Writing Powerful Dorian Dad Rock in 6/8 - Riffing with Modes #2

Dorian is capable of way more than just jazz and funk. This video teaches how to write riffs with the Dorian mode, and also how to arrange those riffs into a full song. We explore a little bit of modal interchange, by borrowing from the parallel minor key, but mostly focus in on the 2nd mode. Don’t take me too seriously when I say that dad rock isn’t “too complicated or insightful”. I’m generalizing, for better or for worse.


 Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors.  However, I do hope you find it helpful.   

Be sure to check out The Ultimate Modal Poster!

Hey, it's me, Jake. And in this video we're going to do some serious songwriting riff building and music-making with a strict focus on the Dorian mode.

Dorian is a really versatile and interesting tonality.

It can pop up in a lot of different interesting ways and has a lot of unique characteristics.

But unfortunately in this channel, I've really only highlighted the Jazzy and bluesy funky aspects of it. The last time it popped up was in my video 7 modes and seven musicians were a mean ol T played a killer piano lead on top.

And if we go way back to my video on hemiola, I did a Dorian Jam there as well and you can hear it has the Smoky salsa jazz club kind of vibe to it.

The dorian's capable of way more than just jazz blues and funk in this video. What I'd like to do is harness the power of Dorian to create some wistful.

Dad Rock now dad rock is a pretty nebulous term. My definition of that would be mainstream Rock that's easy listen to easy to headbang to it's not too deep or insightful and it's certainly not too complicated or difficult and I like that stuff. You know, there's nothing wrong with liking things that aren't of the highest quality. That's why I still enjoy Taco Bell. So to get started writing riffs and Dorian, I do want to have an idea of what I'm shooting for. What is my goal here? You know, what key. Am I going to be in those kinds of things to pick a Dorian key? I'd like to Think about the fact that anytime you're in a Dorian tonality. You're going to be focusing on a minor chord or a minor 7th chord. So what minor chord do I want to be focusing on as a guitar player? Well E minor is a good bet that's an easy chord a minor as well and D Minor. Those are all cords that are simple to play on my guitar and I have free fingers that I could do something else with and they also use open strings which gives me a little bit more versatility if I wanted to do something like an acoustic riff and what you're going to see is we're actually going to end up writing a riff that's built for the acoustic guitar and we're going to spend Quite a bit of time writing this riff, but once that's done, it's really going to open up the doors for writing the rest of the song. So most of this video is going to be sculpting just this first riff and then after that you'll see the other parts of the song are really just going to melt into place. I ended up choosing the D Dorian key, so that means I'm going to start on a D minor chord and just in case you're unfamiliar with this Dorian concept. Remember, I have a video on Dorian but I also have all this information Illustrated on my ultimate modal poster. You can check the description below to find a link to get that now that I've got my D minor chord, let's try to come up with it. Dorian chord progression and the Heart of Dorian is absolutely that major four chord when you have a minor tonic like D minor and then all of a sudden you play a major four chord like G major while there is really the heart and soul of Dorian inside that G major. We have a be natural and that be natural is the natural sixth in the key of D.

So really if you can basically summarize the Dorian key just with a minor one and a major for but I'd like to do something a little more interesting than that. So here's what I opted for. I went my Record my D minor and then I drop down to the flat 7 C major and then I brought in the G major and then I went straight back to D Minor. Just those four chords is what I ended up focusing on D Minor C Major G major and D Minor now that I've got a chord progression. Let's think about Rhythm so we can make this interesting in my last video. We were writing in 4/4 time and I've never really done a lesson on how to write and six eight. So let's do a little mini lesson on composing in 6/8 time to get started. I'm just gonna play my D minor chord and I'm going to count six eighth notes, but I'm going to count them like they were quarter notes like this 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 to get that six eight bounce. It's important to Accent the 1 and the 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 from there try adding in some sixteenth notes, but count them like eighth notes like this. You have one two, and three and four five and six and one two, and three and four five and six and you can do different variations of that one two, and three four. 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 by dropping some of the down beats you'll end up with some syncopation one to add and 4 5 6 1 2 & 4 5 & 6 so really any combination of those strumming patterns is going to work fine in 6/8 as long as you got that nice balance between the two halves of your six eight pattern.

What I ended up settling on is a very simple one two, and three and four five and six one two, and three and four five and six also is a good Our player it's a good idea to only play the bass note.

Sometimes just to kind of get a little bit more of that bounce going. So we got one two, and three and four five and six and one two, and three and four. I could even alternate the vase.

There you go. And it gets once again, you can hear that kind of that storytelling adventurous kind of vibe going 6/8 time works really good for any time. You're trying to kind of keep the story moving. I think it works really good for folk music and I think 6-8 combined with Dorian is like a perfect.

Combination if you want to kind of get some tail telling Vibes going so now I've got my strumming pattern. I've got my chord progression combining the two gives us this D Minor C Major G Major D minor and that sounds awesome.

