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Dorian Triads On Your Vertical Guitar
By Dan Palladino


It's winter in the Northeast. Gigs are pretty scarce this time of year, so we need to practice to keep our chops up. For the past two weeks, I've been devoting my practice routine to the first two strings only. Yes, folks; it's time to get out your vertical guitars once again.

For those of you who aren't familiar with playing vertically, my past article,
"6 Instruments In 1" will get you up to speed on the concept. To summarize, vertical playing is where you play up and down the neck, rather than across it in positions. Once you get comfortable with this approach, you will probably feel like a huge piece of the puzzle has just fallen into place. Sounds promising? Good! Let's get started:

This lesson will focus on the Dorian scale, illustrated below in Fig. 1.1:

C Dorian scale

Notice how easy it is to see the half and whole step intervals when playing the scale up and down on one string? That's the beauty of vertical playing.

It's important that you practice the scale in every key. Start with C and go through F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, G. I've illustrated the keys of F and Bb below in Figs. 1.2 and 1.3:

F Dorian scale

Bb Dorian scale

Notice that I'm using the entire fingerboard above and below the root of each scale.

Now we'll practice the triads that occur naturally in the Dorian scale. If chord and scale spellings are new to you, check out some of my music theory articles here.

The pattern in Fig. 2.1 starts on the root and ends on the fifth of each triad. It doesn't matter which fingerings you use, although playing the root of each triad with your second finger seems the most comfortable to me. Experiment. These examples are all in D Dorian:

Dorian triad exercise #1

Again, it's easy to see the patterns of the minor, major and diminished triads as you go up and down the neck.

Let's reverse the pattern, so we start with the fifth of each triad and end on the root. See Fig. 2.2:

Dorian triad exercise #2

Next, we'll alternate directions as in Fig. 2.3:

Dorian triad exercise #3

Fig. 2.4 is the reverse of Fig. 2.3:

Dorian triad exercise #4

Now that you're an expert on the Dorian scale, it would be cool to know which chords to play this over, right? Some examples of Dorian chord progressions and vamps follow:

1) |D-7|G7|D-7|G7|

2) |D-7|E-7|D-7|E-7|

3) |D-7|E-7|Fmaj7|E-7|D-7|

4) |D-7|Cmaj7|D-7|Cmaj7|

5) Could you play the Dorian scale over a big, chunky D power chord? Of course you could!

Again, it's very important to practice the above exercises in every key and at varied tempos. Don't cheat yourself.

Once you get comfortable with the vertical guitar, you'll feel liberated from those little position boxes you've been trapped in. Playing guitar shouldn't feel like running around in a box–it should be like riding a roller coaster. Good luck and happy playing!
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© 2005 Dan Palladino
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