Carlos Santana is a big user user of the Dorian mode. In this course, we will discuss firstly what the Dorian mode is, and then how to apply it to your lead playing in order to play like Santana! We also learn a couple of cool licks using the new scale shapes.
To put it simply, the Dorian mode is a major scale starting from the 2nd note. However, it is often the simplicity of this idea that makes it so hard to understand! So, the 2nd degree of any major scale is harmonised to a minor chord (see the theory lab beginners essentials). This therefore, makes the dorian scale a minor scale. To fully understand the workings of the dorian scale, we need to compare it to the natural minor scale. So, below we have written out the A Minor scale and the A Dorian scale. Remember that in order to work out the A Dorian scale, we simply wrote out the G major scale, but starting on A. Here are the scales:
We can see that the only difference between the two scales is the 6th note, which is raised in the Dorian scale. Therefore, all we have to do to create any dorian scale is take our minor scale shapes, and when we hit the 6th note, sharpen it and voila! Dorian! There is a lot more we need to discover about the Dorian mode, but this is a great start!
In the previous lesson, we looked at how to create a Dorian scale. Now we will take that knowledge and learn the scale shapes. The good news is that all of the scale shapes will be familiar if you know your 5 positions for the major scale. We are deliberately using these 5 shapes (rather than the seven 3 note per string shapes) because Santana often combines them with pentatonic scales and licks. Here are the first three shapes:
Hopefully by now, you recognise the scale shapes and are starting to work them out for yourself. Notice how we really highlight the raised 6th note as we go through the shapes, as well as finding the root note of A. Be sure to get all 5 shapes memorised.
It's a really good idea to take your 5 pentatonic shapes and try moving back and fourth between the dorian additions and the normal minor scale additions. Get used to where that 6th note is and how to change it to the dorian raised 6th. This is the best thing to do to get the scale in your head, both in terms of sound and the positions on the fretboard.
Let's put our new scales in to practice by learning some Santana-style dorian licks. The first Dorian lick we will learn is in the key of A Dorian and starts in shape 4. We start the lick by running through the A minor arpeggio in a rhythmical way, then moving down to shape 1 and playing some classic Santana-esque legato lines. All of the shapes we use are shown below:
You can find the full tab for the lick below, be sure to use the slow down and looping function to get the lick learnt. We have played it over a track in A dorian, but you can also try moving it into other keys!
The second lick is still in A dorian, but this time, we focus entirely on the Shape 4 Dorian and pentatonic. This is a great example of the effectiveness of hitting the Dorian note (the F#) at the right point in the lick. The rest of the lick is really just the A minor pentatonic, just played in the style of Santana. Notice specifically the rhythm we use to play through the notes, as this is a crucial part of the sound.
You can find the full tab for the lick below. Be sure to use the slow down and looping function to get the lick learnt. We have played it over a track in A dorian, but you can also try moving it into other keys!