dm7 Dm7

…or 9ths

Dm9 Dm9 Dm9 Dm9

G9 G9 Dm9 Dm9

Am9 G9 Dm9 Dm9

You can combine all these chords as you wish. You can also use 6ths for the Dm chords and the G chords.

Dm7add6 (4x)

G6 (2x) Dm7add6 (4x)

Am9 G6 Dm7add6 Dm7add6

There you go… Dorian Blues Progressions. Now on to scales…



The scales you can use to solo with are the following:

D Dorian Blues Scale, D  Minor Pentatonic, D Major Pentatonic, or the D Minor Blues, D Major Blues

D Dorian is probably the most popular but you can use a plethora of other scales as well.

D Dorian Blues is the D Blues scale with an added B note.  D E F G G# A B C

Dm Pentatonic has the notes: D F G A C. You can simply bend up and release down to and from the B note to get that Dorian sound.

D Major Pentatonic has the notes: D E F# A B

You can also use C Major and C Major Pentatonic but you want to be thinking Dorian in your head so use it carefully paying attention to chord tones which I cover below.

D Minor Blues has: D F G G# A C

D Major Blues has: D E F F# A B

All of these scales are useful over this progression.

I know it might be kind of daunting or overwhelming.

Heres how to fix that: Don’t let it be daunting or overwhelming.

Thats it.

Decide that you will be the best guitar player you can be and thats it.

Simply ignore that daunting, overwhelming feeling.

Modes and Dominant Diminished Scale

You can use any mode in C Major since D Dorian is part of C Major, starting from the D Note.

If you have C D E F G A B you have C Major. If you simply start from the D you have D E F G A B C which is D Dorian.

This is the progression that I used. Im not sure what prompted me to use it. I dont remember right now, but it was probably a video, or something I read about that inspired me.

Immediately I was excited because Im not really a blues player. Doing the blues in Dorian mode however, was very appealing to me.

This is not to say that I dont play the blues.

I love using the Blues Scale but this Dorian thing got my juices flowing.

Here are some modal scales that you can use:

A Dominant Diminished – aka Half Whole Scale starting from the A note.

This gives you a b7 over the Am and also gives you an outside sound which may or may not be to your liking.

The Dominant Diminished Scale in A looks like this:

A, B flat, c, D flat, E flat, E, F#, G.

The G gives you your b7. The C gives you your minor 3rd, and the E gives you your 5th.

Now you also have a b9 in there which can spark some harmony interest. Am7b9 works well under this scale and with this progression.

Theres nothing that says that you can’t use chords with tones outside of the scale or progression you are using. This is what adds flavor and interest to a piece of music.

Not saying that staying in key doesn’t have any flavor. Im saying you have these OPTIONS!

With the Dominant Diminished Scale you can also have an A7 in there and use that scale.

For example: try A7 for beats 1 and 2 and then switch into Am7b9 for the next 2 before you hit the Dm7add6 chord again.

Doing this will be changing keys/modulating momentarily and you will not be in Dorian for the duration of that chord.

All in all  you have to experiment and find what YOU like to do. I cannot emphasize this enough.

If theres one thing that you take from this lesson its that….—> Be yourself on the guitar.

Find your voice.


Outside Notes

The notes that are considered outside of this Dorian Progression are any notes that are not in the Dorian mode (C Major).

Bb Eb Db and F# —> All of these notes are Outside notes. But all of these notes are only a HALF step away from an inside note. This means that you can bend up from any one of these notes and hit a chord tone, provided you know what chord you are playing over.

If you are playing over Dm7add6 you can bend the following notes:

Bb up to B / Db up to D

If you are playing over G6 or G7 you can bend:

F# up to G / Bb up to B / Db up to D

Over the Am7 for example you can bend:

F# up to G / Eb up to E / B up to C

All of these HALF STEP bends will give you an Exotic sound/feel. Really cool stuff.

One thing you have to remember when using this stuff is that you can’t be scared to use them. You must play them with Conviction. As if you meant to hit them.

So to recap really quickly: you can essentially use the A Dominant Diminished scale over all of these chords.

Pretty cool huh?

Maybe, maybe not. Remember its really up to you. As is everything in life. Its all up to you. Like Brian Tracy quotes “If its to be, its up to me.”

IF you turn that around and relate it to guitar it works the same way.

“If its to sound the way I want it to sound, its all up to me.” – Yours Truly


The G Mixolydian Mode

G Mixolyidan contains the notes of the C Major Scale starting from G.

Here we go: G A B C D E F G

You can use this scale over all the chords as well. All you have to ever do when using different scales is pay attention to the Harmony – (the Chords).

D Dorian

The D Dorian is D E F G A B C.

Same goes for this scale.


Chord Tones

This is the most important thing when soloing. Using chord tones. You could argue that vibrato is the most important thing, but if you use vibrato on the wrong note you’re doomed.

Chord tones are your bread and butter.

I will show you how using chord tones can be pretty easy to do.

All you have to do is simply play the actual chords perhaps an octave above but not necessary.

So when I did this progression I recorded it with power chords on the low strings.

For the G, I used a power chord with the B on top sort of like using the G barre chord but it wasn’t a barre because I didn’t use the top 2 strings. I simply wanted the B note to be present.

Now that we’ve gotten this far, heres the main thing you want to know about soloing over modal progressions.

This IS a modal progression if you didn’t pick up on that yet.

We are using chords from C Major but we are using Dm as our TONAL CENTER, meaning, we keep coming back to the Dm chord.

We start and end on the Dm.

Finally, the most important note…is B.

B is the characteristic note of the Dorian mode.

Why is this so?

The B is what gives you the Dorian sound.

Over the Dm if you play a B note it gives you the Dorian sound. It implies ….Dorian.

You want this note all over this progression.

If you don’t, it won’t sound so much Dorian, it will sound more like C Major or A minor.

Tactics and Techniques for Soloing

Using 3 Notes

B E and F

Using one Position

The 5th position or the 17th position

From string 4 – 5 7 4 5 7 6 8

From string 5 – 5 7 8 5 7 9 5 7

From string 6 – 5 7 8 5 7 8 5 7

To hit the top frets add 12 frets to these notes.

Slow somber melodies using 2 note motives.

Play in 8th notes.

Play in 3rds.

When I went through these for some reason they were my favorite along with the 3 notes b e and f.

Try Single Strings



Use some bends. like bending up to the C note implying a Dm7 chord. Bending up to the F from the E note. From the A note to the B notes. Let it ring on those B notes.

For extra emphasis on Dorian feel use Dm7add6.

I don’t really like doing this as I’d rather another instrument do it such as piano or strings but you can definitely do it.

Plus it takes away from the power (the power of the power chords). I like Iron Blues if you will. The heavier the better. Not always, but usually. 😉

For Shredding

Use the 3 nps patterns in C Major that I’m sure everyone here knows pretty well.


So go ahead and shred with Dorian Blues you might get a kick out of it!


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