But I kind of got sick of all that D Minor. So at the very last moment. I crammed in a really quick C major like this one two, and three and four five six one two, and that just helps break up the monotony of not going to measures of D Minor all the way through one, two, three, four, five six one and I love that chord progression. I love the way that sounds but now it's time to start writing some riffs because we haven't even touched any Rifts yet. We've just been talking about chords this whole time, but I have to bring up this fact that if you get cords and if You Know chords then riff writing is going to be a piece of cake because really a lot of the risks that we love and enjoy are all basically just outlining chord progressions.

So I mean you can write riffs not thinking about chords at all. I do that kind of thing all the Time but a lot of times once you look at your roof, you'll realize oh, yeah, the reason the sound so good is because it's outlining some type of chord progression. So I needed to make a riff that outlined this chord progression. And here's what I did to do that on. The first chord is a D Minor so I play a denote and when that second measure comes around it's the chord c so I wanted to make sure my riff played the note C when my third measure comes around for G. I wanted to make sure my riff is playing the note G and you can guess when my fourth measure D comes out. I play the note D. So all I had to do as a Or if writer is find a way to bridge those gaps. How do I get from this note to this note to this note. I obviously want to be thinking of the Dorian scale the whole time. So if I'm in 6/8, how do I get from here D2 here?

See? Well, I have a whole measure to get there so I could do something like 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 and then if I wanted to I could just hang out there and then I could just go to the G one two, three, four five six one, right? So there's a million options I could do basically I mean I could spend all day coming up with ways to get from these notes. You know, what is my path to get through these notes?

Here's what I settled on it went from d and then it was a GF C.

And then I played a quickie and then G and then b c d f d and then a little bit of you know ornamentation. It turned into this a or I'm sorry d a g and DC DC DX ESD that is my riff. And what's cool is I can combine that with the chords. I had already been writing. Really. All I've got to try to do is play those notes and then strum in between and what I'm left with is this and that was the Riff that I ended up writing. It's an acoustic riff. It's meant to be strummed and played at the same time and I really really liked it to me. The Riff was done.

However, it's got a little bit of a gap here at the That I really don't like I don't like after this.

There's nothing going on. I felt it needed something there. So I just did a throwaway like just something to kind of fill up the space and it's just pentatonic minor. It's a pentatonic minor like that just goes and pentatonic minor is great when you're in the Dorian mode because if you take the second note out of the Dorian mode and the six note out of the Dorian mode. Well, hey, you got a pentatonic minor scale. So anytime you're in a Dorian tonality.

It's heavily advised you try playing around with because it's going to fit in there just fine. It's certainly not going to promote that Dorian feel because it doesn't have that sixth in there but it works great and it gives you that bluesy pentatonic minor feel so the entire riff now sounds like this D Minor c d d and that again and I think that sounds like a million bucks. And I also thought it would serve great as the intro to a song. So here's what I ended up doing is just recording that exact part on an acoustic guitar.

After that, I thought it would be a really easy layer to just double the Riff an octave higher on the acoustic guitar. So forget about the strums just take a listen to that riff and let's play it an octave higher.

And double it on top and hear what that sounds like.

I figured that would be the very beginning of the song and let's just do it all over again, but add a little bit of bass guitar add a little bit of drums and some really really quiet Glockenspiel. I know that's a trendy instrument that keeps popping up these days and I thought it would work really well here now once that's done. I think it's a pretty obvious choice to go into something like a verse section.

Write that verse section. All we have to do is remove all the Riff i'j instead of doing all those hammer-ons and pull-offs and stuff like that. Let's just simplify it and just do the strumming D Minor C Major G major to D minor and all I did was add a simple drum beat underneath that.

And for the Baseline the base really just kind of floats around the root notes of each of those chords nothing too complicated.

However, there's just little moments where it's steals from the Riff. We just wrote and I kind of like that. I like what instruments kind of borrow from each other or different sections borrow from each other the astute listener might actually recognize. Oh, hey the base is now doing the guitar part. We just heard earlier, but it should be subtle enough where it doesn't stick out and you might not notice it on the first or second listen.

So now I've got this really cool group section. It's just begging for some vocals on top. I know in the last video I said, I don't want to do singing or vocals because it takes too much time. But I really couldn't resist in this case. I thought I could get away with some James Hetfield Style singing on top of this. So I wrote some lyrics and the melody is all in the Dorian scale and it doesn't leave Dorian and the lyrics don't make a lot of sense. They just they just feel good. I like the way the word sounded next to each other. So I just kept it like that.

Far north of here the ban in the vast moves along now that verse section could continue even longer we could do it two more times, but I decided to change things up, you know, it can be a little monotonous if we keep doing the same chord progression over and over and right now all we've heard is that same Loop of D Minor CG D Minor.

So one thing I like to do is instead of starting on our tonic, right? We keep starting our progressions on D Minor. Let's start on something other than our tonic don't start on the 1 chord and I'm going to pick that for cord that big for board if we delay land there if we start there it should be like a really refreshing surprise and if we hang out there longer than we have been before, you know, right now we've been switching chords every measure. So what if we hang out there for two measures it should sound pretty different. So here I am in my D minor chord c major and this is for our first section.

We want to change things.

We're expecting D minor and that's what we get for the but this time instead of a see you taking me to be minor will have that see take us.

Here a nice and refreshing that is back to D Minor.

We'll do some suspended to D Minor suspended two and now G and I wanted to build things up here. So the chords that I brought in were B flat and then C and that would take me to deem.

So what happened there at the end that B flat major chord is actually not in Dorian. I did kind of break the tonality here a little bit B flat just comes from D Minor. I just borrowed it. From D Minor. That's the 6 chord in D Minor and there's nothing wrong with doing this. You know, I really encourage you to not stick yourself just to one tonality and make yourself, you know, only use the seven notes of major or lydian, you know, feel free to mix it up. And I think here's a great example. I love the Dorian feel I love how everything sounded up until this point, but I also wanted to hear six seven one. That's a really common Cadence your flat 6 your flat 7 and your minor one we hear that kind of thing all the time and why? Can't I be able to use it today? Just because I'm in Dorian screw that I want to use it. So I'm going to use it. I came from that D Minor to the G and even though it's going to temporarily put me into a new key for a an accidental is that B flat major C major and then back to device since there's no like harmonies on top of that part. It's going to be pretty easy to accommodate. I'm just going to have my vocals, you know, not clash with that chord if there was any B Flats there if there were any bees that were being played over that we'd want to switch them to be Flats to We match that chord now that obviously builds us up towards something. But what does it build us up to? Well, I decided for like a chorus, but with just no singing. So let's take that riff. We wrote at the beginning the acoustic riff and let's just Electrify instead by throwing distortion on it and kind of playing it one note at a time little bit of a grotto on each note and we'll also have power cords being playing the same chords in the background while the Acoustics are strumming. It should be this really big epic.

Dad Rock chorus. I'm kind of thinking of like Simple Man by Leonard Skynyrd just a little heavy.

Now if this were a real song that I was trying to get produced for the radio, I would end up basically repeating everything. I'd go back to my intro do another verse. I've made both versus longer and then I, you know bring in a bridge section for this video. What I decided to do is just go straight into a guitar solo. And once again, I didn't really need to write anything new. All I had to do was just keep that Groove section going keep those chords flowing. Let's get rid of the Rifts again that way their space for a guitar solo and basically just play the Dorian scale on. Top of that that section is going to sound like a million bucks.

And once the soul is done. I just go back to the intro to close things off. So now let's listen to these sections all together as I proudly present to you. My debut Dorian.

Dad Rock demo willing to bleed.

The morning far north of here the man in The Mask moves along will he's looking for someone beats on the field of doing his wife from is wrong there. He go in another direction again chasing.

The one thing he needs a heart that is willing to please.

So I'm not a dad but that felt like Dad Rock to me and I really dig it before I close out this video though. I really want to go into some detail about this whole Dorian versus minor thing. There's a lot of people that would say Jake you're not writing with Dorian. You're just writing with minor and you're using a lot of the major 6th, and I understand that. Spective and I also hate that perspective.

I feel like it totally misses out on the idea of a tonality the idea of saying I'm only going to use these seven notes and when I do that look at all the cool Colors that appear look at all the cool imagery and all the cool flavors and tastes that come out of that. You know, when you just use the seven notes of major, we know how that feels. It's very sweet very bright, you know, sprinkly cupcakes and stuff like that. But you know, this is totally different the seven notes of Dorian give you this really Smoky Western kind of feel and it's not major.

So I I want to to me personally. I just think it's really helpful to pretend like a Dorian tonality is its own key just like major could be its own key and then later on. Yeah, you can say, okay. I'm really in the key of C major. But to me, it's just stupid to say we were writing in the key of C major today. That's just dumb because nothing really felt major is nothing felt that happy. It's not like we spent a lot of time on the C chord.

So I feel like the the best description of what we did was writing in D Dorian and then borrowing a little bit from D minor.

Other people might say no you were actually in D Minor the whole time and you borrowed from D Dorian whatever they're very very similar. They're very close. But so much of this was the seven notes of D Dorian that I think it's fair to say it is in the D Dorian key, even though I know that's not a thing a music theory Professor will fail you for saying the key of D Dorian, but I don't care. I'm not a professor. I think it makes sense, but it can certainly get a little hazy. Are you in minor? Are you in Dorian? Which one are you borrowing from?

And sometimes there's not really a solid answer and I'm fine with that. I really don't care as long as you understand what you're doing. And as long as you can convey the information. Information to somebody I think that's all that matters, but I think a fun little song to take a look at and take a listen to to figure out what key. Are you really in and it's really just a good usage of the power between minor and Dorian and that major fork or that natural six is the song toss a coin to your Witcher Tulsa coin.

Do your Witcher overlay of Plenty really nice little folksy medieval song. It's popular again now take a listen to it and see if you can figure out how and why it works and and we're minor shows up versus where Dorian shows up. So I hope Hope you enjoyed this video, and I hope you learned something. If you did enjoy this video, please thank my awesome patreon supporters for sponsoring these videos. It's the only reason these videos exist. If you'd like to join them. There are links Below in the description, but if you can't do that, please just a like subscribe or comment all helps me out. So thanks for watching and I'll see you again next time.


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